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Crawl, Walk, Run: The Co-Marketing Framework That Will Keep You Sane

This is an edited excerpt from the Crossbeam Partner Playbook, a 65-page guide for B2B SaaS partner managers to drive more revenue, get rewarded, and be an indispensable part of your company. Download it here.

Co-Marketing is when two or more companies partner to create a shared marketing campaign, creating an opportunity to cross-pollinate their audiences. This joint project is usually “co-branded” featuring the logo, messaging, and branding from both partners. 

A savvy SaaS partner manager uses co-marketing to expand their reach and collect leads and your co-marketing tactics are only limited by your imagination and your resources. 

Some examples of co-marketing include:

  • Co-Branded email campaign
  • A blog post
  • A how-to article or help center page
  • Podcast
  • Webinar
  • A live event or private dinner
  • Virtual event
  • Case studies
  • Testimonials
  • White papers
  • Ebooks
  • Direct mail (yes, you can use old tactics with new data!)

With all of those options it can be easy to want to take a "kitchen sink" approach to a new partnership — a little of this, and a little of that, and suddenly you have a marketing campaign that stretches for several quarters.

But when you embark on a co-marketing campaign with a partner, you’re making a commitment to one another. As the “co” suggests: You’ll need to cooperate and share efforts and resources to help one another meet your goals. And if you're not careful, you can over-promise and under-deliver, potentially submarining what could have been a beneficial co-marketing relationship.

Start Small. Really Small.

For most high-growth companies, the size of their marketing megaphone starts to grow rapidly around the same time that their partner ecosystem starts to emerge. This can lead to current and potential partners reaching out with possible co-marketing ideas. And it can quickly get messy.

When this happens, you are in the danger zone. It’s incredibly easy to say “yes” to everyone and over-promise while you run around stuck in tactic hell for quarter after quarter before realizing you made no discernible progress on your KPIs. Be proactive and not reactive.

(For more on this: The Rule of 99: Why Partnerships Get Complicated at the 100-Employee Mark.)

“That balance is tricky and hard and it happens faster than you think,” says Brad Armstrong, VP of Business & Corporate Development at Slack. “You want to manage the inbound to have time to focus on the important, long-term tasks,” he adds. 

With co-marketing, the time it takes to execute can compound quickly. So embrace a Crawl-Walk-Run Mindset. First do something low effort with little time investment. Measure the results. Build muscle. Then, do something a little bigger and faster. Then a little more.

Crossbeam-CWR-1

The Crawl-Walk-Run Mindset means starting with the items on the left of the above chart (click it to download a hi-res version). And only when you've successfully executed those, move to the next level.

“I often start off by saying ‘let’s swap some social media posts’,” says Brian Jambor, Head of Partnerships at Sendoso.  “Juxtapose that with a webinar. Pulling that off is much more complicated. Who should you invite? How many marketing emails should you send? Who is running the ads? Are we doing retargeting? Who is creating the slide decks? What platform are we using? It's such a heavy lift. We have to have someone that has a ton of prospect alignment with us to do that.”


“At the start, it’s better not to do a deep integration unless it’s a game-changer,” says Lisa Kleinsorge, Director of Global Business Development and Product Partnerships at Twitter. “Do a lightweight marketing cooperation as a step one. Make sure your teams get along. Make sure your user bases respond ... and then you’ll have some traction.”

Unbounce has a playbook they call “turkey pieces” because they do one high effort go-to-market play and then “slice it up” into several smaller deliverables and outputs. For example, they produce a webinar featuring a partner and a shared customer who has benefited from their solutions in tandem. Then the resulting content is made into an email campaign, blog posts, and other collateral. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

The Crawl-Walk-Run mindset means not jumping to the most complicated execution you can think of. At least not right away. You'll have plenty of time to build on your success. But for now: take it easy.

Read more on how you can use a partner ecosystem platform like Crossbeam to know exactly who to co-marketing to, every time.