No Twilight Zones
Imagine you are driving cross-country and you pull off the interstate to rest.
As you pull into the nearest town, you see a drug store on the corner of the main intersection.
Next to that is another drug store. Across the street is yet another.
As you drive down the town’s main drag, you notice that every storefront is a drug store, one after the other.
This Twilight Zone scenario is surrealistic because no town’s livelihood could survive like that.
If everybody was in the same business, there wouldn’t be enough customers to support them all.
And the town’s citizens wouldn’t be able to get the goods and services they want because there wouldn’t be enough businesses that aren’t drugstores.
Instead, natural free-market forces lead business owners to open new businesses in areas that aren’t oversaturated.
If the town already has several drugstores, the person who opens a pizza parlor is bound to do well, as is the businessman who launches a clothing store.
This kind of diversity is what draws customers to markets and what provides stability for the towns and cities of America.
The drugstore doesn’t compete directly with the pizza parlor.
They appeal to different customers, or at least for different business from the same customer.
So, when the drugstore owner wants to run a promotion, maybe he offers free pizzas.
And when the pizza store owner wants to bring in more sales, maybe he asks the drugstore owner to print discounts for pizzas on the drugstore receipts.
In this way, both businesses benefit.
Business Partner Relationship Building
Whatever business you are in, it’s unlikely that you have set up shop in a town where every other business is offering the exact same goods and services that you offer.
Instead, there’s probably a variety of different kinds of businesses in your marketplace so that customers have can buy many various things when they come to your town.
Building relationships with your customers is important, but so is building relationships with the other business owners in your community.
Getting to know other shopkeepers, business owners and other professionals allows you to share information, cross-promote your businesses, and provide a better marketplace for your customers.
There are other benefits to partnering with other businesses as well, including having a unified voice when it comes to public policy and dealing with government bodies.
If one store owner on Main Street complains about poor garbage pickup, for example, it’s unlikely anything will be done about it.
But if all of Main Street’s store owners visit the mayor’s office together and demand that action be taken, you can be assured that there will be some butt-kicking going on in the sanitation department.
In other words, it takes a village to make a village.
The Spaghetti Circuit
Getting to know your fellow business owners in your community could mean walking around, knocking on doors and introducing yourself.
And this is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, especially for those businesses in your immediate vicinity.
Another way to network is by participating in civic events, church functions, chambers of commerce and other places where you are likely to run into other business owners and community leaders.
As the owner of a business in your community, you have a responsibility to add to the culture of your town or city.
Political leaders are going to look to you for support. Your customers will be more likely to give you their business if you are a civic booster.
It’s just human nature, people are social beings.
Attending meetings of clubs and organizations – a/k/a participating in the “spaghetti circuit” – helps improve your business’ reputation and provides you with valuable connections to other business owners that can be helpful in running your business.
You never know what you can learn from talking to other people who have a shared interest, but one thing is for certain:
If you shun other business owners or isolate yourself and your business, you will never learn anything.
It’s also helpful to get to know the local, county and state elected officials in your community, as well as law enforcement officials, city department heads, and other people who can help your business run smoother.
Promoting Your Business by Becoming More Involved in Your Community
Like it or not, as a business owner, people in your community are going to look up to you but they also are going to have some expectations.
Schools, church groups and social organizations are going to approach you for donations for their fundraisers.
Elected officials are going to ask for your support come election time.
You may even be encouraged to take leadership positions such as joining committees, participating in boards, or even running for public office.
All of these things can be beneficial for your business because when you participate in the civic operations of your community, you are representing your business.
While it can be gratifying to get the admiration of the people in your community, it’s even more gratifying when your respected public profile brings you more business.
If you establish yourself as a business leader, people will want to hear what you have to say.
Your opinion takes on more weight. Your customers will support many of the same things you support.
Those things you oppose, your customers will oppose.
Your influence will grow along with the size of your business.
Finding Hidden Connections
You wouldn’t think that the drugstore owner and the pizza parlor guy next door would have a lot in common, but by virtue of the fact that they are both doing business within the same marketplace they actually have quite a lot of mutual interests.
For one, they want to make sure there are a lot of people coming to their street so that both of their businesses prosper.
In addition, they want their neighbor’s business to succeed so they don’t have to have an empty storefront next door.
It might not always seem obvious, but frequently businesses can find cross-promotional opportunities that benefit both operations and can increase revenues.
By finding these hidden connections, you can drive more customers to your business while at the same time helping other community business owners build up their own revenues.
When business owners isolate themselves from the rest of the community, it doesn’t benefit anybody.
It just makes people suspicious of each other, foments feelings of ill will, and often leads to malicious rumor and gossip.
The sad part is that there isn’t any need for it.
Cooperation and mutual aid is far better for the overall community than having a siege mentality about your business, which can actually damage your reputation, drive away customers and poison the marketplace for everybody.
There’s usually plenty of room for everybody in the marketplace, even when other people compete directly with you for the same customers.
If you own a restaurant, and another restaurant opens down the street, it’s not likely that your business is going to be suddenly cut in half.
Customers will visit both restaurants and appreciate the fact that they have more choices.
How to Identify Unexpected Cross-Marketing Opportunities
Cross-marketing opportunities are not always obvious.
Look for ways to cross promote your business with others in your community that are unique and logical.
For example, if you own a clinic that specializes in training young baseball players you probably want to get to know your local orthopedist.
Not only can you recommend them to your customers, but they may be willing to give a talk at your business for your customers, increasing their exposure as well.
Make sure you join and are an active participant in your local chamber of commerce and merchant’s associations.
Not only will it help you network with other business owners, but it will increase your political influence as well.
If your community doesn’t have a business association, start one.
The knowledge shared by community business leaders can make all the member businesses operate more efficiently and you can also use these contacts to develop cross-marketing opportunities.
Anything you can do to partner with other business owners in your community will be mutually beneficial.
These types of cross-promotions can improve your reputation and strengthen bonds within your community.
Trade You Mickey Mantle for Minnie Minoso?
Being a good neighbor means more than just keeping your garbage cans clean and being civil to the people you encounter on the street.
In today’s changing marketplace, old business models are falling apart and those businesses that are bold and innovative have a better chance to succeed.
This not only means providing the most cutting edge products and services, but also finding ways to partner with other businesses to provide unique offerings that will attract a larger customer base.
In today’s business environment, playing it safe isn’t a viable option.
While in the past, during economic downswings some businesses could afford to lay low and wait for things to improve, today such conservative approaches are a fast track to going bankrupt.
Businesses need to be able to adapt and change quickly.
You may be selling health insurance today but if or when the new health care act takes effect, you are going to have to dramatically modify your business model.
If you own a bookstore, the rise in popularity of Kindles and other e-readers means you must figure out another way to make money fast.
If you own a steakhouse, you probably want to consider adding some vegetarian options to your menu to appeal to the growing number of diners who are turning their backs on animal protein.
If you own a bank that specializes in mortgages, you probably want to find another financial product to offer until the housing crisis resolves itself. And so on.
Cross-Utilizing Promotions and Giveaways
Because the business environment can change so quickly today, partnering with other business owners for cross-promotion purposes makes more sense than ever.
Think of it as a way of diversifying your business.
The more involved you can become with other business owners – especially when it comes to cross-utilizing promotions and giveaways – the more options and contacts you will have when the inevitable shift occurs in your business niche.
It may not seem obvious to you that the car dealer down the street has anything to do with your day care center, but you never know.
One day you may need to stay competitive by providing transportation services for your clients and that car dealer may be able to get you a discount on a school bus.
The car dealer may be able to use your day care to provide supervision for his customers’ children when he is taking his customers on test drives and going through the lengthy process of finalizing a car deal.
By seeking out and identifying these unexpected connections you can both make your business stronger and more adaptable and increase the size and scope of the business network you enjoy within your community.
The new business environment requires a new business paradigm.
Conservative, slow-to-change businesses that are afraid to take chances simply won’t survive.
But you can improve your chances of survival by partnering with other business owners and finding unexpected connections.
“You’re Listening to WII-FM”
While businesses change and adapt to rapidly moving business conditions, the one thing that can remain constant are your customers.
If you have done a good job building your base by nurturing interpersonal relationships, your customers are always going to be looking to you to provide high-quality products and services, as well as fast and friendly customer service and support.
Still, as a business owner you need to be guided by your customers own selfishness.
Even the most loyal customer is always going to be listening to his or her own personal radio station, WII-FM (What’s In It For Me).
That means that whenever you design a promotion or come up with a new marketing campaign, you should keep in the forefront of your mind the way your customer is going to perceive it, especially from the perspective of what it offers them.
PT Barnum once said in the 19th century that nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
In the 21st century, that statement could be modified to say that nobody ever went broke overestimating the self-absorption of their customers.
Show your customers that what you are offering benefits them personally, and you can exponentially increase your odds of making the sale.
Promoting Cross-Marketing Value via Social Media
One of the reasons people love social media is that it allows them to create a persona for themselves that they can share with their friends, family and acquaintances.
There’s no easier way to show how cool or connected you are than pushing the ‘Like’ or 'Share' button on Facebook, being the first to forward a cool link on Twitter, or pinning something cutting edge on your Pinterest page.
That means that whenever you identify cross-marketing opportunities with other business owners, the most effective way to promote them is through social media.
By appealing to your customers’ sense of entitlement by showing them how they can personally benefit from what you are offering, they will be quick to share it with their social media connections, expanding the scope of your promotion and increasing its chances of going viral.
What people today want more than anything else is to show other people how cool they are.
When you let your customers do that by sharing your cross-promotion offers, you can quickly and effectively reach hundreds of social media contacts across a wide variety of marketing platforms.