As a solopreneur it's easy to overlook the potential for outstanding marketing campaigns utilizing the strength and visibility behind other businesses, especially larger corporations. The truth is that we don't have to go it alone — other business owners and managers may be interested in exchanging time, knowledge, and/or resources with you.
When I owned my coffeehouse in Naperville, IL the drive-through business was exceptional. We were definitely the anchor store in the mall, a fact upon which I could leverage many wonderful marketing relationships. For example, a major drugstore chain was located right across the parking lot and they too boasted a convenient drive through operation. When it hit me that we could support one another's marketing goals I felt intimidated by the thought of approaching the store's manager. Why in the world would they want or need my help? But approach him I did and he was thrilled with my proposal. I created a custom coupon for his customers to receive a free drink with an equal or greater purchase and we exchanged offers. For 2 weeks we distributed one another's materials to our respective customer base and the campaign was such a success that he approached me the next time!
There's a lovely annual event in Geneva, IL inviting brides-to-be to tour local wedding-related businesses and enjoy a lovely lunch replete with DJ, fashion show, flowers, etc., at a popular wedding venue. Local businesses market the Geneva Bride event independently as well as kicking in a membership fee for the website and additional joint marketing efforts. This is a great example of a more complex joint venture that has grown into a wonderfully successful annual event.
Think about companies and individuals that you can approach — and don't be shy, you may have more to offer than you think.
Do you participate in trade events? Consider giving out your partner's materials or samples as your joint venture contribution.
Can you provide graphic design work or another type of service as barter? Remember that time and effort can contribute to a powerful marketing partnership experience.
Do you ship to customers? Consider adding promotional material for a marketing partner.
How large is your database? You and your marketing partner should share a common target audience, so your database or your busy website are enticing assets for them.
So the next time you take a drive, go to a networking event, or talk to your friends and neighbors, keep this topic top of mind. Brainstorm about potential marketing partnerships, both one-time opportunities as well as on-going relationships. You'll be surprised at what you will come up with. Some companies may not expect an "even exchange," with the understanding that you are a smaller company, so don't let that stop you. Have fun, get creative, and share your ideas and experiences here with us.