One of the best ways to get more customers for your small business is by cross-promoting with other small businesses. Big companies cross-promote all the time (such as fast-food operators offering kiddie toys to promote the latest superhero movie), but small businesses can do it, too.
Why should your small business consider cross-promoting?
- It gives you credibility. Your partner company’s customers will trust you because the partner is recommending you.
- By sharing the cost of marketing and advertising, you’ll reduce your marketing budget.
- You can benefit from your partner’s strengths and experience.
One of the biggest benefits of cross-promotion has nothing to do with sales. Running a small business can be hard and lonely, and working with another business owner who understands your challenges and can share the load makes everything feel easier.
Where to find cross-promotion partners
Your cross-promotion partners should target the same customer base and be complementary to your business but not competing. For example, a children’s hair salon and a children’s clothing store are natural partners. So are a website design firm and a marketing copywriting business.
Select people you can trust and who share similar business values. Working with business owners you already know or getting references from trusted colleagues can help.
You can find partners through your Chamber of Commerce, social networks and local business networking groups. Alignable, a social network specifically for small businesses, can be a great way to connect. The founders started Alignable to give small business owners “an easy way to meet the other business owners on their street.” Today the company has over 3 million members.
Your community may also have local business organizations such as this club for women business owners in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. If it doesn’t, consider starting one. The founders of Ladies of Logan Square—small business owners Kelly Marie Thompson and Mary Nisi—started their organization to help highlight the area’s female small business owners.
The founders say they had “trouble finding the time to network and collaborate with other business owners on top of all of their work and family obligations.” They told Block Club Chicago, they wanted to “create a community of ‘badass’ women” and give “women who have smaller companies. … an opportunity to get their name out there.”
Ideas for cross-promotion
Once you’ve found your partner/s, develop a plan together for your cross-promotion efforts. What are your goals? How will you measure success? What’s your budget?
Then brainstorm ideas. Here are 20 ideas to get you started:
- Do joint print advertising, such as mailers, postcards, or local newspaper or magazine ads.
- Host an event that appeals to all your customers.
- Display one another’s marketing materials.
- Give your customers your partner’s brochures or coupons when they check out of your store or packaged with their online order.
- Promote each other on social media to expose your business to a new audience of local customers.
- Support a charity together. Get your customers involved in volunteering or donating.
- Hold a joint contest.
- Link to one another’s websites. You can even create a section on your website and link to local businesses you recommend (making sure they link to yours, too).
- Offer a discount when a customer shows a receipt from the other’s business.
- Bundle your products and services. A website designer and a marketing copywriter could offer bundled services, for example.
- Do joint publicity. Team up to reach out to the media about a relevant topic.
- Conduct a survey and share the results to get publicity for your businesses.
- Produce co-branded marketing content, such as videos, e-books or white papers.
- Team up to write an article for an industry publication.
- Create and host a webinar together.
- Host a joint podcast.
- Write guest posts for your partner’s blog.
- Promote your partner in your email newsletter. Include an easy way for recipients to sign up for the partner’s email newsletter.
- Mail to your partner’s email newsletter list.
- Set up a system to refer relevant customers to your partner.
Ideas for cross-promotion are limited only by your imagination. Put your heads together and you’ll soon have double the sales success.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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