An Expert's Guide to B2B Partner Marketing Strategies

Learn the latest B2B partner marketing strategies from industry experts. Gain insights to create successful collaborations and drive growth.
Image of author Nick Cotter

By Nick Cotter
Updated Jan 10, 2024

An Expert's Guide to B2B Partner Marketing Strategies
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Building successful partnerships is a key component of any B2B marketing strategy, and partner marketing is a powerful tool for driving growth and revenue. In this step-by-step guide, we'll explore the key elements of a successful partner marketing strategy, from identifying target partners and creating compelling value propositions, to providing training and support and tracking campaign performance.

Whether you're just getting started with partner marketing or looking to optimize your existing efforts, this guide will provide you with the tools and techniques you need to build successful partnerships and drive long-term growth.


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First Off, What is B2B Partner Marketing?

In order to market and sell their goods or services, firms often join with other businesses or organizations. This is known as partner marketing. In a partner marketing arrangement, the two firms normally concur to advertise each other's goods or services to their respective clienteles in an effort to increase both businesses' clienteles and sales.

By collaborating with other respected organizations, partner marketing may be a successful strategy for businesses to achieve credibility and trust while expanding their client base and market reach. Partner marketing may also provide organizations access to new channels and distribution networks, which can boost sales and income.

In general, partner marketing is establishing strategic alliances with other firms or institutions in order to market and sell each other's goods and services, ultimately generating growth and profits for both organizations.

What are the Different Types of Marketing Partnerships?

There are many different types of marketing partnerships, each with its own quirks and subtle differences. Choosing the wrong type can cost you customers and money, so make sure you choose the right one for your business. To help, I've created this list of the different types of Marketing Partnerships, along with a description and an example.

1. Referral/Channel Partner.

A referral partner is a company that refers your business to its existing customers and clients. Referral partners can be thought of as indirect salespeople for your business, and when you leverage them effectively, they can be a powerful component of your business development strategy.

Referral partner relationships are often referred to as "channel partnerships" in the B2B world, where companies work with referral partners of varying degrees.

2. Affiliate Marketing Partner.

B2B affiliate programs have been on the rise, and now they’re a major part of any successful marketing strategy. Why? Simply put, B2B affiliate partnerships are a win-win for both parties.

A B2B affiliate partner is any company/person that has an engaged audience, similar to your customer base, who can help you elevate your brand awareness and new revenue through messaging to their audience in exchange for a commission on new sales.

You can find different types of these affiliate partnerships by searching in Google for queries that are relative to your business. Below are a few examples you will find that are affiliate partners of technology brands:

3. Reseller Partner.

A b2b reseller partner is a company that sells your product or service to other companies. As a b2b reseller partner, you acquire rights to sell products and services from another company, typically in exchange for a commission (that's why it's called "reseller"). The relationship between the two companies can be very different depending on the industry.

In the IT industry, for example, reseller partners may act as an extension of your business. They are a point of contact and support for their clients, offering services like installation, training, and consulting. They become experts on the products they sell and their value proposition becomes more about the quality of their expertise than the price of their product.

4. Sponsorship Marketing Partnership.

Sponsorship marketing is the act of one party giving financial or in-kind support to another party’s event, activity, organization, or group. Sponsorships are most common when a brand wants to raise awareness (aka get your attention) and/or do good. 

Sponsorship marketing is also used by causes that seek funding, like charities and non-profits. The payment process works like this: a sponsor gives an agreed-upon amount of money or resources to someone else who will use their products and services at their next event or activity.

In return for their support, the sponsor will have their name attached to the event or activity through a variety of means that may include:

  • Being named as official sponsors.
  • Having their logo displayed on event materials.
  • Becoming involved in future collaborations.

5. Distribution Partner.

When it comes to growing your business, a B2B distribution partner can help fill in the gaps that you may be experiencing in your company. Maybe you don't have the resources to reach a broader customer base or maybe you need a little more capital to take your business to the next level. Whatever it is, there are tons of advantages to having a B2B distribution partner.

A B2B distribution partner helps companies gain access to new markets and customers by leveraging their own networks and relationships. A B2B distribution partner can also provide capital for growth, especially if you're looking to expand outside your current market.

If you're looking for a B2B distribution partner, there are some key things that should be considered. First, make sure they're familiar with your industry and target market. Second, find out if they have any experience working with other companies like yours before making a commitment. This will help ensure that both sides understand each other's needs and expectations before entering into an agreement.

6. Influencer Marketing Partnership.

It’s one of the hottest trends in business marketing.

According to Forbes, “B2B influencer marketing is on the rise. 87% of marketers are using it, and of those who aren’t, 54% plan to start in the next 12 months.” (Forbes)

So what is a b2b influencer marketing partner?

Simply put: an expert who can provide credibility for your product or service. When you partner with an industry expert, you gain access to their audience as well as their reputation. An effective b2b influencer marketing partner is trusted by their audience and can talk about your product in ways that make them want to buy it.

7. Co-Marketing Partnerships.

A co-marketing partner is a company that shares a portion of its marketing budget with an outside company in exchange for cross-promotion. This partnership usually uses the same creative to encourage customers to buy the products or services of both companies. While co-marketing partnerships are often used by big brands, small businesses can leverage them, too.

Why Co-Marketing Partnerships Work:

Co-marketing partnerships work best when the two companies complement each other's product lines. However, partners don't have to sell similar products as long as they target the same audience. For example, a fulfillment company might partner with a marketing agency to help their customers launch better marketing strategies. The marketing agency gets more exposure, and in turn, the fulfillment company’s customers increase their fulfillment orders, therefore, leading to more revenue for the fulfillment company.

Advantages of Co-Marketing Partnerships:

Co-marketing partnerships give small businesses access to bigger markets and customer databases than they could reach on their own. When one business partners with another, it has access to new audiences and media channels that wouldn't otherwise be available. Also, consumers are more likely to buy from a business they trust.

8. Content Marketing Partnership.

Content marketing partnerships are a collaboration between two or more brands to create and publish content together. The goal of creating and distributing content through a partnership is to provide information about your company and your product, while also educating the audience on topics in your industry.

However, when it comes to effective content marketing partnerships, you don’t want the end result to just be a glorified advertisement for both companies; you want it to be useful. Effective content marketing partnerships provide real value for readers. When done right, everyone wins:

  • The audience gets valuable information or entertainment from reading the content
  • The partner brand gets exposure from being associated with this piece of content
  • Your company can get exposure from audiences that weren't aware of your business before discovering a great piece of content that your brand was involved with

9. Strategic Business Partnership.

A strategic business partnership is an agreement between two or more businesses to work together toward a common goal. Companies can form strategic business partnerships for a variety of reasons, such as gaining access to new markets, increasing their product lines and improving the quality of their products and services.

Companies can form strategic business partnerships for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Gaining access to new markets.
  • Increasing product lines.
  • Improving the quality of products and services.
  • Sharing expertise and knowledge.
  • Reducing competition.
  • Helping to reduce costs.
  • Increasing efficiency.

How to Create a Successful Partner Marketing Strategy in 2023?

Overall, a successful partner marketing strategy for 2023 should involve a combination of research, planning, and execution, with a focus on providing partners with the tools and support they need to effectively promote and sell your products or services. By following these steps, businesses can maximize the benefits of partner marketing and drive long-term growth and revenue.

  1. Identify your target audience and understand their needs and preferences. This will help you to identify the types of partners that are most likely to be successful in promoting your products or services.
  2. Develop a clear and compelling value proposition for your partners. This will help to explain the benefits of partnering with your business, and make it easier for potential partners to understand how they can benefit from the partnership.
  3. Establish clear and measurable goals for your partner marketing efforts. This will help you to track the success of your campaigns and make data-driven decisions about how to optimize your strategy.
  4. Create high-quality marketing materials and resources that can be used by your partners to promote your products or services. This may include product information sheets, sales collateral, and promotional offers.
  5. Provide regular training and support to your partners, to help them to understand your products and services and to effectively promote them to their customers. This may include sales training, technical support, and product updates.
  6. Monitor and track the performance of your partner marketing campaigns, and regularly assess the effectiveness of your strategy. This will help you to identify areas for improvement and to make adjustments as needed to optimize your campaigns for maximum success.

What's the Difference Between Affiliate Marketing, Referral Marketing, and Partner marketing?

Even within the marketing industry, it can be hard to keep track of the different terms and what they mean. You may have heard about partnership marketing, affiliate marketing and referral marketing in your research. What's the difference between them?

Most broadly, partnership marketing is a way for companies to work together, sharing their audiences and resources to create better results than either could accomplish on its own. It's a long-term strategy that includes affiliates and referrals as tactics you might employ in order to reach your goals.

Partnership marketing is an umbrella term that includes affiliate marketing and referral programs, but it encompasses much more. A few key differences:

  • Affiliate Marketing: Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based advertising in which brands reward affiliates for delivering customers or visitors via their own promotional efforts.
  • Referral Marketing: Referral programs are one piece of a larger strategy—they're usually coupled with other tactics like content creation or influencer outreach. Referred users are not necessarily incentivized to sign up; they're more likely to become brand advocates because they trust their referrer and have had a positive experience with the company themselves (for example, Dropbox).

Why Does Your Brand Need a Partner Marketing Strategy?

As a brand, it can be more effective to collaborate with like-minded businesses rather than going at it alone. Partner marketing strategies can help you gain exposure and introduce new products, services or offers to audiences who may not have previously been aware of your brand.

Your partners likely have existing customers who are interested in your services, so working together will allow you to reach those potential new customers much more easily than if you were trying to acquire them on your own. This is particularly true for large companies with extensive customer bases as well as SMBs that enjoy local awareness.

It’s also important to consider whether the goals of your partner align with the ones you’ve set for yourself: is there an opportunity for mutual benefit? For example, if both parties want to drive traffic, revenue and awareness through this partnership, then those shared goals will likely lead to a successful relationship.

What are the Benefits of Partner Marketing Software?

Marketing technology is an essential part of any successful business and is probably the most important tool for marketers. Marketing tools are used to help with the process and ease of marketing tasks as well as increase productivity and efficiency. 

Partnership marketing software and affiliate marketing software can help you build relationships with your partners, measure performance, and automate partner activities.

The benefits of partner marketing software include:

Partner management – Partner management software automates everything from onboarding to reporting. This allows you to focus more time on your customers and less time on managing your partner relationships.

Performance measurement – With partnership marketing software you can measure the performance of your partners in terms of revenue, distribution, and ROI. You will be able to see which partners are performing well and which are not doing so well.

Automated workflows – Automated workflows eliminate the need for manual processes. This means that repetitive tasks such as onboarding new partners, distributing content, and sending out emails can be automated using partnership marketing software.

How to Find the “Right” Marketing Partners for Your Business?

One of the most effective ways to build a successful business is by partnering with companies that have existing, engaged audiences.

This is particularly true of B2B businesses, who often face an uphill battle when it comes to competing with large industry incumbents. By partnering with other brands, you can quickly scale your outreach, building brand awareness and boosting your sales.

But not all marketing partnerships are created equal. Working with the wrong partners can drain your time and resources without delivering results while working with the right partners can supercharge your business's growth.

So how do you find the right fit marketing partners for your business? Here are some tips:

  • Tap into the business network you’ve worked with in the past.
  • Identify other types of companies your target audience is also working with.
  • Attend online/offline industry events to network with other partnership leaders.
  • Join networking groups such as Partnership Leaders.

What is the Difference Between Marketing Partnerships vs. Business Partnerships?

A marketing partnership is a business relationship between two or more organizations that agree to work together to reach their respective marketing goals. Marketing partnerships are ideal for companies who want to promote their products or services to another brand’s customer base.

A business partnership is a formal arrangement between two or more parties to carry out a profit-generating endeavor or project. A business partnership can take place between organizations, individuals, and even governments. Business partnerships are typically formed when multiple parties come together to do something that none of them could do on their own.

Wrapping it All up

If your business needs more clients, there are a lot of ways to go about getting them. One way that you may not be familiar with is partner marketing. Partner marketing gets its name from what a lot of people would define as a rather generic process: having two companies advertise and/or sell each other's products or services. It's not hard to see why this method has become so very popular in recent years: it is an incredibly effective way to net new customers for virtually any business or brand.

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Nick Cotter

Nick Cotter

Founder & CEO

With over 7 years navigating the intricate realms of marketing, and specifically B2B partner marketing, Nick has forged collaborations with top-tier tech brands, prominent agencies, and some of the industry's foremost B2B publishers and content creators. His deep immersion in both marketing landscapes showcases a trajectory of expertise and innovation. Identifying a significant void in specialized resources, he founded Growann.The aspiration? Deliver unparalleled insights and guidance, carving out a dedicated space where the broader marketing and B2B partner marketing communities can flourish.