Dear Dan: We're looking to expand our marketing reach, and would like to explore how to promote jointly with non-competing businesses. Do you have some ideas on how and where to do that? - Partnering Up
Dear Partnering: Why sell just one product or service when you could sell two or three? And why promote to only your own prospect lists when other businesses could help you promote to their lists as well? That, in short, is what cross selling and cross promotion are about - two inexpensive and cost-effective ways to generate sales and expand your marketing efforts. Consider French Toast, a school uniform company that sells almost everything kids need to wear to school - except shoes.
French Toast swapped coupons in its outgoing mail orders with shoe seller Stride Rite Kids. Both businesses were targeting the same customers (moms with school-age kids), but one sold school uniforms and the other kids shoes. So both could benefit from the partnership.
French Toast hooked up with Stride Rite at CrossPartner.com, a new website that facilitates such matchups. CrossPartner allows members to post, buy or swap marketing opportunities such as coupon inserts, signage, invoice stuffers, Internet banners, emails, menu ads and event sponsorships on its site. IntroNiche.com, another such site, launched in early 2008.
Such sites function as a marketplace where promotional opportunities can be sold or swapped by any business, organization or non-profit. CrossPartner facilitates the process with a customer profile search that lets users find opportunities based on market factors such as lifestyle, income, ethnicity, religion or even Zip Code.
So even if you don't want to cross market yourself, you may be able to generate income by selling cross marketing opportunities to other small businesses. Businesses can swap marketing opportunities with non-competing partners at no cost.
Companies that sell business-to-business can also use the technique to join non-competing businesses to co-produce events, share trade show booths, link websites or pool mailing lists.
Cross-Sell Your Own Products or Services
You can also cross-sell within your own business by offering customers a product or service related to whatever they are already buying. It can be as simple as the waiter asking if the customer wants a salad to go with that main course. It's a subtle way of encouraging clients to spend a little more.
And customers generally don't mind. Surveys show that most buyers appreciate being told about additional products or services that might better meet their needs or about new items that were not offered in the past. It's a way of demonstrating that you are aware of their needs and care about their satisfaction.
The key to successful cross selling is to focus your efforts on meeting the customers needs rather than simply pushing more products and services. Treat the cross-selling process like a suggestion so customers will volunteer more information about their requirements. Here are some ways to improve your opportunities for cross selling:
1) Stay focused. Don't overload customers with unrelated cross-selling suggestions or you'll blow it. To gain the extra sale, you might simply need to mention that the other products or services are available.
2) Train your team. Build your approach around serving the customer, not just selling more stuff. Describe how the additional products or services can further solve the customer's problem.
3) Cross sell online. Position cross-sell items on your website where they can help educate shoppers on the depth and variety of what you offer. Mix and match items.
4) Offer a range of prices. If you suggest three items to complement a product, try to offer a mix of price points.
5) Post expert recommendations. One way to facilitate cross selling is to state specific recommendations from professionals, experts or other customers. This could be a chef's recommendation on a menu, a doctor's recommendation on a mailer or lists of related items that other customers have purchased on your website.
6) Try product or service bundles. Bundling has long been used as a way to entice shoppers to buy not just a single item, but an entire group of items that go together. Offering a price break on package deals will help close the sale.