Your offerings are outstanding, your marketing strategy is sound and your content is part of the conversation — yet your numbers don’t reflect the kind of deal-closing relationship you want to have with your customer base.

If this sounds familiar, it might be time to consider teaming up and using brand partnerships to boost your content marketing.

Just as an introduction from a trusted common friend can help you be more trusted by a new acquaintance, introducing your brand through shared content with another brand can help that audience trust you more. “It’s been shown that average people (like you and me) trust influencers’ opinions nearly as much as our friends’ and families’ opinions,” Chris Ake writes at Forbes.

Here, we look at how strategic brand partnerships are built and how to use yours to improve the quality and reach of your content.

(NOTE: This post itself was a partnership effort between Epic Presence and Kingsmen Software Delivery As A Service.)

What Can Brand Partnerships Do For Your Business?

In a strategic brand partnership, two or more companies work together to create value — and to spread the word of that enhanced value to every participants’ target audience, as Gregory Pollack notes at MarketingProfs.

“For a true strategic partnership brand marketing program to work, both brands must complement each other and deliver similar customer profiles,” Pollack writes. “Even more importantly, the partnership must sit within the lifestyle and user experience of the customer.”

Partnership brand marketing isn’t a new idea. As Christian Daugstrup at thunder::tech points out, one of the best-known examples of a brand partnership is the cereal box with a branded toy inside. The combination boosts sales of both the cereal and the toy, making both companies happier.

In the digital era, marketing partnerships look a bit different. Not only are the products or services often less tangible than a box of cereal and a toy, but companies are no longer limited to partnering to distribute the product or service itself. They can partner to distribute content, too.

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Brand Partnerships for Content Marketing: Key Considerations

Today, many consumers are already loyal to the brands they love, and the anonymizing influence of social media — where consumers can curate the content they see — can make it tough to break into new markets.

This tough field is where content marketing partnerships shine. Natalie Staines, director of marketing at r2i, recommended using brand partnerships to generate leads. “When one target audience is totally saturated, leveraging another brand, and the peer influence of its followers, is an almost necessary means to an end,” Staines says. Partnering with the right brand can help your company reach an audience that thinks it’s not interested in new content — until it sees what you have to offer.

To identify promising potential partners:

  • Look for a non-competitor. At a minimum, your partner shouldn’t directly compete with your product or service. “Better yet, they compliment you,” says Braveen Kumar at Shopify.
  • Pay attention to the audience. Different customer groups respond differently to different forms of social media, content and accessing options. For instance, Chris Wilson at GMA notes that age is a huge determiner of the success of a digitally based loyalty program. Make sure your partner is targeting the same demographics you are in ways that work for that audience.
  • Know your own needs. “Before getting to the tactics on a content partnership, it is important to understand the business need that is driving the partnership,” Demand Media’s Felicia Alexander tells Scribble Live. “Are you looking to attract a new audience, increase time on site, drive new sales?” Seek partners who can help you meet your needs just as you help the partner meet theirs.

For many companies, the dream partner is a brand that meets their every criteria for an ideal partnership — and who feels entirely out of their league. Too often, the result is a partnership that can never succeed because it is never made.

“I think some people are afraid to ask for help from other content creators,” says Jess Ostroff, managing editor at Convince & Convert. “They see it as invasive, pushy, or they’re not confident enough in their own content to be willing to share it.”

To solve this problem, Ryan Kettler at BootSuite recommends doing three things:

  • Read the blog posts and comments at potential partners’ sites to understand their audience and whether you can contribute to the conversation with that audience.
  • Stock your own content channels with quality information that adds to the conversation.
  • Offer valuable content with a creative twist or voice that’s all your own.

Once you find the right partner, Kettler recommends being thoughtful, reliable and promotional. Collaborate for results that help both partners, keep your promises and promote your collaborative content as thoroughly as you would your own.

Above all, be authentic. “I try to be as natural as I can on first-time calls,” says HubSpot’s Christine White. “This gives the potential partner a sense of my personality … it loosens the vibe and allows for a more relaxed conversation, which means you can really get to know each other and your goals.”

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Case Studies: Outstanding Content Marketing Partnerships

Another way to ensure you’re building a solid strategy for a branded content marketing partnership is to analyze the success of other online brand partnerships. Here are some examples of content marketing partnerships done well.

1. National Geographic and Tourism New Zealand

National Geographic and Tourism New Zealand teamed up to provide “The Ultimate New Zealand Experience,” featuring video directed by Bryce Dallas Howard. The combination allows Tourism New Zealand to leverage National Geographic’s reputation for stunning visuals and thoughtful coverage of the natural world and current events, reaching an audience that might not otherwise have thought of New Zealand as a rich cultural getaway.

2. Vox and Spotify

In a partnership that only exists in the digital world, Vox and Spotify teamed up to create “The Secret to Your Discover Playlist? A Cyborg Approach.” Consumers who love Vox’s deep dives into obscure topics are drawn into the details of obscure 1970s synth-funk, while those who love Spotify enjoy learning more about exactly how the app’s Discover Weekly tool works.

3. Visit Seattle and Sundance TV

When you’re already committed to creating audiovisual works with a short film feel, there’s no better place to show them off than to a film-obsessed audience. Enter Visit Seattle’s collaboration with Sundance TV, “Five by Five.” In it, the Visit Seattle spots take on the feel of short documentaries. Each was shot in a single day and emphasizes the storytelling dynamic of film over the selling point of the city in a way that nevertheless makes both points unforgettable.

4. The Wall Street Journal and Chase

Financial mainstays like The Wall Street Journal and Chase would seem, at first, to have everything going for them when it comes to being a household name. Yet the two established a partnership to speak to a younger audience with “Inside the Moment,” a digital visual experience that allows visitors to explore 360-degree views of San Francisco, New Orleans and Miami. Each features deep dives into those cities’ iconic neighborhoods. The result is a lush yet approachable feel that underscores the value of smart finance.

5. Fatherly and Airbnb

Content site Fatherly provides parenting insights and advice; space-sharing company Airbnb wants to encourage travelers to find the perfect destination. The two paired up in “This Photographer Proves a Quick Family Getaway Can Become an Uncharted Adventure,” a photo essay in which Airbnb locations provide the backdrop for a family’s weekend trip up the Oregon coast, discovering that “it’s best to vacation like you live there.”

Takeaways for Marketing Directors

Why do each of these examples stand out? They combine two brands with overlapping audiences and a shared vision — and they do it in a way that not only informs but inspires.

As inspirational content continues to grab the attention of viewers, the best strategy for boosting content may be to seek out brand partnerships that inspire, too.

Images by: rawpixel, Brooke Cagle 

Casey Meehan