With everything that is going on globally, developing relationships with your business peers can be invaluable in positioning your brand. Have a coffee/drink with your local tourist board, pop in to other local businesses, or even sit down with a competitor. Share what you know, chances are that you won’t be giving away anything that they won’t find out for themselves soon anyway, and you might take in more than you give away – your partners help define your reputation and position, and at the very least, it’s good to talk!
What is Partnership Marketing?
Partnership Marketing is effectively the marketing world’s take on the T.E.A.M acronym (Together Everyone Achieves More), or Aristotle’s famous phrase “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. The world of hospitality can still be very protective of its own intellectual knowledge, and this is a shame, not least because we are an industry often challenged with staff shortages and budget constraints – yet we seem intent on battling on alone.
Why is Partnership Marketing so important?
Partnership Marketing has always been important (even before the phrase “Partnership Marketing” was coined), because it is a simple, quick, and low-cost way of aligning your brand with other similar ones out there. Choose a non-competitive business, that has the same values as you; that has a similar (but not identical) target market to you, and start working together. Share ideas, thoughts, suppliers – you name it, you should consider sharing it – it will save you time and money, and it will also gain you valuable insights from an alternative perspective.
Today, Partnership Marketing is even more important than it was, because marketing itself is becoming more and more difficult. In today’s social world, people are less interested (dare we say susceptible?) to advertisements and traditional marketing, and even if some of your activity does catch their eye, they want that information to be validated in a social capacity as well.
Some time ago that was simply word of mouth; they might mention your business to a friend, colleague, or family member, but today they can ask millions of strangers what they think of you simply by looking at their smart phone. Remember that phrase from way-back-when you were a trainee? “If a customer has a good experience they’ll tell one person, if they have a bad experience they’ll tell ten”? Well in 2020 you wish it were just ten! Thanks to social media, one simple post can reach hundreds or thousands or people in the blink of an eye: In a recent survey, people are 50% more likely to share a negative experience on social media than a good one, and that stat is likely to increase. Combined with the fact that 85% of people allow a negative review to inform their decision, we’re up against a huge challenge here. We need our friends and allies around us in these difficult times!
Joking aside, we know that everybody already knows that you need to have a great social media strategy in place to manage your reputation. But what if you can do even better than that? What if you can have another brand make a statement about you, back you up, and say that they believe in you? It’s a metaphorical big kid in the playground stepping in, and saying “They’re all right”. It will do wonders for you, especially since most savvy travellers already know that TripAdvisor, Facebook, Twitter and the like have their fair share of keyboard warriors – it only takes one “big kid” to align themselves with you and you’re a trusted party again.
So where do you start?
Start by identifying what it is you want to achieve. Partnerships are excellent for developing your brand and building relationships with your consumers, which are the main marketing areas that hotels tend to neglect when there are budget constraints. Make sure you are clear on your goals before you start.
Next, identify the best possible partners to help you: For a hotel, some of your best brand partners could be your local tourist board, any travel operators that your guests use to get to you, suppliers, people you supply, or other local businesses. You don’t have to forge new relationships, simply develop those that you have already.
Start by thinking about what you want your partners to do for you, and what you can do for them in return, remember it’s a partnership – if budgets are an issue then bedroom stock can be a valuable commodity to offer, or even the offer of your function space for an annual meeting might be enough to make them see the value in a partnership with you.
Open conversations are necessary, as this is not a relationship that you want to turn sour through misunderstandings or false promises. In the early stages, honesty is the best policy, and if there’s nothing that you can do together right now, at least you’ve made a new contact, and you might be able to help one another in the future, remember to stay in touch and nurture the relationship.
My final thoughts and key takeaways!
By forming some strategic partnerships with other local businesses, you now have the opportunity to reach out to a whole new audience that may otherwise have not been attracted to what you have to offer. Going back to my hotel as an example, you might consistently have rooms available during the week/weekend, consider teaming up with another local businesses/attractions and creating a joint package/offering.
We’ve seen some great examples of this with some of our clients that have teamed up with local attractions to offer an overnight stay and entry to a local attraction, or a days activity followed by either lunch or dinner in their restaurant.
The opportunities are out there if you are willing to talk, wouldn’t it be great if your partnership was able to turn around the fortunes of a smaller less fortunate business or vice-versa.