Cross-Promotional Marketing: From the Big Leagues to Small Business

You’ve seen it more and more recently—your wine bottles offering discounts on gourmet cheese, your cheese suggesting what brand of bread to use, your bread including a coupon for a complimentary jelly. Cross-promotional marketing isn’t just grocery store pair-ups though; it’s a partnership between any two companies who find a common bond in services, products or causes. By partnering up either for product promotion, cause-related marketing or both, well-established brands are bolstering their sales by presenting themselves as complements rather than competitors. Look at Wal-Mart and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture: they recently announced their joint venture to promote local produce, seizing on current consumer trends (environment & buying locally) and refuting rumors that Wal-Mart goes for price over quality.

Cross-promotional marketing goes way beyond the big leagues, though—it’s a daunting but doable option for small businesses. In the big fish tank of your local business community, partnering with similarly sized and funded businesses may seem like trying to hug your neighbor the piranha. Once you find your fish in the sea for cross-promotion, though, there are ways to work together without things getting spiky:

1) Start small. Kare Anderson, author of Walk Your Talk: Successful Cross-Promotion, suggests baby steps like printing promo messages about your partner on your receipts or hanging their posters on the walls in your business (and vice versa).
2) Share the wealth. Cross-promotion has one huge benefit—cost-splitting! Go half and half on ads, mailers and more.
3) Save on events. This is your chance to demonstrate your products & services, support your favorite cause or just get your name out for half the cost. For example, your legal services combined with your partner’s financial expertise might bode well at a business convention or senior citizens fair.

Here’s one thing to keep in mind, however. Cross-promotional marketing goes beyond superficial shout-outs to your partner business. It shows your customers and your community that your business recognizes it’s not the only one in town—instead, it’s a niche in a unique network of products and services that we consume as a whole. Reflecting that sentiment in your marketing is a win-win, for truly understanding your customer base and for significantly upping the bottom line.

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