To reiterate the very true words of our VP of Marketing, Matt Wellschlager:
“When I got here at the end of 2014, there was a lot broken on the Ceros Marketing team… because there wasn’t a Ceros Marketing team.”
Soon after Matt’s arrival, I joined the team to focus on two main verticals: Events and Partnerships. In my eagerness to get started with partnerships, I dove in head first and pretty much threw whatever I could think of on the drawing board. Of course, there were a lot of questions to answer before anything solid took shape. “What does a partnership mean to Ceros?”, “Who are our target partners?” “Why do partnerships matter?” “How do partnerships help our business?” And so on… we spent a lot of time figuring out the answers to these questions.
This is what we determined: Partnerships can be a powerful thing if done right. And “done right” is very much defined by the objectives you set out to accomplish and what each party can bring to the table. At Ceros, we have a powerful content creation software and internal experts on visual storytelling. Our partners are thought leaders in their industries looking to take their content to the next level. Sprinkle in increased brand awareness, lead generation, and referral traffic, and that partnership recipe is a win-win.
Content Partnership Program: Experiment 1.0
At first, we were like, “Here you go potential partner, take Ceros for free, create interactive content, publish content, distribute content to your big awesome audience, and pretty please put our logo on it? Thanks!” We were certain that content creators would jump at the chance to use Ceros for free… but we were wrong, for a few reasons:
- Getting companies to bite was way easier said than done.
- There was no thought-out reciprocation on our end, so it wasn’t a true partnership.
- We didn’t have a plan in place for what would be created or what would happen after it was published.
We knew we had a unique opportunity at our fingertips because of the nature of our software, but were quickly learning that we needed a formalized process with proven value for the potential partner if this was going to work.
Content Partnership Program: Experiment 2.0
We took our learnings from Experiment 1.0 of the partnership program. At the same time, we built out our insanely talented creative services team. The lightbulb finally went off and the missing pieces started to come together.
For Experiment 2.0 of our partnership program, we decided to pair content from partners with the design and Ceros production skills of our new creative team. These pieces were co-branded; they were also co-marketed to some extent, but without any specific commitments from either partner agreed to on paper.
This process was starting to work… but we wanted to be more systematic in our goals and distribution strategy. We also wanted to develop a more collaborative story ideation process so we could leverage the expertise of our internal content team.
Content Partnership Program: Experiment 3.0
Fast forward several months and process iterations later to the present, and we’ve created a partnership program that’s really beginning to work. The new approach is: “Hey potential partner, let us design and build content for you. We’ll collaborate on everything from concept to distribution. The content “Experience”, as we call it, will be co-branded and co-marketed with all the interactive and animated beauty built in Ceros. Together, we’ll define what success looks like and measure the effectiveness of the content.” This approach is simple, yet very process-oriented and results-driven.
In a recent partner case study, Skyword’s Content Marketing Manager Ted Karczewski said:
“I knew what Ceros’ tech could do, but after doing research, I didn’t have much of an expectation that we would be able to work with their team to build interactive content for free. The second I understood that Ceros was offering to create mutually beneficial content for our programs, I thought: ‘This could have a big impact on our audience.’”
Top 5 Takeaways from Our Partnership Program Evolution
- Failing is learning. Take those learnings and refine your approach for the better.
- Don’t say yes to every opportunity. Sometimes it’s not a fit, and in that respect, honesty is the best policy.
- Process is the key to a smooth operation. We’re process nuts here at Ceros—because it works!
- Deliver on your end of the bargain in full. Duh.
- Don’t drop the ball when it comes to distribution. In the end, it’s the performance of the content piece that drives success of the partnership.
Implementing and refining what is now a living, breathing content partnership program has definitely been an interesting ride. We’ve learned a ton as a team along the way and will continue to iterate on our approach as we grow as a company. If you are interested in learning more about our content partnership program, please get in touch at marketing [at] ceros [dot] com!