There’s a reason “free advertising” is one of the top searched terms by local business owners each day. Small business marketing ain’t cheap, and anyone who runs a local business or supports local businesses knows it. That’s why we’re constantly on the hunt for creative, cost-effective ways you can stretch your resources. Let’s talk about why you should share the love with joint marketing agreements and referrals with other local businesses, thanks to some helpful small business cross promotion ideas.

Why explore small business cross marketing ideas as a venture? You’ll:
  • Support other local businesses.
  • Get cheap or even free marketing and advertising.
  • Increase your exposure within the community.
  • Build your network and connections.

7 Cross Promotion Ideas & Examples to Get You Started

First, look for locally owned small businesses in your area, especially any that seem like their customers may be similar to yours or their offering may be in the same market or industry as you. Then, get to work with our top 7 ideas for cross promotion with local businesses.

1. Trade counter space for small business promotional materials.

You would be surprised at the number of local businesses that display a bulletin board or dedicate counter space for other local postings. So it’s time to go make some new friends and do some cross brand promoting!

If a business you approach already has a dedicated space where they share business cards and flyers for other businesses, politely ask how you might be able to get in on the action. If they don’t already take advantage of cross promotion marketing, probe to see if they’d be willing to start. In either instance, don’t forget to offer to return the favor!

2. Feature each other in e-newsletters.

On your list of potential local business partners, find a couple that offer email and text subscriptions to customers. Sign up for their messages and newsletters, and see if there could be a place to mention your business within.

When you approach another business owner with this idea, counter-offer with how you could see promoting their products or services in your own communications. This should be a pretty even trade if you intend to make it happen without money exchanging hands. Be ready to hand over some dough if the promotion is more one-sided.

3. Don’t forget direct mail.

Direct mail works especially well in generating leads in the form of website and social visits as well as store traffic. Coupons are an especially straight-forward way to bring in consumers who can then be upsold or cross-sold.

Approach small business direct mail promotions in the same manner you would text and email newsletters. The best scenario for this cross marketing idea is a mutually beneficial trade of brand or product placement in upcoming direct mail campaigns from both small businesses.

4. Make friends on social media.

Cross promotion ideas for social media are all about shared audiences and interests. But instead of immediately friending businesses you think are a good fit, also analyze their followers and engagement. Look at how many people friend or follow their business. Do they look willing and able to purchase your products or services? Examine the business’s posts, and check to see if they’re getting comments or likes. Oh, and ensure they have positive ratings and reviews if you don’t want any negative feedback to bleed over onto your own accounts.

If everything appears to be on the up and up, make friends the social media way! Follow their business, and reach out via a direct message on each social platform about the opportunity to cross promote. Then, share ideas like tagging each other in posts, or even sharing the cost of an ad that features both brands. Here’s more on the different types of Facebook ads you could run.

5. Consider giveaways or samples.

Ask local businesses whose products or services seem related to yours if they have anything they’d like to give your customers access to (either for free or at a discount) in exchange for the hyper-targeted, increased exposure.

On the flip side, think about a product or service you regularly use as a free sample, consultation or introductory offering. Reach out to these same local businesses, and pitch them the reverse offer. After all, who doesn’t like free stuff?

Some real-life cross promotion examples:
  • Florists, Gift Shops & Bakeries – Business probably gets really busy during holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. And on those busy holidays, you probably sell bundles and gift baskets that include your best selling products, and maybe some others that go well with what you typically sell. What if you could source the complementary products from another local business at a discount or even for free? Is there a chocolate shop that gives away nicely packaged samples just down the street from your flower shop? That’s the business you’ll want to explore teaming up with for cross brand promotion.
  • Pet Service Providers – Let’s say you run a local animal shelter, or you facilitate pet adoptions. As a small business cross marketing idea, think about services your customer would need the second they bring their new furry friend home. These could include obedience training, grooming services and even veterinarian services. Do you know any local businesses who would love to be mentioned the second you hand over a fur-baby to its new fur-parent? These are the small businesses you’ll want to explore cross promotion ideas with.

6. Join forces with charitable giving or community involvement.

Do you already support local charities or sponsor local sports teams? If not, doing so really helps get your name out in your community and generate goodwill.

However, sometimes a sponsorship can get expensive (like in the case of some Chambers of Commerce). As sponsorship fees rise, you can stretch your budget by sharing costs with like-minded partners.

7. Print special offers on receipts.

Hopefully you already include coupons or special offers at the end of printed receipts or as part of your text and email receipts. Since you’re already doing the work, it doesn’t take much extra effort to share this space with other local businesses, in exchange for the same from them.

The Ground Rules of Cross Promotion Marketing

Before you begin ramping up cross promotions and marketing partnerships in your neck of the woods, let’s lay some ground rules.

  • Don’t venture too far off the reservation. Ensure any companies you approach for cross brand promotion share similar target customers, brand qualities and even core values. If you reach too far outside your comfort zone, you could end up diluting your brand and even damaging your reputation.
  • Do a bit of cyber-stalking. Before you reach out to anyone, do a bit of research on them. Are they well-liked, meaning they have plenty of positive reviews online? If they don’t, proceed with caution.
  • Focus on trust. If you’ve gone into business with a family member or friend, you know all too well how critical it is to trust someone who could ultimately impact the fate of your business. Similarly, other owners you team up with in the small business marketing arena should give you the warm and fuzzies right off the bat. If they don’t, play it safe and move on.
  • Set boundaries. Before you get in too deep, set clear boundaries on exactly how long of a joint advertising program you want to initiate, exactly which products, services or SKUs it will include, and precisely how you want your business being represented. Check in often to make sure your brand isn’t being over- or under-utilized in their cross promotion marketing efforts.
  • Keep clear records. Both parties should keep track of customer data after purchases. So share this data often, and ensure the relationship remains a win-win for both businesses. If the partnership involves any transfer of money between your business and theirs, document how and when that will occur, and consider letting an accountant and even an attorney review the contract.
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