Mr. Grossman

Social Media & Relationship Marketing

The Power of Partnerships: Productive Methods to Leveraging Like Brands

By Lanny Grossman, President, EM50 Communications

As resources become scarcer for marketing departments across various industries, marketers need to start finding more creative ways to reach target customers. Businesses need to now drive sales by building brand awareness with the constraints of markedly decreased budgets. This can be achieved through strategic promotional partnerships with non-competing, complementary brands looking to reach a similar audience. The "Power of We," as Jonathan Tisch, Chairman of Loews Hotels, describes the practice, is essential to growing a business and maximizing marketing reach.

The first step in the process is to identify two things: what assets you have to leverage and what types of companies you would ideally like to work with in order to achieve your stated goals. Each party needs to bring something to the table in order for the partnership to be balanced and successful so you must determine what you have that can be of value not only to you but to somebody else in the absence of cash. It could be a database of qualified customers, hotel room nights or even meals at a restaurant. Once you identify what assets you have to work with, you then need to determine to whom it will be offered. When choosing potential promotional partners, it is important to select companies or brands that make sense; other operations that align with yours as far as target consumer but one that exists in another industry or non-competing manner to which you do business. I suggest making a 'Wish List' of potential partners by category - travel, retail, media, non-profit, credit cards, etc. - and then developing those strategic partnerships one at a time.

As mentioned above, in order for a partnership to be successful, it needs to be mutually beneficial. It is first advantageous to understand who their customers are, how their business functions and what programs have they implemented in the past to achieve similar results, if any.

Additionally, having an understanding of what your goals are, as well as the partners', is helpful to create the right program moving forward so both parties are successful. Is it simply an exercise in raising brand awareness? Are you trying to get people to attend an event? Is your potential partner trying to drive sales or raise their brand profile or both? Once all of these questions are answered you can develop the appropriate plan. Create a dialog between parties that shows the other side that you are truly interested in a positive outcome for both sides.

For example, if you operate a hotel and you are looking to raise your brand awareness and reach a new group of potential customers, first establish what your currency is going to be; which in most cases for a hotel is a number room nights. As an example, if your goal is to raise your name recognition across the country, you may partner with a national retail chain and offer them room nights as an incentive for their customers to purchase more in-store or to simply sign up online for a prize giveaway building each of your databases, which we will come to in a bit. So right away, you have created a balance between the partners. Retail partner X now has something of value to offer its customers, which in turn has the potential to build brand loyalty and/or drive sales for them (depending how the giveaway is structured). On the flip side, you get your name, logo and hopefully website in front of a plethora of new, targeted customers at a very minimal cost.

It's all about the database. One of the most successful scenarios of a marketing partnership is when two brands can come together and reach out to their respective customers with a cooperative message and/or offer. Keep this in mind as you develop any kind of online or offline business, since collecting customers' names and information will later equal a valuable currency both in your direct to consumer marketing efforts and also in your partnership possibilities. The first scenario we explored was an in-store promotional opportunity with a retail brand, but the more you can hone in on a targeted audience the better. Let's say you are a hotel chain with properties in Washington, DC and you want to increase your weekend business from within driving distance. You can look to partner with AAA(R) for example and extend a unique, exclusive offer to all AAA(R) members. AAA(R) can then communicate that information to members within a four hour drive from Washington, DC. Alternatively, you can reach out to all of your previous guests who live within driving distance as well with information on the benefits of AAA(R) including the exclusive offer you created. The benefits MUST flow in both directions.

Now that we have covered the mechanics of forming the partnership, it is essential to remember that the success relies upon not just the numbers of people but reaching the appropriate people for that particular partnership. Brand alliance is just as important, if not more important. If you are a luxury hotel, you are going to want to partner with brands or services that effectively reach the same level of customer you desire, such as any of the luxury retail brands like a Ferragamo or Neiman Marcus. If you are a mainstream, family resort chain, partnering with a Macy's or Six Flags may be more appropriate. By aligning yourself with recognizable and qualified brands, consumers that may not be familiar with your brand will now automatically associate the characteristics of your partner to you; something that can favorably effect your brand recognition as much as anything else. The old saying goes that you are only as good as the company you keep and that is certainly the case in partnership marketing.

Regardless of the industry, companies are fighting for consumer dollars more than ever and are open to new, creative ways at trying to get them. First, figure out what you want to achieve and how you can leverage your business to help a potential partner. Then, choose a desired partner and tell them why it is beneficial for them to work with you. Everybody wants to increase sales and reach more customers. All you need to do is find somebody as open minded as you are, with similar goals, to create a mutually beneficial relationship that minimizes cost and maximizes results. Promotional partnerships are a highly effective tool in achieving your marketing goals and driving additional business while leveraging your assets in the most efficient manner. Trade agreements between countries, airline alliances, affinity credit cards - these are all forms of partnerships created to leverage the brands' networks, customers, financial standing and name brands to further the rewards for each involved. Partnerships are the foundation of smart business expansion, growth and opportunity. Whether small, large, simple or complex, partnerships bring companies and people together to do great things.

Lanny Grossman specializrs in PR, luxury lifestyle marketing and consumer outreach. He began working with notable hotel properties such as the Waldorf=Astoria in New York and Le Byblos in Saint-Tropez, after which he became the Director of Public Relations for two of America’s famous restaurants, Tavern on the Green and the Russian Tea Room. More recently, Mr. Grossman was Director of Brand Communications for Small Luxury Hotels of the World, an international hotel consortium whose portfolio boasts over 450 of the finest hotels in more than 70 countries. Mr. Grossman can be contacted at 646 861 2801 or lanny@em50.com Extended Bio...

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