Saturday, July 29, 2006

Make friends with your competitors by cross selling

By Jenna Glatzer

My competitors are my best promoters—and some of my best friends.

It made me think about why competitors would want to help each other, and ways to encourage this behavior. In the hopes that it will help other small business owners, here are my tips.

1. Build friendships.

Don’t wait until you have a favor to ask. Get in contact with people who have complementary businesses and start talking. Offer advice, congratulate them when they have special successes, and compliment them on jobs well done (a beautiful web site, a well-written newsletter, nice products). Send e-cards on their birthdays. In short, be an outgoing person and be ready to help them with no strings attached.

2. Make it worth it for them.

If you want them to promote something for you, what can you do in return? Think creatively: It doesn’t have to be “you promote my product to your customers and I’ll promote yours to mine.” You could provide a testimonial, thank them on a special sponsors page, hand out their samples or business cards at your next event, send them free products, or review their products on places like Amazon and Epinions. You can also barter in other ways; maybe you’re good at creating banners or proofreading and your competitor isn’t. Offer your skills.

3. Give them a reason to tell their customers.

You might offer a referral fee if they bring customers your way, but even if you can’t, give them something special to offer their customers to make them look good. You might offer their customers a special coupon code to get 10% off, or a free product with purchase. You might offer a free e-book, teleclass, online course, or report when their customers visit a hidden link on your website. You can also give them articles to use in their e-zines, which also benefits you by giving you extra publicity.

4. Make it easy for them.

Instead of leaving it up to them to figure out how to promote your work, make it simple by writing up several options—a few versions of ads (different lengths), a few banners or buttons, an advertorial, etc. with your links built in, and if they’re affiliates, with their affiliate link already included.

5. Send a reminder.

If your promotion is time-sensitive, make sure you contact them well in advance— then send a reminder just a couple of days before the event. Don’t assume that everyone will remember.

6. Stay in touch.

Don’t forget to thank them for their help, and to stay in touch even when you’re NOT asking for favors. “Friends” are much more likely to want to help you than “networking partners.” And that can make all the difference in the world.

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