6 Ideas for Cross-Promoting Your Small Business

February 17, 2016 • 6 min read

Promoting your business is a daily grind, but you don’t have to do it alone. You can increase your client base and boost your bottom line by using cross-promotion, collaborating on marketing with the right business partners.

Let’s say you own a bed and breakfast chain in a popular tourist destination. You currently offer an equal number of mixed dorm, private twin, and private double beds every day. To promote an offer, you create social media ads, advertise on local billboards, and organize a family event in the city center. In the holiday season, all your private twin and double beds sell out, but your mixed dorm beds only have few bookings.

Meanwhile, your top competitor has no vacancies. That local student travel agency it teamed up with helped reel in enough dorm bookings to fill up.

If you’ve noticed this trend but haven’t yet made adjustments to your promotion/marketing strategy, you’re missing an opportunity to attract more customers through the benefits of cross-promotion. Cross-promotion, or co-marketing, means teaming up with another business to create a promotion that benefits both of you. The key is to collaborate with a business that doesn’t directly compete with you.

You can increase your revenue through strategic collaborations like the one between your hypothetical B&B competitor and the student travel agency above. And you’ll simultaneously be giving your customers an extra something—your partner’s offer—with only minimal or no cost to you.

Cross-promotion possibilities

With more businesses competing for a slice of the market share, creative businesses of all sizes are trying more cross-promotion campaigns, in the hopes of driving sales and increasing brand loyalty. Here are 6 ways to employ this strategy for your brick-and-mortar marketing:

1. Co-produce a newsletter

While exchanging contacts and reaching out to each other’s customers blindly probably isn’t a good idea, you and your partner can co-produce a newsletter that ties your brands together in an organic way. Co-production will keep expenses low while expanding the types of expertise you can offer your clients.

For example, Teri Stokes, principal at Weatherly Heights Elementary in Huntsville, Alabama, revealed that businesses supportive of their school get recognition in their weekly newsletter, which is seen by parents of students, school board members, city council members, and even the mayor. The result? These businesses get known by a wider community and as generous supporters of the local school.

Keep in Mind: The newsletter doesn’t have to be about your businesses; it could be about a related subject. For instance, a local hotel and a boat rental company could co-produce a newsletter talking about tourist activities in their area.

2. Cross-promote your brands on social media

If both you and your partner have an established social media presence, opportunity is calling. By cross-promoting each other’s brands to respective followers, you can double your visibility and win new customers.

Remember, cross-promotion doesn’t mean simply cross-posting one message from your social profile to all of your partner’s social media channels simultaneously. That may just turn off your potential new audience. Rather, craft your messages in a way relates to each particular audience.

Take the example of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a nonprofit, and Red Frog Events, an event management company. On St Jude’s Twitter feed, the hospital gave a shout out to Red Frog Events for their contribution to opening a therapy center for the kids of St. Jude. Likewise, on their Facebook page, Red Frog Events touted the opening of the Red Frog Events Proton Therapy Center at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, thanking their followers for supporting St. Jude.

St. Jude’s reached a new audience of potential donors and Red Frog benefitted from the goodwill generated by helping out a worthy charity. This is just one way partners can cross-promote their brands and affiliations.

3. Co-sponsor a good cause

Joint charitable sponsorships are likely to attract more contacts than if only one business sponsors a cause. Such collaborations provide co-sponsors exposure to each other’s audiences, and access to that of the charity, as well. And, as sponsorship fees rise, you can stretch your budget by spreading costs with like-minded partners.

For example, Asher’s Bakery and Scotmid Co-operative teamed up to sponsor Raigmore Football Club’s new weatherproof jackets, new strips, and much-needed training gear. Both local businesses contributed to the sponsorship, providing the club with enough funds to purchase supplies for two teams. The gear included names of both sponsors, extending their visibility and branding them as businesses that care for their community.

Keep in Mind: To engage in co-sponsorships that make sense, you should have a good understanding of your prospective partner’s business practices and their history of co-sponsoring events.

4. Structure cross-specials

You already know that you can target customers during or after a purchase with related specials, such as free giveaways, discounts, coupons, and/or gift cards. Try increasing your reach by collaborating with another local business. While your and your partner’s businesses might be unrelated in terms of product, both of you should have similar target clientele and a reputation for high quality products or services.

According to JCK Magazine, which covers the jewelry industry, the owners of Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Pizza approached Jan Marten, owner of neighboring JEM Jewelers, for a joint-promotion effort based on their shared clientele. Marten realized that Tony Sacco’s attracted young couples and families, so a joint promotion could bring some of those consumers her way.

Here’s what they did: Customers buying pizza were allowed to draw from a jar containing one diamond and 200 cubic zirconias. After selecting a stone, customers were sent to JEM Jewelers for an appraisal. In addition to the chance of winning the diamond, those who’d drawn a cubic zirconia were entitled to a 10% discount on in-store purchases.

The cross-promotion worked. The jewelry store made a number of sales, including four custom designs, while the customer who won the diamond started referring others to the store.

5. Utilize each other’s assets

Cross-promotions can also provide an opportunity to make use of assets you already have, saving you money.

One of those assets you’re already paying for is space. Why not exchange a little retail space with your partner? The space can be as small as your partner’s counter, where you might place your business logo and description to cross-promote your brand. You can amplify the effects of this tactic by combining it with other cross-promotional techniques like offering coupons and discounts.

ZipFit Denim, a startup focused on men’s jeans, takes space-sharing a step further by opening popup stores in their partner retailers’ outlets. ZipDenim then co-hosts events with partners, an initiative that expands the visibility and reach of both businesses.

6. Collaborate with influencers

A 2015 poll of marketing professionals by Tomoson revealed that businesses are turning to influencer marketing to generate revenue. Companies reported making $6.50 for every $1 spent on this tactic.

You and the influencer could cross-promote to each other’s audiences, or you could partner with a second business to bring a mutually beneficial influencer on board, splitting the cost of hiring an influencer.

Collaborating with an influencer can allow local businesses to create highly-targeted campaigns by zeroing in on an influencer’s specific attributes, like geography or target audience.

For example, Allegro Apartments in Washington, D.C., wanted to boost attendance at its grand-opening party, but a majority of its target audience didn’t read the newspaper. Their promoter came up with the idea of challenging local bartenders to make a signature cocktail. Recipes were posted on Allegro’s site and the public could vote for their favorite. Local blogger and media outreach was handled by influencers in the neighborhood, who took extra steps to personalize the promotion and make Allegro Apartments an approachable space.

The result? Forty-three percent, 129 out of 297 properties, were leased within a few weeks.

Final thoughts: Finding the right partner

If a cross-promotion sounds like it might work for your business, your next step is finding the right partner. Consider your customers: what sorts of services or products would add value for them? Narrow the field by focusing on businesses whose services, products, and marketing you respect. There are many benefits to co-marketing with a local nonprofit, if there’s a cause that’s meaningful to you. 

Since your customers will associate your partner’s marketing with your own in a cross-promotion, it’s essential to work with businesses who leave a great first impression. Don’t be shy about getting to know a prospective partner—Google them, check out their LinkedIn profiles, look for reviews and recommendations of the business online, and, of course, ask your network!

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