If you’re not aware that Disney has released a live-action adaptation of The Lion King, you might be the only person in America! Disney is unquestionably a big brand that does cross-marketing right. For this film, they successfully launched a number of promotions with other large brands. Examples include Lion King toys in McDonalds Happy Meals, Lion King stickers on Dole fruits, Jeep commercials featuring the film’s savannah setting, and a Pandora line of jewelry inspired by the movie.
But you don’t have to be a giant corporation to employ cross-marketing into your overall marketing plan. Here are ideas you can try–from digital strategies to good old-fashioned grass roots campaigns.
Cross Promotion Ideas
1. Co-branded Advertising
Small businesses can team up to share advertising costs. Cold Stone Creamery is benefitting from the widely anticipated Shark Week. The Discovery Channel’s unique programming gets a boost from special summertime treats crafted specifically to celebrate sharks. It’s a true win-win for the brands from different industries with audiences that overlap.
2. Social Media Outlets
Social media ads and sponsored content works for small businesses. In fact, three million businesses actively advertise on Facebook. You can expand your reach without spending extra money by partnering with a business that compliments yours. For example, SmartBiz customer Beer Cellar recently posted a newly available craft beer and tagged the brewers who make it, exposing their Instagram feed to a new audience.
3. Joint Postcard Mailings
This one is pretty simple. Combine your mailing list with another businesses list and get more bang for your buck. Come up with a design that highlights each business equally.
4. Run a Contest
Fatherly is a digital lifestyle brand that provides news, expert advice, product recommendations and other resources for parents. SkinnyMom is a website devoted to healthy food and fitness. The brands teamed up to run a contest featuring prizes from KIND bars, Fitbit and Lululemon, other large health and wellness companies. Explore prizes you could offer from other small businesses as a prize.
5. Co-produce a Lecture
This might sound labor-intensive but you can accomplish a creative co-production with minimal time and effort. Explore free meeting spaces in your area – the local library is a good bet. Team up with a complementary business to educate attendees about your goods and services in an organic way. If you own a landscaping business, you could partner with an outdoor furnishings company and discuss how to spruce up your yard during different seasons. Use social media, mailings, community bulletin boards, and local media outlets to promote the event.
6. Frequent Buyer Reward Cards
This strategy can be easy for bricks and mortar stores. Simply create a punch card for customers who frequent your shop. When a certain number of items are purchased, customers will receive a nice discount from the business you’re working with. Everyone loves a discount!
7. Display with Samples
Free products are always a winning idea. A skin care line could offer samples to be displayed on the counter of a yoga studio. The yoga studio could offer a free class with purchase to customers buying a particular skin product.
8. Promotion and Discounts for Partners
Grocery stores do this all the time and you can too! Put a coupon for a business you’re partnering with on your receipts and they can do the same.
9. Trade Show Cooperation
It can be expensive to attend trade shows, business expos, or even to set up a booth at a local community event. Partner with a non-competing business who markets to your target audience as well.
10. Shared Space
Starbucks continue to pop up all over the place – even at Target! That’s a prime example of sharing space to increase customer traffic. Consider teaming up with a bricks and mortar location and create a “pop-up” shop with your products or promoting your services.
11. Co-host a Webinar or Podcast
Enhance your content creation through a webinar or podcast. Online tools and tutorials make launching an internet production fairly easy these days. Find another business owner you’re compatible with and explore a webinar or podcast. Be sure to promote your production widely on social media platforms.
12. Create Bundle Deals
Consider combining products into a bundle for a special price. Each business advertises to their customer base. You’ll get exposure to new customers and move merchandise at the same time.
13. Implement a Referral Program
Alignable recently completed a survey of 7,500 small-business owners in North America and asked a single question -- what's the best way to acquire local customers? A whopping 85 percent said word-of-mouth referrals. You can help out another entrepreneur by recommending their business and they can do the same for you.
Steps to Prepare for a Cross-Marketing Campaign
Who are your customers? You need to have a firm grasp on this before you consider partnering with another business. Once you know your customer, research the customer bases for other companies you’d like to partner with. Do you they sell to a demographic you’d like to target? When you find a business that might be a good fit for cross promotion activities, research to make sure there are no skeletons in the closet. Are they well-respected with positive online reviews? You don’t want another business’ bad reputation to sully yours.
2. Build Relationships Through Networking
USA Today’s small business expert, Rhonda Abrams, explains why networking is such a great strategy for small business owners. “Networking is affordable and effective because people like doing business with people they know. So the more people you know — and the more people who know what business you’re in — the more potential customers and referral sources you have.” Build strong relationships and keep an eye out for any cross-marketing ideas. Here’s a post from the SmartBiz Small Business Blog with tips to help you form mutually beneficial relationships: How to Turn Any Event Into A Networking Opportunity.
3. Keep Records
Both parties should keep track of and share customer data after purchases. If the partnership involves any money transfers, be sure to document and consider having an accountant or an attorney review the contract.