How 3 HubSpot Managers Found Strong Co-Marketing Partnerships [+How You Can, Too]

A solid co-marketing partnership is one of the better ways to reach a previously untapped audience, generate positive publicity, and create a wealth of valuable marketing collateral. When done right, it’s a mutually beneficial, thoroughly productive way to boost your marketing efforts as a whole.

Aligning yourself with an industry peer can pay off in spades, but these kinds of relationships aren’t easy to start and sustain. Your partner’s interests and qualities need to complement yours, and the companies you work with have to be reliable enough to consistently pull their weight.

Finding a company that fits that bill is hard in its own right, but once you’ve identified one you want to work with, you’re faced with the challenges of successfully contacting them, corresponding with them, and convincing them to work with you.

Those processes can be hard to figure out on your own, so to offer you some help, we spoke with three HubSpot experts about how they found strong co-marketing partnerships and the steps you need to take to do the same.

What do you look for in a co-marketing partner?

When asked about what they look for in a co-marketing partner, our experts all seemed to agree that the number one priority is alignment in audience, messaging, and image. As HubSpot Senior Marketing Manager, Margot Mazur, put it, “We look for partners who speak to similar personas and address their needs. Specifically, we want to make sure our partners have a similar audience and voice — with similar values and goals to meet.”

Though finding a company that checks those boxes is central to a successful co-marketing partnership, there’s still a lot more to the process. You might identify a potential partner that lines up well with your brand identity and appeals to a similar audience, but co-marketing partnerships need to be productive and mutually beneficial — you need to know you’ll get something out of it.

According to HubSpot Marketing Manager, Diego Santos, “Once we are happy with [a potential partner’s] suitability, we classify them according to a co-marketing matrix — one that takes the partner’s popularity, relevance, and objective into consideration. This process helps us to prioritize collaborations and look at the big picture.”

Ideological and objective-oriented alignment isn’t enough. There needs to be hard, quantifiable potential behind a co-marketing partnership. As Mazur said, “We also look at a potential partner’s audience across social and email channels, making sure that our businesses are of a similar size.”

Co-marketing partnerships are, at their core, strategic plays. They can be invaluable assets in targeted marketing efforts. For instance, HubSpot Marketing Manager, Clara Landecy, spoke on how they can be leveraged to target specific areas, “I always look for partners who have a strong presence in targeted regions. Partnering with local partners is essential if your company does business in multiple languages and across the globe.”

Santos succinctly captured all those points when he laid out the key questions to consider when finding co-marketing partners, “We usually ask ourselves the following questions to make sure they are a good fit: Who are they? What is their area of expertise? And who — and how big — is their audience?”

It’s important to have a firm understanding of what you want out of a co-marketing partnership before approaching potential partners. Find a company with similar values that will enhance your ability to effectively reach your target audience — one that will pull its weight, complement your messaging, and ultimately suit your long term goals.

How do you approach and connect with potential co-marketing partners?

Our experts stressed the importance of a personal touch in connecting with potential co-marketing partners. As Santos put it, “A more personal, network-oriented approach is usually much more effective than a cold introductory email or message.”

Co-marketing partnerships are inherently personal, so it’s only fitting that you start your relationship with your partner off on a personal note. But how do you get there?

Well, according to our experts, your best bet is leveraging resources and co-workers from within your own company. Landecy said, “To increase your response rate, ask your colleagues if they have any contacts at the companies you’re looking to partner with, warm outreach always helps.”

Santos agreed, “We always try to leverage the connections we already have in HubSpot. When we are looking for partners in a particular area, we reach out to everyone in the relevant regional team and encourage them to send ideas of potential collaborations.”

Mazur reiterated their points but added some insight about what she does when she can’t reach potential partners through her colleagues, “Generally, I’ll see if anyone at HubSpot already has a connection to someone at the partner company. If not, I’ll reach out to a partnership, BD, or marketing person at the company on LinkedIn, using their InMail tool.” As I mentioned earlier, no matter how you reach potential partners you need to do so with a personal touch.

Do your homework. Make sure you have a firm grasp on the nature of the company you’re contacting, what it might need out of a co-marketing partnership, and what you can do to suit its objectives and interests. Or as Landecy said, “Make sure your outreach is personalized! Showing you did the research before reaching out shows you are invested in the potential partnership and makes their work feel special!”

But let’s say you don’t have the know-how and personal connections to identify and reach potential co-marketing partners. You’re at a loss when it comes to finding interested companies whose size, values, and interests line up with your own.

What can you do? Well, there are certain tools designed to expedite the process. For instance, Crossbeam is a resource that leverages CRM data to help you find and connect with potential co-marketing partners with overlapping customer bases and other complementary attributes.

Ultimately, a solid co-marketing partnership has tremendous potential that’s only seen after tremendous effort. It often takes extensive research and critical thought just to identify the companies that suit your values, goals, and qualities. And actually conducting the necessary outreach and communication to establish one adds a whole new, often exhausting layer to the process.

Still, there’s a lot to be gained from these kinds of arrangements. If your business is looking for a shot of life to your marketing efforts, pursuing a co-marketing partnership is something to consider.

HubSpot Ran A Co-marketing Campaign: Here’s What We Learned

Co-marketing campaigns can be undeniably effective for increasing brand awareness, reaching new audiences, or creating amazing — and potentially delicious — new products.

For instance, consider the partnership between Doritos and Taco Bell, which resulted in Doritos Locos Tacos, a delicious product promoted in a brilliant co-marketing campaign. If you haven’t heard of the partnership, watch the story unfold in this promotional video:

In this case, the two B2C companies saw success in their venture — and now, the popular item is a mainstay on the Taco Bell menu. Marketers at the two companies can attribute the home-run to a certain tactic: co-marketing.

Click here to download a detailed guide and free templates for getting started with co-marketing.

A wonderful way for two companies to partner together, co-marketing can create opportunities for businesses to reach new audiences and delight existing audiences at the same time.

For instance, HubSpot has the Partner program, which offers unique benefits, including co-marketing opportunities. Recently, the team decided to run a few tests to see if co-marketing could expand past content offers — and what that would look like.

Essentially, the team aimed to answer three questions:

  • How do we move co-marketing programming forward?
  • How do we keep providing top-notch education?
  • How do we keep our lead number high while creating value for our audience?

HubSpot Academy gives educational value to its audiences, so it was a great channel for partners to get involved. It’s the home of hundreds of world-leading courses about marketing and sales. Lessons even include tools to help viewers take actionable steps as they learn.

“Maybe, to expand co-marketing opportunities,” the team hypothesized, “We could have partners upload their own lessons within courses and certification tracks. They can demo how their tools work with the current lesson in practice.”

This could mean more traffic from audiences with interests that align closely with partners’ target audiences.

Having settled on the experiment, HubSpot’s team then needed to stop and think through possible speed bumps. For starters, will partners be able to drive leads with Academy? Will HubSpot audiences even be interested in offers?

Here, let’s explore how HubSpot’s Academy team created and ran a co-marketing campaign, and lessons they learned that you can apply to your own co-marketing efforts.

HubSpot’s Co-marketing Campaign

To start, Moz hosted a video lesson for HubSpot Academy’s Content Marketing Course.

Creating Topic Clusters and Pillar Pages” was a demo for Moz’s free Keyword Explorer tool.

Users can leverage the lesson’s content for keyword research, making finding value blog topics easy and organized.

Moz's lesson on creating topic clusters.

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“Folks go through this course and see a video saying, ‘Hey, you can use this tool for free to do exactly what this course is teaching you,’” Margot Mazur, Senior Co-marketing Manager, told me.

It worked.

Results positively supported the questions HubSpot’s team asked. In four months, the video earned 8,000 lesson views, and 6,000 clicks to Moz. In total, Moz earned 1,460 new contacts.

Similar experiments also brought favorable results. After reaching out, partners could host a lesson, demo a relevant resource, and share a CTA with a direct link.

From this successful campaign, the co-marketing team guessed that the tactic could be beneficial in other areas of HubSpot.

For instance, the team considered trying the same experiment during Adapt 2020, a series of webinars that help audiences adapt to different business challenges.

“I reached out to partners to see if they wanted to lead weekly webinars,” recalls Mazur. “The experience for that has been really good — it’s positive for both parties.”

Webinars, similar to the lessons on Academy, were released for Adapt. This one featured Sally Woellner, Template Design Lead, talking about creating brand kits using Canva:

Adapt 2020 lesson on website design with Canva and HubSpot.

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The webinar also explained how to use themes in HubSpot, the importance of website design and helpful design tools including Canva.

Another expansion of co-marketing opportunities comes from the HubSpot Blogs. Mazur thought blog posts could be an excellent way to add more value to partners and readers.

Example of co-marketing on.a blog.

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Posts like the one above display how partners can leverage HubSpot’s Blogs for guest posts. These posts tackled topics that interest audiences of both parties, and ultimately result in driving leads for partners and providing value for HubSpot readers.

At this point, the co-marketing team identified four tactics for improving partner involvement: Academy education courses, blogs, quarterly campaigns (Such as Adapt), and content offers.

So, what did the co-marketing team take away from this experiment? Let’s dive into four lessons they learned, next.

1. Co-marketing can expand — and should.

The purpose of HubSpot’s experiment was to find effective co-marketing opportunities across a range of teams and on various company platforms. The results demonstrate how co-marketing can be a strategy used company-wide to reach business goals.

With the inclusion of blogs, video, and content offers, partnerships can be leveraged to provide value for both parties. To try a similar tactic, you might consider running a co-marketing campaign for a team you normally wouldn’t.

For instance, maybe your company produces webinars and blog content. Those are channels that can benefit from a guest lesson or post about something that’s relevant to the industry.

2. Videos perform better than ebooks for partner content.

About two years ago, one of the highest-performing co-marketing avenues was an ebook offer.

Now, however, Mazur and her team have found that videos perform better than ebooks when it comes to partner content.

Take the Academy lessons and webinars, for instance. Results from those two tactics have proven more successful, averaging a thousand more submissions than ebooks. In a world where social audiences often prefer video to text, adapting to this shift has served the team well.

3. Driving partner leads through new channels is difficult.

Even though the experiment saw success, it wasn’t without some low moments. “Driving leads for partners is difficult, and we have to continue to work to make that easier for partners,” notes Mazur.

She says low performance could be a result of account sign-ups being confused with partner sign-ups. Now that there’s proof it’s possible, one of the next steps in this process is to make sure partners have a way to earn more leads.

4. Partners find value in product sign-ups from other channels.

Even though leads weren’t record-breaking from the first experiment, partners found value in those Academy signups. The excellent performance is because of the types of partners and content chosen.

Mazur’s team was tasked with finding the right partners to host lessons for Academy. The lessons had to make sense, be actionable, reputable, and a natural fit into the larger, existing course.

To illustrate, one of the courses on Academy is “The Importance of Website Performance.” One of the lessons, “Using Heatmaps to Optimize Performance,” is led by a Customer Experience professional at Hotjar. In the lesson, we see a tutorial about how to use Hotjar’s heatmaps to analyze web page engagement.

Hotjar's lesson on using heatmaps to analyze web performance.

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A lesson about using a helpful tool to analyze website performance in this course — great fit, right? Now, imagine if the Hotjar lesson was inserted into a Social Media Certification course — not as helpful.

Because the subjects fit, the audiences watching the course will most likely find content from both partners equally useful — which, ultimately, results in higher-quality leads.

Now that the Academy strategy has proven successful, Mazur’s team wants to keep it going. They’re going to continue identifying partners for more Academy lessons, and, in addition to Academy lessons, they will keep supporting Adapt with more partnership opportunities.

Ultimately, Mazur’s team will continue to offer creative partner driven solutions across HubSpot to reach business goals.

What are some co-marketing campaigns that you love? Personally, the Doritos Locos Taco is pretty up there (As is the Mountain Dew Baja Blast drink — also a permanent addition to the menu). How can you include some winning tactics into your next campaign?

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Originally published Jul 23, 2020 4:00:00 AM, updated July 23 2020