Want to level up your reputation while boosting sales? Try co-marketing!

After all, partnering up with fellow businesses is a proven way to scale.

But co-marketing partnerships represent so much more than just joint promotions.

Food for thought: the Sprout Social Index, Edition XVII: Accelerate notes that 58% of brands are laser-focused on raising awareness (while 35% are attempting to grow their audiences, too). Partnerships are key to doing both.

Because working alongside other businesses in your industry empowers you to build relationships and leverage your brand as an invaluable resource.

Curious about co-marketing? This guide breaks down everything you need to know and how to get started.

What is co-marketing, anyway?

Let’s kick things off with a quick definition.

Co-marketing is a strategy that involves brands or organizations partnering to expand their reach. Typically, companies involved in co-marketing campaigns share common audiences or work within the same industry (but are not direct competitors).

The concept is simple enough: working side-by-side with another brand is a way for both parties to introduce themselves to new audiences, drive additional revenue and build awareness. Everybody wins, right?

While the concept isn’t exactly groundbreaking, co-marketing relationships are totally different from the typical partnerships we see brands make today (such as affiliate programs, brand ambassadorships or influencer marketing).

The key difference? With co-marketing campaigns, the collaborating brands are treated as equals. This rings true when it comes to both promotion and doing the actual legwork of putting together the campaign.

3 common co-marketing examples (and why they work)

So, what does co-marketing actually look like in practice? Here are a few marketing campaign ideas for inspiration:

Partnering up to educate your audience

Whether in-person or through digital events (such as webinars), educating your audience is perhaps one of the easiest ways to get on board with co-marketing in B2B.

Social platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn make it a cinch to drive sign-ups and build buzz for webinars. Such events are a brilliant way to drive sign-ups and provide legitimate value to your audience.

co-marketing webinar example between Tinuiti, IZEA and Gorgias.

Co-hosting promotions and product launches

Co-marketing is perfect for product launches, helping you get the word out and build buzz when you need it the most.

co-marketing giveaway example on an Instagram Story

Giveaways, contests and brand takeovers are all popular campaign ideas that allow multiple brands to leverage each other’s followings to get as many eyes on their promotions as possible.

co-marketing giveaway example in an Instagram caption


Creating a totally new resource for a shared audience

The idea here is that two heads are better than one when it comes to sharing insights with your audience.

For example, the Harris Poll and Sprout Social teamed up for our social media investment report that served as an invaluable resource for both parties. This highlights how co-marketing campaigns can complement the strengths of two totally different brands.

Example of co-marketing between Sprout Social and The Harris Poll.

Co-marketing vs co-branding (and why they’re different)

The terms “co-marketing” and “co-branding” are often used interchangeably but they’re far from the same.

In short, co-branding typically involves two brands partnering up to launch a new product and using their respective name recognition to build buzz. Co-branding campaigns are typically reserved for brands with larger audiences and are common in the world of ecommerce (think: brand collabs, limited edition runs of products).

When it comes to effectiveness, it’s not really a matter of either/or of co-marketing versus co-branding. They’re two totally different types of campaigns. Co-marketing represents more of a straightforward promotion while co-branding involves the legwork of creating an entirely new product.

That said, both are great for building awareness and reeling in customers.

What are the big-picture benefits of co-marketing?

At a glance, partnering up with other businesses might not seem like a priority in your pursuit of a larger audience.

The reality, though? A staggering 77% of brands agree that partnerships are key to growth.

Below is a quick breakdown of how brands benefit from co-marketing campaigns.

1. Tap into totally new audiences

The more people you can get your brand in front of, the better.

Instant exposure to a partnering brand’s social following or email list is nothing to scoff at. This is especially true if you’re an up-and-coming business or you’re making your introduction to an audience that has no idea who you are.

2. Cement yourself as an industry leader

No matter what industry you’re in right now, competition is fierce and attention is scarce.

Brand partnerships provide an opportunity to break through the noise. Doing so also signals you as someone worth working with that has potential name recognition. This can immediately set you apart from competitors in a big way.

3. Build relationships within your industry

Perhaps one of the underrated advantages of co-marketing is the ability to build relationships with like-minded business owners and industry experts.

You really can’t afford to be an island in today’s social landscape. Whether short-term or long-term, having a network of people that can build you up and boost you can be a game-changer.

4. Explore new markets without expanding

Co-marketing also provides an opportunity to dip your toes into a new market without a full-blown expansion.

If nothing else, a campaign might serve as an opportunity to conduct some market research and learn more about audiences parallel to your own.

5. Acquire new leads

Beyond brand awareness, this is the big one.

When done right, co-marketing seamlessly allows you to grow your list, drive opt-ins and drive traffic to any given promotion.

How to put together a co-marketing strategy from scratch

Although co-marketing campaigns are arguably easier than ever to put together, they still require planning and attention to a few key details. Let’s look at some of them below.

1. Define your goals and objectives

Just like any type of campaign, you need to have your specific goals and desired outcomes defined before it goes live. There are no “right “answers here, but you should at the very least be able to define:

  • Why you’re running the campaign (brand awareness, leads, a combination of both)
  • What resources will be required to fulfill your end of the campaign (creatives, time and so on)
  • How you’re going to measure success (metrics and KPIs such as sign-ups, traffic or conversions)
  • What your deliverables are going to be (social posts, emails, webinar slides and so on)
  • What are your expectations are in terms of what your partnering brand(s) will deliver

2. Build relationships prior to outreach (and be open to opportunities yourself)

You should obviously be thoughtful when it comes to who you partner with.

Ideally, co-marketing opportunities should spring up organically with brands and marketers you trust and have existing relationships with. As noted earlier, brand partnerships are ideal for those that are industry-adjacent without being direct competitors.

Co-marketing campaigns usually aren’t going to come from cold outreach. That said, it doesn’t hurt to start thinking about potential partnership candidates to explore opportunities.

Likewise, be open to opportunities yourself. You can probably tell pretty quickly whether someone’s done their homework and actually wants to engage in a meaningful co-marketing effort.

What matters most is that the relationship is a win-win for both parties and isn’t one-sided in terms of who’s doing the bulk of the work for the promotion.

3. Make sure to measure your campaign results

Even if your campaigns are centered primarily around awareness, tracking your efforts with KPIs is a must-do.

Reach. Engagement. Conversions.

There are so many ways to measure success and they should be front-and-center before you get started. For example, you should consider:

  • Tracking sign-ups, opt-ins and other conversion-related metrics (and tying them to your co-marketing campaign)
  • Assessing followers, @mentions and sentiment through social listening to see if your campaigns actually built positive buzz)
  • Looking at landing page traffic and lead sources see how engaged your co-marketing audience was

How social media can drive your co-marketing strategy

Social media is key to modern co-marketing campaigns and maximizing your reach.

How so? Let’s look into the role that social plays in getting the most out of your brand partnerships.

Promote your co-marketing campaigns organically

No surprises here! Basic promotional strategies related to co-marketing might include:

  • Making announcement posts and hyping up your brand partnerships
  • Expanding the reach of your efforts through employee advocacy to reach even more people (see below)
  • Funneling social traffic to a specific branded landing page (and measuring engagement)
Co-marketing webinar promotion example on LinkedIn.

Assess potential co-marketing candidates

Social media is the go-to place to build relationships with link-minded brands and business owners.

You can also research and assess the value of a potential partnership prior to outreach. Assessing a potential partner’s follow content, voice, values and engagement rate would be a good starting point.

Oh, and consider that messaging and DMs via social are fair game for outreach beyond email. For example, LinkedIn is a massive platform for B2B social media outreach.

Measure engagement before, during and after your campaigns

Again, the importance of metrics and KPIs can’t be overstated for co-marketing.

Not only do you want to know how well your campaigns perform, but you may also want to highlight just how engaged your own audience is to win over a potential partner.

Tools like Sprout Social’s reporting tools can help big-time in that department. For example, you’ll be able to assess engagement spikes and audience growth in correlation with a co-marketing campaign.

Tracking co-marketing campaign performance data in Sprout Social.

Does co-marketing make sense for your brand?

Partnerships represent a prime opportunity to grow your brand and raise awareness at the same time.

And despite popular belief, co-marketing doesn’t have to involve a ton of legwork.

Chances are there are other brands in your network that you could team up with to create resources or co-host an event. Granted you have mutual value to provide one another and you have specific goals for your co-marketing strategy, you’re golden.

If you haven’t already, check out our latest guide breaking down how to build your social media marketing strategy to figure out where co-marketing campaigns could fit in for you.