Audience Development through Partnerships

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Developing partnerships with like-minded online publications or groups may seem counter-intuitive at first. After all, you don’t see Coke and Pepsi co-promoting products. The truth is, online it’s a little different from the bricks-and-mortar world. The web is an information hub, and the online audience is hungry for content, some of which you may be better able to provide and some of which your partner may be better able to provide.

Smart partnerships and success go hand in hand.
Smart partnerships and success go hand in hand.

Try to set aside your cynicism about similar websites, because you can probably help each other to improve audience engagement. Some of the changes you make after establishing a partnership may feel risky, but it’s hard to overestimate the importance of networking. Plus, if you do it right, the payoff can be substantial for both parties.

Determine What the Unmet Demands Are

Before choosing another site or community to establish a partnership with, you need to determine what unmet needs of your audience could be addressed by a partnership. One way to do this is to ask. Run a blog post asking for input from your site’s audience, or place a poll on your site. Maybe there’s an age group or a subset of professionals that feels a little left out. Once you determine what needs are being inadequately met, you can start looking at potential partners who may be able to work with you to help meet those needs.

For example, suppose you run a website in an industry with a heavily female professional population. While the men in the profession may get something from your site, they also may feel left out. In this case you may want to look for a partnership with a website geared toward men in traditionally non-male professions.

Partnerships May Come from Unexpected Places

You don’t have to establish partnerships with groups that are similar to yours. In fact, a partnership with an unexpected, thoroughly vetted group can inject excitement into your brand and your partner’s. For example, a construction trade site could consider a partnership with a nonprofit organization that rehabilitates historic structures, or one that builds housing for the needy. If your site is designed for music teachers, you could create a partnership with a band and explore new or nontraditional ways of providing music education in communities.

Establish and Nurture the Relationship First

Develop a relationship with your potential partner before choosing exactly how you want to work together.
Develop a relationship with your potential partner before choosing exactly how you want to work together.

You don’t want your first contact with a potential partner to be a request for a partnership. Contact a handful of promising potential partners and gauge their receptivity to the idea. Spend time getting to know them and letting them get to know you. Only after you’ve developed a relationship with a potential partner should you broach the subject of working together in a way that can benefit both partners.

Create a Mutual Plan of Action

Once you have a strong potential partner, work together to create a mutual plan of action. What type of partnership could you plan that would raise both their profile and your own? It could be something as simple as guest blogging on each others’ sites or cross-promoting content, or it could be something more substantial, like starting a co-branded email newsletter or sponsoring a special community event together.

A Few Dos and Don’ts

To successfully develop a partnership that will benefit you, your partner, and both audiences, you have to approach it with the attitude of putting your best into the work you do together. If you go into a partnership with the main goal of getting your name seen by more people, you’re less likely to be successful. Web audiences are remarkably adept at sniffing out gimmicks, but they can be very supportive of creative uses of partnerships among groups that speak to their needs. Keep in mind that your partner has just as big a commitment to their website’s quality as you do, and you can establish successful affiliations that benefit all parties involved.

Partnerships with like-minded publications or groups may seem risky, but when they’re done well, they can be tremendously helpful with audience development and ultimately with audience monetization. Don’t be afraid to brainstorm and do some creative thinking in order to generate ideas for these partnerships. The results could be surprisingly positive.

Photo Credits: jannoon028 / freedigitalphotos.net, creativedoxfoto / freedigitalphotos.net

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