Community is one of the most important and misused terms in digital. As humans, we are innately geared to seek out and become part of genuine communities. These associations help us learn and grow. But so much of what is called “community” in digital is really just about using social media to deliver corporate messages.
At Performance Horizon, we want to play a catalytic role in fostering genuine partner marketing communities in key cities around the world. To help us fulfill this mission, we spend a great deal of time and money creating in-person events where partner marketers of all stripes can come together and learn from one another.
One of the most popular formats for such discussions is what we call a Client Roundtable. Client Roundtables bring together thought-leading partner marketers from both within and beyond our client base to:
- Talk about the issues they face
- Share ideas about “what works” in this dynamic space
A subtitle for these events might be By Brands, For Brands because the agenda and discussion are ultimately driven by the marketer participants rather than Performance Horizon.
We first launched Client Roundtables in London, where they were received so positively that we have now taken the format around the world. We have recently held our first such meeting in the United States. While the specifics of individual opinions and discussions are always kept confidential, we do provide some insights into some of the key topics of conversation here on this blog.
With that in mind, here are some of the key topics that came up in our first US Client Roundtable:
- Partnership Marketing is Changing and Growing Rapidly: Years ago, partner marketing and particularly performance-based partner marketing was viewed as a relatively niche category. But today, more and more companies appear to be embracing a broader definition of partnership. This new definition encompasses everything from:
- “Keystone” performance partners: Keystone partners are brands, often with a large customer base, who are focused on driving value and rewards for their customers including cashback, discounts etc.
- Loyalty Partners: Loyalty partners build programs around their own customer loyalty programs, often rewarding their customers with points.
- Comparison Partners: Comparison partners provide customers with different options when searching for products or services.
- Meta Search Partners: Meta Search partners operate particularly in the travel space, allowing customers to search for travel options, as well as book directly through their sites.
- “Transformational Partners”: Transformational partners are strong equity brands that partner with other brands to achieve objectives for both participating firms (e.g. increased revenue, brand awareness etc.) Such brand partnerships often fall outside the realm of what used to be considered classic partner marketing. This is a particularly hot area of partner marketing growth.
- Tech Partners: Technology partners drive traffic to brands through wider digital approaches.
- Sometimes, Companies Don’t Understand the Full Potential of Performance Partnerships: On some level, performance partnerships and the pay-for-results model are so strong that senior execs have difficulty believing that they are real/possible. Patience and education are critical elements of any partner marketer’s plan to grow and expand the importance of this discipline in their organizations.
- Many Companies are Trying to Create Content Partner Strategies: If we consider all of the products we know and buy in a year, it quickly becomes apparent that some purchases are more thoughtfully considered than others. Many brands are looking beyond the “last mile” sales conversion partners and investing time and attention in “content partnerships.”
- Influencer Partnerships on the Rise: Similarly, many brands are exploring, testing and implementing influencer partnerships. Such agreements naturally have different characteristics versus classic partner models like loyalty communities and cash back properties. But brands are excited because they hold the potential of growing the funnel at any and all stages.
- The Need for Legal and Tech Synch WIth Partner Marketing Initiatives: Marketers are oriented toward taking rapid action in order to capitalize on both short- and long-term opportunities. Our partnership leaders underscored the need for close and transparent relationships with both the Legal and Tech teams. By taking the lead in creating such positive relationships, we create an atmosphere where cross-departmental teams can align and do more.
- Manual Program Management Remains a Barrier for Some: As partner marketing has grown and expanded, many companies have struggled to efficiently manage their brand-to-brand relationships. Sometimes, they just don’t fit into the classic affiliate network cookie cutter format. Conventional models and reporting schemes just don’t work for these collaborative agreements and arrangements. Instead, partner marketing leaders must either:
- Spend a large amount of team time manually managing, reporting and optimizing programs with spreadsheets, email and other cumbersome tools.
- Identify and implement flexible technological solutions that can enable direct relationships, reliable tracking and rich data/insights to drive better performance.
- Data Utilization Remains a Big Opportunity for Many: While some companies appear to be aggressively utilizing data — particularly real-time data for optimization, others see it as the next frontier to help them drive scale and efficiency.
We’d like to thank all of our attendees for a great discussion, and hope to see each of you — and many others reading this post — in the Client Roundtable series we are planning in 2018.
Watch your inbox for invitations!