There are many descriptions of the word partner. This is my favourite: “Either of two people dancing together or playing a game or sport on the same side”. The term "partnership" implies unified strength, mutual benefit and goodwill. A powerful combination if you can master it - as e-commerce marketers are increasingly doing.
The best marketing partnerships work when they offer genuine value to the end consumer. I’ll come on to why partnerships are the most cost-effective customer recruitment channel below. But what’s sometimes overlooked is how they can also help turn your own customers into fans.
And perhaps best of all, they can even be executed without a marketing budget.
So why isn’t every marketing department asking themselves, ‘How can we grow partnerships?’ And for the ones that are, what do successful partnerships look like?
We’ve all heard of big brand partnerships such as Meerkat Movies and Orange Wednesdays with large advertising spend behind them. But other partnerships are operating just as successfully below the radar.
Brands like Ocado, Boden, The White Company and Hello Fresh are fuelling their growth with small-scale tie-ups. These partnerships are simple: two brands give exclusive, introductory offers to each other’s customers (called an AdCredit Trade). Boden, for example, has created the Friends of Boden envelope pack that they deliver alongside a customer’s shopping. Boden customers clearly love the offers from the likes of Ocado, Hello Fresh, Bloom & Wild and other up-market e-commerce retailers: this shows in satisfaction surveys and high response rates. At the same time, Boden is exchanging this space for highly responsive advertising of its own – funded by business-as-usual activities with very little drain on marketing or operational resources as the complexity is managed for them.
The concept is simple, the value is unbeatable and the opportunities are expanding exponentially in both home and overseas markets. It’s the nearest thing to a no-brainer in modern e-commerce marketing.
So, as an e-commerce marketer, how can you assess whether you could be operating a similar programme?
• Quantify the consumer touchpoints you have that could carry a partner offer: including email, space for website banners and post-check-out pages, product deliveries, catalogue and statement mailings
• Do you have customer data with 3rd party marketing opt-ins? Perhaps you offer this data for rent already and are keen to get greater value from it.
• Are there non-competing brands who share your target customer who you’d relish the chance to partner – the longer the list the better.
• Are you able to offer attractive introductory offers to a closed database of consumers with a high fit to your brand?
If so, there is an opportunity for you to leverage your existing assets to create mutual partnerships that offer very low customer recruitment costs – and with a profile likely to be weighted towards higher LTV than other recruitment channels.
Not surprisingly, TSW surveyed 100+ multi-channel retail brands and found that 72% were already active with one or more brand partner. Brands agreed that they would do more partnerships if they had more time.
The barrier tends to be finding, contacting and agreeing complex deals with partners, plus the ongoing monitoring and logistics involved.
Some marketing departments are recruiting partnership teams. In Germany, where recruitment costs tend to be amongst the world’s highest, forcing some creative thinking – some businesses have five or more people on this full-time. The teams split their time between managing existing partners and finding new ones via cold-contacting or tapping into networks. Proof that there are rewards to be had, but how do you dip your toe into the water?
The Goodwill Network was devised to allow brands to scale profitable partnerships fast. The emphasis is on brand safety, making the process lean and efficient and on scaling as quickly as your needs demand. Having the most responsive advertising inventory on any acquisition plan is a bonus!
And the even better news is that – as traditional media fragments and fights to retain viewers and readers – e-commerce is scaling up, meaning the most responsive advertising inventory is effectively limitless.
In an overcrowded and highly competitive market, successful partnerships mean you spread the risk of customer acquisition and each partner can concentrate on what they do best. You access untapped pools of e-commerce shoppers using your own operational activity to fund your marketing.
And done correctly, your own consumers will even thank you for it.
By Martin Woolley, CEO at The Specialist Works
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