When most of us think about marketing our business, we think about setting up a website and social media, getting business cards done up, perhaps having a logo professionally designed, and (although out of the comfort zone for many of us) doing some free public speaking. If the budget allows, we may delve into print, Google, or Facebook ads, radio, and even TV spots. Some of us even “think outside of the box” and advertise on our vehicles or give out swag (“freebies”) to entice potential customers. All of these methods are viable – the results vary greatly, depending on many factors, such as quality and appropriateness to your business and target audience.
But what about cross-promotional ideas? Coming up with advertising possibilities with complementary businesses that you may or may not already have a relationship with can open up new audiences for you.
Following are some low-cost ideas for win-win promotions that you can do with another person or organization:
A few years ago, we ran a contest to help us decide which of our portfolio pieces we were going to print, frame, and display on our office walls. This actually turned out to be a win-win-win situation, as not only did we have something to talk about on social media and our website, but it also promoted our clients, whose projects were getting publicized, and some of our favourite clients kindly donated their products as prizes. The promotional value of those gifts was certainly higher than what they cost the clients. It’s pretty easy to tweet about the chance to win organic chocolate or natural cosmetics – who doesn’t want to win those? The whole contest was easy to set up and introduced new audiences to all involved at a very low cost. And it was a lot of fun!
2. Guest Posting
We discussed this last week, so I won’t re-invent the wheel here. Suffice it to say, you can post on others’ blogs or vice versa. Again, win-win.
3. Being a Podcast Guest
Whether you’ve got your own podcast or not, there are many others out there in related/complementary fields to what you do. Do a Google search or look through iTunes podcasts to see all the shows there are. You probably won’t want to start with the most popular ones (unless you’re already quite well known) – start with friends or some of the smaller or newer shows, who might very likely be looking for guests – and send them an email, introducing yourself and explaining why you think you’d be an ideal guest on their show. Give them a few topics that you consider yourself an expert in, that you could discuss on the podcast. Once you’ve been on a few smaller shows, you can start to build a portfolio of podcasts you’ve been on to help get you on bigger and more popular shows.
Aside from just plain doing something good, if you volunteer or donate to a cause, a nice benefit may be that you get your company name or logo included in the organization’s advertising material – perhaps on a sign, website, or t-shirt.
5. Swap stacks of business cards
This may seem a bit “old school” but it can still be quite effective – and low cost. Be selective, but find complementary businesses that you honestly feel good about endorsing and, if they feel the same about you, trade a small pile of business cards to make available to your and their clientele. Some businesses have boards for this exact purpose (if so, try to find ones that don’t just take anyone who feels like putting their cards up); others just keep a book or box of cards to refer their clients to. Either is a good way to reach a new audience, as your card comes with the endorsement of a trusted professional/organization.
6. Tweet or retweet other’s content
Don’t do this with any expectations, but often when you tweet or retweet other’s posts, they will be nice enough to return the favour now or in the future. Make it convenient for them and others to tweet (or post on other social media channels) your content, with share buttons easily found with your published online content.
7. Speak at Workshops
Generally, only the top-billed speakers get paid to do this, but find workshops or conferences geared toward your target audience and offer to speak on your area of expertise for free or in exchange for the cost of attendance. Aside from the exposure at the event, you’ll likely get promoted on its website and other ads – and, conversely, you should promote the event on your website and social media platforms. Just make sure to choose reputable, worthwhile events that will get a decent turnout, so as to not waste your time.
The idea here is pretty straightforward: if someone hires your or buys your product, you offer them a discount if they hire or purchase from someone else. It can be a physical coupon or something on your website. It’s up to you and the other business as to the size of that discount, but do make it significant. 5% off isn’t much incentive. As with exchanging business cards, this technique should only be done with others whom you trust/respect and they do the same for you. Keep in mind it’s your reputation at stake when you refer to another business/professional.
9. Offer a new service or product together
The possibilities here, really, are endless and greatly depend on what sort of products or services you and the other person/company you want to work with provide. If you make organic chocolates and your friend makes organic red wine, you could offer special Valentine’s Day baskets with both of your products included. If you’re a reflexologist and your friend sells natural skin care products, you could offer a package deal with a 1/2-hour foot massage and 1/2-hour facial for a special price. The logistics will, of course, depend on several factors, but the promotional possibilities essentially double the target audience for each of you.
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cross-promotional ideas to breathe new life into your business. Try some of these or have a brainstorming session with others you may want to work with and see what you can come up with. As always, have fun!