Cross-promote and your business can have its cake—and eat it, too

Cross-promotion is probably one of the most cost-effective and accessible marketing tools. When done right, it can yield lasting benefits. 

Luckily, it seems that the Heights offers a nearly unending buffet of opportunities for businesses, organizations, brands and events, so all can eat well from the cross-promotion table.

What is cross-promotion and how does it work?

The widely accepted definition of cross-promotion is “the cooperative marketing by two or more companies or institutions of one another's products.” For the Heights, I’d take that definition a little further and say that cross-promotion is “the use of existing events to earn more from what’s already here.”

Some crucial components of an effective cross-promotion are: borrowed interest; fit; mutual benefit; equally proportioned/equitable resources; and execution, execution, execution.  

I’ve seen recent examples to illustrate effective application of the above components for successful cross-promotions in our community. Let’s take the recent Happy 5K race in Cleveland Heights: Several businesses—such as B Side, Black Box Fix, the BottleHouse Brewery, Tavern Company and Revive—offered participants specials and discounts on race day.

In addition to promotions that piggyback on the day of events, such as the 5K or Heights Music Hop, promotions can be built to take advantage of events before, during and after the centerpiece event.

The existing event should have an audience that is valuable to your business, but also one that you don’t or can’t normally reach. This helps you earn visits from new customers. 

An example of successful borrowed interest from an ongoing event can be found in the Zagara’s Tiger Snack Pack fundraiser. Zagara’s Marketplace (a client of Dorsey & Company) created the Tiger Snack Pack to support the high school athletics department during the football season. New Heights Grill participated in the fundraiser by including a coupon in each pack which, when redeemed, directed 10 percent of meal purchases to Heights High athletics.

Promotional partners should have sufficient similarity in target audience, image and ability to execute their side of the promotion. All partners need to be able to see clear benefits. This requires attention to all steps in the offer, not just those that pertain to you. If the promotion calls for you to distribute something to customers in your store, don’t fall down on this step just because you’ve already gotten the benefit you sought.

Some think small businesses should avoid partnering with large ones. Not true. The crucial element is capacity to execute. 

For example, a three-person dog-walking service should never distribute $1 off tickets to the local movie theater, which in turn will offer a free trial dog walk during the showing of "101 Dalmatians." The dog-walkers could easily be overwhelmed by the response, disappointing theater customers, and both businesses would suffer. Proportionality could be achieved by offering a free week of dog walking when a customer buys a first month of service. Here, the purchase requirement reduces the number who will redeem the offer. The theater and the dog-walker will benefit and exploit the "101 Dalmatians" awareness, and give the customers a great value.

Execution starts at the beginning of the cross-promotion planning process. All parties take an inventory of their strengths and weaknesses, resources (human, capital and other) and administrative support. I recommend that both parties agree on what will happen and what the respective customers will get; the respective tasks and roles of each partner; a designated point person for each partner; communication (what, when, where, addresses, phone numbers and web addresses); training, and ensuring that every staff member has promotional details or can direct inquiries to the right person.

Finally, remember: NOTHING just happens. Even if it does, it won’t happen that way EVERY time unless you mutually agree on assigned roles.

Increasing sales is hard enough to do alone. Why not recruit an ally in the effort with cross-promotions that feed all parties? Opportunities are ripe for the picking in the Heights.

Jinida Doba

Jinida Doba is an associate with Cleveland Heights-based Dorsey & Company Strategic Consultants to Management. Doba has called Cleveland Heights home since 2010.

Read More on Height of Competition
Volume 8, Issue 11, Posted 3:19 PM, 10.30.2015