If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that businesses either need to adapt or they risk dying. Many learned the hard way that if they didn’t adapt quickly enough, they were in trouble. We learned that businesses with a mature partnership program — a strong mix of partners and automation that keeps them running smoothly — were the ones to survive. They continued marketing to their audiences to retain interest and remain relevant.
As is often the case, some verticals performed while others did not. Looking at the data, successful verticals in 2020 included on-demand delivery services, streaming services, and online education, to name a few. Verticals that were less fortunate included the events, travel, and hospitality industries.
What all have in common is a need to continuously think ahead, and adapt their offering and marketing solutions so they’re poised to navigate any crisis.
Three key strategies for growth in 2021
Businesses can take any number of actions to grow in 2021. My take on the three key strategies that help make a good partnership program great are:
- Nontraditional partnerships: Where true incrementality happens
Businesses typically have relied on traditional affiliates — with reasonable success. For exponential growth, however, a more diversified and strategic business-to-business (B2B) program is needed.
To find this relationship, businesses can look outside of traditional partnership targets for similar or complementary businesses with overlapping audiences and values. The bonus here would be to avoid depreciating your brand’s value by continually offering discounts through traditional coupon, deal, rewards, and cashback sites. Rather, look to add value to the experience and provide your target audience with a new offering. You’ll identify new audiences as well.
As the partner, these nontraditional partnerships are mutually beneficial for you, too. More importantly, they offer the consumer the unexpected experience of a frictionless transaction from one provider to another, while also adding value to the overall experience.
- Payouts: The devil is in the details
With millions of payments and billions of dollars globally managed on a daily basis through ecommerce systems, imagine how much money is being made (and lost) in certain areas. In order to really be a profitable business, it’s important to be critical of what is being paid and to whom. Without the ability to pay at the SKU-level, you’ll leave a lot of money on the table.
Itemized payouts at the product/service level is key. Not all products and services are created equally. Some are more profitable than others, and, consequently, payments to partners need to reflect that.
Pay for the value your partner drives. If they bring you a desired target audience with a higher-than-average AOV (average order value), reward them. If a high-ticket item is purchased, reward them. If they bring in a new customer, reward them.
- Give influencers more KPIs
Many businesses are on the fence when it comes to thinking about the benefits an influencer marketing program can add. In the past they’ve typically not been held accountable for driving actual sales volume, and many have used vanity metrics to masquerade as key performance indicators (KPIs).
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the media, public, and brands were growing increasingly critical of influencers. This sentiment was felt even more strongly throughout 2020. Specifically, a number of influencers were deemed not up to par, and did not meet expectations since they were unable to demonstrate their value during the pandemic.
It’s crucial that influencers who want to build and maintain long-term, viable partnerships show their brand partners resourcefulness and agency by offering flexibility on pricing and timing. Brands are aware that influencers offer unique authenticity, and thus represent a key component of the overall partnership ecosystem. Brands need to see the value downstream and convert “likes” into sales.
Time in the marketplace — not timing the marketplace
As with any relationship, partnerships take time to prosper. So don’t wait for the “right time” to roll around: Start now.
Use your initial learnings to optimize and report findings back to the C-suite. This will show leadership that not only does the partnership channel meet your company’s efficiency requirements, it’s a valuable and profitable channel.
Once you gain buy-in from leadership and secure further investment, use these three strategies to scale, bringing on more diverse partnerships knowing that the systems you’ve put in place will result in a very profitable marketing channel.
Want more strategies for shoring up your partnerships in 2021? Reach out to a growth technologist at firstname.lastname@example.org.