5 Tips for Cross Promotion with Other Businesses

Pump up your revenue through business partnerships.

Pump up your revenue through business partnerships.

by Sheryl Nance-Nash

You know that saying, “Two heads are better than one”? It’s never truer than when it comes to small business owners joining forces to stretch their marketing reach and dollars.

Take Shel Horowitz, a green business consultant and coauthor of “Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World,” for example. Horowitz has teamed up with the environmental advocacy organization Green America by offering a webinar for its members in exchange for promoting his book at their upcoming festival.

“Both parties benefit,” exclaims Horowitz.

If you want to get your products or services to reach a larger audience without breaking your marketing budget, consider these five steps for successful cross promotion with another business.

Pick the right partner. “Don’t just jump into a combined promotion with a company because they’ll remove some of the financial burden from your marketing,” says Sue Laurent, owner of the marketing consulting firm NSMarketing. You want a company that has products or services that complement yours, serves similar audiences, and shares similar business ethics. In other words, look for someone you would use or recommend regardless of whether or not you were partnering with them. “You will be judged by the company you keep,” Laurent says.

Put everything in writing. Once you have the ideal match, draft the contract. Outline each company’s duties and financial responsibilities. “The better you define expectations and how the results will be measured, the better the experience will be,” says Katie Hornor, founder of Cómo Blog, which helps online entrepreneurs.

Develop a cool promotion. The sky’s the limit when it comes to collaborating and playing off one another’s strengths to create amazing promotions. One example of a successful joint promotion is a contest. Several businesses can pool their resources for a prize and create a website so people can enter online. Each business can promote the contest to its customer base, e-mail list and social media audience. The type of promotion you choose depends on your industry and target market. “It could be spoken referrals, newsletter exchanges or social media posts,” says Melissa Forziat, owner of Melissa Forziat Events, an event management firm. “Perhaps you put business cards or postcards with special offers in each other’s stores. It needs to be tailored to your style of business and your audience.”

Speak the same language. When two companies pursue competing goals and lack a unified message, they’ll run the risk of confusing customers and prospects. “Encouraging someone to visit two unconnected businesses or offering discounts on two unrelated products doesn’t make sense,” says Marc Prosser, cofounder of Fit Small Business, a firm specializing in reviews and how-to guides for small businesses. Instead, make sure there’s a clear connection or logical sequence. “Spend X amount at business A, get a free ice cream cone next door. That’s a clear offer with a single message,” Prosser says.

Make it a win-win. Vipe Desai, founder of HDX Mix LLC, a powdered sports drink mix company, has had great success with cross promotions. “We identified brands whose customers would align with our products and reached out to them to drop in a sample of our product with every online order placed through their website,” says Desai. “We do the same with our orders and drop-in postcards, samples, or info about their brand.” Sharing customers among complementary brands is much more cost-effective than advertising on social media. “The results have been great,” says Desai.

Marketing and promotion are vitally important to growing your business’s customer base and reach. When done right, cross promotion offers a creative, strategic, and niche method to distribute your message at an affordable price.

Sheryl Nance-Nash is a seasoned journalist who has written about personal finance, small business and career-related topics for more than a decade.

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