Why You Should Consider Small Business Co-Marketing

Small business owners are constantly on the lookout for ways to outpace their competition. But what if there was an alternative… and it was working with your competition? In the constant rush to spread the word about your new business, you may have overlooked the ample opportunities provided by working together. Small businesses co-marketing can often increase visibility for your location or industry, providing value for all parties involved.
Co-marketing is a partnership between multiple companies that markets all involved products or services. The relationship can be grounded between two or twenty businesses and can involve digital media, traditional advertising efforts, or in-store promotions.

Where’s Waldo?

This July, 23 DC-based small businesses found an innovative way to do co-market. In DC’s Capitol Hill and Eastern Market neighborhoods, small businesses line the streets. Throughout most of the year, these businesses benefit from the sheer volume of local neighbors and their ensuing reputations for supporting the local economy. (This is similar to the idea that gas stations group together because they benefit from their proximity to one another and the consumer’s knowledge of their location.)
However, July in DC can pose new challenges, similar to many other noncoastal areas nationwide. Many of this community’s customers leave town. To drive up traffic, 23 businesses in Eastern Market and Capitol Hill come together each year to take advantage of their strength in numbers. The campaign is a “Where’s Waldo” themed experience. The stores each hide Waldo somewhere in the building, and families are required to find him in each establishment. There’s a prize for finding Waldo a certain number of times, providing an incentive for families to explore multiple establishments. Thus, an already thriving community of small businesses maintains their traffic through the challenging summer month.
The “Where’s Waldo” campaigns shows how much there is to learn about small business co-marketing.
First, co-marketing doesn’t have to rely on related industries. It also doesn’t have to exclude competitors. Of these 23 businesses, there are two coffee shops, three eateries, three bookstores, and even a hardware store. These businesses know that they can all benefit together, rather than moving forward separately.
Second, relying on location is key. As a beloved DC neighborhood, Eastern Market and Capitol Hill have a leg up. Because they are so close together, a customer can visit and enjoy multiple stores and eateries in just a few hours. For a local family, this is a great weekend outing that doesn’t take too much planning.
Third, co-marketing doesn’t have to come at a high cost. The “Where’s Waldo” campaign lasts an entire month and only gives modest coupons to finishers. Instead of the businesses investing financially in the prizes, they’ve provided an experience for participants.

Your Small Business C0-Marketing Campaign

Small business co-marketing doesn’t have to rely on treasure hunts, however. Consider two dissimilar businesses with similar markets. A grocery delivery service can easily be paired with a home repair service, targeting homeowners and renters in a specific area or specific age range. Alternatively, two product-types can come together regardless of their headquarters to reach a similar market together.
Given this, it might seem that co-marketing could be an avenue for almost any small business. If you’re considering entering into a marketing partnership, consider these things:

  1. Is your own brand clearly defined? Successful co-marketing requires a co-branding, including a balance of logos, colors, and image types. Entering into a marketing partnership before defining your brand can mean that the campaign can leave your business behind.
  2. Is your potential marketing partner going to add value to your brand? Choosing a partner that will take your customers away from you or that will ask too much of your customers could be detrimental. Make sure that each partner brings a unique value to the relationship.
  3. Do you have clear goals for the partnership? Always think back to the phrase, “you get what you measure.” Entering into a campaign with a clear idea of what you want out of it will help your small business be able to adjust if things don’t go according to plan.
  4. How many partners would be too many? Having 23 partner companies works for the “Where’s Waldo” campaign due to the physical engagement expected from customers. But think about seeing 23 logos on a flyer or Facebook ad – it could be overwhelming. Add partners only so long as they add value to the campaign and to your customers.

A co-marketing campaign may require some sacrifice, but it only works if the relationship is ultimately a win-win situation. (HubSpot has some great examples of successful co-marketing relationships.)
Small business co-marketing helps reach new markets, boost brand awareness, and grow their businesses. The “Where’s Waldo” campaign is a clear sign that it can work. You can find out more about the campaign, and even take part in it if you are DC-based, on East City Book Shop’s website.

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