In a previous post we looked at community marketing. As a reminder, community marketing is a set of tactics used to involve your customers and/or prospect customers (subsets or all of them) and their network with your organisation.
Community Marketing Partnerships
One of the foundations of community marketing is partnering with other organisations. These partnerships are used to leverage all of your marketing and promotional activities to your potential customers. These partnerships can be with your suppliers, clients, customers (either corporate customers or the companies your customers own), or non-profit organisations.
The previous post also showed that, aside from being profitable when done right, community marketing is a great way to:
- Increase positive brand association
- Achieve community leadership
- Obtain great insights in your customers needs
- Drive innovation
- Reduce your marketing costs
- Get free advertising
- Get you and your team to feel great about your job
So yes, community marketing sounds great, well on paper at least. In reality it requires the right partners in order to achieve a return on your investments.
The question then becomes:
How do I know what the right community marketing partner looks like?
Like any other business partnership, there is no ‘’one-size fits all’’ answer to this question. Furthermore, time can transform an excellent community marketing partner into a negative ROI partner. Hence keeping track of the costs, revenues and benefits associated with a partnership is essential.
In order to identify criteria to help find a good community marketing partner for your company I will use two sources. The first are the studies done by non profit organisations that have applied community marketing strategies for decades to achieve their objectives. The second will be the various community marketing experiences I have been a part of or observed in the last few years.
The following are some of the most important elements you have to look for when searching for a community marketing partner.
This criterion is by far the most important element to look for when searching for a new community marketing partner.
Your most important corporate values must be shared with your partners. Otherwise something will inevitably go very wrong during the course of your partnership. Usually, issues will occur sooner rather than later.
An example of this was a large food blog that strongly valued leaving the smallest carbon footprint possible. Most of their blog posts transpired this value. Their hosting provider, a community marketing partner of the blog, expanded into a new facility that used significantly more energy than the previous one they were located in. When the hosting company announced on social media it had no intention to undertake any projects to minimize their carbon footprint, it created a strong backlash in the blog readers’ community. Readership dropped more than 25% in the following 3 months. No other events could account for this exodus.
Eventually the blog owners not only lost a community partner but had to find another hosting provider. This project was of course very costly and could have been avoided had the hosting partner shared similar values.
This example brings about another lesson that was learned. Some of your values can generate a significantly higher cost structure for your company. Make certain you are ready to take on those costs before trumpeting your values to your customers.
A committed partner
Just as any other type of partnership, your partner must be committed to the relationship. In a community marketing partner, this translates into having resources dedicated to managing the partnership and the joint projects.
Partners who also dedicate resources to measuring the outcomes of the partnership will often be easier to work with. The data they accumulated will generally lead to rational discussions with clear demands.
You are going after the same customer segments
The closer, the match between the customers your business is aiming at to the ones your partners aim at, the better.
The whole idea of community marketing is to gain greater exposure, at a lower cost, to new potential customers. Hence, it would be worthless in that regard to partner with companies that don’t address your target markets.
Also, the closer or more complementary the needs they address to the ones you do in your markets, the better the synergy you will get out of a partnership.
Hence, if your product/service fills a need that is created by a partner’s product/service or creates a need that can be fulfilled by a partner, the partnership has the potential to provide maximum ROI.
An example for our food blog would be to partner with kitchen appliances or dinnerware companies as well as exercise/health related blogs that share similar values.
A reputation that is at least as good as yours
Community marketing is strongly based on social media presence by the partners. Hence, you will be looking for a partner that is not only adept at managing its own social media presence but one that has a reputation that will not tarnish yours.
Before signing with a new community marketing partner you need to do a thorough review of all of its social media presence. You also need to know who its other partners are and what their reputation is. The stronger the community your future partner is a part of, the more profitable the partnership can be.
There are many other criteria that are important when choosing a community marketing partner. The previous three are, in my experience, some of the most important ones at the outset of a relationship.
In a future post, we’ll take a look at where to find the best community marketing partners. In the meantime, if you have any questions about community marketing strategy or implementation you are welcome to contact us.