As part of the growing focus on corporate social responsibility, more for-profit brands are engaging in partnerships with nonprofits to increase brand and cause awareness. Yes, these partnerships are built on a foundation of goodwill and benevolence, but let’s be clear—they also tend to be strategic in nature for the purpose of increasing value proposition for both parties.
Whether you’re promoting a fundraising campaign or a co-sponsored event, nonprofits and for-profit brands have a lot to gain from a co-marketing partnership. Typically, nonprofits can benefit from brand alignment, visibility, resources, volunteers, and marketing channels that are far more robust than their own, while for-profit brands can gain exposure to new audiences, media coverage, and a positive brand reputation for giving back.
But here’s a reality check. Big for-profit brand partners are hard to come by. Most nonprofits can only dream of hooking a big brand fish capable of elevating their cause to new heights in the hearts and minds of potential donors. Realistically, unless you’re a nonprofit with a large support base, the odds of landing a co-marketing partnership with a Starbucks, Google, or McDonald’s are…well…pretty slim.
Now here’s the good news. Despite the unfavorable odds of snagging a big for-profit brand partner, there are more than enough small businesses to go around for any nonprofit looking to align with a partner. By partnering with small businesses, nonprofits with a smaller support base can reap many of the same benefits as they can from a big for-profit brand partnership—just on a smaller scale.
In this blog post, we offer 6 tips for nonprofit and small business co-marketing partnerships.
1. Select the right small business partner.
Start your partner search by considering your lowest hanging fruit—your nonprofit’s inner circle. Are there small business donors in your network that might be interested in a co-marketing partnership with your nonprofit? Partnering with an existing corporate donor eliminates the need to pitch the value of your cause and mission. Perhaps your CEO and board members can help you identify potential partners.
Once you’ve compiled a list of small businesses you’d like to work with, reach out to their marketing contacts to discuss a potential co-marketing partnership. You want to look for a partner with shared interests and values, as well as one with core competencies that complement those of your organization.
2. Outline how both parties will benefit from a co-marketing partnership.
An ideal partnership will be mutually beneficial to both organizations. When pitching small businesses for a co-marketing partnership, nonprofit marketers should be prepared to outline their marketing assets and promotional reach to demonstrate a strategic fit. Be sure to articulate the details of mutually beneficial goals, objectives, and campaign success metrics.
Once both parties have agreed to come together as partners, it’s important to document the terms in a detailed co-marketing agreement signed by accountable parties from both organizations.
3. Define the ideal target audience for both partners.
Nonprofit marketers and small business marketers who have a deep understanding of their audience and what motivates them will have a better chance at a successful partnership than those that aren’t engaged with their audience. If you’ve already taken the time to create audience personas for your nonprofit, you should have no problem segmenting your audience into different groups and tailoring your content for optimal campaign results.
On the other hand, if you and/or your small business partner haven’t created audience personas yet, strongly consider doing so before launching your co-marketing campaign.
4. Tell a story that highlights your joint campaign goals.
A shared landing page is a great opportunity to craft a compelling narrative that inspires your community to support your cause. Leverage the art of storytelling and powerful images to build an emotional connection between your audience and your cause. While your story should primarily focus on those you serve, it’s fair game to weave in a few details about why you and your partner have teamed up to combine efforts and impact lives.
5. Create effective calls-to-action to benefit both partners.
Your primary call-to-action should drive visitors to act in a specific way (e.g., donate, volunteer, or join). While you don’t want to confuse your audience with multiple calls-to-action, it’s appropriate to include your small business partner’s logo (with an embedded link to their website or their social media pages) as an implied call-to-action as long as it doesn’t divert attention away from the primary call-to-action.
Don’t forget to include a short form to collect personal information from your leads. However, contact details from the campaign should not be shared with your partner per your agreement with donors to not share their information with third parties.
6. Leverage cross-channel marketing to promote your campaign.
Part of your co-marketing agreement will include details about how you’ll promote your joint campaign. Co-write a blog post and link it to your shared landing page. You can also post a video on your (or your partner’s) YouTube channel.
Another consideration is to record a podcast with your small business partner to announce the partnership and promote the details of your campaign. You and your partner might also explore other forms of earned media, as well as paid channels to promote your campaign.
Leveraging both partners’ email lists and social media networks will extend the reach of your co-marketing campaign. Determine which platforms make the most sense for your shared audience, optimize your content for each platform, and always follow social media best practices.
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