What is Partnership Marketing for Small Business?

What is Partnership Marketing for Small Business?

What is partnership marketing?

When you’re looking for new ways to get your business in front of customers, there’s an option you may not have considered. It’s called partnership marketing.

Partnership marketing is a collaboration between two or more businesses with the aim of creating a mutually beneficial marketing campaign which helps all involved meet their business objectives.

It is not uncommon for small businesses to struggle with their marketing efforts, as they simply don’t have the time, money or resources to dedicate to the marketing they need to grow.

Rather than being a ‘one man show,’ by working alongside another business or group of businesses on a specific marketing strategy or campaign, partnership marketing can be a cost-effective way for small businesses to increase brand awareness, customer acquisition and ultimately grow.

If you are deliberating whether to embark on partnership marketing for your small business, take a look at some of the pros and cons of this collaborative form of small business marketing and how you can participate in partnership marketing.

The Pros of Partnership Marketing

By working with another business to promote your brand, partnership marketing brings a number of benefits.

partnership marketing

It’s Cost-Effective

One of the biggest advantages is that your marketing efforts are more cost-effective and efficient, as you are effectively doubling your man power without having to swallow the expense of traditional forms of marketing.

One example of this might be local hairdresser marketing their services in a nearby tanning salon. Likewise, the hairdresser similarly promotes the tanning salon in their shop front.

Both businesses are therefore extending their marketing efforts and reaching out to new customers beyond their own salons without any advertising expense.

As Braveen Kumar, content marketer at Shopify, notes in an article about how businesses can reach new customers through partnership marketing:

“[Co-marketing benefits include] being more cost-effective by pooling together resources like marketing budgets and talent.”

Nurture Positive Long-Term Relationships

partnership marketing

Rather than competing with one another, partnership marketing helps develop and maintain positive long-term relationships between brands, which can help each other out.

For example, if a cake-making business is wanting to give away a new type of healthy cake, a local sports club might allow the cake-makers to set up a stand and offer freebies to spectators during a game that’s being played at the sports club.

The ‘favor’ could be reciprocated by the cake-makers who hand flyers to everyone who buys their cakes, which promote free yoga sessions to new members to the sports club.

Not only are the brands working positively with one another, but the customers love being provided with freebies and co-branded products.

Cost-EffectiveMarketing becomes more affordable as efforts are shared between businesses, extending reach without the expense of traditional marketing.
Builds RelationshipsInstead of competing, brands collaborate, nurturing positive long-term relationships and mutual benefits.
Expands Customer BaseEach brand gets access to the other’s customers, leading to potential growth in clientele.
Resource PoolingCompanies can pool resources like budgets and talent, enhancing the quality and reach of campaigns.
Customer AppreciationCustomers enjoy added value from co-branded products or freebies.

The Cons of Partnership Marketing

Whilst partnership marketing can be a win-win for all involved, it is not without its drawbacks.

partnership marketing

Potential Disagreements

One drawback of creating strategic marketing partnerships, is the potential of disagreements between the two businesses rearing their head. This could happen if you or your marketing partner become involved in campaigns or initiatives one party is not likely to support.

Disagreements could also occur if either party decides that the direction is not the right one for them.

To avoid such disputes, it is important that partnership marketing campaigns are clearly mapped out from day one and that all parties involved are clear that if a direction or initiative is not the right one for them, they don’t have to be involved.

Profit Sharing

partnership marketing

Some businesses agree to profit sharing when forming marketing partnerships, whereby they share the profits earned by joint marketing campaigns. However, as Matylda Chmielewska, a content marketer for LiveChat warns:

“Profit sharing can be discouraging when it comes to preparing for partnerships. Will you have to lose some of your earnings or which seems even worse, give all of these to the company you’ve partnered with?”

In this sense, it might be wiser to keep partnership marketing to a free form of mutually-beneficial marketing rather than creating more complex profit-sharing clauses.

Potential DisagreementsDifferences in visions or campaign directions can lead to conflicts between businesses. Clear communication is essential.
Profit Sharing DilemmasSome partnership agreements may involve sharing profits, which can be complex and potentially disadvantageous.
Brand MismatchAligning with a brand that doesn’t share similar values or target audience can dilute brand identity.
OverdependenceHeavy reliance on one partner can be risky if they decide to end the partnership.
Complex AgreementsPartnership terms can sometimes become too complex, leading to misunderstandings or misalignments.

How to Find and Create Strategic Marketing Partnerships

partnership marketing

If you are wanting to capitalize on the unique opportunities this cost-effective form of marketing could bring to your small business, you should consider the following points.

Ideally, the business you partner to market with should not be a direct competitor. The most effective marketing partnerships are made with businesses that complement one another, for example, a florist partnering with a wedding planner or a copywriter partnering with a website designer.

By partnering with a business that has similar interests and audiences as you do, will ensure your marketing efforts reach the right target market for your own business.

partnership marketing

Partnering with a business that is marketing savvy will also help you get more from your partnership marketing efforts.

For example, small businesses who partner with a business which has an understanding of how to optimize social media marketing operations will prove more cost-effective and efficient than partnering with a business with little or no social media marketing acumen.

The business you choose to form a marketing partnership with should ideally have a sizeable audience. For example, they have a large following on social media or a significant email list, so that your marketing messages are delivered to a large as audience as possible.

When done correctly, partnership marketing can be an extremely effective way for your small business to reach new customers and ultimately grow in size and profits.

Tips – How to Find and Create Strategic Marketing Partnerships

  • Avoid Direct Competitors: Partnering with a direct competitor can lead to conflicts of interest. Instead, find businesses that offer complementary services. For instance, a wedding planner might partner with a florist to offer comprehensive wedding packages.
  • Seek Businesses with Similar Audiences: To maximize the impact of your marketing efforts, partner with businesses that cater to an audience similar to yours. This ensures that your messages resonate and reach the right people, boosting the chances of conversion.
  • Find Marketing-Savvy Partners: A partnership will be more fruitful if both businesses understand and implement effective marketing strategies. A partner knowledgeable about, for instance, social media marketing can enhance the partnership’s online visibility and engagement.
  • Look for Partners with a Broad Reach: The wider the audience a potential partner can reach, the better. Look for businesses with a substantial social media following, a large email list, or a strong community presence to ensure your collaborative efforts achieve maximum exposure.
  • Ensure Mutual Benefit: For a partnership to be successful, it should be mutually beneficial. Both businesses should see tangible benefits, whether it’s increased exposure, shared resources, or access to new customer segments. This ensures both parties remain committed and invested in the partnership’s success.


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Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 7 years. She is based in the United Kingdom and since 2006, Gabrielle has been writing articles, blogs and news pieces for a diverse range of publications and sites. You can read "Gabrielle’s blog here.".