How to unlock the European market with partnership marketing

The European market can open doors to lucrative opportunities, but understanding cultural differences is a must. The solution? Partnerships.

Brand messages can fail to land with customers if cultural differences are not understood. 

Hayley Lambert, Director of Client Services at Acceleration Partners, explains how partnership marketing can bridge cultural barriers between countries in the EU’s competitive landscape to inform a company's expansion strategy.

Moving into the European market can unlock lucrative opportunities for brands. The retail sector alone is expected to experience 5.5% yearly growth despite political and economic uncertainty.

To capture a share of the European market, an increasing number of brands are turning to partnership marketing, a scalable, profitable, and sustainable channel that allows companies to pay for marketing outcomes, not inputs. 

The approach is one of the most effective strategies for global expansion but varies across Europe. Because there is no one-size-fits-all approach, brands should dedicate time to research and develop their multi-market partnership strategies. A domestic strategy cannot simply be rolled out across countries; it should be tailored to each market whilst aligning with global marketing goals. 

To tap into new European markets and leverage partners successfully, here’s what brands need to do.

Understand the market differences and the competitive landscape

Success in expanding across Europe depends on understanding each country's nuances. Before launching in any new market, brands should conduct extensive research, including cultural nuances, regulation, competitors, the affiliate landscape and important local events, public holidays and observances. 

Think about the following questions when researching key competitors in each market.

  1. How do they market their products and services?

  2. What is their key messaging in each country?

  3. What is their commission structure and what incentives do they offer for partners?

  4. Who are their top partners in-market?

  5. Do they work across all publisher models?

  6. Have they had recent press articles or product launches?

Set realistic expectations

Every country is different, and what works well in one market may not resonate in another. It’s essential to have clear expectations before entering a new market and be ready to test and refine messaging and products to meet the needs of that market.

Before launching in a new market, you should ensure that a go-to-market strategy with clear goals is in place. Data analytics are also key for benchmark reporting against competitor performance and overall network performance. 

Find the right expertise

Experienced regional teams are essential to successful expansion. Language skills, market knowledge, and cultural insight are critical to move forward in new European markets. For example, communication with partners should be adjusted to in-market preferences and the preferred communication tools. In some countries, communication is more formal and in others, partners prefer to be communicated with in their native language. Knowing these nuances will help you successfully enter these markets.

Partner with local and global affiliates 

Once a brand enters a new European market, it is essential to leverage global affiliates and local, in-market partners. Having a blended mix of partners will allow for success.

It is essential to take a planned approach, capitalising on the low-hanging fruit whilst building out mid-term and long-term plans for partner recruitment and onboarding.

Be aware of local and regional regulations

Before launching in any new market, it’s critical to be aware of marketing regulations and how these can impact your partnership programme strategy. 

There are several digital regulations in Europe. The two most important are:

  1. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

  2. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR)

Build a strong team

It can be challenging for brands to find a team of individuals with the necessary programme management expertise and local knowledge to expand across Europe alone. Hiring a global partnership marketing agency with on-the-ground support can help in many cases. Make sure the partnership marketing agency has localised support and experience expanding brand programmes regionally and globally. 

Ultimately, success in Europe means paying attention to cultural nuances and consumers' preferences in different countries. Building a strong team, finding quick wins, leveraging various partner models, and even bringing in outside help can be what unlocks Europe for brands. 

Hayley Lambert 
Director of Client Services 
Acceleration Partners