A marketing strategy that:
- Skyrockets your brand’s reach in a cost-effective way (even if you’re on a shoestring budget).
- Helps you build relationships with top names in your industry (even if nobody knows you yet).
- Gets you tons of PR and brand mentions almost overnight (without the extra budget on ads).
What’s that? You say that’s too good to be true? Well, this strategy does exist. It’s called cross-promotion.
In this guide, you won’t only learn what cross-promotion is, but also get a list of 11 actionable ideas to implement in your own business. Let’s start with the basics.
What is cross-promotion?
Cross-promotion is the practice of building strategic partnerships with other brands to increase awareness and drive sales while reducing advertising costs.
This strategy helps you link arms with other businesses and ”cross-promote” each other’s products and services. By partnering with other brands, you can widely reduce marketing costs and improve your value chain strategy.
“Due to the incredibly competitive world we live in, where manufacturing products is easier than ever, high-quality, relevant, and timely sales and marketing can be a make or break,” says Kathryn Kosmides.
And the right cross-promotion campaign can provide you with the competitive advantage you need in the hyper-competitive world we live in.
For instance, take a look at this picture:
This is cross-promotion in its purest expression.
By featuring Shrek with their products, McDonald’s attracted more customers (e.g. parents and “cinephiles”), while DreamWorks (the company behind the Shrek franchise) increased exposure and anticipation for the movie.
Now, does that mean you need deep pockets to tap into this strategy? Of course not.
Regardless of the scope of your business, you can implement cross-promotion effectively. Let’s explore how.
How to create a cross-promotional marketing campaign
Cross-promotion is a bit like fishing: to catch something, you need the right lure.
How do you find that lure? You start by knowing and understanding who your potential partners are and what they want.
Many companies approach cross-promotion as if they were entitled to attention. But if you want other businesses to partner with you, you must answer the question: what’s in it for them? It might seem obvious at first, but you’d be surprised by the number of people who ignore this simple fact.
Before you start the process, you must perform industry research and create a list of all the potential partners you can find. Then, think of creative ways in which you can benefit them.
For instance, if you’re the owner of a restaurant, you could partner with local butcher shops. You use their meat for your dishes while they promote your restaurant. The point is that you should look for leaks in your partner’s strategy and find how to plug them.
To start, here’s a list of 11 ideas.
11 cross-promotion ideas to follow
Keep in mind, this isn’t a comprehensive list of cross-promotion strategies. It does, however, include some of the most creative ways to start on the right foot.
1. Run a co-branded contest (and boost it with paid media)
Brands often underestimate the power of free.
People are willing to do crazy stuff just to get free things. Reebok, for example, ran a contest a few years ago promising a one-year sponsorship to whoever got the biggest Reebok logo tattoo.
Surprisingly, many people participated and the campaign was a success. The point? If people are willing to get a logo tattoo for free stuff, there’s a lot you can accomplish by offering something for nothing.
When running a co-branded contest, you can tap into the natural longing people have for free things. That’s exactly what Fabletics and Bliss, two retail companies, did to get more traction for an Instagram giveaway.
By doing this, they built more buzz around the event and garnered more participants.
You can apply the same strategy by partnering with other businesses and running a massive contest, giveaway, or sweepstake. Create a product bundle where each of your partners gives away something special.
Since each brand would promote the contest to their respective audiences, you’d drive much more attention than doing it alone. But instead of just publishing the contest on your social accounts and praying that people respond, you should launch a paid media campaign on top of your organic efforts.
Think about it. Companies spend over $100 billion a year on paid ads for a reason: they work.
By promoting your contest through PPC platforms, you’ll increase your chances of success. But unless you have experience with PPC platforms, your smartest bet is to look for someone who does (e.g. an agency or consultant). Just make sure to find someone with deep experience in your field.
A quick look at their website will tell you whether they’re a good fit. You should do your homework and research some agencies before making a decision. The more experience an agency has in your industry, the better the results you’ll see.
In short, the right contest, with the right partners, supported by a well-executed PPC campaign can drive massive results.
2. Partner with businesses in a different vertical
The whole point of cross-promotion is to build partnerships where all parties benefit. If you approach direct competitors, you probably won’t get good results. That’s why you should look for partners outside your main industry.
For instance, if you’re a psychologist, you could partner with local massage parlors that will recommend your services to their stressed clients, and vice versa.
If you’re the owner of marketing automation software, you could partner with accountants who send enterprise referrals your way. In exchange, you could give them free software accounts for their marketing efforts.
And if you’re a business consultant, you could think creatively and partner with bar owners who recommend your services to drunk entrepreneurs who need some help.
To find potential partnerships, ask yourself:
- What businesses target the same audience I do, but aren’t my direct competitors?
- What can I bring to the table? Do I have a special skill, product, or service I can offer in exchange for exposure?
By answering these questions, you’ll come up with creative ideas for cross-promotion.
3. Get booked as a guest on top-rated podcasts
It’s not a secret that podcasting has become a favorite marketing channel for brands of all types.
There’s a great reason for that. Take Buzzsprout, for example. It’s a free podcast hosting solution that reports 70,892,876 podcast downloads every single month.
And Buzzsprout is just one of many podcasting platforms out there.
Here’s the good news: Tapping into this trend is easier than it might seem. You see, podcast owners are always looking to fill time at their shows. It’s their job. And if you make their life easier by filling that time, they’ll reward you with free exposure.
But how can you find podcasts in your industry? Here’s where LinkedIn comes in. Thanks to LinkedIn’s filtering options, finding podcast hosts in your industry is relatively simple.
Simply type “Podcasts” in the search box located at the upper-left corner and then select your industry of choice. LinkedIn will then provide you with a huge list of podcast producers and hosts. Just add them as connections and start building genuine relationships.
To make the deal even sweeter, you could prepare a special discount or offer for the host’s audience. This way, they’ll have an extra reason to take you as a guest.
4. Repurpose your content
Many people believe that cross-promotion is all about finding external partners, but that’s not always the case. You can also cross-promote with your own assets.
For instance, if you’re already creating blog content, you could make it more visible by featuring it on your homepage, just like Legacy Healing does.
When you visit their site, one of the first things you stumble upon is a section called “Article Contents,” where they feature their most popular blog posts. This is a great way to increase blog awareness for new visitors and answer some of their most common questions.
Or if you’re producing YouTube videos, think of ways to make them available in other formats. By transcribing those videos and turning them into articles, for example, you could reach audiences who prefer reading over watching
The point is that you have to think outside the box and look for ways to get the most out of the assets you already have.
5. Organize an industry event
When done right, events can be a great way to build trust with your audience and position yourself as the go-to leader in your industry.
Take Salesforce’s Dreamforce for example.
Each year, about 100,000 people attend this event. It’s a major contributor to Salesforce’s adoption among mainstream audiences. HubSpot’s Inbound event is another example of this strategy in action. They even bought a separate domain to build a subsidiary brand around HubSpot’s culture and values.
Now you’re probably thinking: “That sounds great, but putting together an event is expensive, right?”
Well, not quite. Here’s where cross-promotion comes in.
By finding sponsors, speakers, and partners, organizing a solid event around your business isn’t that hard or expensive. Besides, it doesn’t have to be an in-person event. Virtual events are definitely a thing nowadays, and they’re relatively inexpensive.
Simply make a list of brands that might be potentially interested in sponsoring your event and start a conversation. Even if you have to make a moderate initial investment, a well-executed event always pays off.
6. Mention influencers on your blog
If you pay attention to 2021’s Super Bowl ads, you’ll find a trend: most of them tapped celebrities and influencers.
Why? In a word: empathy.
The right influencers can make your brand more human and relatable. Besides, by featuring people your audience respects and admires, you borrow some of their credibility to boost yours.
The good news is that you don’t need a Super Bowl budget to implement this strategy. First, create a list of some of the major influencers in your industry. A simple Excel spreadsheet can be helpful for this.
Now, with your influencers list in place, you have two options:
- Link or mention influencers across your blog content
- Reach out to influencers and ask for feedback
In the first scenario, you’d just want to let them know you mentioned them. Some of them will share your content with their audiences. If you choose the second path, you’ll add an extra layer to the process. Instead of just mentioning influencers, you must contact them before publishing and ask for feedback.
Let them know you’ve been following them for a while and would appreciate some advice to improve your work. Once they respond, implement their input or quote them across your content.
To be fair, most of them won’t bother answering. But some of them will. Even then, this strategy is well worth it.
7. Create a monthly expert roundup
This point is pretty similar to the previous one, but instead of just mentioning influencers on your content, the idea is to create a recurring roundup of experts to discuss a relevant topic.
This can be as elaborate or as simple as you want. For instance, you can run a co-branded monthly webinar where you and your partners invite your respective audiences. But you can also keep it simple and write a blog post.
Here is a perfect example:
Just keep in mind your expert roundup shouldn’t be promotional. To make it work, ensure that it provides value to your audience.
8. Write an eBook in collaboration with your partners
Books and eBooks are excellent tools of persuasion, especially if they talk about a topic the audience is interested in.
Educating your customers is always a good idea. Now, instead of writing an eBook on your own (or paying someone to do so), why don’t you find some partners to join the process?
If you create a co-branded eBook, you’ll get way more exposure and the opportunity to build long-term relationships with strategic partners. And you don’t need to spend a year putting this together.
For instance, you could just pick a few articles from your blog and turn them into an eBook. You could also transcribe and format some of your Youtube videos and use that content to speed up the process
Just make sure the eBook you create is visible. Take a look at LFA Capsule Fillers. When you land on their homepage, you’ll see they feature a free eBook relevant to their audience.
This simple practice has helped them increase customer engagement and drive a higher number of leads. Just remember, creating an eBook and promoting it are two very different things. Make sure you do both.
9. Create shareable assets
In the book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” Robert B. Cialdini introduces the concept of “Reciprocation”. That is the fact that humans tend to reward kind actions. For instance, if someone gives you a Christmas gift, but you don’t have a gift for that person, you’ll probably feel the need to buy them something later.
This principle also applies to business relationships. If you want to find valuable partners for cross-promotion, create something meaningful for them and give it away.
The most common “shareable gifts” include:
- Animation videos
- Blog content
The most important thing isn’t the gift format, but what the gift is all about. It should be something related to your partner’s audience.
For instance, if your partner runs a marketing blog, you should talk about social media, CRO, copywriting, and business strategy. If they own a software company, you should talk about how the product solves problems the audience is facing.
With this list of topics in mind, you should create a high-quality, share-worthy piece of content.
Now, how can you select the right format? The answer lies in the nature of your topic.
For instance, paraphrasing Richter Studios: “Animation videos are especially helpful when you need to explain sophisticated concepts in a visual, easy-to understand way, or the features and benefits of the product are difficult to showcase through custom-filmed footage.”
If the nature of the topic is a bit simpler, a downloadable guide or blog post might cut it.
Now, keep in mind that “simple” doesn’t mean simplistic. Regardless of the format you choose, the content you create should be memorable and extremely useful.
For instance, take a look at this Preply post called 2021’s Most Used Internet Abbreviations for Tweeting and Texting. As Preply helps people learn new languages, this topic is extremely relevant for their audience. Anyone learning a new language should also learn its most common slang and abbreviation words.
Though simple, this post turns out to be really helpful. Once you have a shareable asset in place, it’s time to reach out to your partner and offer full rights to the piece. If you do this right, your partners won’t only feel happy to promote your piece (and brand), but you’ll also develop a long-lasting relationship for future events.
10. Use HARO
HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out. It’s a networking platform where journalists and entrepreneurs can work together and help each other. In short, journalists get relevant stories for their articles and entrepreneurs get free exposure.
If you create a “Source” account, you’ll get daily emails featuring journalists seeking specific stories or angles. Simply take a look through these lists and see if any describe you. If you find an angle where your company may fit in, reach out to the respective journalist and share your story.
The best part? HARO is free. It’s a great way to get some PR without spending a dime.
11. Offer a discount to a partner’s audience
Have you ever heard about Groupon, RetailMeNot, or Savings.com? If so, then you probably know the power of discounts. Loyalty programs and special sales are some of the most effective ways to delight current customers and attract new ones.
Now, what if you applied this strategy with potential partners? Create a referral program where you give a commission (or some kind of reward) every time a partner makes a sale. Bloggers and influencers are especially keen on this kind of offer as they’re always looking for ways to monetize their audiences.
Simple? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.
Ready to cross-promote your brand?
Cross-promotion is great to build relationships with big players in your industry, drive word-of-mouth, and build brand awareness in a cost-efficient way.
Just remember: this strategy is all about trying on the shoes of your partners and finding a win-win.
As Dale Carnegie, author of the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, put it: “The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”
By showing how cross-promotion will help them achieve their goals, they’ll feel more enticed to work with you. And now you have 11 different ideas to start with. Just pick one from the list and take massive action. It’s the only way to see results.