Building a customer base today often amounts to finding your audience online. For businesses that can't solve their problems by merely writing checks, partnerships can offer opportunities to reach potential customers by nurturing them with content.

"We really focused on trying to figure out how to get exposure in the market - but we simply didn't have the dollars or the distribution channels to do it," says Matthew Wellschlager, VP of Marketing at Ceros, a software company.

Wellschlager explained the challenge for them was getting seen. "Repeated exposure in various places is what drives brand awareness, familiarity, and ultimately a willingness for prospects to engage with us and learn more about what we do," he adds.

Ceros knew that people who created content were found in the key content marketing channels. By offering their platform at no charge in exchange for exposure, Ceros figured they'd found a way forward, but it didn't result in new customers.

Everything changed when they took it a step further, and actually built something for those channels to show how great it could be. "For us at the time, with blog traffic at 2-3K a month, it was an epic win to be able to get content on blogs with 200,000 visitors, or on email blasts of similar size, or with tweets to audiences that size (or ideally all three)," says Wellschlager.

One piece of content they created attracted several thousand visitors justifying the time and effort with brand awareness, referral traffic, and spikes in demo requests.

Wellschlager's Tips for Finding Your Audience.

1. Locate your customer. "Find who already owns your audience (ideally find 10-20 of them). This is a sales process, so you're going to have to reach out to 10 in order to talk to 5 in order to get 1 or 2 on board with the partnership," says Wellschlager.

2. Provide value. "Reach out with something of real value, in exchange for the right kind of exposure."

3. Terms. "Agree before doing any work as to what each side will provide, do, etc. It requires a Scope of Work. You won't think it does, but casual email agreements can fall flat - you need actual commitment as to what the other side will do if you're going to pour man hours, product, resources, whatever, into doing something with them," says Wellschlager.