In 2014, 500 million Apple users received an unexpected gift on their iPhones: U2's latest album. In a statement on their website, Apple called it the largest album release ever. "This is a big moment in music history. And you’re part of it," Apple said. Music industry experts speculated that Apple paid U2 a pretty penny for it, too.
Apple expected the free album to amp up its iPhone 6 announcement. U2 apparently assumed that everyone wanted to listen to their music. Both parties were caught off guard when the marketing maneuver was a total flop. Music lovers balked at having their storage space invaded by a band they didn't like. Customers revolted to the point that Apple was forced to offer a removal option.
At Wistia, we've found success in marketing partnerships when we flip the conventional notion of a business alliance on its head. Instead of asking what we can get out of a situation, we ask, "What can my potential partner and I accomplish together for our shared customers?". Start with the goal of creating value for your customers, and build up from there.
Collaborate on content people want to read
A classic approach to internet marketing is the guest blog post exchange—I write on your blog if you're allowed to write on mine. We each push our message to a new audience, and both companies win.
It sounds great in theory, but in practice, you'll find that companies typically save the best blog posts for themselves. The other company ends up sending you a hastily-written or regurgitated article. Naturally, you respond in kind. What you end up with is poorly crafted content on both companies' blogs that no one wants to read.
It's the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" mentality, and it often accomplishes nothing for the end user. Instead, you should get together with your partners and ask, "What kind of content can we produce together that our customers will love?".
By changing your mindset, you'll create unique, brilliant, shareable material. Shift your focus towards building value as a partnership, rather than extracting value from the other side.
How we built a long-term relationship with Moz
Two years ago, we interviewed Rand Fishkin, co-founder of SEO software company Moz, on how to start and grow a scrappy video marketing series. It was just another feature in a whopping 30+ mentions of Moz that we’ve made on the Wistia blog.
Even though we really admired Moz's marketing, we never explicitly set out to build a relationship with them through our content. Instead, when we needed a great case study, Moz was often a company whom we could turn to as an example. We used our own small microphone to say great things about Moz, offering them exposure to our audience without the expectation of anything in return.
As a result, Rand and the people who work at Moz ended up becoming Wistia promoters. And it wasn't out of superficial obligation to reciprocate. It happened because they actually used and liked Wistia, the product and company. Rand and his team's choice to use Wistia to host and embed the videos for their wildly popular Whiteboard Friday series—where they give quick, weekly marketing tips—provided us with their endorsement and amazing distribution. It got us in front of hundreds of thousands of potential new customers.
Product integration for better UX
When you're considering potential product integrations, your business interests might push you to team up with a company with a large audience. Integrate with Big Co., and they might give you a taste of their massive, 100,000+ contact email list.
It's ridiculously tempting, but that's the kind of thinking that leads to integrations that prioritize business benefits over customer needs. You're liable to spend months building the integration, networking with the right person, and getting some recognition from your coworkers, only to see poor adoption of the integration you built. After that, you and your partner part ways, never to speak of what happened again.
The bedrock for a lasting partnership is the ability to help make everyone's customers more successful than they already are. That's why you'll find more fruitful integrations by first looking at what tools your customers are actually using, then determining how integrations with those tools might help them save time and achieve their goals.
Why Wistia teamed up with HubSpot
Wistia's product integration with HubSpot works well because our two companies offer complementary services. For marketers using video, it's super valuable to see video data within HubSpot's inbound marketing and sales software via the HubSpot-Wistia integration.
When you integrate HubSpot with Wistia, your marketing and sales teams will be able to see which videos your visitors watch and how they engage with the content. This data indicates which marketing content is working and what needs improvement. The sales team can better qualify leads and address questions and concerns based on a prospect's viewing patterns.
The idea didn't come from business development; our own customers suggested it via support, social media, and other channels. In fact, a lot of our best ideas come directly from our customers who make requests about improving our product. These kinds of integrations not only help with co-marketing and distribution, they make our product fundamentally more useful.
Because this integration delivers real value, HubSpot's sales team frequently recommends the Wistia integration to their customers. On our end, we share step-by-step documentation on installing and using HubSpot with our customers. By focusing on customer success together, we're building a mutually beneficial partnership that lasts.
Curate events that people want to attend
In 2015, South by Southwest partnered up with McDonald's as a "super sponsor" for the event.
McDonald's gave SXSW a lot of money in exchange for the opportunity to host a McLounge area with free "wi-fry" at the conference. It was a bit jarring to see the McDonald's street team walking around distributing coffee out of backpacks at a "counterculture festival."
Did SXSW make a poor choice in business partner when they accepted McDonald's as a sponsor? A lot of conference attendees complained that their experience of the event was devalued by the proliferation of corporate sponsors like McDonald's. One could argue that SXSW let dollar signs take precedence over their attendees' experience.
How SaaSFest focused on community
When Price Intelligently hosted SaaSFest, a conference for leaders and innovators in the SaaS ecosystem, they could have partnered with big sponsors and turned the event into one massive sales pitch. They did the opposite.
In his opening remarks, Price Intelligently CEO Patrick Campbell kicked off the conference by explicitly asking attendees not to make sales pitches. Instead, he emphasized that SaaSFest was an opportunity to learn, get to know one another personally, and build a community around a shared passion for SaaS.
The hosts vetted all their speakers to find out who could bring the most relevant insights, not who could command the highest ticket prices or the most sponsorship bucks. There were a few big names, but mostly, the conference featured speakers who were just knowledgeable—who could offer stories from the trenches. That's what attendees wanted to hear.
Rather than treating the conference as a revenue center, Price Intelligently saw it as a long-term investment. They focused on what attendees wanted to learn, and provided a time and place for people to solidify their connections in the SaaS community. This focus on attendee experience is why people walked away saying that they couldn't wait until next year.
The lasting benefits of authentic partnerships
This past summer, Wistia sponsored Moz's marketing conference, MozCon, in Seattle, because we knew that we had a ton of customer overlap. But Moz, without any prompting from us, helped us take our involvement to the next level.
In between speakers, Moz didn't want any downtime. However, they were too busy to create their own high-quality content for these time blocks. That gave the Moz team an idea—they would play educational Wistia videos in between speakers. This was the introduction video for the series:
Thanks to the trust and tight-knit bond that comes from doing business together for 5+ years, Moz lent us their audience at their yearly showcase event.
At MozCon, we got to see, first-hand, the value that our partnership helped to create. Business alliances can seem like imaginary handshakes between abstract corporate entities, but really, they're relationships between people, that affect real people. By focusing on the end user, you'll create a lasting bond between everyone involved.