Cross-Marketing: The Most Effective Marketing You Can Do

[Editor's Note: I have long been an advocate of the kinds of strategies Carol describes here. I go into some detail about the possibilities in my award-winning book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First. Carol is an example of doing everything right in building these alliances, and of the amazing synergies that can result. My own business is also much, much stronger as a result of these types of relationships. —Shel Horowitz]

Advertising and marketing gurus tell us that it takes “multiple impressions” of a message to get potential buyers to make that buying decision. Seven is the number they often cite. So how do we get those precious impressions? One way is through cross-marketing.

The concept is simple. Find products and services that complement yours and work with the companies that provide them to promote their offerings and yours simultaneously.

Here is a real-world example.

Late in the manuscript phase of preparing our book -- Live Your Road Trip Dream, which is subtitled Travel for a year for the cost of staying home and tells the story of a lengthy cross country trip -- we discovered a Web site called MyTripJournal.com. Having struggled to maintain our own site for ongoing reports on our journey, we immediately recognized the potential for cooperation. So we talked with the site’s owner and, after gaining a better understanding of what his company did, we decided to include a little bit about its services in the book. Our relationship had begun.

The Multi-Purpose Demo

As time passed, we stayed in touch with Dan Parlow, one of the principals in the firm (remember to constantly build your network!). Dan called one day to say he was looking for robust demo sites and wanted permission to turn our old travel site into a MyTripJournal.com site. Of course we said yes. Having our book featured as a demo site created a great way for people to hear about Live Your Road Trip Dream as well as a great way for Dan to demonstrate the power of MyTripJournal.com. A cross-marketing relationship was born.

From that time on, we included MyTripJournal.com affiliate links in several places on our old travel site and on our book site as a resource, further cementing cross-marketing efforts.

In addition, we suggested to Dan that he explore the RV traveler market in more depth. I had been a speaker at the Great North American RV Rally in July 2004 and we thought it would be an excellent venue for MyTripJournal.com too. We gave Dan the contact information, let the contact know that Dan would be getting in touch with him, and off Dan went.

Having already formed a trial partnership to co-promote his product with the Good Sam Club– a very large national RV club, Dan not only got booked as a speaker; he signed up for a booth and was invited to have his booth in the rally’s prestigious Good Sam area because of his trial partnership.

As rally time grew near, MyTripJournal.com and the Good Sam Club collaborated on a fun marketing project -- an online scavenger hunt contest. People would scavenge a MyTripJournal.com website for answers to questions that appeared there, and compete for prizes to be announced at the rally. Great marketing idea! The scavenger hunt would be promoted on the huge Good Sam Club site and through its e-newsletter.

But whose MyTripJournal site would be used?

Dan immediately thought of using RoadTripDream for his demo site because the trip that it journals ended in Oregon, where the Rally was being held. It took only a little sleight-of-hand to position the end at the Rally location rather than at our home. We revised some content to match the progress to the Rally – and we had ourselves a great cross-marketing opportunity. Thousands of people would now be exploring RoadTripDream on MyTripJournal.com and encountering a link to our site that would let them purchase our book. Thousands of “impressions” – and some sales.

But we didn’t stop there. Since we were already so tightly linked with MyTripJournal for the Rally via the scavenger hunt, we decided to staff the booth together and, again, promote each other’s offerings. We also did a couple of joint press releases targeted to different market segments to maximize our visibility. At the Rally, the combination of a real-life example of an actual trip (we used our big US map tracking our trip as part of the booth display) and a demonstration of the MyTripJournal.com website generated more sales of both companies’ products than either company could have generated by itself. It was a win-win situation -- 1+1=3 for both of us – and we are now working together to create still more cross-marketing opportunities.

As we talked with Dan at the show, we hatched another idea, this one involving book marketing professionals – all of you! Many of you travel promoting your books. Why not stay in touch with family, friends and business associates using MyTripJournal.com?

The site is like a blog on steroids. It keeps all your journals, thoughts and pictures organized by travel location. It is map-driven and very visual. All you do is click on a map location anywhere in the world to view all your information associated with that place. Its integrated email notification service allows you, with one click, to notify everyone on your email list that you have made updates so they can view the new materials at their convenience. No more clogging associates’ and friends’ in-boxes with emails and pictures.

Where and What the Opportunities Are

Prospective partners are everywhere and ways to cooperate are limited only by your imagination. Opportunities exist for every field and every type of product.

Here are six ideas to get you started.

  • When you are selling your book(s) at a show in your field, look around you. You’re likely to see some companies that have products and/or services complementary with yours and that therefore would be great cross-marketing partners.
  • Scour the Internet for companies involved with the topic or topics of your book or books. Contact them and start building relationships. Trading links is a great way to start. Once you understand each other’s offerings and strategies, you will naturally come up with ways to work together.
  • Go to your local bookstore, book fair, and/or Amazon.com and see what books from small presses might complement yours. Contact the author or publisher (check your PMA Directory, Books in Print, the BEA catalog or your favorite search engine for contact information) and see what potential partners are doing that might work well for both of you to promote each others products.
  • Form your own co-op with marketing partners and take each other’s books to events. Those of us in the RV travel area have done just that. Several RV Travel authors go from one show to the next during the year and take along a group of titles each time. We pay the “sponsoring author," who actually attends the event, 25% of the sale price. This covers the booth cost and other associated expenses – with a little left over for the author to pocket.
  • Write an article or news release that includes material on your cross-marketing partner’s product or service. Submit it to publications (on- or off-line) and/or PRWeb.com for distribution. You will both get leads and sales.
  • Remember that cross-marketing deals that involve non-book products may be as effective or more effective than cross-marketing deals that involve books, especially if fiction is what you publish. How about selling some other company’s relevant videos on your website while its sells your books on its site? Many books have topics or themes that cry out for add-on products – stuffed animals for a story starring an animal; tea and tea cups for a tea ceremony book; golfing equipment for a book about golf clubs; Yoga mats with Yoga books. The ideas are endless!

    Build opportunities into the book!

    The best time to think about how you will cross-market a book is before it is written. While the manuscript is being created, it pays to focus on who will be most interested in the book and where you will find these people in order to sell it to them. Selected Web sites? Certain trade shows? Home and garden shows? Business conferences? Antique shows? Have a brainstorming session with colleagues and friends and see how many places you can come up with that would be possible venues for a given book. Then make sure those places, ideas and themes appear in the book somehow.

    That’s what we did. As you’ve seen, including just a little information about MyTripJournal.com in our book sparked a long-term productive relationship. But I haven’t yet told you about the other useful mentions we included in our book. Text about the type of vehicle we traveled in provided a great opportunity for us to interact with the vehicle’s manufacturer and cross-market using the manufacturer’s field reps. Since it is a road trip book, it discusses AAA services and we have now become speakers for AAA; we educate its members about planning their road trips, promote its services and sell our book, all at the same time.

    Does this mean we have sold out to commercial interests? I don’t think so. None of these companies paid us anything to mention their products. We just tell our trip- planning story as we experienced it.

    Marketing is frustrating. You never really know which piece of information caused a person to buy. But we do know that people who buy our book often say they’ve seen it “in lots of places,” and that’s one reason we are glad we’ve built ways to reach our targeted audience by helping other companies’ reach theirs.

    Carol White
    Co-author, 'Live Your Road Trip Dream'
    1.888.522-TRIP (8747) or carol@roadtripdream.com
    www.roadtripdream.com

    Live Your Road Trip Dream from RLI Press is a leading resource for planning road trips and other long-term travel adventures.

    Dan Parlow
    Co-founder, MyTripJournal.com
    1.778.389.0050 or dparlow@mytripjournal.com
    www.mytripjournal.com

    MyTripJournal is committed to providing travelers with innovative solutions that combine state-of-the-art communication tools with its customizable IntelliMap System. Contact Dan for more information and a one-year free subscription for authors.


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