On a shoestring budget? Consider co-marketing

If your small business is typical, your visibility and marketing budget is the last to see any action. And because your budget is so small, it’s difficult to make a splash with potential customers.

That’s where “co-marketing” comes in. Co-marketing means teaming up with another entity — usually one that’s bigger, better known, and has more resources. The goal of co-marketing is a mutual gain for both parties. The lesser-known company uses the better-known company’s identity to boost its credibility and build trust with potential customers. The better-known company gets increased exposure through these localized efforts.

Co-branding vs. co-marketing

Don’t confuse this with co-branding. Co-branding is when Doritos teams up with Mountain Dew to create “Dewritos,” Dew-flavored chips. Better examples are the Betty Crocker/Hershey’s brownie mix, Benjamin Moore/Pottery Barn paint, and the wildly successful Michael Jordan “Air Jordan” Nike shoes. Co-branding is usually a partnership between two already fairly well-known brands to create a new product that takes advantage of both companies’ high visibility.

Co-marketing, on the other hand, means teaming up with another company or organization that is aligned with your business’s philosophy and goals but does not directly compete with you. The goal is enhanced visibility and credibility. Every time you see a business using a logo from an affiliation, trade organization, or certification, you are seeing co-marketing. Customers who look for these logos are the quality customers you need to attract.

What is a quality customer?

Quality customers are those who shop for more than price. They are looking for specific business practices. Perhaps they want someone local or someone who has experience in a certain field. In any case, they are going to do their homework to find that business. They will ask neighbors and friends, and check business directories on the Web.

The result is an educated customer who is willing to compromise (pay more or wait longer) to get a quality experience.

Attracting quality customers

With a small budget, co-marketing can be very effective. Suppose you own a small accounting firm. By joining a trade organization for accountants, you can co-market your firm with the organization by using its “membership seal” on your door, in your waiting room, and on your website. In return, the organization adds your name to its site as a supporting member. Its site attracts customers looking for accountants, and they find you.

If you’re aligned with the organization’s membership standards, and the potential customer is aware of those standards, it can be a match made it heaven. The customer is searching for more important qualities than just price, and you gain a valuable customer who values your business philosophy.



You may already be co-marketing

If your business is accredited with the BBB, you are already getting many of the co-marketing benefits. Our website attracts consumers doing their homework on potential companies at the time when they are ready to make a purchase. Last year, our website logged more than 100 million visits from people requesting free reports on companies before doing business with them.

Our website visitors also know and appreciate the comprehensive accreditation process. They know that accredited businesses promise to uphold our standards of trust, which include advertising honestly, being transparent, and honoring promises. And because of this, they look for the BBB accreditation seal.

How does co-marketing save money?

When you consider the entire sales process — from first impression to final decision — there’s no doubt that marketing is expensive. Co-marketing allows your business to ride the coattails of a larger brand that your potential customer already knows.

Consider the tow-truck business. A stranded driver may not choose “Todd’s Top Notch Towing,” but he will most likely choose a AAA-approved towing service that happens to be named “Todd’s Top Notch Towing.” Of course, AAA members will find towing services through AAA, but others who are not members will more likely choose a towing service that advertises its towing credentials.

What’s the next step?

Check into your accreditations, affiliations, certifications, and associations. If you’re not using them on your website or in your advertising, consider doing so. As you consider your marketing for 2015, remember that co-marketing can stretch those dollars and build credibility with your customers.

Kimberly Hazen is the regional director for the southwest region of the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau. In her role, she works to advance marketplace trust between buyers and sellers and to promote informed buying decisions.

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