Many channel support programs on the market today really just involve providing free software, marketing collateral and sometimes low qualified leads. Few are really focused on helping partners to sell joint solutions effectively. Even fewer are focused on developing long-term co-marketing success with a demonstrable return on investment (ROI).

1. Introduction
Co-marketing is a practice that allows two or more companies to work together to drive sales opportunities that benefit all of the partners involved. A successful co-marketing campaign allows different companies to leverage the strengths of each partner to succeed in ways that each individual company cannot do alone.

One such example is IBM and Oracle, two large yet different IT companies with complementary products and services, who have been alliance partners for a variety of campaigns since 1986. The results of the collaboration between these companies are hardware platforms and application systems that work together to provide companies with reliable IT services. Personnel are trained on both IBM hardware and Oracle applications to efficiently operate and maintain mission critical systems for companies around the world. Sometimes the joint offering is promoted via direct sales staff from both companies, and sometimes through mid-market partners.

Co-marketing goes beyond marketing and channel support: it is a program that requires full participation and commitment from all parties involved to result in success.

2. Creating Co-Marketing Alliances
An effective alliance of partners is the primary concern in ensuring a successful co-marketing campaign. Each partner contributes to the relationship in a different way, and in some cases, three or more partners are needed to provide a robust, successful campaign.

2.1 Types of Co-Marketing Alliances
Every co-marketing partnership is different, but there are a few primary types of co-marketing alliances in the IT sector:

• One Large + One Small – In this scenario, a large company, such as IBM, may partner with a mid-market company that focuses on a specific niche market. IBM can take an existing IT product, tailor it to that specific niche industry, and the mid-market partner can leverage its own customer base plus the name recognition of IBM to market this tailored product.

• Two Large – Co-marketing campaigns don’t always have to include a large company and a small company. Two large companies with complementary product or service offerings can form alliances to develop a product that benefits the customer bases of both companies.

• Two Large + One Small – In this case, two large companies partner with a single mid-market company to drive leads to that company. For example, IBM and Oracle can form an alliance with a mid-market company who has developed a product that is complementary to IBM and Oracle’s offerings. IBM and Oracle can funnel leads to this mid-market partner from their own customer base, or assist the partner in driving and managing new joint sales opportunities by themselves.

The key to success in forming a co-marketing alliance is to bring together partners with complementary product or service offerings that are committed to each other’s success.

2.2 Engagement Models
The engagement model for the co-marketing alliance outlines how each partner will contribute to the overall alliance. In some cases, one company will generate leads then pass them to a partner to nurture. In other cases, each partner funds the campaign equally, and each generates leads from its own customer and marketing base. Some of the basic engagement models include:

• Large company generates leads, passes them to partners
• Large company provides marketing funding, partners develop and implement co-branded campaigns to generate leads
• Alliance partners co-fund campaign, all partners generate and share leads

The design of the engagement model depends on the types of companies involved in the alliance, the intended participation of each entity, and the goals of the campaign.

3. Keys to Successful Co-Marketing Campaigns
It can be difficult to design a marketing campaign with only one company involved; adding one or more partners can significantly complicate the design and execution of a campaign. By being aware of potential pitfalls, using the right resources, and instilling accountability in all partners, a co-marketing campaign can meet or exceed all expectations.