Forming Marketing Alliances

Just the other day I received the email below about “marketing alliances” from an advisor-client we work with. This topic is certainly applicable to many, so I figured I could share some excerpts of my response to her.

A couple of people have approached me about establishing a promotional marketing partnership for the purpose of education and, of course, lead generation. One is a senior market realtor (certified) and the other is a mortgage loan specialist.

The idea is to target prospects in the 50+ marketplace by providing educational workshops around topics of retirement income planning, real estate decisions and options for home equity (have a mortgage, no mortgage, etc).

My question is about co-marketing like this. How do I establish a theme for video marketing (the lending person has a video production dept), yet clearly define myself as a planning professional? We need to create a branding slogan or title, create a branded marketing piece (the mortgage person uses postcards), etc. And of course, the whole time we’re planning this, I’m thinking of compliance requirements.

For messaging and target market, here’s what we have so far:
– 50+
– Educational
– Financial and Lifestyle Choices

Want to keep it  educational not salesy. Thoughts?


(My response …)

I’ve certainly got some thoughts on this. Some are more general to the concept of a marketing alliance, and some are more specific. I share those below, but before I do, it should be pointed out that this concept is one that many entities have formalized. Some call them networking groups. There are certainly some that are specific to the financial planning industry as well, with most of them disguising themselves as “non-profits.” Personally, I think that part of it is a bit misleading, but the general concept of having collateral professionals working in unison in some way, shape, or form is pretty basic.

In general, here are some basics about setting up these types of arrangements:

  • Align yourself with the right people. This seems blatantly obvious, but there’s more to it than you might think. Many financial professionals wrongly assume that having a relationship with an accountant or attorney is going to automatically trigger referrals. Most advisors will tell you that’s a fool’s dream. The right partner should check off a few boxes:
    • Be likeable. Frankly, anybody that you refer a client to will be a direct reflection on you.
    • Be willing. The right partners must be willing to refer business to you. This may not happen immediately, and you may need to demonstrate where you bring value and how you help people, but in the end, it’s not a marketing alliance unless they are willing to say positive things about you and refer you to their clients and connections.
    • Be able. Not only do they need to be willing, but they must be able to refer you to the RIGHT people. If their client base is different than yours, it doesn’t make sense to pursue the opportunity.
  • Get on the same page right up-front. If it is truly going to be a marketing alliance, you need to clearly define what is expected before getting too far into the relationship. It may be the case that a direct referral is not what anyone is looking for. It might be as simple as doing events/activities together so you can co-mingle clients and prospects of one another. Whatever it is, cast the vision early and make sure everyone agrees to it.
  • Be fair (and realistic). It’s no secret that a client’s value varies from industry to industry. For example, a tax preparer may make $200 per client, whereas a realtor stands to make $10k-$20k+ per client. Given this information, the professionals that stand to benefit significantly more should be in a spot where they may have to contribute more financially to the alliance. The idea here is to be fair. And fair does not necessarily mean equal. Everyone needs to make commitments up-front.

As for some specifics…

The name. When naming this sort of thing, most people put the focus on the group itself, rather than incorporating the “WHY” into the naming. I often see names like “The SW Arkansas Networking Group.” There’s nothing about that name that is friendly to consumers. Look for something like this:

  • Financial Health & Wellness Initiative
  • The Money Project: Helping Boomers to Become Financially Savvy
  • The Grand Rapids Boomer Project: Providing Financial & Lifestyle Education to West Michigan area Boomers
  • The Well-Rounded Boomer Project: Helping Grand Rapids Boomers to become more educated on lifestyle and financial decisions.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas on where to start with the naming. With this approach, each alliance partner can promote their involvement in the project/initiative. It can receive its own branding and is certainly something that the media might latch on to from a PR perspective.

The activities. Treating the initiative as an educational effort will allow you to deliver life group presentations, recorded (or live) webinars, videos that promote your involvement (that also include the snippets from the alliance partners), and you can promote this via social media. I’d encourage there to be a Facebook page set up once the initiative is named. With each alliance member promoting their involvement via email, direct mail, including it in the footer of emails, etc., you are now able to multiply the reach and growth of any social media page. One of the first recommendations would be to define the goal and write a one-page brief on the project/initiative. Consider inviting other collateral professionals to join, but be sure to get the right ones (see above).

Sharing marketing concepts. Every business markets a little differently. As one of the first steps in the organizational meetings, each member should share how they have marketed in the past, what they are doing currently, and aspirations they have in the future. Openly discuss what was effective and what wasn’t. You’ll gain a tremendous amount of insight this way, and always look to find ways that you could bring value to their marketing efforts. Don’t be selfish here. Just remember, pigs get fed… hogs get slaughtered.

Leverage more than just clients. While it’s natural to salivate over an alliance members’ client base, you have to realize that the opportunity goes much further than that. Every alliance member has relationships beyond their client/prospect base that could be beneficial to tap on the should to get involved in the initiative. Define these opportunities (easiest way to do that is to really understand one another’s value proposition, and willingly discuss one another’s network.

Hope that gets your wheels turning! There are truly 16 ways from Sunday as to how you could approach this!



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