In Hinge’s 2017 High Growth Study, we asked respondents to rate the impact of 24 possible marketing techniques. Of these, the technique that was rated as having the most impact was a bit of a surprise: partnership marketing. One-third of the high growth firms we surveyed rated its impact as significant (they rated it a 9 or 10 on a ten point scale). How many no-growth firms gave partnership marketing a high rating? Zero.


So what are we to make of this finding? First, let’s clarify what we mean by partnership marketing.

Download the “2017 High Growth Study Research Summary” Here

At Hinge, we define partnership marketing as a mutually beneficial marketing relationship between a firm and another organization. Now, this definition is pretty broad. It could include anything from co-producing webinars to actively marketing each other’s services. To benefit from a strategic relationship at any level, firms can’t be direct competitors and they must serve the same audiences, at least in part.

The implication of this finding appears to be that building partnerships makes it easier to grow.

When you think about it, the connection between partnerships and growth makes a lot of sense. If you can work cooperatively with another organization that communicates with a segment of your audience that you haven’t yet addressed, then your reach — your universe of potential clients — will expand. And if the firm you partner with is held in high esteem by its audience, some of that credibility can be transferred to your firm by association.

The strongest partnerships not only give you access to another firm’s list, they can benefit your audience, too. How? By endorsing a reputable firm that offers services many of your clients and prospects need, you expose them to a high-quality provider. When they need to buy those services, your clients have a great option (your partner) already at hand. Of course for this approach to work, you must vet your partners carefully.

What Goes into a Partnership Marketing Plan

So suppose you wanted to act on this information. What would a partnership marketing plan look like? How could we combine the best marketing techniques to create a plan that’s primed for high growth?

When we look at a list of the most impactful marketing techniques, nearly all of them can be rolled into a partnership marketing plan. Here’s one way you might approach such a plan:

Downloadable Content/Email Marketing/Blogging: Email marketing and guest blog swaps are common in partnerships. For instance, you might agree to send an email to each others’ list every other month. Typically in these arrangements, firms don’t exchange lists with a partner; instead, each organization sends for the other. You might agree to write (and host) guest blog posts a little more frequently than you exchange emails — say monthly. You can make the most of these golden opportunities in front of a new audience by adding educational content to the mix. Offer a free white paper or research report in each email you send. End your blog posts with a link to download related content. And be sure to gate at least some of your content so you can acquire email addresses and grow your firm’s list of contacts.

Speaking Engagements/ Conferences/Webinars: If you have an annual conference, offer your partner a speaking spot and exhibit space. This helps your audience learn more about your partner and puts a face on your partner’s name. If your partner has an annual conference, you can swap these opportunities. But what if they don’t? Consider inviting your partner to join you for webinars or to co-present at conferences that target an audience you have in common. More and more conference organizers are seeking presentations that involve more than one speaker, so offering co-presenters can give you an advantage when competing for a spot.

Website/Online Advertising: You may want to offer your partner advertising, branding and marketing opportunities on your website. If you sell ad space on your website or newsletter, for instance, include free ads as part of your partnership plan. Consider adding a Partners page or section to your website, as well. Ask your partner to provide relevant copy and graphics. This page can also tell your audience about any special pricing or packages they can get as a benefit of your partnership.

There is one item on the list of marketing techniques that’s not as easy to fit into a partnership marketing plan: outbound phone marketing. Most partners aren’t likely to provide phone numbers for clients and prospects — if they even have them. But if you include a phone number field in your download forms you might want to consider adding outbound phone marketing to your list of techniques. Check out this detailed description of how to make outbound phone marketing work for you.

In this post, I’ve outline one approach to a partnership marketing plan — one based on our most recent study of high-growth professional services firms. Feel free to customize it to fit the realities of your firm and industry. At Hinge, we’ve cultivated strategic partnerships for a number of years, and they have become an invaluable way to expand our reach to new audiences. While building partner relationships and trust can take time, it’s well worth the effort. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to start growing you firm!