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Understanding a Partner Marketing Program_ What It Is and Why You Should Start One_s

Tips & Guides — 28 Apr 2023

Why Your Brand Needs a Partner Program

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Understanding a Partner Marketing Program: What It Is and Why You Should Start One

Affiliate marketing spending is rising – fast. Why is this? Because marketing is crowded. It’s a tough job getting heard, especially when money for marketing campaigns isn’t gushing forth from an unlimited fount.

Luckily, there are a host of great eCommerce marketing guides out there to help, and it’s worth taking a look to see what initiatives might be suitable for inclusion in your marketing strategy. 

There’s one technique, in particular, you can try out quickly and with remarkably little difficulty or expense, especially if you employ a package like Affise Reach.

What you and your business need is a way to stand out from the noise; a way of making yourself distinct from the rest while still using cost-effective strategies and methods. What you require is a way to access new markets at the same time as retaining old ones. 

What you need most, then, is to carry on reading. Because we’re talking about partner marketing. 

What is partner marketing?

In its most stripped-down sense, partner marketing takes the form of two businesses (or a business and an individual) co-operating in their marketing and promotional work to access each other’s assets and encourage lead generation. Here, ‘assets’ tends to refer primarily to their audiences. 

There are several types of partner marketing. Let’s look at each in turn, before outlining how you might kick off your partner marketing strategy and examining how easy or hard platform migration might be. 

The types of partner marketing

1. Affiliate marketing

Of the types of partnerships available, affiliate – aka partner – marketing is one that works extremely well for many businesses. It’s hugely popular – and becoming more so all the time.

affiliate marketing
Source (financesonline.com)

The way it works is simple. Your business engages the services of another business or individual to promote and sell its products. The other enterprise earns on each sale or gets a flat fee for its services. 

Quite often, this is how influencers operating on social media make a good chunk of their earnings. They create content marketing materials around one of your products or services and you leverage their constituency. 

Because they’re incorporating your product into their already trusted content, they bestow upon it ready acceptability to their followers. For this reason, this kind of affiliate marketing can markedly boost sales. 

Be warned, though: there must be a degree of compatibility for this to be effective. Most people are aware that some affiliate marketing goes on and that this is a commercial transaction. But they can accept this – even be swayed by it – if the product they’re being shown holds a degree of interest for them. 

For this to work, it must be the case that the influencer could have a natural and organic desire to want to use the product because it meets a need or interest, meaning this could be the reason they’re promoting it over and above money. There thus has to be a plausible reason for it being in their life. 

For instance, a mid-teen female influencer who tends to blog mostly about hair and music wouldn’t be a natural candidate to promote a fishing rod. It would look odd and incongruous on their page and be obvious they were being paid to promote the content. 

Any remotely savvy influencer will not want to pollute their brand with such inappropriate connections, so chances are this kind of dysfunctional relationship would be a non-starter anyway. 

However, in case the person or business you’re considering linking with doesn’t have the awareness to dismiss unproductive associations, be wary of who you approach for future partnerships and make sure they’re a suitable candidate for pushing your products.  

2. Channel partner marketing

channel partner marketing
Source (upstrategylab.com)

Channel partner marketing is similar to affiliate marketing, in that it involves teaming up with a partner for mutual benefit. However, it differs in the sense that your partner here will buy up multiple quantities of whatever it is you’re producing and seek to sell this themselves. 

These co-marketing and selling partners can be retailers, resellers, wholesalers, or distributors. They may receive incentives for high performance in the shape of discounts on further purchases of your products, thus boosting their margins. 

3. Cross promotions

This is a variety of partner marketing where each party promotes the other’s services to its clientele. The promotion may take the form of an email from a company to its customer list introducing the services of the other company. 

With reciprocal marketing like this, the promotional field is increased dramatically. There might be a discount included in the proposition to help embed the partner company’s product. 

Each of these three types of partnerships can work in a variety of commercial sectors and is suited for both B2C and B2B marketing activities (although influencers are primarily a B2C phenomenon). 

Reasons to start a partner marketing program

So, why might your company wish to launch a partner marketing program? 

Global reach, local flavor

Have you ever considered entering the global marketplace? This is a decision that can have massive implications for your company’s future growth. You may have what you think of as international appeal, but you can always use a little local seasoning to enhance your connection with foreign audiences.

The US is the world’s largest partner marketing zone, with $6.6 billion of commercial activity being generated, but other countries are starting to catch up. Japan is on $3.3 billion and seeing annual growth of 15%. Germany, Australia, and the UK are showing real growth too. India is one of the frontrunners in Asia, being as it’s well-placed in terms of the percentage of the population using the internet (and in particular social media).

global reach
Source (zacjohnson.com)

For this reason, it’s useful to think about international aspects, including multilinguality, when you’re considering your partner marketing strategy and choosing brands to collaborate with. 

Increased value proposition

The effect of forming links with another business can be more far-reaching than an uplift in sales. There may be a synergy of ideas that can give a boost to product development and service delivery. 

Marketing isn’t everything, after all. Sure, it’s important, but it’s nice to have something to offer customers after your initial marketing has drawn them in. 

By teaming up with others, you’re often given the opportunity to exploit other resources and expertise that can boost the overall user experience. This may mean you look again at your pricing model or add webinars to your marketing materials after consulting with your new partners. 

Perfect for a cookieless world

It’s going to be tricky without cookies. They’re so important to so many.

Source (blueconic.com)

The cookieless future may have been deferred for a while, but it is coming – you can be sure of that. Google and Apple are set on it. What this means for a business wanting to reach new customers is that new routes must be explored. 

The role cookies have played has been hugely significant, but nothing’s indispensable. OK, you may have to do without the individual data cookies currently provide, but there are arguments over how useful this is anyway. It sometimes leads to consumers being bombarded with ads for products they’ve already bought, for instance. 

Partner marketing conceptualizes a way forward based on organic promotion to groups of aligned customers, which may well result in more positively engaged audiences. In a world in which new marketing initiatives need to be forged, this represents a very apposite marketing tool. 

Lets you try new channels

Sometimes, especially if you’re launching a new product, you’ll wish to try a different channel to acquire a fresh target audience and attract more potential customers. This can be daunting, especially if you’re wary of spending too much on the endeavor. Add to this the probability that you won’t have much experience in its use, and you have the recipe for trepidation pie. 

By teaming up with an organization that already exists in a world where such channels are meat-and-drink to them, you’ll be able to access and benefit from their know-how. This savoir-faire can take the form of long-term company-wide awareness of how to work with a revenue stream or it can be one employee’s specialist background knowledge re a particular product. 

Whatever it is, that expertise will be put at your disposal without the need for you to plunge into any long voyage of discovery yourself.

Builds brand identity

Brand identity counts. 

brand identity
Source (lucidpress.com)

Sometimes, brands can use a bit of color. An association can fill in some added detail in terms of the picture you’re trying to paint as part of your brand awareness campaign. The lifestyle you wish to depict can’t be fully fleshed out by just one product. You need setting and context. The right association can provide this. 

Take that fishing rod you were trying to sell. If you team up with a renowned manufacturer of wet weather clothing, you now have the makings of some nice lifestyle montages. This is something new audiences love. 

Gives you a support system

It can be lonely if you’re a small business doing your best to survive in a Darwinian landscape of failed enterprises and hostile competitors. Sometimes, the timidity this breeds is anathema to the thrusting, audacious behavior you will, from time to time, need to exhibit. 

Luckily, your partners want you to succeed as much as you do. By adding to the net total of friendly faces out there, you’ll benefit. This is in terms of measurables such as expert assistance and workflow enhancement but also more intangible positives like the boost a supportive chat will give you. 

This can be the difference between a great idea that withers due to lack of team confidence and a great idea that takes root thanks to the supportive environment in which it germinates.  

Everyone is tired of digital ads

We’re bombarded with advertising. 6,000-10,000 ads a day for each of us is the current (quite shocking) estimate. An increasing number of these are digital ads, and the majority of internet users have been made more than a little weary by the sheer quantity. 

digital ad
Source (blog.hubspot.com)

This preponderance of digital marketing is now standard on many sites. It’s not only slow loading but often obscures the content you accessed the site to read in the first place. 

These digital ads are blunt instruments that irritate more than entice. With partner marketing, however, you can seek to refine your operation by pushing your marketing material to those who are more likely to appreciate it. This will result in a warmer consumer response and your sales will benefit accordingly.  

Digital ads are a blunderbuss; learn how to exploit the sophisticated targeting capacity of a rapier (aka partner marketing) instead.

An increase in competition

As markets develop, competition increases. This is, in many respects, welcome. The competitive razor helps keep the economy keen and is the primary drive to innovation. As author Nancy Pearcy wrote, ‘Competition is a good thing: it forces us to do our best’.

You can seek to stay afloat and thrive in this mercilessly competitive environment by using the talents and resources of your partners. When allied to your own, these assets will make your business a good deal more durable and competitive than it would be by itself. 

Budgets are lowered 

There are commonly accepted figures for marketing (depending on the age of the business). 

marketing percentage
Source (hoist.digital)

However, you can reduce these amounts. It may be the case that you divide certain outlays, which means budgets can be reassessed. 

If your hitherto modestly productive marketing efforts aimed at a particular sector will be superseded completely by your partner’s far superior coverage in this area, you can trim that part of your operation quite safely. You can then use these resources elsewhere and to greater effect.

How to start a partner marketing program

So, now you know why you should do it. The next question is how you go about it. Here are some easy steps to partner marketing bliss.

Step #1: Determine your marketing objectives

Most businesses are very happy to set marketing goals, but they sometimes struggle to attain them. 

marketing goals
Source (backlinko.com)

However, achieving goals is within your grasp. Ask yourself what you want to achieve. Is it more of what you’re doing now (in other words, deeper penetration into your existing market) or would you like to boldly break into new sectors? 

You can’t begin realizing your ambitions until you take the time to define them and identify the steps needed to achieve them. 

Step #2: Select the right strategic partnerships

In general, it makes sense not to have too jarring a combination of partners. What can come across as refreshingly daring at the ideation stage may end up being a monumental mismatch when it comes to the actual marketing. 

There are some sectors that are going to be out of your reach. For example, if you’re a baby food manufacturer, you probably won’t gain much traction with the over 70s, so a link-up with a holiday company specializing in senior travel doesn’t make a lot of sense. 

Think only in terms of linking with partners that seem like a good fit. This can be a general company feel or specific to company size, history, goals, ethics, markets, or other such characteristics. But don’t let this shackle your thinking. Do get creative. 

Also, consider where the different types of partner marketing have the biggest impact. Affiliate marketing, for instance, has the greatest presence in fashion.

top 10 affiliate
Source (digitalgyd.com)

You want to find the right partner or partners, who enhance what you do and don’t in any way contradict it. If you want to break into a new sector, a partner organization with a similar but not identical demographic is what you need. The partnership between Shopify and TikTok is a case in point. Marketing partnerships like this hit the perfect sweet spot. 

If a partner is too similar, you have less to gain from a mingling of markets. Whatever you do, don’t attempt a team-up with your biggest competitors. This messaging will be, at best, confusing for your customer base. At worst, it will ruin both parties’ distinctiveness. 

Imagine for a second if Coke and Pepsi did some cross-promotion. It would be baffling to behold. It would seem utterly surreal. Inconceivable, in fact. OK, it’s an extreme example, but you get the idea. 

Step #3: Research

Now you have an idea about potential partners, do your research. What success do they have in their sphere? What can they deliver for your business (e.g. do they have a history of successful referral marketing)? By all means, ask their customers if this route is available to you. 

Research into what demand is out there for a business like yours. Where can it best expand, and how can your prospective partner assist you in this? What marketing channels is it currently absent from?

Research shouldn’t stop when the partnership starts. Keep an eye on performance figures, and tweak the relationship where necessary. This is where a sound statistical approach pays off. 

Using a package such as Affise, you can monitor metrics such as CTR and ARPU and consequently acquire a good idea of whether the partnership is succeeding in achieving its goals. By staying on top of the data, you give the marketing endeavor the best chance of success.

Be sure to give your analysis proper attention and funding. It’s all too easy to fall into substandard analytical practices if your company doesn’t know what to do with these figures.

Source (sisense.com)

Step #4: Play to your specific strengths

What is it about your company that will segue well with the one you’re considering? Will affiliation give you the right framework in which to promote what it does well, or will there be a conflict? Will the other company be looking long-term to capture that territory for itself? 

Ensure the relationship you’re positing will permit your business to continue to do what it does well already. 

Step #5: Be clear

Ensure that, right from the outset, you and your partner organization are clear with each other about what you want to get out of the relationship and how you’re going to go about doing it. 

Establish timeframes and goal yardsticks. It may be the case that you have a figure in mind concerning sales growth for a particular product, or it might be something more general, such as an intent to drive an increased flow of traffic to your website. 

Discuss this with your partner and decide together how realistic these are as targets and how the partnership can help to achieve them. Then consider how using analysis via something like Affise BI will give you a means of assessing them. 

Also, establish ground rules on factors such as how and how often you communicate with each other. You’ll need to give regular updates on product development, so sort out how that will happen in a way that suits all concerned. Give your partner a means of finding out information on an ad hoc basis should an unexpected consumer query arise. 

And, not to be overlooked: establish a means of resolving friction. 

Be as candid as you need to be. Opacity is the enemy of communication. Clear? Good.  

Step #6: Be open to feedback

Finally, pay attention to what customers tell you. Pay attention to what your partner company is saying too. Listen to what your partner company tells you that customers are telling it.

There’s a world of potentially useful feedback out there for you to glean. The optimization benefits of learning from it will be huge and a win-win for both you and your strategic partner.

Start your partner marketing program with Affise

You may think, “OK, I get it, I need to get into partner marketing, but I’m betting it’s not simple”. You couldn’t be more wrong. With a partner marketing program such as Affise, a lot of the complicated stuff is taken care of for you. 

For instance, all your offers and relationship details can be managed by CPAPI. Rather than needing to juggle all manner of complicated and niche data, the difficult bit is handled by this enormously useful data transfer platform. 

And the great news is that even if you already have a partner marketing program but want to change to something more suited to your needs, you can do so with ease. In fact, with Affise, platform migration couldn’t be simpler. 

With a series of easy steps, from preparing your system to making a global announcement, Affise will give you all the support you need to migrate your platform to a program that makes your partner marketing sing. 

An added bonus is the speed of implementation. With a SaaS service like Affise Reach, you can get things up and running within 24 hours, and your brand can team up with another business, an advertiser, or another sort of partner altogether in record time. 


Partner marketing is one of the key ways to attract new customers and develop customer loyalty.

customer loyalty
Source (tide.co)

And, with a winning way forward at your disposal, and such easy-to-use assistance supplied by companies like Affise, you have everything you need to take your marketing plan to the next level. 

It’s an especially good time to be exploring the partner relationships avenue. With cookies soon to disappear, it feels like a marketing epoch shift is due, and eCommerce is about to see some interesting trends develop. 

In the words of IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, ‘You’ve got to keep reinventing. You’ll have new competitors… and new customers all around you.’

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Affise Academy

Affise is a partner marketing platform for brands, advertisers and agencies to scale via all possible performance marketing channels. Synergy of technology and our long standing experience lets you expand your partnerships, automate every step of the campaign lifecycle and make data-driven decisions.

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