In response to your inquiry regarding best ways for small businesses to cross-promote:
Initial Steps to Take
First, you must select a company that serves the exact same current or target market. For example, you both serve small B2B companies with revenues in the $5-$20 million range. Then your product or service offerings must be complementary. Good example: a billing application with an accounting or IT service provider. Bad example: an accounting service provider with a construction renovation / interior fit out firm.
Good questions to ask yourself or your team are: What additional products or services do your customers want? What additional products or services could be positioned as a value add to your company’s product or service? Would it be easy to quantify the benefit from the cross-promotion? What is the purpose of the cross-promotion? Is it to increase prospective customer’s awareness of your company and increase the general exposure to your firm? Or is the purpose to have an actual, direct impact on your overall sales?
These questions will help you determine if your cross promotion needs multiple companies for press releases and loose associations or one or two strategic partners to deeply engage with for cross promotion – i.e., via integrated product or service offerings, joint sales efforts, etc.
Document Your Agreement
Regardless of the depth of cross promotion, always put the agreement in writing and sign. For loose, press-release type cross promotions, a brief one-page document will suffice. For more in-depth, partnership/alliance type cross promotions, an agreement that clearly delineates what is expected of both sides and what unwinds the partnership is needed.
What works? Nearly all levels of cross promotion work. The main point to remember is that you are both clear about expectations and deliverables. If one party expects a fully integrated press release and one co-hosted lunch for prospects and the other just expects to provide a press release mention and to show up to the luncheon, you have a recipe for disaster. The greater the number or complexity of expectations and deliverables, the greater the opportunities for disaster!