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The Three Key Actors In Brand Partnerships: Marketer, Influencer, Customer


Matthew Ankeny

Brand partnerships are relationships that can truly boost your company’s revenue, engagement, and customer base. The marketing strategy is yet another subset of performance marketing, but what is it about brand partnerships that makes them so efficient? And how do they particularly work?

The partnership is, in essence, a business-to-business (B2B) relationship: Your business partners with another brand and uses their success/audience to drive engagement toward your company or toward a joint adventure. The partnership is beneficial because it allows both brands to come together to:

  1. Fight market competition.
  2. Increase the visibility of their branded venture.
  3. (Potentially) Target new niches.
  4. Share marketing costs.

There are many brand partnerships you can look at from the past that were successful, many born out of unexpected brand relationships. Examples include passengers being able to share their Spotify playlists with Uber drivers and Doritos and Taco Bell smashing their food products together into a partnership that struck gold. But that’s not the end of brand partnerships. This is just the beginning.

If we’re talking brand partnerships, we can take a step away from the B2B world and move into the B2C world. There’s still a middleman in the process, but those other forms of performance marketing — brand ambassador, influencer, and affiliate marketing — can effectively boost your business to unknown levels. Looking at each, there are basics that help describe how they differ:

  • Affiliate marketing — You partner with a fellow business who promotes your content to their audience.
  • Influencer marketing — Your business relies on individual influencers — athletes, musicians, artists, marketing experts, social media users — to promote your brand to their audience.
  • Brand ambassadors — You create a mutually beneficial relationship with a premier customer, someone who promotes your content in exchange for pro-bono products or services.

Before we go any further, let’s call all of the above “influencers,” as it simplifies the conversation going forward. But what position do each of these roles take? And how do they work together to create a beneficial partnership?

  • The Marketer

You, as the marketer, stand for your brand. You make key decisions that will drive your company’s marketing strategies going forward. If you’re considering implementing a brand partnership, you’ll want to begin thinking of how to do so. First off, that will require a substantial amount of research, from what budgetary constraints you have on your planning to what level of influencers you should be aiming for.

For instance, are you aiming for nano-influencers or TikTok stars? Are you trying to increase traffic to your website, do you want more sign ups for your email list, or do you want more conversions? It’s important these considerations are defined beforehand, as it will save you a lot of time going forward.

Rather than attempting to determine the track of things as events come up, you’ll want to have your goals and missions clearly stated from the jump. With those clearly defined, you can inform your influencers of your expectations and help them effectively promote your brand to their audience.

  • The Influencer

The influencer, as mentioned above, can be a variety of different characters — whether brand ambassador, affiliate, or social media influencer. They either exist within your niche or have some overlap with your brand. Their followers are bound to have an interest in your company, whether due to your brand design or the products and services you provide.

In the partnership, they will leverage the relationship with their followers to promote your brand to the best of their ability, hopefully leading to sales conversions — which means a commission for them.

  • The Customer

The customer is the final piece of the puzzle. Attached to the influencer, they have your brand promoted to them and (hopefully) are engaged enough to visit your website and complete a sale.

Now, it’s better that these people be called consumers, as they are not your customers yet. Part of their relationship to your brand is that they are “customers” of the influencer, but not you. It’s your job to use the influencer to convince those consumers to consider your brand.

While the influencer can do a lot of the initial heavy lifting, it’s entirely on you to convince them to continue moving through your sales funnel. For instance, a poorly designed website or poor copywriting is going to cause a consumer to become disinterested. Sure, that’s still engagement with your brand, but it didn’t lead to a conversion.

If you want to effectively capture them into your sales program, you’re going to want to find ways to impress them once they’ve migrated to your site. That includes having high-quality photos, promotional videos, clean UX design, clear copywriting, stellar proofreading, and more across your site.

Your UX design is especially important, as this is what will propel consumers to your online store and checkout page. By developing momentum between pages, you can drive the maximum amount of conversions, utilizing the work of your influencers to its ultimate capacity.

These three actors come together to make the brand partnership work — in what could be called a cyclical way: Marketers rely on influencers to promote their brand; influencers promote the brand to their audience; the audience becomes customers of the marketers’ business; eventually customers become influencers for the brand; repeat, repeat, repeat.

It’s a relationship built on trust, through and through, and it’s important that marketers recognize this at every turn.

  • Influence Your Audience

Brand partnerships work because they provide you with an exceptional way to promote your brand. The special part about these partnerships is authenticity. By utilizing influencers, you’re able to speak directly to consumers and cut out the fat.

Forget the marketing language, forget the jargon, forget trying to convince someone to give you a chance. Instead, you’ve got an influencer who can speak directly to their audience for you. It might be a “middle man,” but it’s someone that consumers will trust.

  • Offer Customers Something New

A belief in marketing is that your customers always exist; they’re just waiting to learn that you exist. Brand partnerships allow you to take care of just that issue with ease, allowing you to speak to customers with next to no problems. Forget trying to determine your best marketing language. Forget trying to narrow down your niche and time Facebook messages at the perfect time of day.

Instead, with the help of a professional influencer, you can put them to work at promoting your brand to their own audience. That work can go a long way for your business, whether it’s driving conversions at the time or creating long-term customers who stick by your business through thick and thin.

  • Target New Niches

Similar to the points brought up above, there’s more business outside of your existing customers. While your business exists within a specific niche, you may have customers existing outside of your area of expertise.

It’s not a good idea to reach into realms where you shouldn’t be, but you can find customers who stand relative to your niche. By utilizing influencers in your niche or related to your niche, you could effectively bring in customers from outside the market you’ve long been targeting. Suddenly, you could have more consumers entering into your sales funnel, creating more customers across a greater spectrum, who could (eventually) become influencers of your own.

  • Help One Another

One of the best parts of creating a brand partnership is the benefit it offers to you, the influencer, and the customer. When you take a step back, you’ll notice that every key actor in the relationship is helping the other: Brands help influencers earn money off of commissions; brands are more easily able to provide customers with solutions; customers are able to support influencers by showing interest in their promotions; and influencers are able to provide their followers with products and services they’ll be interested in. The collaborative element pays off, allowing your business to share the benefits with everyone involved.

Before you jump into your brand partnership, you’ll want to ask yourself whether a potential influencer is right for you. Whether they’re a fellow brand, an affiliate, a brand ambassador, or a social media influencer, you’ll want to make sure that you align. Considerations include:

  1. Do the influencer and your brand align on messaging, voice, and style?
  2. How will they help you access your new audience?
  3. How do your current customers benefit from this partnership?
  4. Will you be able to appropriately promote your brand?

It’s important you answer these questions while onboarding marketing partners, guaranteeing that they will align with your business before kick-off occurs.

Many different brands have used the Refersion platform to grow their business. Whether it’s increased eCommerce revenue or an increase in traffic, your business can benefit from a brand partnership.

Blenders Eyewear is a company that started from the ground up. CEO and Founder Chase Fisher developed the brand on his own in 2012 and grew it into a $90M company by 2019. But while the company was prospering, they wanted to find ways to continue their growth — at a reasonable cost. Particularly, they wanted to develop a strategy that produced a:

It might have sounded like an attainable goal — a magic marketing strategy that no business could achieve — but they were able to earn it and then some. By partnering with Refersion, they were able to craft a performance marketing strategy driven by brand partnerships. Since developing their partnerships in 2019, Blenders Eyewear saw:

  • 270% increase in affiliate revenue
  • 3x increase in affiliate conversions
  • 4x higher revenue per affiliate email recipient

By relying on brand ambassadors and influencers, they were able to effectively transform their marketing strategy, breathing new life into an ever-climbing business.

Niche bracelet crafter Pura Vida saw exceptional growth, thanks to the Refersion platform. They were able to develop an incentive network for brand ambassadors that also allowed them to more accurately track affiliate links. Refersion helped them analyze their existing structure, making improvements relative to the data they received. Now, Pura Vida has seen growth beyond its own expectations. Since their relaunch, they have seen:

  • 3x traffic to their site
  • 126,000 North American brand ambassadors as of 2020
  • 590% increase in annual revenue

Unsure where to start in establishing a brand partnership? Start your research with our affiliate marketing 101 page. It can work as an exceptional starting-off part for your company, helping you identify both your brand and the direction you’d like to take when establishing partnerships. The process doesn’t have to be complicated. With a few partners, you can begin increasing engagement and driving customer conversions in no time.

Special thanks to our friends at Refersion for their insights on this topic.
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