Branding BFFs: Harnessing the Power of B2B Reciprocity Marketing

Who’s your business BFF? If no one comes to mind, perhaps it’s time to embark on a quest to find your next branding partner.

In the small business community, “community” is the name of the game. Entrepreneurs rarely achieve success without the help of peers or other individuals, and when their businesses become profitable, they feel obligated to offer their advice to others traveling the same path. As a result, organizations such as Chambers of Commerce have become a time-honored tradition, where business owners in all industries can network and partner with others in their communities.

Coordinating with another business may seem counterintuitive to the uninitiated, but this is actually a common practice among startups and major corporations alike. Often referred to as reciprocity or reciprocal marketing, joint efforts among two or more brands to raise awareness about each other’s products or services – or simply about the brands themselves – are not only bold and effective. They also reflect a shift toward a more unified business community, perhaps not a surprise in an increasingly interconnected world.

When Businesses Bond, Everyone Wins

Why should you and your peers engage in reciprocity marketing efforts? Because they work! As you contemplate whether or not to engage with potential brand partners, try these potential benefits on for size, such as:

Both brands achieve higher public profiles. Appearing in another brand’s marketing campaign (in addition to your own) means exposure to larger audiences without additional investment in marketing.

Cost sharing equals cost savings. Ideally, when brands collaborate on advertising efforts, they share the same amount of time, space, or visibility for the same price they would pay on their own. This applies whether creating an ad for TV or print, producing a viral video, creating a promotional product, or hosting an event.

Welcome new audiences into the fold. When a brand they already know and trust introduces them to a partner brand, customers are more likely to engage with the new entity. This phenomenon is similar to meeting a new person through a mutual friend.

Enjoy skyrocketing sales. When paired with sufficient follow-up efforts, exposure to new audiences will inevitably lead to increased sales. Make sure you’re ready for the influx!

Benefit from the expertise of others. As John F. Kennedy once said, “The rising tide lifts all the boats.” Working with other businesses helps owners gain valuable advice and observations, ultimately strengthening their areas of weakness and becoming more competitive within their industries.

Not only do reciprocal marketing initiatives benefit you and your brand partner, they also expose consumers to a wider range of products and services they may need or want. By witnessing two companies cooperate with one another instead of duking it out over territory and profits, audiences may come away from joint marketing campaigns with a more favorable outlook on the business world. What company wouldn’t like to deal with a less cynical customer base?

Compelling Methods for Brand-on-Brand Interaction

So, how do companies achieve effective reciprocity marketing? Because partnerships are as different as the brands themselves, no clear-cut road to reciprocity exists. However, businesses can – and have – utilized a variety of methods to boost one another’s visibility, including:

  • Website partnerships. Companies not in direct competition with one another can mutually benefit from endorsements and link on each brand’s website. If your reciprocity marketing partner offers a complementary product or service to the one you provide, chances are good at least a few of their visitors will find their way to you, and vice versa.
  • Social media. Interacting with brand partners on social media networks makes for free, fun, and highly visible mutual marketing. People love to witness and share playful banter between companies on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms: The wittier, the better!
  • Local connections. Local Chambers of Commerce become popular organizations for good reason: They bring together like-minded individuals with an interest in building up each other, their communities, and themselves.

Partnering with another local company on a joint grand opening, marketing campaign, community event, or nonprofit initiative are some ways geographically-close businesses can use up-close reciprocity marketing to their benefit.

  • Bartering. Goods, information, and services are the currency of any small business. When cash flow is low (or even when it isn’t), exchanging product not only gives both entities something they want or need. It also shows the other party you respect and value what they have to offer. Plus, you’ll have one more satisfied customer on your hands!

Brand Partnerships for Others to Observe and Emulate

Reciprocity marketing can be somewhat nebulous in practice. It happens all over the world, from small-town swap meets to high-profile corporate agreements. Two recent examples from which potential brand partners can draw include:

  • Maria Sharapova and Porsche. Relationships between athletes and corporate sponsors are nothing new, from Nike Air Jordans to McDonalds and, well…all the Olympians. The recent partnership between Porsche and Sharapova reflects an effective combined effort to enhance each partner’s image of agility, performance, and status.

  • Taco Bell and Old Spice. This hilarious exchange between the men’s body care and fragrance brand and the Mexican fast-food retailer caught a great deal of attention from the Twitterverse. The seemingly impromptu interaction shows that brands don’t necessarily need to plan ahead for such social synergy, and the heavy use of good-natured snark illustrates that brand partnerships don’t have to be all sugar and spice (but they can be all Spice!)


When it comes to building brand awareness, facilitating a greater sense of community, and achieving higher ROI on marketing efforts, reciprocity marketing is an appealing prospect for many businesses. Although inadvisable for direct competitors, it presents an often serendipitous opportunity for brands offering complementary products or services, making life easier for customers and companies alike.

Partner up with company whose brand you admire on one or more carefully-devised advertising campaigns, and you may find you’ve found a friend for life.

How has your brand leveraged reciprocity marketing to “lift all boats” in your business community?

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Emily Perry

In her spare time, Emily enjoys hanging out with her husband, American bulldog, and two cats. Besides writing, she is passionate about questionable fashion, singing in the car, and taking the easiest yoga classes available. She plans one day to record a ukulele/rockabilly/folk record, no matter how much people beg her not to.

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