Spreading word about your business
Getting the word out about your small business takes a lot of work. You start out by enlisting the help of close friends, family members, and current and previous business associates. But soon that isn’t enough to get you to your end goal—a solid professional reputation and an increased profit. While there are thousands of ways to advertise your business, there are often monetary constraints for small business pros. Even with these constraints and limitations, small businesses can effectively market their brands through cross-promotion with other, complementary small businesses.
Display print collateral – One of the simplest ways to cross-promote is by displaying or distributing print collateral—brochures, calendars, business cards, and flyers—in a waiting room, next to the cash register, or mailed with statements, invoices, or business correspondence. When you’ve found the right business—or several businesses—to pair with, trade printed material. This will ensure that your business is made visible to potential customers, customers that would ultimately benefit from your products or services. If you’re looking for a low-friction way of cross-promoting your brand, this is it.
Co-sponsor an event – This will allow you to cut your event costs in half, and it ensures you get the other company’s audience and customers in attendance, which will only benefit your company’s marketing efforts and outreach. Depending on the nature of your business, you can choose to hold a local, national, or even online event geared toward your target audience. Whichever you choose, make sure all companies with which you’re cross-promoting have equal visibility. This will strengthen your professional relationships now so they can still be of use to you in the future.
Start a referral program – Offer discounts or rewards for those customers who refer business to your partner’s store and vice versa. This is a fantastic way to create a network of consumers. Remember, again, this only works if you cross-promote a complementary business rather than a competing one. The latter is rarely a good idea. A referral program will encourage your customers to spread the word about your business and your cross-promotion partner’s business. Everyone benefits.
Swap mailing lists – While this effort obviously gives you even more potential customers, the ethics of such an act continues to be debated. After all, haven’t we all been annoyed when we’ve discovered a company has sold or traded our information? Instead of swapping all the information on your mailing lists, you can provide your current customers and clients the option of being contacted by a partner or affiliate. Alternatively, featuring a peripheral business to yours on mailers to your clients while being featured on mailers to their clients is a common method for this type of swap. This will keep your professional reputation unsoiled and give you the opportunity to lengthen your own mailing list.
Trade online content – While this type of cross-promotion requires a lot of valuable time in creating the content, it’s one of the most beneficial ways to market your brand on a small budget—or even if you have a large budget, for that matter. Write a guest blog post, general website content, or informative, on-topic articles. This online content can help establish your reputation as being knowledgeable in your field or industry. If you can write content that is informative and valuable, you’ll have a stream of users checking out your site, too. The challenge here is in finding like partners that would mutually benefit.
Offer a workshop or educational class – You and your cross-promotion partner can hold an educational workshop or class that’s related to your industry. Each of you—or a representative of your business—should speak or teach a class, but also include other guest speakers or teachers. The more valuable information you provide to the attendees, the more in-demand your workshop or class will be. Having as many influential “experts” involved will only increase the hype of your educational event.
Share valuable office space – Just as tax accountants temporarily take up residence in major grocery stores during tax season, consider sharing valuable office space with your partner, and vice versa. It can be a small office, booth, or even right outside the front door. Hand out brochures, business cards, and be available to answer questions or to pass out free samples. This method can be more effective than just having your partner display your print collateral, because your potential customers can put a face to a brand, which makes your business more relatable and personable. It doesn’t matter if you set up one of your employees there permanently or you only use some space a few times a month, this is a great way to network with your target audience.
Cross-promotion is an easy way to market your business directly to the right consumers and while sticking to your marketing budget. Partnering with a complementary business expands your professional outreach, betters your reputation in your industry, and puts you in contact with the right people at the right time. Consider your cross-promotion options carefully and be selective about potential partners, as the wrong partner can have as much of an impact on your business as the right one.