In the local business community, working together is the name of the game. Through buy local groups, local chambers of commerce and neighborly attitudes, small business owners make valuable connections with each other. Once connected, the trick is to leverage those connections — in part, by cross-promoting each other’s businesses.
Cross-promotion occurs when your business is being promoted by another business, and vice versa. This can happen through word-of-mouth, via marketing materials or as part of an ongoing partnership. Cross-promotion often makes the most sense when two or more businesses are complementary, but not competitive. For instance, if you’re in the business of residential landscaping, it could make sense for you to cross-promote your business with a contractor or real estate agent to increase your chances of reaching an audience who is already looking for a landscaper.
To get started with cross-promotion, you’ll need at least one partner business and at least one idea to put into action.
Connect with Other Locals
Chances are, you probably already know another small business owner in your community. To expand your network and make strategic connections, you can leverage online tools, such as Alignable. Alignable uses a LinkedIn-like platform to connect small business owners with each other based on their location. Alignable allows users to share tips, make recommendations and ask questions online, so that they can build a stronger network in the community.
Through local civic meetings, chambers of commerce events and online tools like Alignable, you can build a network of like-minded small business owners. Then, you can work together to find creative ways to cross-promote.
Offer a Joint Discount
If your businesses are complementary but not competitive, you’re likely going after the same audience as your cross-promotion partner. Why not incentivize that audience to support both of your businesses at once? If a customer makes a purchase in your store, your cross-promotion partner can offer a discount to that customer in his or her store, and vice versa. This kind of arrangement creates the opportunity for you to tell your customers about a related local business, while your partner’s customers are hearing about your business.
Start a Conversation
Small business owners love to get to know their customers. During your regular conversations with customers, cross-promote your partner’s business through word-of-mouth. Recommend a new restaurant, a new farmer’s market or a new service-provider to your customers whenever it makes sense.
Cross-promotion through word-of-mouth can be particularly useful if your business is located in a large shopping center. While customers are out shopping or running errands, you can introduce them to the businesses that are within walking distance, so they don’t even have to make a separate trip. Get together with the small businesses in your shopping center or business district, familiarize yourself with their inventories and expertise and make a commitment to recommending each other’s businesses whenever possible.
Host an Event Together
For one afternoon, one day or one weekend, create a one-stop-shop for customers by hosting an event with your partner business or businesses. While it may require a little more work, a joint event can give customers a reason to stop by your business. It can also get your partner business’ customers in front of you without requiring them to make another stop.
An event can also help connect your businesses, even if you don’t share the same audience. For example, if you own an upscale salon, you probably don’t have many customers under the age of 18 – but parents might often bring their kids along with them to the salon, where the kids are just left to wait patiently. If you host an event with a local toy store or arts and crafts store, you could provide activities for the kids to help them pass the time. What may seem like an unlikely partnership could give your customers another reason to appreciate your business.
No matter what tactic you choose, November is the perfect time to put cross-promotion ideas into action. Holiday shopping is in full swing and Small Business Saturday will hopefully give your business a boost among busy shoppers. While more shoppers are hitting the stores and thinking about buying local, encourage them to visit one of your local partners, and have your partners return the favor. Since it’s gift-giving season, shoppers could be looking for things they don’t normally shop for, which creates the opportunity to introduce them to new businesses, new products and new ways to support local.
Small businesses make good allies. Make sure you’re leveraging your connections by finding opportunities to cross-promote your business this holiday shopping season and all year long.
Independent We Stand is dedicated to helping independent businesses across the country engage their communities and encouraging customers to buy local. If you’re a business owner, get buy local resources, tips and news by registering for a business membership. Your business will also be included in our ‘locals only’ search engine and mobile app. If you’re a consumer, take the pledge to buy local to join the movement.