Generating awareness about your product or service and gaining trust from your customer base can be easier said than done. An effective partnership marketing strategy means you’re not going it alone – you can join forces to divide, conquer, achieve mutual objectives, and brainstorm new marketing ideas with your partner to shake-up the status quo.
Like all good marketers are aware, though, B2B marketing trends can come and go with the times. What’s popular one year is dated the next. Staying ahead of the curve can help set your efforts apart and elevate your message.
So, with that in mind, here are the top innovative partnership marketing ideas for 2023.
1. Evolve UGC & Micro Influencer Strategies
B2B marketing is all about building relationships. Heading into 2023, marketing ideas that are a two-way dialogue will be more important than ever. Break down barriers between your marketing team and your audience by pulling them into your projects for added authenticity.
User-generated content (UGC), for instance, can be a powerful way to build genuine brand awareness and loyalty. When a real person brags about your product or service – maybe even shares a photo or video on social media – the praise resonates much more than when that same message is put out by a brand.
With partnership marketing, you have the benefit of reaching audiences you otherwise wouldn’t. Tap into that and strategically direct UGC efforts by co-hosting contests, social media campaigns, and crowd-sourcing projects that generate authentic content from the users of your products. Additional ideas for how user-generated content can benefit your channel partner marketing strategies (and vice-versa):
Generating content from groups with whom you lack a strong presence. Prospects ultimately want to read testimonials from customers similar to themselves. Work with partners well-established within specific regions or industries to promote avenues for user content generation from their network. Ideas include partners gathering reviews, sharing marketing materials with their social followers, and extending industry surveys to their email lists.
Partners themselves can generate user content. Partners can be the source of testimonials, participate in social media threads, and engage in forums. Inspire stronger interactions from partners by allowing them to voice their own promotional ideas and co-brand materials, as well as partially funding their paid marketing activities.
SaaS and B2B Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing takes pulling your audience in one step further by leveraging the influence of well-known personalities who are trusted by the community. And like UGC, it’s no longer just for B2C businesses.
When it comes to SaaS and B2B influencer marketing, start by looking for prominent voices within your (and your partner’s) customer base.
Consider people who are a part of your partner ecosystem, too, who may be suited as a partnership spokesperson who can speak to the benefits of your work together. Your potential influencers don’t need to have hundreds of thousands of followers or be world-famous.
“Micro influencers” are the way to go in 2023. These are influences who have smaller, but more niche, audiences that better align with who you’re trying to reach. They are likely to be more willing to work together than mega influencers.
2. Get Personal – Without Third-Party Data
Of course, knowing your audience continues to be a key part of any partnership marketing strategy in 2023. Understanding who you’re addressing – and what their pain points and goals are – is foundational to offering personalized, relevant content.
The biggest change in the coming year, however, is the shift away from third-party data. There has been a major push towards more privacy online with changes like Apple’s iOS privacy update and Google’s move to phase out third-party cookies.
This all means that the way customer data is collected is evolving. Information harvested through cookies is out and first-party data is in. That data you collect directly from your customers through your website, surveys, emails, sales communication and other relationship-based sources is more valuable than ever.
B2B Partner Marketing and First-Party Data
What does this mean for your partner marketing strategy? You can work with each other to gather useful information on shared audiences that benefit both of you.
Encourage partners to gather first-party data (which then becomes second-party data for you) through online forms, surveys, chat bots, customer service and other communication channels.
Regardless of who is collecting the information – whether it’s first-person or second-person data – it’s important to be transparent about what is being collected, shared and used. Trust is the foundation of cookie-less data.
Pause immediately if you have yet to flesh out your guiding channel partner marketing goals.
Not only will the lack of direction make your partner marketing ideas aimless, but you’ll struggle to measure their success and make informed decisions based on the data.
3. Reassess Partner Marketing Messaging in Response to Shifting Prospect Needs
It’s always a good idea to reevaluate content through the lens of today’s reality and predictions for tomorrow. However, 2022 was a particularly turbulent year which will no doubt affect companies’ attitudes (and budgets) in 2023. In turn, it’s particularly important to make sure your partners’ marketing messaging speaks directly to their audiences’ priorities. While the specific shifts in behavior will vary by industry, country, and company size, overarching themes include:
B2B Customers Increasingly Have a Scrutinizing Eye for Cost-Saving Efficiency
Many departments will be asked to do more with less, whether with smaller teams or reduced operational (or marketing) budgets. In response, equip channel partners with sales and marketing strategies that address this pain point.
For example, do your integrations with various VARs save users time on menial tasks? Does your one software solution complete the tasks of three, enabling them to save on technology costs? If yes, strategically highlight these benefits within your partners’ marketing materials and sales playbooks.
Companies Increasingly Hire Contractors Rather Than Full-Time Employees
2020 introduced the surge of remote working, 2021 cemented it was here to stay, and 2022 brought financial uncertainty and, in some cases, lay-offs. Therefore, it was only natural that we would see a rise in B2B companies hiring private contractors.
While this observation may not impact the majority of readers’ promotional messaging, consider whether your products help users prepare for this shift in the workforce. If yes, make sure to accentuate this point in your partners’ marketing strategy!
Prospects Won’t Forgive Bad or Overly Complex UX
When teams are stretched thin and employee churn is high, no one has time to learn a complicated technology, no matter how great the end result may be. Companies will increasingly place a premium on interfaces with intuitive layouts and simple processes. If this describes your product, flaunt it! Arm partners with eye-catching demo videos and graphics that show just how easy your technology is to use.
Promote Bundled Offerings for a Competitive Value Proposition
In the current economic climate, businesses are actively seeking ways to reduce costs. One approach they are embracing is consolidating their tech stacks by opting for comprehensive solutions instead of multiple-point solutions.
This shift has resulted in smaller independent software vendors (ISVs) losing business to larger players like HubSpot and Salesforce, who offer a wide range of functionalities within a single platform.
However, this trend also presents an opportunity to be creative in your go-to-market strategy with your partners. To prevent customers from switching to larger solutions, you can consider bundling your solution with that of your partners, creating a unified offering and promoting it jointly.
For instance, let’s imagine you offer a customer support tool but lack CRM functionality, causing customers to migrate to platforms like HubSpot, which provide both features in one solution. A solid strategy would involve partnering with a CRM provider to create a comprehensive offering that can be positioned as an alternative to customers considering a switch.
By combining forces and offering a complete solution, you can address the pain points of customers seeking a consolidated platform while differentiating yourself from larger competitors. This collaborative approach not only adds value for customers but also enhances your market positioning and competitiveness in the industry.
Holding Onto Customers May Be Trickier
2023 may present new hurdles to customer retention. As previously mentioned, many companies are assessing their subscribed technology and services, trying to find redundancies or under-utilized products; you may ultimately be on the chopping block. What’s more, the SaaS industry continues its rapid expansion, increasing the number of competitors eager to steal your customers.
In your efforts to reach new audiences, you must not neglect your existing base. Renewals and upsell opportunities can be significant sources of revenue, and come with the added benefit of already knowing your audience.
Work with channel partners to craft relevant marketing materials educating customers about new product capabilities, promotional deals, and why you’re simply the best of the best!
Increased Emphasis on Minimizing Negative Environmental Impacts
Consumers and companies alike are increasingly cognizant of their carbon footprint and sustainable practices. With this in mind, if this is how you stand out from the competition, it’s worth emphasizing in your marketing materials.
What’s more, consider adding this to future criteria for choosing partners; if a partner received negative press for damaging environmental practices, you wouldn’t want to be guilty by association.
4. Evolve Beyond Basic Translations to Localized Partner Marketing Strategies
One of the great benefits of working with partners is tapping into their audiences and leveraging their unique expertise to produce unique marketing ideas.
Whether that’s a new vertical, industry or geography, it pays to play off your partner’s strengths. Work together to brainstorm partnership marketing ideas that are more localized and tailored to specific audiences.
Let’s look at expanding into international markets as one example. Both the ability and need to localize content has evolved, meaning that partners can no longer rely upon Google Translate and hope to remain competitive. Instead, you could consider tapping into machine translation post-editing as a solution for localizing marketing materials.
Whenever possible, though, work with your partner to localize channel marketing strategies. This means:
Localizing the language – Not every region uses the same vernacular when describing a product or service. Similarly, make sure that the spelling aligns with the targeted region.
Localizing the marketing’s selling points – What may be a common priority with one audience may fall flat with another. Ask your partners for ideas about what their customers care about the most.
Localizing the visuals – You may need to consider different layouts, text positioning, or photography.
Localizing the medium – Investigate how different countries like to absorb marketing information. Draw ideas from third-party research, conversations with partners, as well as engagement data found within your own PRM.
Localizing the distribution and promotion – Some audiences may rely heavily upon in-person events while others prefer to engage with specific digital channels. Combine localized historical data with partners’ qualitative observations when shaping your channel marketing strategies and budgets.
5. Humanize Your Brand and Your Partnerships
Emphasize the people behind the company name – and, in the case of channel sales – the people behind the partnerships. One way to do this successfully is through thought leadership pieces that underscore who you are and what you’re doing.
Elevate your partners, too, by showcasing the added benefits they bring to the table. Focus on human values like social responsibility, sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion.
The added staff-power of working with partners means you can also more effectively connect with your customers on a one-to-one basis. Consider leveraging channels like chats and social media DMs to answer questions, making your brand more accessible.
Another tool that helps partners connect human-to-human with potential customers is a strategically designed prospect page. This software feature assists with closing deals in numerous ways, such as consolidating content in a single place and synchronizing conversations with playbooks. However, prior to a prospect even clicking on a linked asset, they’ll see your partner’s happy face greeting them. This creates a strong first-impression and humanizes future interactions.
6. Phase Out Facebook, Evolve Your LinkedIn Marketing
If you’re looking at the best platforms for co-marketing efforts with your partners in 2023, there are a few things to consider.
While Facebook is still among the top social media platforms and, combined with Google, makes up more than half the global digital ad market, it should not be front and center in your partnership marketing plans. For one, the number of Facebook users is on the decline. By comparison, LinkedIn is expected to capture nearly a quarter of the U.S.-based B2B ad spending by 2024.
Posting on LinkedIn is nothing new to businesses. But in 2023, tracking and analyzing your activities on the platform will become more important, a step too few B2B organizations take. Such efforts will not only enable you to improve the ROI of your partners’ social marketing strategies, but also give valuable intel into your partners’ audiences’ interests.
Start by gathering data about post performance across partners by utilizing UTM codes. Then, examine the data about engagement on LinkedIn for insights into what’s working. Regularly test and evolve your hypotheses, especially as consumer behaviors morph with time.
Make the most of your LinkedIn observations by:
• Sharing the data across your partner ecosystem, providing additional value to program participants
• Training partners on how to best promote co-branded social materials
• Shifting your partner content strategies in response to the LinkedIn marketing data
• Sharing the learnings with your in-house marketing team, as it can strengthen your own brand’s promotional tactics
7. Consider New Types of Affiliates
The landscape of content marketing is evolving rapidly. While we previously discussed leveraging influencers as an innovative partner marketing strategy, another effective idea is to engage affiliate partners who are active on emerging and popular social platforms.
Two noteworthy platforms in this regard are TikTok and YouTube Shorts. These short-form video platforms are experiencing a significant surge in popularity and viewership, making them excellent channels for promoting your products or services.
For instance, consider a company specializing in video prospecting. By identifying influential content creators on TikTok and YouTube Shorts who discuss prospecting and emphasize the use of video as a powerful tool, you can reach out to them and encourage them to incorporate your video prospecting tool in their future videos.
As a partner marketer, your focus should be on capturing the attention of these affiliates and highlighting the benefits of joining your partner program. Effective ideas may involve developing case studies showcasing successful affiliates who have achieved remarkable results through your program. Additionally, creating assets such as short-form videos specifically designed to resonate with potential affiliates on TikTok can help attract their interest.
8. Prepare to Measure Brand Awareness Generated by Partners
B2B purchasing decisions are rarely made overnight. Marketers have to plan strategies around the “long game,” starting off with building brand awareness amongst target audiences. While this is nothing new, there’s an increasing demand from decision-makers to quantify this otherwise nebulous marketing concept.
As a partner program, you can use this to your advantage to get stakeholders onboard. Partners established in different circles or countries than your own present a swift, affordable way to build brand authority amongst new audiences. By having them market your products alongside their own, your organization can piggyback off of their pre-established reputations.
Unfortunately, there is no foolproof strategy for measuring B2B brand awareness. However, as a partner program, you can create solid hypotheses by tracking the following marketing metrics:
• Estimated branded searches from target countries, estimated by Google Adwords or third-party tools.
• Google Trend data, focusing on the target countries
• Direct traffic to your site from target countries
• SEO traffic to URLs mostly associated with branded search terms, coming from target countries
• Increased social media followers and engagement from users in target countries
• Relevant brand mentions and referral traffic, particularly those sourced from target countries
• Partner-generated content engagement
Measuring these upper-funnel metrics lets you underscore the value your partner program provides to the organization as a whole outside of mere revenue. Moreover, it provides worthwhile data that plays an important role in auditing your partner marketing funnel.
9. Go On a Podcast Roadshow
A popular marketing strategy employed by most SaaS companies involves creating a podcast that features engaging guests, thereby increasing the listenership within their target audience. This approach also serves as an effective way to collaborate with partners.
In a partner program, it’s highly likely that you have numerous partners who host their own podcasts, and as partners, they typically cater to your desired audience. You can take advantage of these podcasts by inviting members of your executive team to appear on these shows, essentially conducting a podcast roadshow.
By participating in podcasts, you naturally direct listeners to visit your website, with the hope of attracting potential sign-ups and eventually converting them into customers for your product.
Bonus marketing idea: you can also invite partners to join you on other podcasts. This helps promote any joint collaborations (like the above-mentioned bundled offering), and is an effective strategy for bettering the relationship with your co-guest.
9. Hone In on the Value of Interaction
Gone are the days of offering a static piece of content and hoping it’ll work its magic. Interaction is the name of the game in 2023.
Instead of posting a video, for instance, consider live streaming your content and opening up the comments for in-the-moment discussion with other community members. Look at hosting a masterclass with your partner where viewers can participate, ask questions and engage. Open up the floor during webinars.
Think also about ways to highlight aspects of your partnership that stand out. For example, a co-hosted webinar or event can reach a broader audience. A ROI calculator can show how an integrated VAR solution could help save money and hours. A jointly-run contest grabs potential buyers’ attention and jump-starts engagement.
Whether you’re offering quizzes, games, interactive infographics and other material, the point is to focus on creating a two-way experience that encourages active participation, rather than passive consumption.
10. Prepare Partners For Longer Buyer Cycles
Even if you’re doing everything right, following all the partner marketing best practices and creating innovative ideas, many aspects of the market and economic landscape are outside your control.
Prepare for the possibility of longer buyer cycles in 2023 by equipping partners with more lead-nurturing materials and revisiting your lead–scoring criteria.
Ultimately, relationship building and engagement will continue to be a focus of 2023 partner marketing strategies even as sales cycles lengthen.
Tools & Templates for 2023 Partner Marketing Strategies
Looking for more partnership marketing ideas in the coming year? Check out the following resources to build a solid, shared marketing strategy – even as trends shift.
Channel Partner Marketing Best Practices & Planning – the Ultimate Guide – The guide details best practices for creating and improving your channel partner marketing materials and promotional campaigns.
Co-Marketing Activities and Ideas for Joint Promotion in 2023 – Co-marketing is an impactful strategy used by organizations to reach a broader audience or break into a new market. Read on to understand co-marketing basics and best practices that can inform new ideas.
How to Measure the ROI of Your Partner Marketing Campaigns – One of the most effective ways to reach a larger audience and increase sales is to leverage your partner ecosystem through marketing campaigns. Here’s how to track the ROI of those campaigns.
Harness the Power of Through-Channel Marketing Automation – With the right software and automation practices, you amplify the potential of any partner marketing idea. Learn about the right and wrong ways to leverage marketing automation within your program’s strategies and pitfalls to avoid.
- Hootsuite’s Blueprint: How to Formalize Your Partner Program - November 28, 2023
- Economic adjustment toolkit – The key to building a resilient partnership strategy - November 26, 2023
- How to select the right partners for your program - November 8, 2023
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