Cross Promotion: Why Your Small Business Should Consider It & A Few Ideas to Get You Goin

I recently popped into one of my favorite boutiques in Brooklyn and noticed a stack of beautifully designed postcards on counter that they were handing out with every purchase.  Upon closer examination I saw that it was an offer for 25% off purchases at two neighboring shops (a gift shop and shoe store) along with a free baked good with purchase of a drink at the coffee shop around the corner.  With deals like those I couldn't resist at least checking out the participating stores (I mean, it couldn't hurt to peek into them I told myself...) and before I knew it I had snagged a new pair of summer sandals (25% off!) and discovered somewhere to enjoy "latte and laptop time" in the future. 

This retail experience was pleasant for me as a customer (I discovered new businesses, I scored great deals), as well as for all three of the participating businesses!  In fact, even though I didn't purchase anything at the gift shop featured on the postcard, I have now been in the store and can visit it when I need something in the future (as well as refer it to friends).  Beyond the experience, it was a fantastic, real-life example of small businesses acting on cross-promotional ideas, and the positive results that can be achieved from such an undertaking.

Cross-promoting with companies that may not be the exact same type of business, but most likely share similar customers, messaging or even are part of the same "world" (we'll talk about this more later) can be one of the most cost-effective and powerful strategies you can employ to increase your visibility and customer base.  I personally love it when small businesses and entrepreneurs find organic and well-matched partner companies to cross-promote with.  Why?

  • Low to no cost: Cross-promoting can be free in some instances (social media) and most other times it allows you to use the tools and systems you already have in place or are already paying for (newsletters, your website, sales), thus not requiring you to increase your costs significantly.  Cross-promotional opportunities like the one I outlined above with postcards are also effective and again, are fairly low cost.  They also allow you to...
  • Split the cost and the work:  You're no longer alone when you cross-promote, which means you have another business (or two or three) to sharing cost and the workload.  You know what we always say here at Tin Shingle: why do it yourself when you can do it with others? Half the work and cost along with double the visibility and sales opportunities is an equation I can definitely get behind!
  • They're fun:  Yes, I said it!  Sometimes it's just fun and re-energizing to do something new and fresh with your business and brand, and to have some outside energy present.  When you're a small business owner you tend to love what you do (after all, you created it), but it still doesn't hurt to have new ways of sharing it and getting the word out about it!
  • The possibilities are endless: Cross-promoting opportunities are endless because there are countless ways you can combine yourself with other companies and countless companies you can match up with!  You just have to think get your brain in the right place! You have to start thinking of obvious (and not so obvious) companies you can partner with and ideas that work for both of you!  The goal is that both of you enjoy it, benefit from it and the workload is fairly weighted, if not identical.

To kick your cross-promotional brain into high gear we've come up with a few concepts for you below! 

Before you begin, remember that when choosing a business to partner with, you don't have to choose the exact same kind (in fact you probably don't want to do that).  Instead, think of companies that are "playing in the same world" as you.  For example: the athletic/fitness world, new moms and babies world, items for road trips world, fashion lovers world, food lovers world, small business products world, tips and products to make your home prettier world, and so forth!

Now bring on the ideas!

  • Shared newsletters: While I don't recommend swapping contact lists and emailing each other's followers blindly (they'll quickly wonder who gave up their contacts) you can create a co-branded newsletter tying yourselves together (in an organic and strategic way) and offering mutual discounts.  Perhaps you introduce another company as a favorite of yours, or in an overview of products perfect for road trips/mini-home makeovers, etc.
  • Create paper or virtual frequent buyer cards:  These can offer discounts and other goodies at all the participating shops, which can be brick-and-mortar or virtual.
  • Social Media Promotions: There are countless ways you can bring  a cross-promotional partner into your company's blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more! Best of all, they're all free! Even a simple mutually shared discount code for your online followers can reap big benefits!
  • Hold a Contest: Contests can be in person or virtual, can include applicants sharing business cards or email addresses with you and can include prizes based on the goods or services all participating businesses sell.  A great way to spread your brand and get in front of new eyeballs!
  • Use Those Sales Receipts & Deliveries to Spread the Word: Every time a customer receives a product or receipt from you (real or virutal) or attends a class or event hosted by you, they should walk out with a promotion code for future shopping/working with you.  You can expand this sales and marketing tactic exponentially by partnering with other companies and including each other in these opportunities.  This especially works when you're partnering with brands "in your world" as you know their customers will most likely enjoy what you sell as well!

Want more? Here are a few more ideas:

  • Co-host a seminar or class together
  • Throw a summer party together
  • Share pop-up retail space!
  • Share a referral program

Get creative, get strategic! As you can see the opportunities are there, and I'm sure your partners are as well!  If you're a member of Tin Shingle just pop into the business directory and find a fellow small business owner there that feels like a good match.  Sales are often slower in the summer, and cross-promotional marketing is a fantastic and low cost cure to the "summer slump".  Happy planning!