Categorized | Featured Articles, Marketing

3 steps to great cross-promotional marketing

Collaborating with another business can benefit both of you    

By Paul Arrington    

When Jacksonville consultant and motivational speaker Zelda Greenberg wanted a venue to launch her lateststrategy book, The Art of Bouncing Back, she approached Kris Chislette at The Grape, an establishment known for its wines and gourmet bistro. Together they developed a cross-promotional marketing strategy that resulted in a mutually successful book-signing and wine-tasting event. 

Cross-promoting allowed them to tap into each other’s databases and collectively reach potential customers beyond what would have been possible through separate marketing efforts.

Cross-promotional marketing belongs in the toolkit of—and can be successfully applied by— just about every small business. Although many smart owners have responded to current economic challenges by adopting good business practices such as closely monitoring margins, keeping on top of receivables, trimming expenses, reducing payroll hours, and tightly managing inventory, they continue to underutilize cross-promotional marketing as an efficient way to grow their businesses—especially during a soft economy.  

A win-win strategy

So, what is cross-promotional marketing, and how can it improve your bottom line? Cross promotional marketing is the creation of win-win results through increased visibility, good will, and cost savings that are possible when enterprises share resources to target a common market.

Big companies cross promote all the time. Consider these examples:

• Redbox video rentals. The video-rental company places its “boxes” outside of fast-food and drugstore outlets;  

• Shell–Winn Dixie partnership. The grocery chain is offering fuel rewards for shopping in its stores;

• Smart phones and wireless companies. Wireless carriers promote specific cell phones to attract users; and

• Fast food chains in travel centers and superstores. Stop for gas along the Interstate and grab a burger of fried chicken from your favorite fast-food chain, or stop for a snack while shopping in a big-box store.

Although these large ventures are capital-intensive and therefore cost-prohibitive to small businesses, small businesses can find great success through creative cross marketing. Essentially, good cross promoting requires following three steps:

1. Understand your customers. Do an intensive analysis of who they really are and what makes them tick.

Consider: What are their ages, gender, income levels, marital status and addresses? What are their values? What do they read and how do they get their information? What leisure activities interest them? Where do they spend their money when they are not with you? What products or services do they need that are related to what you provide? 

To find the answers to these questions, use surveys and focus groups to research customer trends in your industry, including possible trade association reports.

2. Identify businesses that target similar customers. Make a list of businesses whose customers share some of the same characteristics as your customer base. Be creative. For example, a health club might find a restaurant offering a health conscious menu and serving a similar income level of clientele to be an ideal potential cross-promotional partner.

To identify those businesses, consider: Are many of your customers movie goers? Do they frequent art galleries? Engage in outdoor sports? Support charitable causes?

3. Find benefits for everyone involved. When you discuss cross-promotional marketing with a potential partner, make sure that there will be something there for everybody. For example: Begin with a contest, using each other’s products or services as the prizes. Each business would benefit from the contact list generated from those who enter the drawing.

Other suggestions: A “this week only” promotion or discount coupons for products and services of both companies; display space in each other’s stores;, back links to each other’s Web sites; joint advertising; and giving customer loyalty rewards using your partner’s products or services. 

For many businesses a cross-promotional social networking strategy can be highly rewarding. Chislette of The Grape believes that a Facebook strategy promoting The Grape as well as Greenberg’s book contributed significantly to the success of their effort.

Paul Arrington.smallPaul Arrington is a Certified Business Analyst and Micro Enterprise Development Director at the University of North Florida’s Small Business Development Center in Jacksonville. He can be reached at or through the SBDC Web site,



Partnering with nonprofits

Partnership with a nonprofit organization can be a great way to address a societal need while also satisfying the key purposes of cross-promotional marketing—increased visibility, good will, and cost savings. Here are some tips:  

• Make a good ‘customer’ match. Most nonprofits have multiple key stakeholders or “customers,” which may include their cause recipients, their members, and their individual and institutional donors. Apply the same rules to find a nonprofit partner as you would a for-profit partner.

• Find a good values match. Research the mission and reputation of a potential nonprofit partner: Is it a good match for your values and the message you want to send?  

• Consider in-kind methods of partnering. Think of whether donating employee hours, a percentage of receipts, space for an event, or products or your services might work better for your business promotionally rather than donating cash.

• Go all out. When making an in-kind donation to a nonprofit, do it well, or not at all. A contribution of a less than impressive bouquet by a florist or a skimpy food platter by a catering firm may well do more harm than good when it comes to developing good will with a nonprofit’s stakeholders.[/private]

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