An Ultimate Guide on Partner Marketing.

As its name suggests, partner marketing is a strategic collaboration between two companies or a business and an individual owning a significant personal brand. Both parties need to work to achieve mutual goals. Partner marketing is also known as partnership marketing.

If you are not aware of partnership marketing, don’t worry; we will discuss partnership marketing types and their strategies. Let’s dive in.

Types of Partnership Marketing.

Partner marketing is a broad term that covers different types of partnerships. Let’s have a look at them one by one.

1. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing

In affiliate marketing, you get associated with appropriate bloggers, social media personalities, or other content producers who your audience perceives as trusted authorities. These partners are known as affiliates that showcase your business on their channels. What they do is they place affiliate links of your business on their website, blog, or social media page. Whenever someone purchases via their link, you have to give affiliates a commission. An affiliate program is pocket friendly as you have to pay affiliates a commission every time they bring in a new sale. It is best for companies that have excellent customer retention rates or high customer lifetime values. Affiliate programs go well for e-commerce, beauty, apparel, tech, health, and subscription businesses – particularly those with higher margins.

2. Channel partner marketing

Channel partners are third-party businesses or individuals that market and sell your products or services to broader audiences and new geographic areas.

Channel partners include distributors, retailers, resellers, and wholesalers, who buy multiple quantities of your products from you to sell in their marketplaces.

They also involve individual brokers or agents, who help build partnerships with you on behalf of other businesses.

Affiliates are sometimes classified as channel partners because the links on an affiliate’s channel help your company find new audiences.

Channel partner programs are most suitable for stabilized businesses with solidified sales cycles looking for ways to enter new markets and obtain new customers. After all, it would help if you understood what works for your sales process before instructing others to market your products.

3. Strategic alliances

Strategic alliances

A strategic alliance is a carefully chosen partnership between two businesses that share equivalent values. Both businesses stay independent, but both businesses pool their resources together to reach new audiences, strengthen both brands, and accomplish mutual goals that they might not be able to reach on their own.

If you’ve heard of co-branding, co-marketing, or affinity marketing, these are all considered types of strategic alliances, and all are synonymous with each other.

In affinity marketing, a business teams up with a non-competing but related brand to benefit both audiences. These benefits could include products, services, or unique perks from one brand made available to the other brand’s customers.

Affinity marketing campaigns carry both businesses’ branding and position each business in front of a new market.

One strong example of affinity marketing was when Doritos and Taco Bell partnered up to launch Doritos Locos Tacos. This worked well because both brands had similar customers with similar desires – both brand’s audiences were young people looking for quick, inexpensive snacks.

Strategic alliances can work well for any business type, as long as the partnership is formed carefully. Businesses must make sure both brands will receive equal benefits from the alliance, that the partnership will make sense to both brands’ audiences and create new benefits for both audiences.

4. Nonprofit partnerships

Nonprofit partnerships

Strategic alliances don’t have to be formed with another for-profit business. Many brands form partnerships with a nonprofit. The nonprofit gains a new avenue to raise money and awareness, and the for-profit business gain points in its audience’s eyes for advancing a charity or social cause.

One example of this nonprofit partnership model is Lokai’s silicone bracelets. Most of these bracelets are directly tied to charitable organizations, and Lokai donates to the relevant organization every time a given bracelet is purchased.

Nonprofit partnerships have the potential to work well for any business, as long as the partnership aligns with your brand’s values and feels natural to your audience.

Be careful, though – people will call you out if the partnership seems crafted to advance your business standing without showing real empathy with the cause.

5. Brand ambassador programs

Brand ambassador programs

Brand ambassador programs count as a type of partner marketing because they provide a mutual benefit to a company and an ambassador’s brand.

In an ambassador program, a brand forms long-term partnerships with trusted authorities in the brand’s niche. These authorities, known as ambassadors, promote the brand to their followers online and in-person, using their content channels.

An ambassador program is different from an affiliate program, even though both rely on partnerships with influential, trusted individuals. An ambassador’s priority is to form genuine relationships with your audience and share how your brand fits into their daily lives.

They focus on sharing authentic stories of why they love a product or service, rather than directly pushing people to purchase. Affiliates, on the other hand, focus on making as many individual sales as possible (because they receive a commission on each sale).

If you want a trusted name to back your brand and form authentic relationships with your audience, an ambassador program is a good fit for your business.

Five crucial steps in a partner marketing strategy

Now that we’ve reviewed the most common types of partnerships, here are five best practices to set your partner program up for success. Even though partner marketing includes many diverse types of partnerships, these fundamental best practices will serve you well no matter which type (or types) of partner programs you launch.

a) Select the right partners for your brand

First and foremost, you’ll need to make sure the partnerships you make sense for both brands involved, as well as both of your audiences.

Here are some tips for selecting the right partners:

Choose a partner who has a similar audience to yours but who isn’t a direct competitor. The partner could be in the same wider industry as your brand or simply a brand that appeals to the same specific demographics.

Partner with a brand your target audience would genuinely be interested in and benefit from. If that “brand” is an individual (an ambassador or affiliate), they should create content your target audience will find beneficial and engaging.

Figure out what you and your potential partner could offer both of your audiences together. Make sure you can offer something to the other brand’s audience that the brand can’t achieve independently. Likewise, determine what unique benefits your potential partner could offer to your audience.

Consider the value each brand would potentially bring to the partnership.

  • Will a partner:
  • Help you grow your customer base or membership base?
  • Increase brand awareness for you?
  • Grow your social media following?
  • Expose your brand to an audience that hasn’t heard of you before?
  • What benefits will you offer your partner?
  • In the case of a distributor or retailer, this would likely be your product or service that the business doesn’t currently offer.
  • If the partner is an affiliate or ambassador, the benefit would be your commission/compensation and their brand’s growth.
  • If it’s a strategic partnership, the co-branded effort might expose the brand to a new audience, grow their customer base, and/or increase awareness of their brand (just like they will do for your brand).

Partner with a business or influential individual whose overall brand identity complements your own. Ensure your partner’s brand and values are in harmony with your own. Never partner with a brand whose values or image clashes with yours.

Verify each partner can help accomplish at least one business goal before formally entering the partnership. Together, find and discuss any relevant mutual goals. Identify what you and the potential partner offer each other that you can’t accomplish on your own.

b) Set measurable goals for the partnership (and how you’ll track them)

Once you’ve agreed with a new partner or partners, it’s time to set goals for your partnership.

To truly gauge the success of your partnership, you’ll need to make sure your goals are measurable. This provides a reliable way of tracking how your partnership is performing.

Make sure you have a reliable way to collect and organize key partner program data. To track your partner’s marketing success, PRM software is key to this process. (More on PRM software below.)

c) Reward your partners for keeping them motivated

Offering rewards is key to keep your partners motivated and your partner marketing program running smoothly. Partners deserve to be rewarded for their efforts, and that reward is often key to providing them continued value.

The way you incentivize your partners will differ depending on the specific partner program you run.

For affiliate programs, this is the commission an affiliate makes on each sale. The commission is usually a set percentage of each purchase made through the affiliate link. We’ve put together tips for setting affiliate commissions in our articles on starting an affiliate program and best practices for running an affiliate program.

Channel partners should also earn more rewards the more sales they make. This encourages them to promote your product most effectively and stay loyal to your brand. Channel partner incentives can be in the form of rebates, discounts, or sales performance incentive funds (SPIFs) when a partner company’s representative meets given sales goals.

If your sales cycle is longer, you could also reward channel partners for the qualified leads they generate. For tips on choosing channel partner incentives, check out our channel partner incentive guide.

For ambassador program rewards, you should personalize incentives based on what best motivates the particular ambassador. You could reward them with cash, free products, or another reward you think they’d value (such as a trip or tech item).

Remember, though – you’re rewarding them for the ambassadorship, not for each sale they make. You want them to prioritize a long-term relationship over one-time sales. We’ve included a reward section in our article on creating a brand ambassador program.

As for strategic alliances, the incentives are embedded into the program’s core – your support of each other’s brand, the brand awareness created, the new audiences reached, and the new sales generated.

It’s all about the mutual benefit the co-branded effort creates. So make sure you’re creating plenty of value for your partner, and they’ll create value for you in return!

Similarly, for nonprofit alliances, the incentives are typically the nonprofit’s donations and awareness raised for the nonprofit during the campaign.

d) Establish how you’ll support partners throughout the process

To maintain the health of your partnership, check in with your partners regularly.

When partners first sign on, you’ll need to devote time to onboard them. Give partners all the information they need about your company, so they’re equipped to successfully promote your brand.

Also, have them agree to your partner program’s terms and conditions, as well as any branding rules and guidelines you have.

As the relationship continues, keep partners updated on developments in your business, continually supply them with the assets and information for promoting your brand, and make sure they know how to contact you for any questions.

A partner portal is often key to promptly providing partner support and supplying continued education and training resources for partner success. PRM software can help you create and maintain a partner portal, customized and personalized for each partner’s needs.

e) Use PRM software

The tasks and data involved in managing a partner program are usually too overwhelming to accomplish manually – especially if you recruit and manage many partners.

Fortunately, PRM software makes many aspects of running your partner program much easier. It streamlines and automates key partner program tasks, including finding and recruiting partners, tracking partner program metrics, incentivizing partners, exchanging company assets, and maintaining efficient communication.

PRM software is essential for managing any partner program, no matter what form that program takes. Our complete guide to PRM software will help you find the right partner program tool for your needs.

And if you’re looking for software tailored to affiliate programs or software designed for ambassador programs, we’ve got you covered as well.


Partner marketing involves recruiting trusted people to promote your business to new audiences and accomplish mutual goals; you wouldn’t achieve on your own.

Partner marketing takes many forms, including affiliate marketing, strategic alliances, channel partner programs, and signing on brand ambassadors. No matter which type of program you run, ensuring both you and your partners gain mutual benefit from the partnership is key – -it’s a two-way street.

PRM software is also key to making sure every type of partner marketing program runs smoothly. Be sure to select the right PRM software for your needs, especially if you plan to manage multiple partnership types at once.

Some PRM software programs are hyper-focused on one type of partnership, and other PRM software programs have the flexibility to handle multiple types of partner marketing.


Shivani is a content writer at InviteReferrals. She writes SEO articles, blogs, and guest posts for businesses to improve website ranking on SERP. She follows a balanced approach for the quality of content and its marketing. She loves to do creativity, although she had an English major in her graduation.