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When a children's movie comes out, we often see the major characters as toy figurines at McDonald's.  This is what we call cross-marketing, and the strategy is a lot more common than we think. 

How do we define cross-marketing?  Well, at its core, it is the “purchase” of the client-base of a well-established business to sell and promote our own business or product.

The word purchase is in quotation marks as not all purchases involve money.  It all depends on what you bring to the table. 

Imagine you are an international toy company selling to the same age group as the film in question, which will distribute its film around the world. At the same time their customers love "happy meals" which can be purchased at restaurants across the planet. Chances are high that all players in this strategy absorb their own costs, do not ask for money exchange and pool their resources in one basket to boost each other’s sales. It's simple, with this association more movies tickets are sold, more toys are sold and children eat more at McDonald's. Everybody wins.

In the previous example, all players had more or less the same thing to offer others. But some associations involve players of different sizes. In this case, it is possible that an exchange of money or service may be required to buy into the customer-base of a bigger player than you.

This concept is very interesting, but as our focus is on small business, how can we use it?
Cross-marketing is a very interesting way to accelerate the growth of your business. And the options are many. There are two main things to consider to maximize the results of this strategy:

  1. - Carefully select the channel that you what to use. If you are a photographer who specializes in wedding portraits, it's probably unwise to choose senior’s homes. You will probably have very little return on your investment. But if you are a massage therapist, retirement homes can be a good channel. 
  2. - Prioritize a channel that "values" what you offer in order to restore the balance of power in the negotiation. In our previous example, a massage therapist in senior’s homes offers added value to the residents. So you have something to offer that is very valuable and the conditions of the association are more favorable.

But where to find these established channels? As long as they have the same client profile as your customers, you will find them all around you:

  1. - A temporary booth in a mall/convention/conference
  2. - Groups/associations in your area
  3. - Established businesses
  4. - Internet sites with high traffic
  5. - Etc

Why include this in your marketing strategy? To speed up your customer development.

So how would one go about doing this? First, you have to identify channels that would be interesting for you. Then, you have to clearly understand what extra value you can bring to the other party’s client-base so that they understand that it is an advantage to them as well to include you in their offering.  Once these steps are completed, you have to pitch your idea to each option and see how receptive they are. Some will not be open, others will require too much in return. But when the conditions are beneficial for both parties, you can access a large customer base and create great visibility for yourself and your business.

Stéphane Elmaleh-Riel, B.Ed., MBA
Marketing consultant