Going Beyond Simple Referral Partnership

by Mateusz Graboń

5th February 2020

Companies use several types of partnerships to acquire clients; however, the two usually referred to as ‘strategic marketing partnerships’ are the most successful.

Referral Partnership

The most basic form of strategic marketing partnership is the Referral Partnership; here, partners refer clients to each other. This method has been tried and tested over time and has proven popular.

In a Referral Partnership, the two businesses provide separate services or products, and promote their products separately.

Integration partnership

However, the strongest relationship is the Integration Partnership. From the customer’s perspective, the customer benefits from two partners cooperating to sell one product.  

In an Integration Partnership, both partners’ products or services, and respective promotions are integrated. This results in a combined, and ideally increased, value of the product or service and more effective advertising.    

Missing dynamism and benefits

But, still missing from those referral and integration partnerships are the transitional forms that can exist between these two partnerships.

We can highlight the benefits and dynamic nature of these transitional forms if we use an example of a partnership between an architect and an interior designer.

Source: EverAst Business Advisory Services

Complementary Partnership

In a Complementary Partnership, the main focus is giving a customer added value in providing one comprehensive service ranging from designing the structure and the form of a building, to designing and managing the space modifications of the interior.

However, despite providing one service, the partners retain the ability to make independent marketing decisions for their businesses. This is important as, if there is low customer demand for a comprehensive service e.g. a customer might already have a building but is only looking for an interior designer, it gives the cooperating partners the flexibility to adjust their services and settle marketing budgets independently.  

Acquisition Partnership

In an Acquisition Partnership, the main focus is customer acquisition and it is achieved through promoting one comprehensive service. However, similar to the Referral Partnership, the delivery of the service is separate. As an example, the architect and the interior designer together may want to improve their marketing to acquire more customers or send a more competitive promotional message, but provide the comprehensive service separately, e.g. the architect may pass the design of the building to the interior designer.

One integrated promotional communication attracts more customers owing to the partners together offering an improved value proposition, particularly when compared with the proposition of the partners’ competition.

The difference between the Acquisition and the Referral Partnerships lies only in the way in which partners work together to improve the promotional message, as the service is still referred between the partners. This type of partnership needs a marketing strategy and a budgeting agreement.

Why would you use a Complementary or Acquisition Partnership?

In Referral and Integration Partnerships, partners can use both transitional forms to test if a more integrated partnership is beneficial and workable before committing to an Integration Partnership.

Conversely, the partnerships can be used in a move to disengage and separate from an Integration Partnership without ending the partnership or reducing it to referrals.



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