I work with a startup to develop sustainable business and marketing practices for their national and international endeavors. In the past, I have also written point of views and whitepapers basis my research and experience of working with startups in India. Basis this, I understand that marketing in isolation for a startup could be extremely challenging considering the budget constraints and limited dedicated resources to innovate and implement effective marketing initiatives. This is why we advocate the importance of collaborative marketing specifically for startups. Collaborative marketing is precisely imperative at the initial stage of a startup for primarily a. the added brand value which the other brands bring to your marketing initiative, b. The shared cost of the initiative, c. enhanced magnitude of the outcome and lastly, d. innovations that other brands bring to the table. 

Fundamentally, when brands that have similar set of target audiences to reach out and shared purpose collaborate to achieve mutual marketing objectives, the value and credibility of the entire project takes on an another meaning and reach out to marginally a greater set of stakeholders. This concept has been widely in use as far as advertising was concerned. We see infinite marketing events wherein brands selling similar and complementary products and services collaborate to offer a comprehensive experience to the stakeholders.

But, as brand custodians, we need to be extremely clear of what we want out of the marketing initiative that we are trying to strike. More often than not, in the course of developing a ‘together works better’ marketing gimmick, marketers, specifically from startups tend to lose focus of where they started from. Always remember, the kick of hitting the right chord is bigger than the kick of executing a fantastic co-marketing initiative with other brands, and- it stays for a longer time ofcourse. Very recently, Saavn, a music streaming app, quite decently popular amongst the gen-y partnered with Lava, a mobile handset company to pre-load the company’s app in Lava D- 136A.  Apart from this, both the companies have decided to work together on various co-marketing efforts. This is an example of co-marketing of 2 brands that complement each other.

It is like the institution of marriage where the two individuals, in order to lead a long life together, need to have mutual benefits, mutual goals, desires, objectives and similar thought process.


The Fundamental principle of Co-marketing- The principle of Equals

If you are trying to strike collaborations, before you go with the charm of the other brand which lures you to go ahead, stop and rethink the customer base of that brand and try to answer the relevance of that set of customer for your brand. What I am trying to indicate is the identification of conversion or the most popular ROI (return on investment) that you are likely to achieve from this. When Apple and Nike are heard to have collaborated to innovate products that seamlessly integrate to offer an enhanced intelligent solution to individuals, makes complete sense while both the brands are ‘equals’ (while this is co-branding and not co-marketing). This is the fundamental principle of collaboration. ‘The principle of equals’– that is, when you collaborate with a brand that has a greater role in the collaboration, the result is more likely to have a derogatory impact on your image. Similarly, when you collaborate with a brand that has little to contribute or doesn’t just fit into the bill, you end up spending greater amount of resources, funds and intelligence to innovate and the result would end up getting stuck in the scrutiny of your stakeholders, hence, leaving the brand impression as a ‘not-so-wise’ organization in the eyes of its stakeholders and moreover, bringing an added cost in every way to the firm.

Remember to develop relationship and not just partnerships

Striking a business partnership is the first initial step, to take it further to the next level, always remember to develop a close relationship with the business partner now that you have successfully reaped benefits from the first endeavor. The value of the partnership is beyond this marketing initiative.

In Quest of the right partner

Networking- both online and offline offer great returns in the future for startups, be it collaboration or business partnerships. A typical marketing professional devotes more than 60% of his time networking, both offline, through seminars, networking events, awards, B2B events and online through social platforms, and I personally recommend LinkedIn. It is a great tool to get connected to like-minded people. LinkedIn answers, infact, is the best tool to initiate conversations with a specific set of target group and get real insights from experts.

Newsletters. Subscribe to your industry newsletters and most importantly, the ones from your competitors, brand partners and potential businesses. Most of these come free of cost.

There are dedicated agencies that facilitate collaborative marketing and helps companies strengthen and explore marketing collaborations to build long term sustainable relationships.

Beyond Boundaries

Collaborative marketing or co-marketing owes a lot to the social revolution. The evolved internet savvy hyper connected consumer of today is aware of what is happening in the other part of the world and hence the brands are increasingly no longer targeting markets within boundaries. Therefore, it becomes even more imperative to collaborate for generating better results while targeting a larger share of new audiences.

We are always open to ideas, point of views and questions. What we are searching for are answers to questions like What is the best formula or guide to effective co-marketing for your brand?How do we strike the right deal with the other brand for better results for our brand?Case studies of how brands have best benefited through co-marketing?