Two Brands are Better Than One
by Chad Rueffert

Cross promotion is one of the great marketing revolutions of the last decade.  It likely started long ago, but has now become one of the greatest tools for extending the value and effectiveness of marketing dollars.  It’s a marketing tool that has been used successfully by large brands but has yet to make it into the plans of most small and medium sized businesses.

Cross promotion, partnering, team marketing, strategic alliances.  They are all words for the same thing:  two or more companies joining together to take advantage of each other’s strengths to increase sales.

Almost every major marketer uses cross-promotion as a strategy.  Starbucks cross-promotes with airlines and supermarkets, using them as additional outlets for their product and giving their marketing partners another reason for customers to choose them over the competition. Eddie Bauer cross promotes with Ford Motor Company.  Credit card companies cross promote with anything.  Why?  Because it works -- for several reasons.

Increased Reach and Awareness
Your message no longer just reaches your target audience, it reaches your partner’s as well.  If your partner’s demographic audience is the same as yours, you reach them twice as many times.  If it’s different, you’ve expanded your potential customer base.

Especially for small and new businesses, partnering with an established brand with built-in credibility allows you to attach some of that same credibility to your product.  People will assume you are respectable, successful and desirable if you partner with another company that has already earned those consumer responses.  Cross promote with Coca-Cola and hopefully everyone who likes Coke will now like your product by association.

You can do more and different things in a cross-promotion than you can in other advertising vehicles.  A tuxedo shop that partners with a bridal shop can now hold fashion shows for couples.  A camera company that partners with an airline can offer chances to win a photo-safari in Africa just for promoting the airline in their own advertising.

Cost Savings
A thirty-second television spot promoting two companies costs the same as one you buy for yourself.  Therefore, you can reach the same number of people at half the cost, increase your frequency of impressions, or increase the total number of people you reach with the same budget.

Once you begin thinking of cross-promotion as a potential marketing strategy, it is usually easy to find an appropriate partner.  As a general rule, use these criteria for choosing a partner.

Respectability in the Market
Be sure your marketing partner has a good image and reputation.  One bad member of the team usually ends up damaging the entire group.

Don’t Compete for Customer Dollars
If your customer usually makes an “either/or” decision between your product and another then cross-promotion is a mistake.  A customer who goes into Barnes & Noble is probably not making a choice between buying a cup of Starbucks Coffee and a book.  Chances are they’ll buy both.  

Equal Commitment
Both partners should be equally committed to the partnership and have equal rewards from its success.

Value Added
Your partner should have something you don’t and vice versa.  Look for someone who can enlarge your audience or add respectability to your new product or has an already established promotion you can join.

Huge companies with multi-million dollar advertising budgets are not the only ones who can make use of cross promotion.  Get creative and you’ll find unlimited possibilities, including the following:

Media Cross Promotion
Radio stations and other media are often willing to cross promote.  You provide something of interest to their audience and they provide publicity in exchange.  A cookie company once made a name for itself simply by delivering free samples to every radio DJ in their state.

Promotion by Location
Shopping centers, auto malls and downtown business districts often pool money to attract consumers to their particular locale.  This builds brand awareness and traffic for everyone even if your competitor gets the sale.

Supplier and Manufacturer Co-Op
This is a time-honored and effective way to cross promote.  If you distribute a product for a particular manufacturer, it behooves them to help you promote you business in order to increase their sales.

Charity Cross Promotion
Many charities seek out companies to sponsor events or fund raisers.  This can be a particularly good way to gain respect in local communities while also building a brand name, generating awareness and helping out a good cause.

Next Step Cross Promotion
One of my best customers is a chain of formalwear stores.  Couples in the process of getting married usually go through a series of predictable steps in the process.  They cross promote with jewelers and bridal shops and photographers and invitation printers.  Each marketing partner pushes the customer along to the next step in the chain.  Often, the partners will offer discounts at each other’s stores giving the customer a value added reason for taking the next step.  

Cross promotion, done correctly, can result in higher visibility, efficiency and cost effectiveness than you can achieve alone, and it may just lead to other areas where you and your new partner can improve both your businesses.