Why Partnership Marketing Should be Part of Your Growth Strategy


Partnership marketing is an easy and powerful way to grow your young food business. In fact, a study by the marketing agency Hinge found that partnership marketing outperforms all other types of marketing.

Forget paid ads and expensive booths at Expo West and start thinking about how you can use partners to grow your business. (Or don’t forget about Expo West, but start thinking about how partners might help you make your time there more effective and valuable.)

What is Partnership Marketing?

Partnership marketing involves two or more companies working together to cross-promote each other’s products to like-minded audiences.

Here’s a quick list of examples:

Why Partnership Marketing Works

Partnership marketing is a way to multiply your audience while simultaneously increasing the appeal of your offering.

Why You Always Want to Be Expanding Your Audience

I recently re-read ReWork, a book that summarizes all the lessons that Jason Fried learned while he was building his CRM BaseCamp. One of the mini-chapters in the book advises entrepreneurs to make sure that they’re building an audience. Why? Because “when you build an audience, you don’t have to buy people’s attention — they give it to you.” That’s pretty powerful.

How big is your email marketing list? Your customer base? Your Instagram following? These are audiences that you’ve built that you can now strategically tap into. When you’ve got something to say, they’re listening.

Want to reach an even larger audience? Then you should partner up with like-minded companies, and start to reach their audiences, too. A lot of businesses still spend a lot of money to reach people. (Google ads? Billboards? Print ads? Boosted posts? These are all examples of paid ways to reach new people.) But partner up with the right organizations and you’ll be able to reach their fans without paying a single penny.

Increasing the Appeal of Your Product through Partnership

A jar of jam on its own … is, well, a jar of jam, which has the risk of being pretty boring. As a small business owner or marketer, you’re competing with all of the other jam and jelly and preserves companies, and a lot of alternative fruit spreads, too. How do you stand out in a sea of spreads? It’s hard.

By partnering with other companies to promote and sell your product, you can increase your product’s appeal. As a result of putting that jar of jam next to a handcrafted nut butter, you’ve already increased its appeal. Consumers can now imagine taking a bite into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or picture themselves making thumbprint cookies; and your social media team now has recipes to feature your product and new partnership.

Where should you look to increase the appeal of your product through partnership? On your retail demo table, at your trade show booth, on your blog when you write a new recipe, and on your social media channels when you’re trying to connect with your audience on how to use and enjoy your product.

While this is an oversimplified example, it’s illustrative. The key, of course, is to make sure you’ve picked the right nut butter company, and the right partner to grow your business.

How to Pick Your Marketing Partners

A partnership must feel authentic in order for it to resonate with your shared audiences. So pick your partners wisely, and make sure that you’re aligned around things like company values (1% for the Planet? cool!), product attributes (gluten-free, paleo, keto, or plant-based? awesome), geography (local is important to many buyers), and occasion (breakfast? great).

Not sure where to start? Consider whether your products might benefit from placement in vacation rental homes, a topic we recently covered. And checkout Parsnip, a company that Erin co-founded in 2018. Parsnip connects brands with other brands, events, influencers, and agencies in order to help young and emerging brands grow their audiences and revenues all by working together. It’s free to join and signup.

Erin Lenhardt, the founder of this blog, is also the founder of Parsnip. She started Parsnip to help small businesses grow, which is why she started RealFoodMBA and her consultancy, The Food Mint. 

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