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Why Co-Marketing Campaigns Make Great Sense Early-on

· 7 min read
Tim Post

What did you envision happening once everyone found out what you were working on and could actually touch and interact with it? Did you try not to think about that and let your creativity take it wherever it was destined to go, or did you think about what it would be like to see people use and appreciate your work? It's probably different for everyone, but I think we all remember it as one of 'the' experiences in our catalog of emotional explosions from owning an early-stage company.

The trouble is, you probably had no idea how difficult it would be to take the leap from the 14 people you know finding out about your product to just one person you don't know finding it through your initial marketing efforts. In fact you might have felt slightly terrified at just how hard it can be to get unpaid user acquisition funnels actually primed and working. Notice that I didn't say how expensive, because that's not even a luxury most could realistically contemplate at that point. We're talking baby steps in anything that isn't directly pushing the product, and that often includes marketing.

Co-marketing partnerships are an extremely attractive option at this point for the following reasons:

  • They often cost little in terms of time and money initially because they're easy to cost-box; we'll get into that soon.

  • They have a higher-than-average probability of over-performing compared with other low-cost efforts that only require some content being published and promoted organically in some way. One successful pilot could net more qualified users in your funnel than weeks of trolling landing pages around your own networks.

  • They hinge on networking early which is critical. The sooner you start making friends that know you primarily because of your business the better.

Co-marketing schemes take many forms; the essential ingredients are people putting up equal sweat and financial stake in order to produce something greater than the sum of what they could do with it alone.

Main Developer Co-Marketing Opportunities

Co-marketing for Developers falls into three general buckets:
Co-branding is where you and another party organize a joint offering or event that you'll contribute equally to producing and marketing. You have a product and some resources to promote the arrangement, and the other party brings their customers or followers to the table.

This isn't an exhaustive list of co-branding shenanigans like the one that you copied from the board in marketing school; this is a list of stuff that is most accessible and repeatable to early-stage companies.

Co-Branded Co-Marketing Wins Most For Technology Startups

Out of all three, we recommend the co-branded approach to companies at the seed phase. These have the lowest overall cost and lowest initial cost which is crucial, and the resulting marketing tends to be authentic and well-received. Since the partner marketer also has some sweat-equity in the game, these campaigns tend to run smoothly since both parties remain attentive and responsive as long as they continue to produce.

If you have outside capital, then you have a few thousand bucks you can pony up to a joint marketing pool, or you have that $500 advertising credit you got from someone through the process of signing up for all the crap you need initially. If you're going to throw precious resources at anything marketing related very early when things are scarce, use this approach if you can.

Likewise, if you just want to build a fantastic network of friendly companies and help eachother with growth hacking, jump in!

Just treat them as paid enodorsements. Have the endorser specifically say "Hey this company caught my eye and I think this thing they make is very relevant to all of you" and make sure they can speak as passionately as you can about it, and you're set.

This means your product needs to solve some kind of pain for them, and they need to be really excited about that. If you don't have this chemistry, don't waste your money. It won't work.

With this route, you have some influence over the messaging, you can be there as they use the product so you can help them get the correct experience if bugs pop up (and get them fixed before you air the campaign), and you can plan supporting messaging and distribution ahead of time because you know when it'll be published.

This is our second favorite route only because it costs more, but you're the only one who risks not getting anything out of it. It's better to do this with stronger hunches that can have big payoffs.

Blind Reviews Are For Adolescent Product Teams

You need honest product feedback from as diverse a group as possible, and you need organic links, and you need blogs talking about you, and maybe by now you can afford some $50 Amazon gift cards?

Then you're ready to offer a review partner program! It's a very one-sided arrangement where the people trying your product control everything; you just provide them with access and motivation.

What You Do / ProvideWhat They Do / Provide
Software licenses & access, motivation, agreement and hands-off support.An honest review linking to your site, promoted to the community along with constructive feedback.

Depending on who you invite, this can get you a lot of great feedback and exposure, as well as expose lots of issues that would have been an inconvenience to a great many more people had you not done the testing. When we do this, our goal is to get feedback like "this was a pain to come back to after I was done feeding the baby" and not just "wow, dark mode!", so organize it responsibly and mindfully.

This becomes a great option in the months leading to your product becoming generally available.

Conclusion

Co-marketing is one of the VERY first things you want to get good at seeking and coordinating when you need to get something new in front of people that are likely to care about it. Schemes where a partner not only increases the resources that can be put into it, but also carries half the load, are the most ideal for the early days.

In tha later days, it's great practice to pump goodwill back into the community you hope to serve by offering deals to key influecers in respectful, non-exploitative terms without oppressive restrictions. This isn't scary, it's just the process of moving your product from almost ready to ready. You need to understand how its going to impact people before it does, and this is a great way to find out.

And, we can totally help with that.


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