What Top Companies are Doing Different with Co-Marketing

What Top Companies are Doing Different with Co-Marketing

Micaela Richmond 12 min

Co-marketing isn’t new.


Companies have been effectively partnering forever. What’s new is the infrastructure that supports Partner-Led Everything, or the use of partnerships across a company’s entire go-to-market strategy. This allows marketers to layer a Nearbound strategy on top of Inbound and Outbound.


A few weeks ago, Will Taylor and I “infiltrated” a B2B marketing conference to get insight into the marketer’s sentiment on partnerships.


A dozen or so on-the-street interviews later, and we were pleasantly surprised by how many marketers were more than happy to talk about partnerships. In this article, we will lay out our findings.




What is co-marketing?

Before we talk about co-marketing it’s fitting we define it.


Hubspot defines co-marketing as,




"A process of growing two or more businesses at the same time by working together to share expertise with, and offer value for, their audiences.”


Co-marketing is about co-creating something to drive marketing activities. Co-branding, often confused with co-marketing, is about putting two existing and complementary products, expertise, or offerings together to create something even more valuable.





What kinds of co-marketing activities are companies engaging in?


From traditional to out-of-the-box co-marketing

Most companies are engaging in traditional co-marketing activities such as whitepapers, events, blog content, affiliates & referrals, and MDFs. That, though, doesn’t mean they’re sticking to the overused script.


We talked with Arthur Castillo, Head of Dark Social and Evangelism at Chili Piper, who shared how they’re taking events to the next level with executive dinners. ChiliPiper invites 20-30 highly targeted attendees and makes the dinner highly intimate which gives partners and participants the opportunity to establish meaningful relationships. They bring in partners with a similar target market and overlapping accounts, and they share the costs.





“It’s harder and harder to get in front of these vendors. So we create go-to-market strategies so that we actually have a chance to get in front of the group of people we want to get in front of.”
- Arthur Castillo, Head of Dark Social and Evangelism at Chili Piper


We also had the opportunity to talk with Cory Snyder, VP of Partnerships at Sendoso, who shared how a partner was inventive with MDF.





“MDF works but sometimes you need to think outside the box. We had a partner in Vietnam that took one of the books our CEO had written. We leveraged MDF to fund the translation of it to Vietnamese and to fund the GTM motion. They used that as their call to action and lead gen solution. They became the #1 partner in less than 6 months”
- Cory Snyder, VP of Partnerships at Sendoso


Marketers love getting creative with their campaigns. Co-marketing activities haven’t changed (events, whitepapers, content, etc.), but how companies execute has.


The most successful co-marketers are getting creative with their partners.





Value of co-marketing





Influence the entire customer journey

Co-marketing isn’t limited to driving value for the top of the funnel. It can drive value across the whole customer’s journey.

Craig Simons, Director of Growth, and Nancy Sperry, VP of Ecosystem at Allego, shared how they built their co-marketing motion incorrectly at the start of their program. Assuming that partners provided the most value in one stage of the customer journey, they focused all of their efforts there. Over time, they realized they needed to rebuild their entire partner pipeline to reflect every type of value a partner could bring a customer.





“Historically, we thought that the bottom of the funnel was the place where partners provided value, but now we’re looking to measure different types of partners that fit into different places in those funnels.”
- Craig Simons, Director of Growth at Allego


Brand awareness

AWS, Microsoft, and Google are household names. They don’t have to work hard to be top-of-mind to customers. Heck! They’re so embedded into our culture, you’ll hear them named in daily conversation!

Every other company, though, has to work to be top-of-mind.

When you co-market and introduce your brand into a partner’s ecosystem, you make it easier for people to come to you when they need a solution like yours.





“Every time we partner with another brand or influencer they’re introducing Agorapulse or the product, the virtual event, whatever it is, to their audience, and I’m being very particular about who it is that I’m targeting.“
- Mike Allton, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Agorapulse


Cost-reduction

Leaders care about doing more with less, especially right now during an economic downturn.

By correctly leveraging partnerships you’re effectively gaining access to more people with less cost.

To Natalie Marcotullio, Head of Growth and Operations at Navattic, the cost-reduction aspect of partnerships makes it a no-brainer.





“It didn’t cost us any money to work with Mutiny and put on a webinar together or to reach out to our customers and do co-email marketing. So it’s a win-win. Obviously, there are bandwidth costs but that’s why you should always test it out. I think now’s a really good time for partnerships because it’s a lot cheaper than LinkedIn ads or something like that.”
- Natalie Marcotullio, Head of Growth and Operations at Navattic


Competitive advantage

In the age of the ecosystem, network effects are primary. It’s not enough to have a great product and a great team. Now, the equation is product + team + network (ecosystem).


Companies and individual teams must be thinking about how they can create strong networks and lean into network effects.

According to leading Network Effect authority, James Currier, network effects “are the #1 way to create defensibility in the digital world.”


The more nodes that are joined together, the more defensible a network becomes.

One example of a network in marketing is backlinks, and as Cory Snyder pointed out, partners are a great way to create that defensibility and competitive edge.





“There are very few people that have affiliates and a ton of backlinks out there which means if I can get 1000 affiliates to talk about us, that helps marketing.”
- Cory Snyder, VP of Partnerships at Sendoso


Defensibility doesn’t end with affiliates. There are many points along the customer lifecycle where companies can embed partnerships to emerge more defensible.





Challenges of co-marketing

Out of all of the questions we asked, I was most intrigued to understand the challenges marketers faced when they had tried in the past to work with partners.


Most of these challenges will come as no shock to a seasoned partner pro! But with a clear understanding of the reasons for a marketer’s hesitation to adopt co-marketing, maybe you can incite a better conversation.


The challenges mentioned throughout our conversations can be separated into two buckets: miscalculating the strategic value of a partner & a lack of clear expectations.





Miscalculating the strategic value of a partner

Nail the pre-work and everything else becomes easier.


Before looking externally, have those internal conversations about the strategic value of each partner.

  • Do you have the same ICP?
  • Do you have overlapping accounts?
  • What metrics do they care about?


It is okay (and actually a good thing) to tier partners and invest differently depending on the circumstances.

After a year of experimentation and iteration, Craig and Nancy from Allego learned this first-hand.





“When we first started out, we were treating all partners equally. We would put a lot of effort into a co-marketing program, but at the end of the day we were looking at the results and saying ‘I’m not sure that this was worth it.’
- Craig Simons, Director of Growth at Allego


So they pivoted.





“That’s what we’ve really done over the last year quite effectively: categorizing partners into different buckets and then having a set menu of activities and things that we can collaborate on together. We have different levels of activity that we can do together and then we figure out the lowest effort path of least resistance where are we both going to find mutual benefit.”
- Craig Simons, Director of Growth at Allego


Lack of clear expectations

Co-marketing that ends in two-way frustration is entirely avoidable. All it takes is a little communication.


Going into a partnership you have to be honest with yourself – Everyone has their idea of what looks “right.” To navigate, start slow, ease in, define your expectations, and give your partners space to do the same. Then, to avoid mismatched efforts, take agreed-upon tasks and assign them. Have defined owners of tasks, points of contact, and communication cadences.

It’s common to overpromise and underdeliver because both parties get excited.


Instead of jumping into a partnership, heads first, Natalie from Navattic recommends partnering slowly.





“Always let’s start small. The hardest thing I’ve seen is sometimes people are really excited out of the gate, but when it comes down to actually executing, it’s not always the same.”
- Natalie Marcotullio, Head of Growth and Operations at Navattic


Advice for co-marketing

We ended each interview with a simple question, “what’s one piece of advice you’d give partner pros or marketers looking to do more co-marketing.”





Get to know your partners on a personal level

Eboni Ryan, VP of Marketing at DigitalZone, stressed the importance of breaking the business barrier and getting to know partners on a personal level.





“Break those human boundaries. If you know each other well, as humans, you can have those upfront conversations about a campaign, or about a program. You can be really honest with each other about expectations.”
- Eboni Ryan, VP of Marketing at Digitalzone


Don’t be shy

Arthur Castillo from ChiliPiper exclaimed, “just ask!”





“Coming from sales,”

he shared,





“maybe it was a little easier for me but I was both surprised and delighted when I would reach out to folks around co-marketing and they would be so open to it. Internally, our marketing team would ask ‘how did you get a chance to speak with X persona?’ I don’t know, I just asked and they were open to the idea. Just make the ask, see what comes from it and you’d be surprised.”
- Arthur Castillo, Head of Dark Social and Evangelism at Chili Piper


Consider partnerships as an extension of your marketing team/strategy

Attribution between partner-sourced and marketing-sourced falsely pits marketing teams against partner teams.

“Who sourced it?!” is an all-too-common question, but Craig and Nancy from Allego say it doesn’t matter.


Partnerships and marketing aren’t in competition. They exist to facilitate each other.

Instead of allowing attribution to create internal conflict, marketers and partner pros alike have to see the full picture: the value they’re bringing to the company, together.


The metrics and attribution models are outdated and need to evolve, but that doesn’t mean you and your company can’t be ahead.


Together, Craig and Nancy paint the picture of a great relationship between marketing and partnerships.

Craig (Marketing) shared,





“When I see a partner lead come through, I’m pumped to give the partner team that attribution because I consider them an extension of the marketing team. I think that mindset is really important.”
- Craig Simons, Director of Growth at Allego


And Nancy (Partnerships) added right after,





“Marketing is such a huge part of partnering. We have been greatly benefited from the relationship with the marketing team and them being so open. We try and reciprocate as much as possible and give them recognition because not every marketer is built that way.”
- Nancy Sperry, VP of Ecosystem at Allego


That’s what a great partnerships-marketing relationship looks like, folks!





What do CMOs think about co-marketing?

There’s no better time to start co-marketing than today.


Oana Manolache, Founder & CEO at Sequel.io, held 100+ conversations with CMOs and during our interview, explained the insights she took away.





“One main focus area is marketing efficiency. Not necessarily just more with less, but a few things really, really well so that you can deliver a lot more results with obviously a smaller budget.”


We’re seeing that in a variety of ways.





“One is experimentation, the second is a consolidation of tools, and then the third is companies making the most of their assets.”


All-in-all having a good partner ecosystem was top-of-mind for her and many of the other CMOs she talked with.





“Building a really good partner ecosystem gives you brand equity, builds a community of marketers, and actually drives demand. At the end of the day, we have to prove the ROI. Partners are the key to unlocking certain networks or groups of people that you probably don’t have access to. In return, you’re also providing that to your partners.”
- Oana Manolache, Founder & CEO at Sequel.io


Conclusion

Co–marketing is the way of the future. While partnership adoption across the entire go-to-market strategy may not happen immediately, individual partnering efforts will.


Co-innovating, co-marketing, co-selling, and co-retaining give companies the resources to do more with less. As competition in the market surges and the economy faces ups and downs, everyone’s looking for the most defensible positioning.

As companies experiment and decide whether to double down on partnerships, effectively embracing the first-mover advantage in an era of ecosystems, co-marketing offers an opportunity.


Co-marketing is lower-investment and easy to experiment with which makes it the perfect place for companies to begin proving out the “Partner-Led Everything” thesis.


Prefer to listen? Subscribe to our nearbound.com Audio Articles Podcast. Text-to-speech provided by our partner Voicemaker.in.

Micaela Richmond 12 min

What Top Companies are Doing Different with Co-Marketing


Co-marketing is about co-creating something to drive marketing activities.


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