What Is Partnership Marketing and How Does It Help Your Business Scale in 2022?
Partnership marketing is one of the most effective ways to market your business in terms of ROI. Learn, how Sven Radavics, founder of In-Tribe, got about his entrepreneurial journey and how he discovered a gap in the market.
Here's a blog post created from an interview with the founder of In-Tribe, Sven Radavics. Here he explains how he began his business by working with different start-ups until he founded his own partnership marketing platform. He also discusses the different types of partnership campaigns that will also make your career a success.
Don't feel like reading? Watch the entire interview HERE instead!⬇️
So, today we are here with Sven from In-Tribe. We're going to ask him a couple of questions about partnership marketing, and he's going to do his best to answer them and give us the most value he possibly can.
So stay tuned and have so much fun.
Let's get started.
Hello, Sven. Thank you for joining. We're all so excited to have you with us. So, kindly introduce yourself before we get to the main part of the interview. The stage is all yours.
Sure. I'm Sven, founder of the In-Tribe partnership marketing platform. I've been kicking around the start-up industry since 1997 when I worked with my first start-up, and since then I've had a variety of roles from engineering, sales, marketing, leadership, early executive positions, advisory board positions, and finally now, a first-time founder. I'm also a huge believer in partnerships and that when people work together they can achieve a lot more than they would on their own.
Amazing! That sounds really good. So it says on your LinkedIn profile that you had quite a few positions before founding In-Tribe. You were in the 9-5 scene, if I can call it that, right? We'll talk about that in a second, but do you mind sharing what made you want to found your own business after being in the normal working world for quite some time?
Look, I wasn't in the normal working world, even though that's probably how my LinkedIn profile looks. Most of those positions are start-up positions. Most of those companies are start-up companies, and you know, particularly in the last few where I held executive positions, though they might look like 9-5 jobs, they were still start-ups, and the last few were actually consulting positions. I had my own consulting firm, which helped North American tech start-ups grow and expand into Europe and Asia. You'd probably notice a few international sales roles or international BDM roles. They are actually all wrapped up in a consulting business.
I joined my first start-up back in 1997, a company called WatchGuard Technologies, which still exists today. It floated on the NASDAQ during the first tech boon, survived the tech crash, and then eventually got bought out by a private equity company. Since joining that start-up, I've had a strong desire to embark on my own entrepreneurial journey. So, I started a number of side hustles along the way and became even more involved in start-ups.
I did go back to a big corporation to help restructure an old tech company that was acquiring start-ups. I took a role there to help integrate the start-up acquisitions as part of a corporate turnaround. But that would be the last time I would ever do something like that.
Cool. So, from what you just said, none of your positions prior were really especially marketing, right?
So what made you want to pursue a start-up in the marketing field? Was it a particular pain point you noticed during your own journey?
How did that happen?
Well, I was literally solving my own problem. I had worked a lot with marketing as a sales leader. I've always believed that marketing and sales are two sides of the same coin and have been lucky to work with a number of exceptional marketing leaders who shared similar beliefs.
In some organizations, particularly traditional corporations, marketing and sales are regarded as opposing sides.
I did have experience with some marketing early in my career, but mostly as a sales leader. I worked with an American start-up at that time when I held many regional positions. Although it was primarily a sales role, it came with many other functions. So you hire the PR company, you hire the content agency. Yes, they work with headquarters, but you wind up just doing a lot of it yourself because there is nobody else. And so I had my hands in marketing on and off for a while, and then as I got into more executive roles, I often led regional marketing teams as part of that role.
But In-Tribe and partnership marketing specifically are what has really fired me up. A lot of my career involved working with channel partners, but in different capacities, whether they were consulting firms, resellers, distributors, or retail chains when I crossed over to the consumer side of tech.
Now, I will tell you about an experience I had back in 2008 through 2012 when I was working for a start-up called Contour. I was running global sales and we had these partnerships with Red Bull, Ducati, Burton, and many other amazing brands. Back then, we were GoPro's major competition for five years until GoPro eventually bought the Red Bull partnership from us. So then we partnered with Monster Energy and still got a lot of benefits. That experience really stuck with me, although I wasn’t responsible at that time for creating partnerships. What I did concentrate on was working with those partners in global retail.
We would have Red Bull athletes come to the stores throughout Europe or we would go to the US and we'd participate in a Red Bull rampage and we'd have a little tent on top of these mountains, it really stuck with me.
So, one day, I spoke to the founder of a startup that was struggling with marketing and advised that we try out partnership marketing. Since it was an audio speaker company, we could partner with everything from chains of yoga studios to lifestyle products to car shows and much more. I mean, there's an awful lot that we could do with partnerships, and after much convincing, my boss agreed.
Right then, I quickly realized that I basically had another sales responsibility on top of my full-time sales job and the start-up company that was already eating into my time.
I was already working 60 hours a week and now I was out there making a list of potential partners, doing LinkedIn cold outreach and going through all of that.
And it was hours and hours of work on top of my day job, and I felt there must have been a platform to help me manage all of that workload, but though I searched, I didn't find one.
And so that was really how it stuck with me for a while, you know. I continued to do partnerships, and luckily I did find some successful partners, but overall it was a lot of hard work.
It wasn't the pace of your typical start-up, though. I did find some co-founders and we started building it as a side hustle.
So you kind of gave it away now.
I’d like to ask, what is In-Tribe? Is it a partnership marketing platform for brands and companies who have mutual campaigns to kind of increase their ROI, meet more people, and reach more people? This is very important because I kind of want to get back to the point of ROI, considering that when we're talking about partnership marketing, we can't leave out Facebook ads in comparison, right?
Because I think with partnership marketing, it's kind of like the alternative to running paid Facebook ads if we're talking about it in terms of the ROI
In particular, how is partnership marketing better than or different from Facebook ads in your opinion?
So, the only definitive report that has come out is one that's about five years old.
It was conducted by American Express, and they did some market research around partnership marketing and basically established that partnership marketing had about 25 times the ROI of paid ads.
And this was five years ago, and since then, paid ads have only gotten more expensive, particularly if you're working with competitive keywords over the last couple of years.
You know, paid ads have gone through the roof, but the returns now are starting to fall through the floor. So it's become very, very difficult for any small-to-medium business to really work with paid ads without bringing in an expensive consultant that can really optimize them for you.
If we go back to the beginning of paid advertising, you know, it seemed to be like magic, and people still think that you can really dial in the targeting very tightly.
You can do all your split testing and let the platforms figure out the best ads by default, but it just doesn't work like that anymore, and so brands are searching for alternatives, particularly small-to-medium brands that can't buy an audience anymore.
Yet, as there are so many advertising alternatives, the problem for founders becomes deciding on certain ones.
SEO, for instance, is fantastic. I've spent a lot of time trying to improve In-Tribe's ranking. But it's the kind of work you do today for the benefit you'll receive in 12 months or 18 months, as it doesn't have that immediacy of paid ads.
And referral marketing is also quite similar. I'm a huge fan of referral marketing, but you need an audience that can refer more potential customers too.
So you can't go from 0-1. It doesn't help. But paid ads allow you to achieve something immediately within 24–48 hours. You can set up ads very easily, but they have to be expensive or they won’t do much for you.
Partnership marketing and brand collaborations on the other hand offer a lot of the same benefits as you'll find with paid advertising. They're also very quick and simple to implement if you know how to.
Let's not get into that yet because we plan to get into that later. What kind of partnership campaigns could be cool for some brands?
But there's another question that we have to address if we're talking about the ROI
So looking at Facebook ads, the investment is pretty clear you pay money to run ads. What is the investment in partnership marketing? Is it a sort of time investment? Is it a product investment? Is it a strategic investment? Because at the end of the day, if we're talking about a 25 percent higher, like 25 times higher ROI than Facebook ads, what do people put in that makes it possible to measure the output in terms of that?
Since the inputs for partnership campaigns are really flexible, it's actually very hard to define.
Let's say you're a small company with 1000 users, 1000 people on your email list even, and it's taken you all your time as a company to develop this list of 1000 emails subscribers, and now you partner with another company that has also roughly 1000 subscribers and you simply do some cross-promotion.
The other company promotes your product, you promote the other company's product, and when you step back and think about it, the value that has been delivered to both of you in terms of the target audience on both mailing lists is very similar.
The value that has been delivered to you is exactly the same as what it took you to acquire 1000 email addresses yourself.
Now you get to borrow that audience with very little effort. Say, 30 minutes to write a little bit of copy and send it to them. If it's a physical product, send them some product photos. They'll just include it in their email, and you'll do the same for them. You're now borrowing an email list for a couple of hours of work to scale up your business, and as you grow, so do your partners, and vice versa. Yet, the amount of work stays the same quite often.
And particularly if you repeat partnerships over time when you've built trust and a business relationship, you can just continue to scale for as long as possible.
Some of the other factors that go into it are different levels or different areas of expertise, especially if we're talking about start-ups, which frequently get employees or skill sets randomly, either through college friends, roommates, or all sorts of other random and largely limited means.
But then partnership marketing also helps complement these limitations. One start-up may have 11 employees, for instance, maybe a QA engineer or software developer, and a videographer, and the other start-up may have a sketch artist. When they partner, they're bringing these resources together that would have been very expensive to acquire. But if you have them in house, in a situation where one company does the video editing while the other supports it with graphic design, it becomes very complementary. So, particularly in smaller firms, I see resource sharing as something that augments your company and then adds to the ROI because your expenses decrease while your returns remain constant.
Nice. Thank you. That was very insightful.
So you've listed the email campaign as a form of partnership marketing. But what other examples could you give to people who are watching this interview about how they could also pursue partnership marketing?
Because I feel like when many people hear of partnership marketing, they're thinking of, you know, Bugatti and Spotify.
I don't know if that was actually a campaign, but it was very huge. Yet, partnership marketing is for every scale or size of business.
So what are some examples that you think would be good for people just getting started with partnership marketing?
Well, it very much depends on the business and what your goals are. That is probably one of the confusing things about partnership marketing because it is so broad. You know, in simpler terms, it's two or more companies coming together to create something that they couldn't do on their own.
And so we can start with, you know, cross-promotion.
We've talked about email lists, but obviously cross-promotion can mean liking each other's stories on Facebook or on Instagram, and so on. It's all forms of cross-promotion.
You can also come together and host events. You can host a webinar alongside three, four, or even five brands.
The value provided to the audience members joining the webinar is much higher because they’re getting multiple experts in a single webinar. You're not just listing one brand with one expert. Every brand, even as many as five, gets involved.
As one brand, you're being introduced to the followers of four other brands, not just for those that attend the webinar, but also for those that email that goes out, the invitations that go out, and so on.
So this way, you're getting a lot more eyeballs on your brand. And that works for both online and physical events.
There are also content partnerships. You know, one of my favourites was done by a company called Paper Form. They were competing with Type Form, so they partnered with a big email marketing automation platform.
They partnered with, you know, another email company that shakes out and verifies that email addresses are accurate. They basically brought in five or six brands, and then they wrote a definitive guide to email marketing and made it available on the sites of all the different brands.
But all the brands are mentioned in this highly successful campaign, and the book had so much value because so many experts were involved. It wasn't just one brand's view of it. So these are all different examples of partnerships, and they're really quite endless.
Pardon me for interrupting, but I've got another example. For instance, we're doing that right now in this interview because we're partners. Sveni Studios and In-Tribe are partners in this interview. And we're going to publish it on our blogs, on LinkedIn, and also on YouTube.
So that's maybe another idea, but in video form.
Are there more video-type partnerships that you can think of, and what do you like about the medium of video in particular?
Probably the most well-known partnerships when people think of partnership marketing and brand collaborations are video content partnerships, like that of GoPro and Red Bull.
Red Bull has all the athletes, the stadiums, the teams, and all of that, while GoPro is the world's expert in point of view, video, jamming small cameras, and interesting places. Together, these two created so much more than they would do on their own, and their partnership was a very huge project for both brands. Even though they're both great brands globally, it was much easier to pull it off by working together. And so, to me, video partnerships are some of the most interesting partnerships out there.
I once worked for a company start-up called OPKIX that made a very small, wearable camera. We had some really unique partnerships and one of my favourite was with the graffiti artist. Because the cameras were so small, you could place it on the nozzle of the artist's the spray can, and take shots from all sorts of different angles. It was the artist doing the work but we were the tool used to create the video. Once the video was done, which was really cool, we both promoted it. The artist did so through her channels, and we through all of our channels as well. And the end result was really, really powerful.
Even though we tried to be more of a lifestyle brand, a lot of people viewed us as an action sports brand because a few of us had earlier dealings with that niche. Some of our influencers were action sports athletes, and this helped us with generating interesting content. It also helped broaden our brand appeal as well. So, I'll say it again: super powerful.
Nice. Okay, so definitely video. I guess it's one of the top ones up there, I think, next to content marketing. This also relates to the store in the store concept. Seeing that in stores like Macy's or Nordstrom in the United States, they always have things like pop-ups of different brands and different stores and some events.
I thought that was really, really interesting.
We should probably bring this to an end, but let’s have one last value bomb for our audience.
If you could name one tip to maximize your ROI when doing partnership campaigns, what do you think that one tip is?
I would say just be really clear about the goals of the campaign and who does what. I can talk now about the California action sports industry, where all of the marketing leaders know each other and have worked with each other. What really amazed me was that they are very casual about creating partnerships. You know, a lot of people that are new to partnerships want to create complex contracts and really get bogged down in the what ifs. But because these people trust each other and have worked together, they're very relaxed about it.
They build partnerships via WhatsApp and quick emails. But what is consistent, even though it's very casual, it's still very specific. All the dates, and collateral that's required from each of the brands, are properly highlighted for all to see. They'll point out who will be promoted, how they will promote it, and then all parties agree. Even if it's just a simple WhatsApp group for all the brands, everybody understands their roles and is committed to fulfilling them.
And so that's the key point. It'll really be all about being really clear and specific, and I think if you can do that very early on in creating a campaign, it's easier.
I just think it's really important, particularly for brands or for people starting out with partnerships, just like in real life; you don't marry the first person you date.
Well, some people do, but, you know, in general, I think most people wouldn't advise that. It's the same thing with partnerships. Start small, go out on a small date first, and just get to know each other on a social level, notice the consistency, and just get a feeling for what it's like. If you can build a relationship with bigger partners or a bigger partnership campaign, great as well, but you know, smaller experiments, are less risky, they're easy to organize, and you can test the waters, and when you get a little more experience or you get to know their brand, you get to see how things work.
Then you can commit to the bigger campaigns where maybe you use external agencies and there's more money involved.
Date a little before you get married, you know. I think that really does apply to partnerships or brand partnerships.
Yes, definitely. And to real life as well, guye. Date before you marry.
Cool, awesome. Thank you so much, guys, for this interview. I hope you learned about partnership marketing and the types of partnership campaigns you could launch for your own business.
Thank you so much, Sven, for taking the time and for launching the In-Tribe platform. That literally makes it so easy to launch your first partnership campaign.
I hope you enjoyed our blogpost. Thanks for your precious time. I hope you gained some knowledge that will help you in your future career, and if you've found this blog post informative, then have a look at our other blog too: www.svenistudios.com.