Even as many Floridians were fleeing their homes, years ago, to avoid Hurricane Frances, some of their “neighbors” in Florida and Georgia had a small way to support them, just as they did after Hurricane Charley and tropical storm Bonnie hit. When people visited a Winn-Dixie grocery store they could help towards storm relief by “evening it up” at the checkout counter. That is, they could round up their food bill to the next dollar, with the extra change going to the local Red Cross chapter for relief efforts.
This isn’t a random event. It reflects a growing trend of organizations joining forces with others who serve the same kind of consumer and finding a way to do something better together. They have discovered that they can act quickly to, not only help in an emergence,y but also offer extra value, convenience or other appreciated benefit.
Forge Smart Partnerships in Unexpected Ways and Win the Hearts of Customers and Communities
That’s how Applebee’s attracted more customers – many first-time visitors – to their family restaurants one summer, without advertising more. When Weight Watchers designed and branded several low-cal menu items for Applebee’s, followers of the Weight Watchers program (and those who were thinking of dieting) had a new reason to eat at Applebee’s. Applebee’s customers opened up their menus and saw how appetizing a Weight Watchers entree could be. Consumers got introduced to products by organizations they already knew and trusted.
That’s how T-shirt designer Tami Minatelli was able to exhibit at nine street fairs this summer without paying for her booth space. A new manufacturer of a unique, no-stain suntan lotion paid for Tami’s booth. Why? Because she wore their lotion and her T-shirts, with a sign above her head, describing her original painting-on-cotton method and the lotion’s “do no harm” guarantee. Next to burn protection, that’s the biggest concern of people who use suntan lotions.
In both stories, organizations that serve the same kind of consumers created new opportunities for each other. They didn’t just forge a partnership. They crafted what I call a “smart partnership”. Together they attracted more customers, media coverage and bragging rights than they could have in “solo” outreach efforts.
Warning: with the wrong partners or methods, your efforts can backfire. You may irritate or even alienate prospective customers and supporters.
Pick Your Partners with Care
Pick partners that also reach your kind of customers, match your great reputation and start small to see if they keep agreements in partnering.
One “sweet” cause campaign was attacked while another attracted praise. “Maybe Krispy Kreme should offer free coupons for insulin and syringes to the kids who end up with diabetes,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert. Krispy Kreme was lambasted by this watchdog group for its longtime program of rewarding students in kindergarten through sixth grade with a free doughnut for every A on their report card in communities across the country.
Yet there was nary a peep of protest when M&M teamed up with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to raise funds through the sale of new “pink & white” M&M candies. In fact, on behalf of a cause to keep women healthy, groups are jumping on the bandwagon to encourage people to buy a candy that is certainly no more nutritious than a donut.
In light of the alarming leap in obesity in the U.S. some long time partners may attract controversy today, as Krispy Kreme learned the hard way.
The lesson? Stay clear of controversy. Even if the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation isn’t criticized this time for what could be described as an unhealthy partner, it could be soon.
But recognize that partnering is a fast-growing trend because of its power. Businesses can use it to stand out from their competition or provide a fresh reason for people to support a cause or buy a product. They become a bigger customer magnet.
Bottom Line Benefit of Smart Partnering
At the very least, with the right partner(s), you can gain a warmed-up reputation and introduction to more prospective customers. Ready to find the right partners to grow your business?
14 Simple Ways to Jump-Start Your First Cross-Promotion
Look for the most frequent patterns in your customers to find the most beneficial partners. Then consider which business offers the best quality of product or service like the one your kind of client might use. Propose a simple, low-risk first cross-promotion such as the ones suggested below:
1. Print joint promotional messages on your receipts.
2. Offer a reduced price, special service or convenience if customers buy products from you and your partner.
3. Hang signs or posters promoting one another on your walls, windows or products.
4. Mention one another’s benefits when you speak at local events or are interviewed by the media.
5. Drops one another’s flyers in shopping bags.
6. Pool mailing lists and send out a joint promotional postcard.
7. Promote their products during their slow times, ask them to do the same for you.
8. Share inexpensive ads in local shopping papers or a non-profit event program.
9. Give a joint interview to local media.
10. Put one another’s promotional messages on lucite stands on counters or floor stands in waiting areas.
11. Encourage your staff to mention how your partner’s products can be used with yours.
12. Give your partner’s product to your customers when they buy a large quantity of your product and ask your partner to do the same.
13. Use door hangers, posters, flyers or postcards to promote special offers for one another’s products.
14. Co-produce an in-store or office event: demonstration, celebrity appearance, free service or lecture.
Make News With Unlikely Allies
Partner with people outside your industry or profession and you are even more likely to attract media coverage.. Plus your message or offer appears (through your partners) where your competition is not even in sight.
Example: partners to reach a local market of middle class women, ages 30-55: massage practice, , health clinic, dry cleaner, and beauty salon.
Go after a new niche market together, and plan to grow it every year. For example, a travel agent might recruit the right cross-promoting partners to target local CPAs, with a “Sane Self-Indulgences at Tax Time” package, jointly offering pre-planned vacation packages for afterwards and — to get them through the taxing tax preparation time, shoulder and foot massages and exercise sessions provided at their offices and take-out food services for breakfasts and dinners.
Adopt More Elaborate Ways to Smartly Cross-Promote
What if a massage therapist cross-promoted with just one partner, a florist? They both agreed to encourage customers to buy more of their services upfront. How? Offer a “Beauty Inside Out” package. Massage clients get the opportunity to more conveniently purchase six massages at one time (feel beauty inside) and then get two free “extravagantly beautiful” flower bouquets ( beauty outside). The bouquets are furnished by the cross-promoting florist, to massage customers who drops by their shop to pick them up — and thus meet the florist.
The florist, in turn, offers a comparably valued package of bouquets, which a customer can buy at one time and get two free massages as a bonus extra. Each business owner gains access to the other’s highest spending customers by providing what costs them the least – — their products and services. Plus prospects are introduced to the services in the best way, by sampling them.
Another benefit? With this approach, you can market to the corporate gift market. Approach executive secretaries to the presidents of local businesses, HR directors, meeting planners and others who are involved in buying gifts for clients, employees, association members, etc. Suggest that they buy something unusual and get a bonus extra to indulge themselves or to offer as additional gifts.
By encouraging larger buys while making the purchase easy, you reduce your marketing time, have earlier use of more money, may find some individuals never get around to using all the services they buy and offer new reasons for clients to buy.
Another Smart Partnering Possibility
Join forces with other vendors who could help create an attractive package of bundled services that would entice your kind of massage client to buy more frequently. Example — “You’re Truly Special” gift package : massage, dinner, and (individually wrapped) set of 30 scented candles, photo frame and safety flashlight (because you want them to stay safe), all cross-promoted with the participation of a bookkeeper and a delivery service which get to insert their cards and services description in the gift bags.
Partners agree on a gift price and design of an eye-catching flyer and advertisement that you all agree to distribute and place in local publications, with a fax/back order form to the bookkeeper who takes and distributes the money and notifies each partner and the delivery service for delivery, where needed. The bookkeeper and delivery service offer their services at a reduced rate to the other partners in return for the opportunity to gain access to prospective customers. Again, the packaging of your services in a novel way offers a new reason for individuals and organizations to buy, ways to market to and through your “organization/corporate “customer to their customers who receive the gifts, and a reason for the local media to cover your unusual offer.
Here’s Still More Successful Smart Partnering Methods
1. Encourage multiple sales with free gifts.
Benefits: Attract repeat business and higher customer satisfaction.
How to do it: Offer a free gift with the purchase of a “bundled’ collection of your services or products. Exchange your services or products with your cross promotional partner — you offer your partner’s product or service as the free gift to your customers and your partner’s customers receive your product or service.
Example: A cookware store’s fun kitchen gadget is the free gift offered by a bookstore that comes with the purchase of a collection of cookbooks. A ten dollar dry cleaning gift certificate accompanies the new suit purchased from a clothier.
2. Co-sponsor an event with partners reaching the same market.
Benefits: Gain advertising and publicity at reduced cost, contribution to your commmunity, stronger appreciation and loyalty from guests, and contact with potential guests.
How to do it: Find cross – promotional partners reaching the same market. Share costs for production and marketing of an event that naturally combines the interests of the cross – promotional partners and the market they want to reach.
Examples: A massage center, hospital and health club to sponsor a “Women’s Wellness After Forty” seminar. A home security firm, insurance agency and appliance dealer partner to sponsor a “Make Your Home Safe” demonstration event.
An evening seminar attracts time-pressed entrepreneurs with the title “Ten Great Ideas to Reach More Customers” and promised format: six panelists each have five minutes to describe their best two marketing tips, followed by the attendees’ ballot vote the top three tips. As ballots are being turned in and tabulated, the panel host, a radio talk show DJ who is carrying the program live — takes questions from attendees. Panelists are managers of stores selling office computers, furniture and supplies; quick print shop; CPA firm; cellular phone company and insurance firm. As they leave, attendees receive a handout with the panelists’ tips, recommended reading list and background on them and their companies.
3. Show your best customers that you appreciate them.
Benefits: Increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.
How to do it: Create “frequent buyer” cards that give your clients gifts when they reach certain purchase levels. Exchange your services or products with your partner — you offer your partner’s product or services as the free gift to your customers and your partners’ customers receive your product or service.
Examples: Cosmetic store customers receive manicures from a hair salon as their “frequent buyer” gift. Hair salon customers receive a bottle of body cream from the cosmetic store. Massage customers receive a “make-up make-over” briefing after their massage.
4. “Bundle” partners’ products or services.
Benefits: Provide eye attracting (or valued added) additional reasons for customers to buy — and a free way to reach more potential customers.
How to do it: Offer a joint product package with your cross – promotional partners.
Example: Promote a back – to – school product package: bookbag, school supplies and educational software, with a “massage reward” package for Mom and Dad. All partners offer the same package at their sites.
5. Go where the action is
Benefit: Offer a free way for more people to be exposed to your products or services.
How to do it: Partner with the manager of a location where there is heavy foot or car traffic by offering to provide a display that will draw positive attention to their site.
Examples: A corner gas station displays descriptions of ten good nearby restaurants. Those restaurants, in turn, display a “Need gas?” sign, referencing the location of the gas station. A bookstore displays the book recommendations of a massage expert (with staff recommending the massage services they’ve experience first-hand). The massage therapist displays those books and recommendations at their center, encouraging people to buy the books at that bookstore.
Independent Local Business Owners Can Stand Out Agaistn Bigger Competitors
1. Co-produce special promotions you could not afford by yourself. Hire local community college broadcasting / cable tv students to produce a “how to use” video and/or audio tape that involves you and your partner’s products and services. Show the video on an eye level tv monitor in your outlets where people have to wait or in the window for 24 hour viewing. Or play the audiotape portion as background.
An enterprising advertising agency, local quick copy printer and video production house get priceless visibility for cross-promoting with others to co-produce an educational audio/video/book package that will prominently display their company names: “Thirty Ways Smart People Make Their Home More Safe” that is widely displayed, distributed to their partners’ customers: a hardware store, home security company, police department, real estate firm, home contractor, electrician and school district.
2. Display combined useage of partners’ services and products in your outlet; ask all partners to do the same. A “Valentine Love Food” display appears in all partners’ outlets a month before Valentine’s Day. Partners are a cooking school, kitchenware shop, florist, card shop restaurant and supermarket all display the makings for a romantic dinner menu that is served on Valentine’s Day at their partner’s restaurant. Their displays are created by a local theatre set designer who designed sets for the play for which the partners’s customers can receive a reduced price ticket when they buy the restaurant meal or displayed products from the partners.
3. Have a contest, with the prizes contributed by your partners. Next contest: you contribute your massage service as a prize for a partner’s contest. A dry cleaner places tags on all customers’ hangers. Tags have fashion tips and are numbered tickets for a contest to win gifts from the partners’ clothing stores. When the dry cleaners’ customers make any purchase from the stores, they check their hanger card to see if it matches a number on the “winning numbers” card of numbers created by all the partners at the beginning of the contest. Vary this cross-promotion by asking partners to have a card of winning numbers for the customers of the other partners to match for prizes.
4. Give customers a free product/service from a partner when they buy something that month from all partners listed in ad or promotional postcard or offer at the end of an online newsletter. Participating pediatrician practices, child care centers, childrens’ clothing and toy stores all display a “Love Means Being Prepared” child-designed poster describing the recommended contents for a home medicine cabinet for families with young children.
5. Cross-promote by literally getting closer, sharing space. A massage practice might lease space within a cosmetic and laser surgery center, gaining access to their upscale clients while offering a convenient valued-added service for them. Alternatively, you might lease space next to a beauty salon, sharing an interior door and offering joint beauty and relaxation packages. Some stores or franchises lease space within or side-by-side other companies or sell both kinds of products on site (Noah’s Bagels sells Starbucks Coffee). A food operation leases space within a hospital or motel (Pizza Hit in Days Inn.).
Kinko’s leases space at hotels. Why couldn’t a massage center do the same? Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits leases space in a Kroger supermarket, increasing traffic for both. Why not lease space within a hospital and serve patients, their families and hospital personnel, cross-promoting your services with the hospital to further differentiate both of your businesses. You can provide the “soft”, positive, healing, even “spa extra” uplift to their image while gaining access to peole who are badly in need of your services.
A post office leases space within a supermarket. An accessories store leases space next to a clothing store, joined by internal doors. Colleges lease space to a travel agency. An advertising agency, realtor, quick printer and video production house get priceless visibility by co-producing an audio/video/book package: “Thirty Ways Smart People Make Their Home More Safe.” It is displayed and distributed to their customers: a hardware store, home security firm, police, real estate firm, home contractor, electrician and school district. What video could you jointly produce, display and distribute to make your massage service stand out from the competition and attract clients to your door?