A little background
I’ve officially been in the partnership space for almost 10 months. Prior to joining Kiflo as the Head of Content, I had no idea what channel partnerships were—outside of Kimmy K posting the occasional affiliate link for a ridiculous diet shake.
I taught myself how to be a marketer over the years by doing freelance gigs and non-profit work. It was a lonely road filled with dozens of online courses, hundreds of red pen edits, and as much literature as I could get my hands on.
Marketing was always really a means to an end—I used it as a way to make money as I finished my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I’ve always enjoyed it, but it just wasn’t the plan.
If you follow me on LinkedIn, you’ve probably seen that I am a huge creative writing and literature nerd. I had always planned on being in academia. Even this time last year, I was writing curricula for online courses.
You see, I’ve always been drawn to educational spaces because they inherently foster creativity, innovation, and breaking the rules.
University is where we experiment – with many things – but especially with new perspectives and philosophies.
Academia is a space that challenged me to grow, and I was always certain I would be a part of it.
Until I wasn’t.
After a chain of (very fortunate) events that landed me at Kiflo, I once again found myself needing to learn the ropes of a new industry: partnerships. Only this time, I was far from alone.
The same creativity, innovation, and rebellion are not only present here but are basically on steroids 💪.
Why? Because, unlike institutions, information is not guarded. It is not exclusive. It is freely given to anyone who is genuinely interested in being involved.
Meeting the greats
In the throes of my crash course in partnerships, I was asked to take over Kiflo’s Greatest Minds in Partnerships (GMnP) series. It’s an interview and article series that gleans industry insight and expertise from partnership pros from around the world.
Needless to say, I was terrified. Imposter syndrome was rearing its ugly head in a real way. How in the heck was I supposed to conduct meaningful interviews with experts if I only had an elementary understanding of the industry at best?
I was beyond wrong (side note: never trust imposter syndrome).
These interviews quickly became one of my favorite parts of the job. Not only because I get to spend half an hour making connections and new friends with brilliant, down-to-earth people who teach me a TON, but also because it has leveled me up as a marketer.
Think of Super Mario catching the mushroom, then multiply that by 10.
Because before these conversations, I thought about the partner ecosystem as something separate from my responsibilities. It was a kind of pool I was dipping my toes in every so often.
But what I’ve learned in these one-on-one conversations with partnership gurus is that the strategies used to amplify meaningful partnerships can be directly applied to develop meaningful marketing strategies.
And if you grow your marketing from the partner ecosystem vs. alongside or separate from it, then the sky is the limit.
Need the receipts? Here’s a little sample: in less than a year, my team and I have grown website traffic by 270% and CROs by 223%, not to mention built the Kiflo Academy for our customers (coming soon to the public!).
And this is just the beginning.
6 Pieces of partnership wisdom I’ve applied to marketing
Here are some of the key lessons I’ve learned from the GMnP series and how I’ve applied them to content marketing.
I. Chris Samila, VP of Partnerships at Crossbeam
Figuring out your focus in both partnerships and marketing takes time, experimentation, and a lot of wins and losses. Be patient, especially if you’re a growing startup. Your ICP will become clearer with each campaign.
II. Agnese Kalnina, Business Development & Partnerships Team Lead at Lokalise
Let go of partners who are not a good fit. - Agnese Kalina
There is a tendency to want to “spray and pray” in marketing. This is a big mistake. Learn to let go of the audiences that are just simply not a good fit for your content. It won’t help them; it won’t help you. Track the performance data, adjust, test, and do it all over again. Find the right fit for your content the way you have to find the right partners for your program.
III. Adam Pasch, Head of Partnerships at Improvado
"I have no individual goal for myself. I have to make sure I’m aligning all of my goals to their goals… When you have really good internal relationships, you can then build really good external relationships.” - Adam Pasch
The above quote is from Adam’s forthcoming article. But it was so good, I had to include it into the mix.
This concept is so important to remember in any position, especially in marketing. My job exists to (obviously) uplift sales but also to uplift partnerships, too. By building strong relationships with the sales, partnerships, and customer success teams, I am able to align campaigns to uplift their individual goals. This makes the brand, content, and team stronger and more value-driven for all parties involved.
IV. Madison Perry, Head of Demand Generation & Partner Marketing at Chili Piper
Okay, I might be cheating a little with this one since Madison is a fellow marketer, but we’re here to break the rules, right?
One of the biggest takeaways we can steal from partnerships is this: if you’re not utilizing the relationships and trust partnerships create in your marketing strategy, then you’re doing it wrong.
People are savvy about traditional marketing and sales tactics. In fact, they're inundated by them 24/7. They don’t want to see targeted ads. They want to see the value and they want brands/brand reps that they trust.
Work with your partner managers to find the relationships that are working well, and figure out how to use and replicate them in your content.
V. Jo Wright, VP of Sales and Partner Success at Reveal
"At the same time, you must also lay the foundations for the partner program. Whatever you are doing in partnerships is all about finding that balance.” - Jo Wright
As Jo explains, in partnerships, it’s important to balance quick wins that will prove value right away with slower, long-term value strategies. The same is true for marketing.
When developing a brand or new strategy, first figure out how to provide value right away. This could be as simple as an informative LinkedIn post series or a partner spotlight article. Then work with your sales and partnerships teams to develop longer-term objectives.
VI. Jared Fuller, Founder of PartnerHacker
I couldn’t end this article without pulling at least one of the many mic-drop statements Jared shared with me in our incredible talk.
Community, kindness, and honesty win
The bottom line is this: if your work is in any way related to partnerships, your work is rooted in community, period.
My job at Kiflo is more than simply sharing the news of our PRM software. It’s a big part of it, sure, but just one part. The foundation of my work is to participate in and uplift the larger community/ecosystem that Kiflo is a part of. It is to build a community around and through the brand itself.
By framing marketing objectives and strategies through the give-first mentality of partnerships, we bring authentic and honest value to our audience and open up a world of possibilities for potential connections, customers, and partners.
Text-to-speech provided by our partner Voicemaker.in.