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Originally published on Marketing Donut

One thing that really sets apart the partnerships channel from traditional marketing and sales is that it brings your brand inside a consumer’s existing circle of trust. Partnerships align your business with content and publishers your audience already looks to for recommendations, putting a halo on your brand you’ll never get from advertising. 

A consumer’s trusted circle also includes brands and companies they value, making brand-to-brand partnerships a great way to tap into large new audiences.  Brand-to-brand partnerships introduce your business to new customers in a positive context, give you instant credibility, and bring real value to consumers. 

To inspire your thinking, here’s a look at just five of the many kinds of brand-to-brand partnerships driving growth for businesses today. 

Get inspired by these five types of win-win brand-to-brand partnerships

1. Complementary partnerships

Complementary alliances are the peanut butter and jelly of brand-to-brand partnerships, where two businesses have products and services that naturally go together. The business receiving the referrals gains a customer, the referring company earns a commission, and together they add customer value by solving problems beyond what either can do alone. For example, Qantas Airlines receives a payout every time it refers a host or a guest who signs up for Airbnb. 

Ask yourself: Which verticals, products, and services complement yours? What other products and services will customers need or want to buy before or after they’ve purchased from you?

2. Device-based partnerships

Brands are finding it harder to be everywhere at once, but the right technology partner can extend your reach and bring value to consumers on the screens they use most.

Target forged a smart partnership with Samsung whereby Samsung added the Target website as one of the quick access options on its mobile devices. Samsung provided the device, Target provided special offers, and customers got deals on the go.

Ask yourself:  What devices and screens do your audiences spend time on? Which brands may be associated with those devices and screens?

3. Cause-based partnerships

Research by eMarketer reports that Gen Z and Millenials in particular, are willing to pay higher prices for products from purpose-driven brands. With cause-based partnership, a brand offers its goods to a cause, charity, or non-profit’s clients, members, and donors at an attractive or exclusive rate. The cause receives a donation for each sale or sign-up, and the brand builds a positive connection with new customers. 

When pet adopters at animal shelters purchase a BarkBox subscription, for example, the partner shelter receives a commission, which makes everybody feel good.

Ask yourself: Which types of nonprofits and purpose-driven companies could benefit from offering your products or services at a special rate?

4. Supply chain partnerships

With these less common but high-performing partnerships, a brand recommends one of its suppliers to its customers and receives a commission on purchases made.

This type of supply chain referral partnership allowed Rastelli’s to tap into Sun Basket’s fervent customer base, introducing Rastelli’s as Sun Basket’s trusted supplier and giving consumers access to quality meats when shelves were empty during the pandemic.

Ask yourself: Do any upstream or downstream players in your supply chain also sell directly to your target audience? 

5. Unexpected audiences partnership

Undiscovered audiences lurk in surprising places, and your products or services may be (or become) appealing to consumers outside your core audience. The introduction is more natural and less risky when you rely on a partner the audience already knows. 

Grocery subscription service Shipt saw more than 65 percent QoQ growth in its partnerships

program revenue by forming brand-to-brand partnerships with healthcare companies and corporate benefits providers.

Ask yourself: Is there an audience outside your bread-and-butter you suspect might like your products or services? Are there markets or regions you want to explore but don’t feel adequately prepared to enter without a partner to show the way?

Tap into new audiences with brand-to-brand partnerships

For many more partnership types to consider, download our Field guide to strategic brand-to-brand partnerships and use this worksheet to help you identify prospects. You’ll also find more tips in A planning guide to strategic brand-to-brand partnerships

Reach out to to get started.

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