The internet has achieved many things in the business world over what historically amounts to a very small period of time, and all fundamentally through its ability to connect. Consequently, the world of partner marketing has seen its opportunities increase exponentially. At any time, from anywhere, you can reach out to anyone in the world. And as culture changes, new technologies arrive, and existing technologies mature, partner marketing only stands to grow further as we advance through 2019 — but what specifically should you anticipate experiencing by the time 2020 arrives? Let’s take a look at 6 partner marketing trends that should prove exciting this year:
Cross-platform attribution becoming standard
One of the fundamental benefits of engaging with partner marketing is that it allows you to extend your reach to varied and unfamiliar channels. Instead of trying to determine how best to approach them using your standard strategy, you allow a partner with the required knowledge and expertise to bridge the gap for you.
However, finding ways to expand your influence across multiple channels hasn’t always made life easy when it comes to analytics. Attribution is a stubborn problem: there’s far less value in gathering interest through extensive partner marketing if you can’t ultimately tell where the interest is coming from. It could be that one partner is producing all the results, with all the others majorly underperforming — if so, you need to know.
But due to improvements in attribution modeling software and integrations, coupled with a major boost in awareness of the importance of attribution, thorough attribution is steadily becoming standard. This year, more businesses than ever before will implement comprehensive analytics solutions capable of smartly tracking attribution, and all parties involved will benefit.
Companies exchanging thought leadership
A thought leader is an influential authority figure within a community or field: someone with the sway to influence how those who respect them view different companies and ideas. And this influence has always been valuable, but its value continues to grow for two major reasons:
1. Social media now heavily affect the B2B world. There was a time when social media networking was new that it was seen as nothing more than personal entertainment. That’s changed. Today, B2B relationships are readily established through social media conversations — professionals can fill their feeds with commentary from experts, and call upon those experts to recommend prospective B2B partners.
2. EAT is getting more significant for Google rankings. EAT (standing for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) is something that Google actively looks for in the pages it ranks — particularly when they count as YMYL (your money or your life) pages, which is to say those that are important enough to negatively affect lives. And since B2B companies can easily reach that level (providing healthcare materials or safety gear, for instance), it’s vital for a B2B company to be as trustworthy as possible.
Why is thought leader influence so valuable in this case? Well, it’s obvious for the former: if you can establish a mutually-beneficial arrangement with a thought leader, they can recommend your company, products, and services — and people will listen to their opinions. And for the latter, EAT is a complex issue that’s influenced by numerous variables. If you can get an expert to review and sign off on your content, it will tell Google that your content can be trusted.
And I talk about exchanging thought leadership because it can easily be a straightforward swap if two businesses work in overlapping fields. Each can verify the other’s content without an abundance effort or inconvenience, leaving them both to benefit.
The professional becoming more personal
Something that more and more companies are coming to understand is that social media has changed public perception of the business world forever. Organizations that once seemed like detached and untouchable monoliths suddenly seem to actually exist in the world. After all, hasn’t it become rare for the CEO of a large company to not have a public Twitter account and various other ways of communicating with the masses?
This isn’t just a B2C trend: it’s also massively important for B2B because of company values and supported organizations. Before one company decides to partner with another, it must carefully consider how that move will be perceived. Imagine having the opportunity to partner with a BP-type company following a disaster in the vein of the notorious oil spill — would it be a practical choice? Possibly. But it would also be a PR disaster due to public perception.
In this time, public perception is just as shaped by what companies say and do on social media than what they say and do outside of it. Instead of falling back on painstakingly-crafted PR messages, they’re called upon to interact more spontaneously. It can go horribly wrong, of course — but if they get it right, it can pay off in a massive way.
And in 2019, as in 2018, you’ll see more prospective clients and partners drop their reluctance to show some personality online, finally conceding that maybe, just maybe, it’s better to take the mild risk of seeming human than it is to take the broader risk of seeming robotic. Because of this, and all the other trends we’ve looked at, it’s going to be a good year for companies and individuals working together for marketing projects.
Investment in influencer marketing going up
Influencer marketing budgets went up significantly in 2018, and I don’t see that trend slowing down this year. Instagram’s dominance hasn’t waned in the slightest, YouTube personalities are still becoming celebrities, and as mobile buying continues to expand its share of the market, businesses will put huge sums towards thought leader marketing to benefit as much as possible.
Now, you might well wonder the significance of this in the B2B world. After all, the demands are completely different — what use is some favorable Instagram coverage when you’re trying to land a large B2B client? Well, there’s more overlap than you might think, and the biggest reason for this is something that we just reviewed in detail: the professional is becoming personal.
It’s completely standard for a company to have social media accounts today, which means that a thought leader doesn’t need to be an individual — it can easily be a business. This doesn’t mean that you should pay a company with no interest in your services to recommend them. Instead, consider proposing a mutually-beneficial arrangement: you can offer a better deal if they commit to promoting you through social media and talking about you to their business partners.
Rich content becoming a stronger focus
What does a great marketing partnership look like these days when it comes to output? One company offers its logo to another, or openly commits a particular technology to another’s platform? Far from it — what works the best is when two businesses can join their resources to produce something that neither could achieve in isolation.
And regardless of what that production may be initially, the significant part for marketing is invariably rich content. The content may itself be the product, as could be the case for infographics, documentaries, or podcasts — or it may simply publicize and contextualize a product or achievement, showcasing whatever the companies responsible managed to accomplish and explaining what makes it so momentous.
Infographics, in particular, are wildly popular, and easy to create. Every business collects data, so when two B2B companies band together for mutual benefit, they can collate their data and use it to create some eye-catching materials. But that’s not the only way to team up: a SaaS design tool company could join up with a B2B strategy company to create a slick infographic on the future of B2B marketing — showcasing the design tool and the strategic expertise.
Can you still benefit from traditional articles? Absolutely. But plain text isn’t as impactful as rich content, and it’s harder to share. If you have clear marketing goals, it’s always best to go with the most engaging option available. This year, expect to see a lot of team-up infographics, collaborative podcasts, and cross-business video series.
Marketing strategies getting more cohesive
There’s no shortage of marketing methods these days, and a common issue for an ambitious business is figuring out which methods to use and when. They’re looked at as distinct avenues, and kept separate accordingly — but this is ill-advised. Partner marketing, PPC advertising, content marketing: they can all coexist, not only peacefully but also productively.
To that end, marketers are increasingly learning the value of bringing their marketing strategies together. Instead of running influencer marketing as a tacked-on addition to their default strategy, a business can make it a core part of the strategy from the beginning, with plenty of overlap between the varying methods.
It’s a huge part of becoming more efficient. The less time goes towards admin and configuration, the more time can go towards improving the underlying operation. It should also make partner marketing a lot smoother because there will be consistency in how it’s approached. Lines of communication will be kept open in perpetuity. No more will a partner vanish for months because their marketing budget ran dry and they figured they should simply drop you.
The digital world gave rise to modern partner marketing, and in 2019, a combination of rising budgets, improved standards, and the expanding public awareness of influencer marketing will produce remarkable opportunities for companies in the industry. If you’re not excited by that, then you may have misread!
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