Partnerships can provide a range of benefits to any business looking to activate upon existing or new customer bases. However, when choosing the right partner, companies need to consider how the partnership will be perceived by the customer. Those perceptions can be defined by three different levels of fit: consistent, moderately inconsistent, or extremely inconsistent.
This blog will detail the process to go through before engaging in partnerships as well as how to determine the right level of fit between your company and another brand, to ultimately determine if a collaboration has potential for success.
Avoid Ineffectual Partnerships by Creating a Persona for Your Target Audience
Creating a customer persona will help determine your target audience for the partnership and what type of brand collaboration may interest them. This could be your top existing customers, or a smaller subset of people you’d like to focus on to expand their engagement with the brand. Personas should not be based on a real individual or an outdated stereotype, they are representations of your actual customers. Rather than making assumptions, personas should be created from actual customer data. Once you’ve developed the personas, you can further refine and enhance them with qualitative measures such as interviewing current and potential customers, as well as internal team members who may have further insights into customer behavior and preferences.
Misalignment Can Occur If Brands Don’t Assess how the Level of Fit Is Perceived by the Target Customer Persona
It may seem that partnering with another brand is an easy “yes” or “no” scenario based on the perceived benefits alone; however, there is an appropriate balance of engaging in the right type of partnership based on customer perception and how the brand’s values and goals align.
Customer perception can be defined by three different levels of fit which produce a certain amount of recall and sentiment:
A consistent brand partnership is what you’d consider an obvious choice, producing little to no recall but generally positive feelings. However, it isn’t always the best way to gain interest from potential new customers. For example, it makes perfect sense for a pepperoni company to sponsor a pizza festival; however, it may not pique the interest of the customer base or offer interesting marketing opportunities. While it’s an easy connection to make, it doesn’t generate access to new audiences or enhance brand image and affinity.
The sweet spot for partnerships is a moderately inconsistent partnership. This is a somewhat understandable connection that piques just enough interest for both brands to make a positive impression on customers. The brands might be completely unique, but their customer bases are either the same or complimentary.
For example, a home improvement company chooses to sponsor a racetrack. In this instance, it’s important to understand the customer personas for each company. Home improvement can generally be assumed to have an older, male, roll-up-your-sleeves type of customer base, while racing fans are also known to skew older, male, and have generally average incomes, so they are likely to take on home improvement projects themselves.
This collaboration directly considers the interests of the customer base. Targeting another company that fits naturally within the customer’s area of interest can lead to positive recall of the collaboration and increased brand affinity for both brands.
An extremely inconsistent partnership produces a high level of recall but may not make sense and produces negative sentiment because of the confusion. This type of collaboration also runs the risk of bringing two customer bases together with different values, which can upset brand loyalists for both companies causing customers to not engage at all. For example, let’s imagine a luxury retail brand partners with a fast-food company. The luxury brand’s integrity and exclusivity may be questioned, and the fast-food customers might not see the relevance, potentially eroding trust in both brands because the partnership is seen as inauthentic or opportunistic.
Avoid Partnerships That Don’t Provide Benefits to Your Business
Once you’ve deemed another brand to be a good fit to reach your target audience, the next thing to consider is how it benefits your business. The partnership should bring value that your company may not be able to garner on its own, which ultimately benefits the customer as well. Below are some examples of how a business can benefit from a partnership.
Accessing an Untapped Customer Base
Since both companies have complimentary customer bases, a marketing campaign will allow you to get in front of people that are likely to engage with your brand and may not know about you.
Gaining an Elevated Brand Image
If one brand is more well-known than another, the lesser-known brand will inherently be elevated because there is a perception of authority with the more well-known brand.
Expanding Your Resources
This could be in the form of financial, marketing, or technology resources. For example, one company might have the financial means to cover more of the marketing costs to build social media assets, email assets and a landing page, while the other brand has a product that will be enticing to the other company’s customers.
Ineffective Partnerships are Likely If Brands Don’t Seek a Moderately Inconsistent and Mutually Beneficial Partnership
When determining if a partnership is right for your brand, it’s imperative to first create your target audience’s customer persona so you can evaluate how they will perceive the partnership’s level of fit. The sweet spot is when it’s both a moderately inconsistent fit and a beneficial move for the business. Customers should feel that your company is providing a genuine new opportunity that aligns with their interests, not being solely driven by profit, which in turn increases brand affinity. While at the same time, the partnership should introduce opportunities to your business that may not have otherwise been available, such as tapping into a specific market or diversifying resources.