One of the many trends in marketing centers around cooperative partnerships, which blend a belief in shared benefits. Think in terms of two or more advertisers, even if they represent different products or services, discovering they share a key target audience and seeing the advantage of joint outreach. While not a new marketing strategy, alliance marketing is making a noticeable comeback. Food and beverage retailers have used alliance marketing for many years to reach specific audiences who identify as interested in beverage pairings with popular food trends.

Marketing alliances work best when businesses recognize a shared strategy while retaining their individual identities. Many CSA operators have joined with other direct marketers, including farm wineries, meat producers, flower growers and craft suppliers to offer a full range of products for their customers. This type of joint promotion offers many opportunities for wider branding and distribution.

While there are distinct advantages to cooperative marketing ventures, participants need to consider some key factors. One primary factor is identifying partners whose goals and missions align with your own sales strategies. When selecting potential partners, be careful to communicate your understanding of how to best promote the products or services. If the pairing seems like a good match and you develop a sales plan that works for all partners, decide how the plan will be implemented. Together, decide on how much product will be required, a schedule for sale dates and special promotions and who will store and display the product. Also discuss pricing to make certain each partner feels comfortable with the sales requirements. Doing this in advance ensures each partner understands and agrees with the strategy.

Many alliance marketing efforts begin informally with partners agreeing on “trial runs” to see how well products sell over a short period of time. More formal agreements are usually encountered when working with wholesalers or major retailers. Running out of product seriously detracts from joint promotion efforts. If you promise customers all products in an alliance and only deliver a partial grouping, customers are likely to distrust future ventures and look elsewhere for comparable sales.

Recordkeeping should be agreed upon with precise consideration of who will keep sales records with joint ventures and how and when profits will be distributed. Selling at a farmers market may be a simple settlement at the end of the day, while a contract with partners selling larger quantities may require computer tabulations for settlement and inventory control.

Jointly promoting and selling products and services offer numerous advantages including greater market exposure, gaining new customers and strengthening sales. When considering alliances, good communications and sensible agreements go a long way to establishing a mutually beneficial system.

The above information is presented for educational purposes and should not be substituted for professional business and legal counseling.