Local Small Business Family

From national retailers to online sellers, small businesses have a lot of competition.  A little competition isn’t always a bad thing though. A positive byproduct of this onslaught is that it’s turned nearby businesses from neighbors into allies.

How? Attracting customers is no longer just about convincing them to buy, it's also about convincing them to shop local and invest in their own community. When local small businesses partner with other local businesses it helps to create even more of an incentive for customers to do just that.

Business-to-business collaboration is often called 'cross promotion' or “comarketing”, but the concept is too multi-faceted to describe in terms of promotions only. There are many ways in which two or more non-competing businesses can team up to promote their mutual success.

1. Product Cross Promotion

Those familiar with the idea of cross promotion think first of the classic example of two businesses with similar audiences who help to promote each other's products. In the Inc.com article 'The Secrets of Cross-Promotion,' Stephanie L. Gruner described the cross promotion between two San Francisco-based businesses. Primo's, a small coffee shop chain, and Sweet Charlottes chocolate shop paired up because of their similar clientele.

'Now, Primo's sells Sweet Charlottes chocolates and offers free samples with its espresso. In return, the chocolate shop gives customers coupons for espresso and sells Primo's coffee beans in bulk. Customers have responded so well that the duo is test-marketing a potential new niche: cafes showcasing both coffee and chocolate.'

2. Collaborative Events

Cross promotion opportunities also include multiple businesses collaborating around a shared theme. In Michigan's quaint Downtown Plymouth, a handful of businesses realized they all had something in common: they all offered some wedding-related product or service. A team that included a jeweler, baker, specialty paper shop, gift store and more created a downtown-wide outdoor event to attract brides.

Rather than a traditional expo, brides were taken on a scavenger hunt throughout the city and enjoyed pampering, limo rides, dinner and drink specials and more. Not only did the wedding businesses benefit, but the entire downtown had a successful day, and the district carved out a new reputation as a one-stop-shop for brides.

3. Services Swap

Not all collaborations are promotions for the public. Two service businesses can team up and arrange to swap services, saving each of them money on necessary expenditures. A referral agreement between the businesses can make this arrangement even more beneficial as both businesses will benefit from the referrals.

4. Rewards

From banks to credit cards, nearly every national chain is offering rewards to clients. The accumulation of points through purchases entitles the customer to free gifts from partnering businesses. This system doesn't only work for national brands.

Though Blue Cross Blue Shield is a nation-wide insurance provider, each state's division partners with local gyms, health food grocers and wellness businesses for a rewards program that promotes the local stores within the healthy lifestyle genre and gives customers extra incentive to choose Blue Cross as their insurer. Similar niche-based or location-based rewards programs work well for local businesses.

Get a Team of Allies

The big world of competition is a lot easier to face for local businesses when you have a team of allies on your side. Partnerships with other companies can create a cycle of mutual benefit that reaps big successes for small business owners.

Now it’s your turn.  How are you using partnerships to grow your business? Tell us in the comments below!