Business and Operations
Marketing insights: Are two brands better than one?
How to get better reach and more customers by pairing up with a like-minded company
By Michelle Brisebois
Synergy happens when the sum of something is greater than its individual parts.
Synergy happens when the sum of something is greater than its individual parts. At its core – synergy is about combinations that are magical. For example, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were arguably much stronger together than they were on their own.
From the Wright brothers to the 1987 Edmonton Oilers, great teams make great progress. A bit of marketing synergy can be yours if you decide to embark upon a cross-promotion with the right partner. Cross-promotion is defined as a marketing activity where customers of one product or service are targeted with an offer of another (usually related) product. The trick is to carefully choose which brands to hitch your wagon to and to be clear in your mind as to what you wish the end result to be.
Look for partners who have similar customers to you, but who have different products or services. If you sell upscale takeout menu items then a local dry cleaner would be a likely ally. Think about your product – in this case it’s geared towards people with a disposable income who want to save time. Whether I’m buying a ready-made meal or a cleaned, pressed, ready-to-wear clothing item – I’m really buying myself free time. The goal here is to share customers. Your customers become aware of and start to buy from your cross-promotional partner, and in turn, their patrons come to you.
Once you’ve established that your partner’s customer base is in simpatico, verify that their brand image is too. Your brand will be linked to your promotional partner’s so you’ll want to look at their brand health to make sure you won’t tarnish yours. Does your prospective partner have the same approach to customer service, product quality and business culture? How do they treat their staff, their vendors, and the environment? Is their tone and manner a good fit with yours? If your cross-promotional partner has a rough and tumble motorcycle gang image, perhaps it doesn’t square well with your family-friendly positioning?
After completing a thorough inspection of brand, target and tone, look for all of the touch points you can leverage effectively. First, consider the digital assets. Can you both place messages on each other’s websites, Facebook pages and Twitter posts? Additionally, you and your cross-promotional partner can kick it up old school with bag stuffers, coupons or print ads that combine both of your brands. If either of you have a newsletter (print or electronic), perhaps you can include a product spotlight that features the other’s business? With an electronic newsletter, you can insert links that click through to promotional offers and downloadable coupons on each other’s website.
Events are another means of cross-promoting two businesses. Perhaps a local sports equipment retailer sponsors a golf tournament and you are the food vendor of choice? Also, you could offer a contest for your customers, with prizes contributed by your partner. Your partner could then have their own contest featuring your products or services as a prize. Why not approach a local moving company and tell them that you’ll give each of their customers a free pizza on the day they move into their new home located within a 10-kilometre radius around your restaurant? They likely won’t have the oven hooked up and being new to the neighbourhood, they won’t know where to go to order some takeout. If your delivery arrives as part of the moving day deal – they’ll love the way you’ve made them feel welcome and you’ll have captured a new customer before they find your competition. For the moving company, this can be a great value added to offer their clients.
The granddaddy of all cross-promotions has to be the McDonald’s/Disney Happy Meal. Could you partner with a local business to give a “toy” surprise with one of your bundled meals? Perhaps it’s candles from a local gift store to make the takeout romantic? If your partner has gift cards – you can include one loaded up with an amount for customers to save on a purchase from their business. If you have gift cards – consider offering them as a gift with purchase to your cross-promotion partner.
As with any marketing initiative, you must measure, measure, measure. Did your partnership move the needle? Did you see the desired results? If you’re simply wishing to create awareness then this might be hard to measure. You could approximate it by measuring visits to your website, as an increase in traffic might suggest increased awareness. If you’re looking to drive new customers to your door or to reactivate lapsed customers then make sure your team is asking each customer about how they heard of the promotion or make sure a coupon or code is presented that connects the purchase to your initiative.
Great partnerships work because each party has complementary goals and because the partners feed off of each other’s energy to take success to the next level. Seriously consider a cross-promotion with a like-minded partner. You may just be the next great team.
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical, financial services and wine industries. She specializes in retail brand strategies.