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Alf's Articles

Get Creative and Form That Marketing Partnership

by Alf Nucifora

With the economy tightening up, now is the time to consider how to squeeze maximum value out of those scarce marketing dollars. Cross promotion comes to immediate mind as one of the easiest and most efficient strategies for achieving that goal.

At its core, cross promotion is nothing more than joining forces with compatible partners so that all parties can more effectively exploit each others' marketplaces. The potential marketing payoff is big because partners can successfully expand their business by capitalizing on one another's existing customer base. It is a classic case of marketing synergism applied to attitude, strategy and marketing expense.

Cross promotions include bundled offerings, cause marketing, co-branding, co-op marketing and shared space. They will often involve a frequent user program and tend to be more commonly applied in the consumer retail sector. But that 's not to say that they can't work just as effectively in the B-to-B, government and not-for-profit arenas.

Is It Worth The Effort?

Yes it is. If executed properly, cross promotion achieves the following:

  • Encourages customer trial
  • Stimulates repeat purchase by offering more value for the current customer
  • Optimizes and multiplies the value of limited marketing dollars
  • Can generate free media coverage
  • Acts as a facilitator for customers of mutual interest, e.g., two separate sets of pet owners, one of whom buys a specific brand of pet food and the other that buys exclusively from a pet retailing chain. The common denominator is pet ownership. The facilitator is the cross promotion between the pet food brand and the retailer.
  • Provides the weapon to out-market the big guys
  • Lends itself to viral marketing by providing convenience, maximizing the experience and building the relationship

Unfortunately, many cross promotions fail for the simple reason that they are driven by the wrong intent. An effective cross promotion is more than just two parties sharing point-of-sale material. It requires mutual commitment. It can never be self-serving, i.e., how well does it work for me rather than how well does it work for us. There has to be a quid pro quo for both parties and agreements whether contractual or philosophical must be faithfully kept.

Cross promotion in and of itself does not require specialized marketing skills or a major commitment in dollars. It does, however, demand a willingness to be imaginative, aggressive and experimental. The refrain should always be, "Why not? What's to lose?"

According to Kare Anderson, an expert on cross promotion strategy and principal of the Say It Better Center, a California-based communications consulting group, the best cross promotions are built on value. As a result of the promotion, the customer responds to the marketer by saying, "I know you and I trust you. You are obviously a thoughtful, credible brand, and therefore I will buy from you." But, notes Anderson, cross promotions have to be more than just a discounted offer. The better ones tend to be information-driven in that they provide informative as well as monetary value to the customer. Says Anderson, "I get excited by cross promotion. It's a most efficient tool and it forces the marketer to become more customer-centered. There's also the thrill of putting unlikely allies together, the more unlikely the better. That adds to the customer experience."

Beginners Tips

Anderson suggests the following low-risk and high opportunity tactics for jumpstarting that first cross promotion:

  • Print joint promotional messages on each other's sales receipts
  • Offer a reduced price, special service or convenience if customers buy products from you and your partner
  • Hang signs or merchandising posters promoting each other on walls, windows, product displays, etc.
  • Mention one another's benefits when speaking at local events or being interviewed by the media
  • Drop each parties flyers into shopping bags
  • Pool mailing lists and send out joint promotional postcards and e-mail messages
  • Promote your partner's products during their slow times and ask them to do the same for you
  • Share inexpensive ad cost for local shopping newspapers or non-profit event programs
  • Put one another's promotional messages on Lucite counter stands or floor stands in waiting areas
  • Encourage your staff to mention how your partner's products can be used with yours
  • Give your partner's products when they buy a large quantity of your product and ask your partner to do the same
  • Co-produce an in-store or office event, demonstration, celebrity appearance or lecture

Pulling It All Together

Anderson cites an example of how all of these effective elements came together in one successful cross promotion. In the "I Got Shot and Survived" program, a pediatrician practice joined forces with a children's museum, pizza chain, soccer coaches, school principals, city health directors, shopper newspaper, video rental chain and stores selling toys, ice cream and children's clothing. The program offered free immunizations for kids on Saturdays just before school started. Immunizations and on-site counseling on how kids can protect their teeth while playing sports were offered at family-convenient times in a roomy, cheerful children's store with a party atmosphere where kids were the center of attention. Parents heard about the offer through all partners' and received free snack coupons that they could use to reward their kids for receiving their shots.

The keys to success were a common market, non-competing products or services, shared values and comparably valued resources that each party was asked to contribute to the cross promotion. Partners created a "passion bond" relationship with each other, their customers and even others who didn't need shots but were motivated to try the partners' services anyway.

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