Big brands have a secret: They don’t do all their own advertising. Instead, they have others advertise for them.
Starbucks is a great example, with deals that see it advertised well beyond its own stores. You can find Starbucks on a United Airlines flight and on Visas. Soon you’ll be able to find Starbucks on yogurt. The result is much wider advertising reach than would otherwise be possible.
However, you don’t need to be a global brand to use co-branding. Any professional business can take advantage of it. Here’s a basic rundown that answers how.
Step 1: Who else interacts with your customers?
Your first step is to examine who else deals with your customers, at the same time you do. For example, as a realtor, your customers interact with mortgage lenders, attorneys, house stagers, decorators, painters, renovators, and pest inspectors. Many different businesses and professionals are employed in the home-buying process.
Obviously, if you make a list of each individual businesses it would take forever. The next step is to start narrowing it down to find compatibility.
Step 2: Which related company impresses you with their values?
Your co-branding partner needs to share your brand values. For example, if you’re all about customer service, you don’t want to partner with a slash and burn lender that outsources everything. Customers should perceive your brands as similar in the values they hold, if not the actual messaging.
So what do you stand for? Is it customer service? Is thoroughness? Why do customers come to you as a realtor? Once you have your answer, filter potential co-branding partners through this lens. You don’t want co-branding to dilute your brand values.
Step 3: Which company impresses you with experience?
Another critical similarity you need to share with a co-branding partner is experience. You don’t want to partner with anyone unproven—they’ll just drag you down. They may be nice people, but customers will start to perceive you as unproven.
In particular, look at the evidence they have to support their experience. Do they have many great customer testimonials and reviews? Do people think highly of them? These are the qualities you want in a co-branding partner.
Step 4: Which company has good direct advertising reach?
Which of these companies advertises often in a way that would advance your branding? It’s all great to find common ground with a painter, but if that painter gets all their business from referrals and has no interest in lead generation, maybe they won’t be such a big help.
Ideally, the company you co-brand with does direct advertising or something similar which you can just plug into. Running a new direct mail campaign is a great way to test the waters. More exotic ways to co-brand are best left for once you’re happy with your co-branding relationship.
Step 5: Make an offer
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s time to make an offer. Making a successful co-branding offer is a topic deserving of its own post, so we’ll cover the how-to in a later post.
For now, if you want more information on co-branding, check out my white paper, Co-branding for Realtors: Why you need to get on board.