Partnership Marketing

Who can you partner with to reach your marketing target? 

I went to a book signing by Eric Assimov, the New York Times Wine Writer whose column has appeared in print and online for many years. I never met Eric but frequently read his column. He was gracious, soft-spoken and quite grounded in his comments to those of us who stopped by Wine Authorities in Durham, North Carolina this past Saturday. Eric's new book is called How To Love Wine and I am looking forward to reading it over the holidays. 

I was struck by the wonderful blend of marketing activity going on between a book seller (The Regulator) and the subject matter expert retailer (Wine Authority). Instead of having an author come to a book shop to sign copies of a new book (How to Love Wine), they took the smart approach to bring the experience in the middle of a wine store where the target audience lives. The people in the shop were folks who love wine and enjoy learning about new varietals, blends and regions for wine.

Marketing Moment
This inspired me to think about how other businesses could be using this same approach to bring together common interests with partners or other businesses who don’t compete but share a target audience. 

How could the accountant looking for new clients work together with the office supply wholesaler who sell share a common target or prospect? 
How can the crafts woman who makes an organic goat cheese partner together with a bakery specializing in special cracker products made with sustainable farmed wheat and fruits? 

How can an industrial pipe insulation firm find a way to partner with water companies to help each other reach a shared audience?

The idea is simple but requires a like-minded approach to a market.  Below are four questions to ask to help you identify how you can partner with the right business and to scaffold your growth together with someone who shares a common need.

DEFINE YOUR TARGET: Who exactly do you want to reach?  The better you can define who you want to get in front of, the better job you can do in understand who shares this audience as their target. Be very, very specific. Look at who buys from you know and crisply defined that segment of the population. 

SHARED TARGETS: When you have identified your target, think about what other product and services your target also buys.  And remember, the narrower the focus on your target the better. In fact, try to visualize and describing this person or company with as much detail as you possibly can. Who else wants to communicate and sell something to the same target as you? 

WORK THE NETWORK: Once you have a definition of who you want to partner with, try using your network (Linkedin, Facebook, Local Business Chambers, etc) and see if someone can introduce you to a like-minded business owner who shares a common connection to your audience. The better you can describe who you want to meet, the better a colleague or connection might be able to help.  

MAKE THE CALL:  You will find a few leads from your community and then you need to pick up the phone and call. Once you reach out and explain that you don’t compete with them but you share a common interest in reaching more possible customers, a door will open. The key is a willingness to share and try something together. 

Both parties need a chance to win. In the case of Wine Authorities, I am sure they had more traffic that day than a typical Saturday by bringing in new visitors. The publicity that made me aware of the event also made me aware of a wine store I don't normally shop at and wasn't on my radar. 

Whether the wine shop and bookstore shared in the sale of the books is not the point. The wine shop wanted more traffic, the book shop wanted to sell books to consumers interested in wine. The wine shop wanted to build credibility with their existing clients that they could attract the New York Times Critic on wine to come to their store. 

Together they combined their assets to bring more attention to their businesses at virtually no cost. It was the common target audience that they both wanted to reach and this simple partnership in the form of a promotional event popped the cork on a successful day.

Find a partner who shares a common marketing target with you and see how you can leverage that connection. Open up your mind to the possibilities of growing your business by leveraging a common audience. 

I am a marketing professional with over 30 years of experience creating success. If you enjoy these blog posts, please sign up to receive them in your email or share them with other marketing friends who might be interested in these topics. You can comment on this blog, send an email to me at or as the Car Talk guys on NPR  like to say, write your question on the back of a $20 bill and mail it to me. Thanks for traveling along with me on this journey. 

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