December 6th 2019
The Evolution of Partner Marketing

The Evolution of Partner Marketing


Table of Contents

  1. What is Partner Marketing?
  2. Rethinking Business Development Deals
  3. The Role of Technology In Partner Marketing
  4. Who Are the "Partners" In Partner Marketing?
  5. Where Is Partner Marketing Headed?


What Is Partner Marketing?

"Partner marketing" can be an ambiguous term, primarily because it tends to mean different things to different people within different industries. Often, partner marketing is associated with referral partnerships or business development-type partnerships.

Within affiliate marketing, it can be even less clear. For example, some affiliate marketing companies use "partner marketing" synonymously with "affiliate marketing." Others, like, Acceleration Partners, see them as separate concepts -- not one in the same.

From our perspective, partner marketing refers to partnerships that fall outside of "traditional" affiliate partnerships (coupon, loyalty, deal, content, etc.).


Rethinking Business Development Deals

Consider smaller or mid-sized business development deals. Many business development teams tend to disregard smaller deals as they are not perceived to be worth the time or resource investment to manage. This same premise also applies to many referral program partnerships (e.g. refer a friend), influencer partnerships, podcast partnerships and more.

While understandable, the reality is that many of these smaller or mid-sized partnership opportunities could offer significant value to a company, especially if it's structured on a performance-basis.

However, many companies either don't yet have a pay-on-performance marketing channel (e.g. affiliate marketing) in place to pass those potential deals on to, or, they don't realize that their existing performance-based marketing program is ideally structured to activate, manage and optimize these partnerships.


The Role of Technology In Partner Marketing

Advancements in technology has made it far more efficient for brands to:

    • Consolidate and scale their marketing partnerships.
    • Ensure partners of all types are driving measurable results.
    • Access the technology on a flat-fee license basis instead of a percentage of spend or revenue.
    • Scale their partnerships without having to worry about exorbitant fees.


These technological progressions are leading to a sea change within marketing, shifting it toward a structure that brings all partnerships under one umbrella.


Who Are The "Partners" In Partner Marketing?

As partner marketing evolves, brands and partnership types of every variety imaginable will be able to work together on a performance basis across an integrated technology platform (partner management system).

In this ecosystem, "partners" can truly be anyone, including: small- and mid-sized business development partners, social media influencers, other brands, customer referral programs, mass media sites, mobile apps, social responsibility organizations, podcasters, traditional affiliates and everything in between.

These partners help brands acquire incremental sales, drive growth and increase profit for brands. The brands provide the rules of engagement and the partner decides how and where to promote the brand.

Only after these partners deliver agreed-upon results are they compensated; often, this compensation is a percentage of the sales or conversions they generate.

If this partnership ecosystem sounds a lot like CPA affiliate marketing, that's because the framework is almost identical. The difference is that, in the likely future, the affiliate channel will sit within the greater channel of partner marketing.


Where Is Partner Marketing Headed?

As this new way of thinking about partnerships and partner marketing evolves, so will the need for:

    • Partner marketing agencies that can provide sophisticated partnership strategy and management.
    • Integrated partner marketing strategy across the enterprise.
    • Expanding new types of partnerships and payment structures.
    • Efficient partner tracking and compensation.
    • Organizational best practices to ensure partnership success.