Promotional Partnerships - Viral Marketing

Okay, so we’ve made it over half-way towards filling up your viral engine with non-viral marketing tactics. (There are 16 in total, we’re on number 10.) Last chapter we took the unconventional approach of building a product to promote a product using engineering as a marketing channel. Now let’s continue the trend and feed our virality with marketing fueled by promotional partnerships.

Think that business development, joint ventures and strategic partnerships are NOT marketing channels? Think again.

In the past I’ve discounted this channel a bit myself, not because I didn’t think it could work, but because I didn’t truly realize just HOW WELL it could work.

A Partnership Use Case

 

Say you started a company that sold ski hats. Your company does NOT manufacture or sell skis. You just make the hats – and you’re awesome at it.

Your hats are the warmest hats on the planet. They’re super soft and they fit really well. What’s more, both professionals and hipsters alike want them. In other words, you’re the king of ski hats.

Well done.

But WAIT. You just realized that the audience for your product is the very same audience that Skis.com caters to. If you could only expose your product to their collective audience, you’d likely significantly increase your market exposure very quickly. Recognizing how large their audience is, you decide to try to partner with them in some way.

So you head out from your ski hat kingdom and attend a regional tradeshow. You visit the Skis.com booth and offer to take one of the execs out for a beer to chat. Since everyone knows Skis.com executives love beer, they accept. (Disclaimer: I made this up. I don’t know what Skis.com executives drink. But seriously, who doesn’t like free beer?)

During that initial conversation, you realize that a company of this magnitude won’t rush to promote a new brand out of the blue. They instead want to feature brands that their audience already know and trust because it increases their conversion rates. Recognizing that every company must operate first and foremost in their own best interests and the best interests of their investors, you realize that you need to sweeten the pot.

So you offer them equity.

It’s not a significant piece, but it’s something, and it’s enough to ensure that Skis.com now recognizes that it stands to benefit significantly by promoting your brand. What’s more, you become an affiliate for their skis, and market those to the contact lists you acquire through other sources. This ensures that Skis.com knows they’re not just bleeding traffic to you. As you grow, you push even more value to them as well.

In short, Skis.com is taking a risk on you – so you make it worth their while by giving them a vested interest in your success. In doing so, they promote your product on their homepage, to their list and on their social media channels – all of whom are clearly die-hard skiers and love wearing awesome ski hats.

Promotional Partnerships: One of the Juiciest Channels Out There

 

Obviously the example above is fictitious, but it’s a good one to illustrate just how powerful using promotional partnerships as a marketing channel can be if you strike the right deals with the right partners.

And you don’t always need to give up equity either to make it happen.

Mint.com paid $500 to a dozen or so large and mid-sized financial instruction blogs to help promote Mint’s launch. As a free budgeting tool, Mint knew that these blogs catered to a large collective audience that would be the exact users they were looking to acquire.

The result was Mint shattering their user acquisition goals in Year 1 by 10x.

Promotional Partnerships and Virality

 

If your partner has physical products, one of the best ways to work virality into your partnership is to provide them with a free sticker for your brand. Better yet, also throw in a small flyer with a promo code that they can slip into every order. This adds more value to their customers as it’s often a nice surprise bonus. It also adds value to you because those customers who have already demonstrated both ability and willingness to purchase complimentary products are getting exposed to your brand.

What’s more, if that customer sticks your sticker somewhere that’s even remotely visible, they’ll likely indirectly expose your brand to their friends – who are often more likely to also be within your target audience.

This concept can be applied in emails as well – offering a digital promo code for a product. However, it’s unlikely you’ll get the same offline visibility and exposure as you would with something like a sticker. Which can be seen as a small bonus gift rather than just a section of an email that gets ignored.

What’s Next

 

Not every non-viral marketing channel can be as luxurious as hobnobbing with Skis.com executives or tasty as drinking beer. But sometimes kickstarting your product’s virality into the next gear requires rolling up your sleeves and doing some grunt work.

That’s right, it’s to time to go knocking on doors.

 

Did You Know You Can Force Feed Your Viral Marketing?

Cold calling and emailing may not be for everyone, but those who can effectively implement both may be surprised by what’s standing on the other side of the door – a whole lot of sweet, sweet virality. Sounds appealing? Let’s pick up the phone in our next chapter and get some.

 

Travis Steffen
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Travis Steffen

Travis Steffen is a Silicon Valley growth engineer, data scientist, and serial entrepreneur with multiple exits. He is currently the founder and CEO of FlashCourse. He's also a crazy adrenaline junkie, is obsessed with fantasy football, and can grill a mean rack of ribs.
Travis Steffen
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