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Five ways partnership marketing can give you influence

How partnership marketing can give you influence
Paul Tustin Client Director PR & Comms Headshot

Published by Paul Tustin,
PR & Communications Director at Freshfield

In business, as in life, few great things are achieved alone. Success is often a product of building alliances, forming partnerships and collaborating with others.

It’s an approach that can also be applied to successful marketing and communications programmes, particularly when your objective is to get your message to a group of people you don’t already have access to, or to achieve a groundswell of support for a change in behaviour.

Here are five ways that clearly thought-out partnerships can help you achieve your business goals.

Building a consensus of opinion

In looking for support, examine industry bodies and influencers with a known interest in the identified subject or cause. Basic desktop research can allow you to find relevant potential partners, usually through the news output of that organisation.

For example, a campaign we are running on behalf of our client Sherwin-Williams – one of the world’s leading coatings manufacturers – focuses on a number of gaps identified in fire engineering for new modern steel structures.

By informally contacting a number of industry groups, including fire protection organisations, fire engineers, architects and the fire and rescue service, we found they had a common interest in this emerging issue. To bring them together, we held a Roundtable debate in London to gather their views, chaired by the editor of an independent media partner, the web portal IFSEC Global, who reported the findings of the group to the wider fire engineering community.

Sherwin-Williams Protective & Marine Coatings – FX6000 product video from Freshfield on Vimeo.

Forming partnerships with industry bodies has allowed Sherwin-Williams to be seen a thought leader on fire protection in buildings.

A follow-up seminar attracted more than 60 delegates and the group now meets as the Steel Structures Action Group with an objective to improve best practice in fire engineering practice across the UK. This group has identified a common interest, led by Sherwin-Williams as the recognised thought-leaders on this subject.

Tapping into existing networks

Rather than create something new, look to use networks that already exist to ‘piggy back’ on their influence and reach among members.

For instance, in our work with Boost Business Lancashire, the county’s multi-million-pound business growth hub, we wanted to reach owners of high growth companies to tell them about the support Boost could offer.

One aspect of our campaign saw us collaborate with existing professional advisers – such as lawyers, accountants and financial advisers – under a sub-brand called Boost & Co. This enabled these professionals to promote the benefits of Boost to their existing network of clients in Lancashire, rather than Boost having to start conversations with those businesses from scratch.

A snapshot of the Boost & Co. collaboration with WHN’s Michael Shroot.

In return, Boost & Co members were able to position themselves as key members of Lancashire’s business growth community and benefit from the joint publicity surrounding the wider marketing campaign.

Galvanising support to change perceptions

Quite often we will create a campaign on behalf of our clients that makes a call to action to get something done in a sector nationally for a specific reason or cause. By seeking the support of industry groups and official bodies, it is easier for such campaigns to gather momentum.

For our client Springhill Care Group, we have created the Caring Heroes campaign to raise awareness of the unseen work carried out by care workers across the UK at a time when they are often undervalued and underpaid.

This has been rolled out wider afield with the support of a number of MPs in the constituencies where Springhill operates and through the national body Care England, resulting in widespread engagement through social media using the hashtag #caringheroes.

Through this campaign Springhill Care Group has been able to position itself as an authoritative leader. Support for the campaign simply could not have been extended without the informal backing of these external partners.

Creating a direct line to potential customers

It’s marketing in one of its crudest, yet simplest, forms but sometimes the only way to gain access to a group of potential target customers is to form a partnership that allows you to buy into that market.

This may be something as basic as partnering with a trade publication that has a database of relevant customers in your market, or something a bit more sophisticated like funding a joint event to which a range of organisations invite their key contacts and customers, thus benefiting from the possibility of referral business.

For example, a law firm inviting a bank and an accountancy practice to host a joint event is a marketing tactic almost as old as time itself, but it works in generating business and thus strengthening these mutually beneficial relationships.

Basking in the glow of shared brand values

The brand you develop as an organisation is more than just your logo, colours and typeface – it represents what you stand for. So working with a partner organisation with similar values to you can extend the brand association and bring a new dimension to it.

GoPro sells cameras, and Red Bull sells energy drinks, but they both stand for so much more than that – a life that’s action-packed, adventurous, fearless and extreme.

GoPro and Red Bull have formed one of the most famous marketing partnerships of recent times.

These shared values made them a perfect pairing for a co-branding campaign in which GoPro equips athletes and adventurers from around the world with the tools and funding to capture things like races, stunts, and even freefalling from the edge of space on video from the athlete’s perspective. At the same time, Red Bull uses its experience and reputation to run and sponsor these events. What they did is so simple and effective, it makes you wish you’d thought of it.

But this type of marketing also works on a less global scale. For example, in devising the launch of the Northern Robotics Network – made up of a number of organisations including the North West Aerospace Alliance, BAE Systems and a number of universities in the North West – we used one network partner name to communicate the message, but each entity benefitted from its ties with the other members.

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