Joint Marketing Alliances – A New Concept In Driving Sales In A Down Economy

In today’s business environment, complementary companies that work together to share their customers’ database will probably recognize a higher return on these marketing efforts than those with other forms of traditional, client outreach.

As some face a downturn in their businesses, a joint marketing venture can help those with limited resources and time engage their partner’s loyal customers in a setting that should increase their business potential.

Most small business owners think of marketing as just another expense of running their business, no different than payroll, accounting, or other overhead items. What most entrepreneurs fail to realize is that marketing actually offers their business great financial leverage.

Every company has built in a gold mine of customers who are loyal fans. These clients are typically the ones who recommend a product or service to others in need. As most successful business execs already know, the ultimate form of customer development takes the form of a referral from a satisfied customer.

For those who want to consider a joint marketing alliance, here are some suggested steps to consider.

Understanding first, who you are and what you do differently: Articulate and implement a “Unique Selling Proposition” into every facet of your sales and marketing efforts. By creating a USP, it provides the ability to separate your business from that of your competitors. Your proposition should be developed around your strengths and your competitors’ weaknesses. Some general USP premises might be lower prices, biggest selection, longest warranty, convenience, quality, superior services, better guarantee or anything that sets you apart from the pack.

Have something in common: For a joint venture to work, two local businesses must have the same customer demographic group in common. Take a neighborhood pediatrician and an orthodontist as one example. Both deal with children and parents who want a medical professional to help care for their children. A jewelry store and women’s fashion boutique is another type of business with similar customers. They typically have a major overlap of common customer characteristics.

Capturing your customers’ information is a company’s largest asset: It’s important in today’s economy, for all businesses to have consent from their customers to receive information about other products and services offered. As part of the new info gathering process, the simplest way to accomplish this is by implementing a loyalty/rewards program for their customers. With today’s electronic communication abilities, one of the easiest and most cost efficient forms of communication is through email. By capturing every customers name and email address creates a conduit for information to be communicated between the consumer and business.

Build the communication tools to share information about the other companies’ product or service: For example, let’s imagine that a new customer takes her child to the orthodontist for braces. The orthodontist could later send an email to that customer recommending the pediatrician as an associate with a warm referral and recommendation. Taking the names and contact information of the children’s parents who are in the typical age bracket for a pediatrician services, they could additionally send emails to all of the other patients. In return, the pediatrician could send a similar email about the orthodontist to their customers. This builds leverage into each other’s marketing efforts, reduces marketing costs and creates a new potential customer base for each business to benefit from.

Embrace social media as a new way to share compliments with their raving fans: If you have a business and haven’t embraced a Facebook Fan Page, it’s time to start by building one. As well, a business should set up a LinkedIn Group for their business. Once these social media tools are in place, a business professional can make positive comments about the other person’s organization. For example, let’s suppose that the orthodontist had a child with a broken arm. He could write on the pediatrician’s fan page or LinkedIn group a comment on how the doctor helped his child overcome the pain and the fear of the cast. And, if the doctor had a new way to reset the boys arm with a new product or treatment, he could also comment on it with a picture.

Joint marketing efforts can truly accelerate the warm referral processes for complementary organizations. However for this to truly work, both must show a consistent amount of commitment to help the other reach out to their loyal base of clients. Once they do, they should see a higher return on their marketing outreach investments with a minimal cost.

Marketing Links Matter

Linking For What It’s Worth

International online business depends upon effective marketing links to generate the highest rankings on search engines and the most traffic to websites. Online positioning can be compared to expensive real estate for a traditional business.

If the building on the beach near the airport is like gold for attracting clients, then every block away, every traffic light further from the center of commerce, means drawing clients becomes more difficult.

The Missing Link

Obtaining prime real estate to setup business is usually a matter of timing and money. Once the property is established, the competition can no longer compete for business on that spot. Marketing links from these locations are very helpful but hard to get.

With enough money the same principle holds true online. Spots near the top left hand of the page (beach and airport) can be purchased and held indefinitely. Everyone else has to set up shop at least a block away.

When attempting to establish a position near the elite sites, one missing link can push you onto the next page. Here nothing is fixed or permanent. Marketing online requires true professionals, with specific skills and an eye for details.

Only The SEO Knows

Not every marketer has the same opinion on the best search engine optimization strategy, but then not every search engine is the same. They don’t publish exactly how they rank websites and pages. They do tell everyone exactly what they expect.

Your activity can become paralyzed by sifting for an exact formula that will work. Many people are still looking for an exact plan while the search engines keep modifying their guidelines.

If we look at the search engines like any other business, what they’ll be doing in the future is determined largely by what they’re studying in the present. If a company isn’t continually looking to improve their product or service, they’ll end up losing business to someone else.

It seems almost too simple, but if we use search engines, we help determine what they’ll become. Paying attention to our own experience can give us insight, because the search engine wants to improve our experience.

Good Ideas Don’t Go Away

If a link from an article or a directory brings us to where we ultimately want to be, it will be obvious to everyone who sees that activity. Likewise if a link sends us down the wrong path, we go backwards.

If we came across a crowd of people going forward, backward, turning to the left then turning to the right, we’d either suspect they belonged to a dance company or they were all lost. So either the choreographer yells stop, or the civil engineer checks the street signs to see what all the confusion is about.

Links that don’t do what they’re supposed to do stand out just as much as links that serve their intended purpose. If the system is working correctly then properly functioning links will gain prominence (the sites on either end move closer to the beach and airport) while faulty links will become increasingly hard to find.

Disconnected From The Flow

Business thrives from traffic flow, which is why metropolitan areas have more business. Zoning becomes a chess game because any alteration in the traffic flow directly affects the advantage one business has over another.

Effective online marketing links serve two purposes.

1. They keep the flow of traffic moving toward a desired destination.
2. They bring attention to that destination.

From the search engine’s perspective this is exactly what they want. They rightly reward the source that supplied the link, as well as the site that keeps receiving happy traffic.

Online marketers do their best to ensure they never give inaccurate or misleading directions. They know that such activity attracts negative attention. Eventually the flow of traffic stops and the site’s visitors go missing.

What If It Was Us?

When we’re setting up marketing links from an article, a blog or another website, we need to imagine that it is intended for us. We need set aside for a moment the fact that we know where we’re going. We should know, but what if we didn’t?

Usually the link destination has more than one option. Perhaps one page on the site is more accurately connected with the source keyword.

If for instance I’m linking from tropical fish eating habits to a page that explains three things tropical fish like to eat, I’ll be done in a second. If I exit from there or go backwards, the system doesn’t know that I’ve found something useful.

However if I land on a page that gives detailed pictures, videos and lengthy explanations about ways to improve the health of tropical fish through diet, people will spend longer at the destination. The system then likes the link and the website.

Even if both the page with the three favorite foods for tropical fish, and the in depth page full of movies and pictures are on the same site, it won’t matter. Online marketers should knowingly connect people to what they’re looking for with accurate marketing links.

3 Free and Effective Ways to Market Your Small Business

There are thousands of ways to market your small business. The million dollar question: Which ones do I use?

There is no way of ever knowing until you test the different strategies.

After extensive testing and implementation phases, here are 3 of my favorites:

1. CREATE A STORY- This is my favorite strategy because it helps separate you from the competition and it brings exposure to your doorstep without ever going out and directly asking for it.

As you have noticed, I’m a 3yr Secret Service Veteran. When talking about fitness, world travel, shooting guns, and eating healthier, it tends to add credibility to my brand. Why? I walked the walk… not just talked the talk.

For example, let’s say you sell pillows. Selling pillows sounds boring and tedious, but let’s look at how you can make it pop and attract people to buy from you versus the competition:

First, create a story. Can you create a sleep contest at your place? Maybe it’s the city’s largest sleepover! Either way, create a story and the press will be there in no time at all.

2. Critical Online Marketing Checklist: Print this list and keep it next to your computer. It will provide you more traffic to your site or blog and a stronger presence online:

* Capture emails – Most people go through the motions on this one. Are you giving something away FREE in order to retain an email address? Are you capturing visitor email addresses upon them landing on your site?

* Get social – Even if you don’t like it, your competition is doing it. START NOW! Open an account on every major social networking site and devote 2hrs/week learning how to use them. They all drive traffic to your site; each in different ways.

* Threshold Marketing – Don’t be afraid to send an email 2 days in a row. There is no way of knowing the true demand of your marketing message until you test it out. I was always instructed to air conservative, but soon as I tested a back-to-back email I noticed it was taken very well! There’s a grey area and you should push to find it.

* RSS feed- Do you allow the option for readers to subscribe to your content via rss? If not, the time is now! Studies show this concept it rapidly growing; and you need to claim your fair share of the pie.

3. BLOG – An online platform for helping people understand your brand. A blog is simple to operate and very effective when used properly. In fact, blogs now receive more relevance with the search engines! In 2009, blogging has been ranked in the top 3 Internet strategies that every business must be involved with; that is, if you want to change with the times!