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Strategic Alliances for Cross-Promotion

A popular reason for companies to come together is to reciprocally promote one another.

Ideas are as simple as a local pharmacy and dry cleaner promoting each other with specials or coupons, to regional promotions, to national promotions. Cross-promotions can be developed with competitors or between organizations from different industries. The key is simply this—do you have similar customers? Almost everywhere you look, you can see one organization cross-promoting with another. Recently, a cross-promotion advertisement in a San Francisco newspaper for Pacific Bell also involved Round Table Pizza, Hollywood Video, Nokia and the Special Olympics.

In your effort to make cross-promotion alliances work, develop your process by keeping the below-listed steps in mind:

  • Be clear on what you want to create for yourself or your company.
  • Discover the; What’s in it for me(WIIFM) for your partner(s).
  • Develop a list of who does what for physical and financial contributions.
  • Plan for the unexpected.
  • Explain to your partner(s) the value they will receive.
  • Help your partner(s) to have emotional ownership in the alliance.
  • Do the above step for yourself also.
  • Execute the promotion.
  • Debrief with partner(s) the value received from the investment.
  • Plan the next promotion.

“Got Milk?” The California Milk Processors Board, as reported in The Wall Street Journal, January 24, 1997, has been running that national promotion since 1993. They also put “Got Milk” on Girl Scout Cookies. They have even gotten their milk advertisements on cereal, cookies and chocolate mix packaging. Jeff Manning, executive director of the California Milk Processors Board, says, “We need those people to promote for us.” “In return, we affectionately call them co-dependent foods.”

Manning doesn’t stop there.  He convinced Dole Food Co. in Westlake Village, California to add another sticker to their clusters of bananas for the retail market. You got it, “Got Milk” stickers. In 1997 Dole put “Got Milk” stickers on a million bunches of bananas. Milk is getting more interruptions in the minds of consumers. The more partnering Milk can do with products in other parts of the grocery stores, the more sales potential they enjoy. Dole even got an “ah ha” from the cross-promotion, they have been Partnering with Hollywood to promote new release movies such as Anastasia and Babe in the City.

While researching for a presentation for the National Home Furnishings Association, I discovered an interesting alliance in Northern California. They call themselves the Sonoma County Fine Furniture Association (SCFFA). What did they do? Eight fine furniture retailers, competitors, banded together to survive the recession of the early 1990s through cross-promotion and buying strength.

They bought advertising together on the local radio and in the local newspaper. They even dictated to the newspaper on which pages their advertising would be located. They developed combined events where customers would visit several of the stores to be eligible to win prizes. They promoted each other to their customers within the store, especially if the specific retailer did not have exactly what the customer was seeking. They even printed a combined brochure, including the address and map locations of each member. The front of the brochure said, “People you can trust.”  Wow, what impact!

Years ago on a United Airlines flight from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta, the cabin attendant handed me my usual bag of peanuts. But, what was unusual was the size of the bag and its weight. After closer examination, I noticed that an America Online (AOL) diskette was included with the peanuts. It made sense, a business route shuttle—what a great way to get the AOL software into the hands of business people.

Forest City, Iowa, recreational vehicle (RV) manufacturer, Winnebago Industries, Inc. ( with sales of $665 million in 1999 and Nebraska-based sportsman’s outfitter, Cabela’s have found synergies through reciprocal promotion activities. Cabela’s has provided an ideal venue in which Winnebago dealers have displayed their RVs in more than 30 outdoor events in 1999. Most, run by Cabela’s promotional arm, Sportsman’s Quest. Winnebago products were also displayed in Cabela’s catalogs. Winnebago, in turn displayed Cabela’s products at their events.

For more on cross-promotion, check out our August 2023 guest column.


About Ed Rigsbee

Ed Rigsbee is the consummate evangelist for member recruitment and strategic alliance success. He holds the Certified Association Executive (CAE) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) accreditation. Ed is the author of The ROI of Membership-Today’s Missing Link for Explosive Growth, PartnerShift, Developing Strategic Alliances, and The Art of Partnering. To his credit, he has over 2,500 articles in print and countless articles electronically published.

Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies.