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Right now most email marketers are knee-deep in holiday campaigns: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday, Super Saturday… But the New Year will be here before you know it, and you’ll want strong numbers to maintain the momentum you built in Q4. So how’s this for a fresh idea?

Consider adding a co-marketing email campaign to your 2016 calendar. Co-marketing is nothing new and yet, as one CMO explains, it is among “the best-kept secrets for gaining valuable new audiences.”

We’ve offered examples of email co-marketing before. Now it’s time to talk logistics. Follow these steps to ensure you’re selecting the best possible email partners, then get the facts on exchanging email data—efficiently and securely—with another awesome brand. (It’s easier than you think!)

  1. Consider the Size and Scope of Their Audience

For a successful co-marketing email campaign, it’s important to join forces with someone who brings at least as much to the table, in terms of reach and visibility. There are some easy yardsticks you can use to gain this kind of competitive intelligence. For starters, see if their web traffic is comparable to yours. Check out how many social followers they have or how many “view counts” their YouTube content has amassed. If your prospective partner is a publicly-traded company, it wouldn’t hurt to review its financials, either. Ultimately, the size of their subscriber list may be the most important factor, but looking at big picture stats gives you the context you need to start a conversation.

  1. Find a Partner with Adequate Resources

Resources don’t just refer to marketing budgets. “Resources” can also mean dedicated brainpower. Ask for the names of any individuals you’ll be working with on your email partners’ teams. Do a quick LinkedIn search to verify credentials. Be leery of partners who can’t assign a concrete owner to your project, or of those who point you toward an intern/less experienced associate.

Email co-marketing campaigns aren’t necessarily labor intensive, but you need high-level input surrounding accountability metrics, campaign goals, creation and approval of the content itself. Once begun, you’ll want to ensure you can get answers or refine details with a knowledgeable contact. Speaking of details…

  1. Be (100%) Sure Your Target Markets and Values Align

The importance of co-marketing with relevant, parallel brand almost goes without saying… almost.

Do you remember what happened last year when Lands’ End rewarded preferred customers with a free gift? Many in Lands’ End conservative/female demographic do, because it turns out the free gift was an issue of GQ magazine— boasting a cover photo of a virtually topless model.

Condé Nast and Lands’ End might have avoided this co-marketing snafu by better aligning the offer with the interests and values of the target audience. Even though the campaign’s intended common ground—described as “fashion and lifestyle topics”—sounds fitting in theory, it’s clear that the publisher’s full collection of magazines was too broad to delight Lands’ End subscribers (particularly the ones buying school uniforms for their children). In the end, Lands’ End executives had to apologize, and switch the free gift subscription to Condé Nast Traveler.

  1. Look for Partners that Are Actively Building Trust, Credibility, and Engagement

It’s one thing to collect 37 million Facebook fans. It’s quite another to earn customers’ trust, sustain a conversation, and truly understand the things they care about. Brands like Disney, Apple, and Oreo manage to do all of that, according to polls.

But you don’t need a major media survey to gauge a brand’s integrity and overall likeability. Instead, look for companies that are nailing it with user-generated content—one of the 10 trends Forbes identified as defining the future of marketing. Any brand that actively places customers in the spotlight—via online reviews, social exchanges, blogs, etc.—is proving its ability to engage and its willingness to co-create great content.

  1. Ask about Co-Marketing Guidelines and Policies

While this is probably the step to start with, we’re listing it last to keep it top of mind: establish co-marketing/cobranding guidelines that clearly outline your brand’s audiences, values, and philosophies. When you put together a co-marketing proposal, this will be an important attachment. And you should ask for one in return from any email partners you’re considering. (Some brands have their cobranding guidelines publicly available; you can use them as a template if you haven’t drafted yours yet.)

Regarding email co-marketing specifically, you may want to add compliance provisions that address when and how customer/subscriber data will be protected. For example, you may want to include a guidelines requirement that says email partners must share and cleanse lists via a neutral, third-party list scrubbing platform or list scrubbing service. (You and your partners can now commission a one-time scrub as part of our white-glove service.) Because sharing plain-text email files and/or failing to de-dupe lists against current customers and opt outs is a very bad idea.

Do you agree that Daniel Smith’s assessment that co-marketing has “silently integrated itself into mainstream marketing without reaching its full potential or gaining the attention it deserves”? Are you already practicing co-marketing with email partners, and if so, are you following best practices for list scrubbing?

List Scrubbing for Co-Marketing Email Campaigns:
Let UnsubCentral Handle It

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