06/06/2012 03:39 pm ET Updated Aug 06, 2012

Marketing Partners -- Meet Them Halfway

Are your marketing partners asking for too much? Sometimes that's just the reality of partnering with others. Finding the right balance isn't easy. You want to make them happy, but you want to stay true to who you are. Modifying products and services to meet their requirements can steer you away from your core business and result in lots of time spent on complicated and bespoke offerings that don't generate the right 'ROI' and leave you wondering why you partnered in the first place.

The solution is to try and meet your partners' half way so that you can help them to achieve their objectives while ensuring that you are accomplishing the ones you set out for yourself. I'm a firm believer in the notion that "there isn't a one size fits all in partnering with others." A cookie cutter proposal will rarely hit home for the brands you want to align your business to, especially when you haven't taken the time to learn more about what's important to them. As an example, I've had clients ask me to pitch a program based on their assumption that the prospective partner brand has an objective to migrate their free users (which makes up 99 percent of their customer base) to their paid subscription program (which makes up 1 percent of their customer base). It's a realistic assumption, but after learning that such a strategy wasn't a priority for the brand we were speaking to; the proposal fell on deaf ears. What we had learnt was that the brand had become so good at optimizing their free users through advertising programs that moving those users over to paid subscribers was not a priority. As a result, if my client didn't have anything to offer for their free users, there wasn't going to be a partnership developing anytime soon. It was time to get creative and see what could work for both sides.

You may be experiencing the same thing. Here are some tips on how to meet partners halfway:

1. Slight modifications to your product may be possible without creating too much customization like offering a simple value-add to accompany it or introducing a new ingredient in it's makeup to make it unique but not too far removed from the core offering.

2. Think about your offer to the audience... the partner may ask for something special or even an exclusive promotion for their customers that nobody else has. Be sure that you properly assess the value of agreeing to it before you pull the trigger. Sometimes the messaging around an offer doesn't make all that much of a difference in terms of the perceived value (i.e., $10 off vs. $15 off) to the end customer and explaining this to the partner and backing it up will save you from jumping through hoops to make it work for them.

3. The Value Exchange has to be fair so you need to ensure that you get what you want out of the deal, yet remember that they will do the same. One thing that often comes up in negotiations is cross promotional opportunities where you promote their offering to your clients as part of the overall deal. That might make sense, but it also may add very little value to your business in the end, so what might make more sense is to co-fund or fully fund the marketing that they do to promote your offering to their customers so that they feel like it's a worthwhile effort.