That’s how Applebee’s attracted more customers – many first-time visitors – to their family restaurants one summer, without advertising more. When Weight Watchers designed and branded several low-cal menu items for Applebee’s, followers of the Weight Watchers program (and those who were thinking of dieting) had a new reason to eat at Applebee’s. Applebee’s customers opened up their menus and saw how appetizing a Weight Watchers entree could be. Consumers got introduced to products by organizations they already knew and trusted.

That’s how T-shirt designer Tami Minatelli was able to exhibit at nine street fairs this summer without paying for her booth space. A new manufacturer of a unique, no-stain suntan lotion paid for Tami’s booth. Why? Because she wore their lotion and her T-shirts, with a sign above her head, describing her original painting-on-cotton method and the lotion’s “do no harm” guarantee. Next to burn protection, that’s the biggest concern of people who use suntan lotions.

In each story you just read, organizations that serve the same kind of consumers created new opportunities for each other.
They didn’t just forge a partnership.
They crafted what I call a “smart partnership”.
Together they accomplished more than they could have in “solo” outreach efforts. They attracted and delighted their mutual market of people while spending less.
As you can tell, any kind or size of organization can adopt this trend towards joining forces to generate more value and visibility together.
Perhaps that’s why partnering is the fastest growing and most controversial marketing approach used today.
Warning: with the wrong partners or methods, your efforts can backfire. You may irritate or even alienate prospective customers and supporters.

Pick Your Partners with Care
One must pick partners with great care. Notice how one *sweet* cause campaign got lambasted recently while another attracted praise.
“Maybe Krispy Kreme should offer free coupons for insulin and syringes to the kids who end up with diabetes,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert.

Krispy Kreme was lambasted by this watchdog group for its longtime program of rewarding students in kindergarten through sixth grade with a free doughnut for every A on their report card in communities across the country.
Yet there is nary a peep of protest when M&M teamed up with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to raise funds through the sale of new “pink & white” M&M candies. In fact, on behalf of a cause to keep women healthy, groups are jumping on the bandwagon to encourage people to buy a candy that is certainly no more nutritious than a donut.

In light of the alarming leap in obesity in the U.S. some long time partners may attract controversy today, as Krispy Kreme is learning the hard way.

The lesson? Stay clear of controversy. Even if the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation isn’t criticized this time for what could be described as an unhealthy partner, it could be soon.

But recognize that partnering is a fast-growing trend because of its power. Businesses can use it to stand out from their competition or provide a fresh reason for people to support a cause or buy a product. They become a bigger customer magnet.
Bottom Line Benefit of This Trend
At the very least, with a partner, you get introduced to each other’s customers.

Author's Bio: 

Kare Anderson is an Emmy-winning former NBC and Wall Street Journal journalist, now a connective behavior and quotability speaker and author. Her TED talk on The Web of Humanity: Be an Opportunity Maker has attracted over 2.4 million views. Her TEDx talk on Redefine Your Life Around a Mutuality Mindset is now a standard session for employees and invited clients at 14 national and global corporations. Kare’s the author of Opportunity Makers, Mutuality Matters, Moving From Me to We, Beauty Inside Out, Walk Your Talk, Getting What You Want, and Resolving Conflict Sooner. She serves on the boards of The Business Innovation Factory, TEDxMarin, and World Affairs Council Marin. Her ideas have been cited in 16 books. Her clients are as diverse as Salesforce, Novartis, and The Skoll Foundation. She was a founding board member of Annie’s Homegrown and co-founder of nine women’s political PACs. For Obama's first presidential campaign she created over 208 issues formation teams. She was Pacific Telesis' first Cable TV and Wideband Division Director and a founding board member of Annie's Homegrown.