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How To Increase and Measure Partnership ROI

wedding_cake_topperBuilding partnerships with other companies is an effective way to increase marketing ROI, so here I explore different types of partnerships, how to increase their potential and measure them.

First, the different types of partnerships:

  • One type, which I’ve been seeing a lot of lately, isn’t a true partnership.  It’s when someone tries to sell you something and they sugar-coat it as a “partnership.”  If it were truly a partnership, the company would be putting up their time, product/service, experience, effort, and/or money, while your company also takes some of these risks, in order for both to achieve increased revenue.  Instead, these “partnership opportunities” involve you putting up all the risk by purchasing their product/service, while they put up zero risk.  This faux proposal seems to me that the company doesn’t have enough faith in what they are selling to talk straight: “I want to partner with you” just sounds nicer than “I want to sell you something.” Granted, by buying what they’re selling, you may increase profitability for your customers, improving their ROI, and/or you may be lowering your overall costs, improving your ROI.  Call it a partnership if it makes you feel better, but I call it a sale.
  • However, in the above example, should the selling company align their success to the performance of their client, i.e. they make money in a shared-reward revenue model, they could then call themselves a partner without me griping as much, as they would then have a vested interest in their client’s success.
  • In the press release WPP and Omniture launch partnership to improve marketing ROI, a true type of partnership is highlighted.  The first company (Omniture) stands to gain significantly from the second (WPP) by offering its business clients greater ROI, and the second company (WPP) buys a significant amount of stock in the first (Omniture).  Thus, both take on risk and are equally committed for the partnership to work.  They then collaborate on sharing information, best practices and services to develop joint solutions for mutual clients.  In this situation, the companies share employees, with some from the first company (Omniture) going to work within the second’s offices (WPP), and training is conducted of the second company’s (WPP) employees in the first company’s (Omniture) products/services.  The second company’s (WPP) technologies, data, and products are integrated into the first company’s (Omniture) platform, thus the second company (WPP) can now deploy the first company’s (Omniture) solutions to clients with their add-ons.
  • Even simpler, another type of partnership blends two or more company’s product/service offerings, with neither investing in the other, so together they can provide a greater solution to current clients, or reach a new or wider audience.  In this type of arrangement, partners are primarily finding a new way to market their products/services in a cooperative arrangement without changing what each are doing day-to-day.  The investment typically required in this case is to verify that the arrangement works and there is a market for it, as well as develop co-marketing materials.
  • Another type of partnership is the Affiliate partnership, where one company simply refers business to a second company through their marketing efforts and receives a commission.  Affiliate partners typically will look for companies (Merchants) who are managing an Affiliate program, and apply to be their Affiliate through third party sites like Shareasale.com.
  • There’s a special type of partnership that we’ve all heard about, the Sponsorship.  If one company can know enough about the other company’s demographic audience and can deliver it to them via a channel, such as an event, there may be an opportunity for a Sponsorship.  In BusyEvent’s Growing sponsorship revenue through brand partnership it is stated, “Real creativity is required…Simply placing logos on stuff isn’t going to fit into shrinking marketing budgets.  The emerging trend is to gather better data before, during and after the event so you have something tangible to show a brand to obtain their involvement in your event(s).  We use…reward-focused program[s] to know as much about a group of people as we can without anyone feeling manipulated.”
    • As an aside, the company that I work with, C.A. Walker, can assist with online surveys to segment audiences and measure emotional engagement to brands, intercepts during events for feedback, and “brand fit” studies to ensure the Sponsor and Brand are a good alignment that enhances the Sponsor’s image.
  • The last type of partnership involves distribution, where two companies collaborate to sell and distribute the products/services of one of them.  This is also called a channel partnership.  There are various types of channel partner arrangements:
    • Partner sells products and/or services and deliver services.
    • Partner sells products and/or services but doesn’t deliver services.
    • Partner doesn’t sell products or services but delivers services.

The following is recommended in a true partner support program to increase and measure partnership profitability (from 2009 TSW Support Partner Program Best Practices – note: the PDF opened for me after downloading but not in my browser):

  • Have at least four trained support staff per product, with recognized certifications and specific partner training.
  • Offer 24x7x365 support for partners, with case tracking and reporting.
  • Conduct initial and ongoing partner audits, with quarterly reviews.
  • Conduct third-party quarterly customer satisfaction surveys, which is part of the partner’s overall scorecard tied to their income agreement.  Customer satisfaction is as critical in acquiring and retaining partners, as it is customers.
    • As an aside, if you need assistance administering customer or partner satisfaction surveys, C.A. Walker also provides this service.
  • Create automated reporting of necessary metrics, reports and partner scorecards.
  • Offer Web-enabled tools for partners to provide customers, and a partner portal.
  • Put in place appropriate metrics, such as:
    • Quarter over quarter and year over year, revenue, net profit margin, return on assets and return on equity (new accounts established).
    • Track customer satisfaction measures over time.
    • Track partner satisfaction measures over time.
    • Track customer renewal/repeat purchase behaviors.
    • Establish and track cost per case and case resolution times (i.e. customer complaints) per million of total revenue.
    • Measures of product quality and reliability improvements (i.e. customer complaint case deflection).
    • Measures of ease of doing business with partners.

Companies have great opportunities in this economy to develop new partnerships that will enhance their market position.  So get out there and make some noise!

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