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Did you hear that? The partnership revolution has been a quiet storm. In fact, Forrester even calls partnerships “the shadow channel.”  Few people even realize that partnerships drive more revenue than paid search at many organizations. The entire partnership economy has emerged a bit under the radar, which means that with the possible exception of high-profile influencers, there are more kinds of partnerships out there than most people even realize.  

From strategic B2B partnerships to native software integrations, loyalty programs, app-to-app integrations, corporate responsibility/charity, traditional affiliates, premium publishers, and ambassadors, you’d be surprised at the sheer number of ways businesses collaborate with other companies or individuals to grow. 

Here’s a look inside a handful of real-world partnership types and how they work. Maybe one will inspire your next big partnership story!

Strategic B2B partnership in action: Shipt and healthcare businesses

These partnerships are mutually beneficial programs that leverage complementary industries or customer needs. Shipt, an online grocery service, partners with businesses across different verticals to drive member subscriptions. These partners include like-minded businesses, such as meal-planning services, healthcare companies, corporate benefits providers, and healthy eating blogs. Overall, they have a common goal of promoting healthy eating habits.

Shipt drastically reduced its customer acquisition cost by paying partners for the true value they generated, rather than just for the initial action. Shipt used a hybrid payout model whereby the company shared a small payout for free trial signups, and a larger payout if the same customer ended up subscribing to Shipt’s membership plan. 

Native software integration partnership in action: Ticketmaster and Spotify

With more technically sophisticated B2B partnerships, some sort of integration may need to be enabled to share data to offer something far more relevant to consumers. With 70% of its performance traffic coming from mobile devices, and deep relationships with major video, social, and music platforms, Ticketmaster looks to capitalize on discovery intent through native integrations with third-party apps that allow users to purchase tickets directly from fan pages, concert listings, and music streaming apps like Spotify using Ticketmaster’s vast trove of event and venue data.

Mobile app partnership action: Target and Samsung

Businesses are keen to have partners drive prospects deep into their mobile app experiences where purchases are most likely to be made, particularly with deep linking. Target has a mobile partnership with Samsung, where a Target quick-access link is pre-installed within the web browser on Samsung devices. Samsung can make recommendations through its quick-access web browser to refer Samsung phone users to buy Target products. The company also has the option of targeting users by device, browsing history, geographic location, and demographic data. This partnership is available on 50 million eligible Samsung devices, with the Target quick icon viewed an average of 580 million times a month. Users click through 1 million times per month, driving direct store sales through the mobile app’s placement.

Social responsibility partnership in action: BarkBox and Downtown Dog Rescue

Companies that embrace a purpose-driven brand strategy or robust corporate social responsibility program can create win-win value with cause-based partnerships. BarkBox has a unique social responsibility partnership with pet shelters that ties into their mission of making dogs (and their owners) happy. Barkbox products are mailed to shelters, allowing the dogs that are coming and going to play with the toys and treats. New pet owners can easily sign up for a BarkBox subscription at the location, and when Barkbox wins a new customer, the company donates a commission fee to that pet shelter.

Content partnership in action: fuboTV and Ziff Davis

Publishers in search of more diverse revenue streams are starting to embrace pay-for-value partnerships. fuboTV has a partnership program with several Ziff Davis brands. During one summer campaign, a Mashable reader could find the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup schedule on the site as well as information on how to stream the matches live through fuboTV. The visibility given to fuboTV refers new subscribers to the streaming service. In addition, fuboTV’s partnerships provide snackable sports content or live streaming to mobile and connected TV apps.

Ambassadorship in action: DSW and “Friends & Benefits”

Ambassadors can mean anything from customer and employee referral programs to offline locations that promote your products, organic influencers, and more. DSW has converted its entire loyalty program into a promotional machine, driving incremental revenue by enticing loyalty cardholders with a friends and family referral program. Its ambassadors are rewarded with corresponding loyalty points for any successful transactions they refer.

The options for reaching people and acquiring new customers via partnerships are pretty much unlimited. Organizations can choose (or develop from scratch) the relationships that best align with their business models and acquisition strategies. 

Read about more successful partnership stories in the eBook, What’s the Channel Hotter than Paid Search?, or find the partnership path that’s best for your business with help from an Impact growth strategist at

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