4 Small Business Owners Say a Low-Cost Advertising Strategy Called “Comarketing” Helped Them Save Time, Money, and Build More Authentic Campaigns

Four small business owners say “comarketing” has helped them grow new audiences and drive sales.

Comarketing — where multiple companies market their products together — is a low-cost strategy that can be even more effective than traditional marketing.

To benefit both companies equally, the campaign should be authentic and not come across as overly promotional.

This article is part of “Marketing for Small Business,” a series exploring the basics of marketing strategies for SBOs to acquire new customers and grow their business.

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When Talia Boone launched her fresh flower delivery service, Postal Petals, in 2020, she had no marketing budget. So to spread the word about her business, she teamed up with other small businesses to become “comarket.”

“Just because we’re small, we have to be creative in the ways we introduce our products and services to new audiences,” Boone told Insider. Comarketing also allows her to support other small businesses. “We’re starting to grow natively by collaborating and working together.”

Comarketing refers to two or more companies “working together on a joint promotional campaign,” according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This may include co-branded content marketing campaigns, collaborative social media posts, event or content sponsorship, or affiliate marketing.

Based in Los Angeles, Boone partners with “emerging small minority and women-focused businesses” on co-branded events and social media giveaways, such as a recent wellness workshop with The Plant Chica nursery and the Black Women’s Yoga Collective.

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“It’s thinking about ways we can collaborate with other small business owners who have similar offerings and come up with ways to package our services or products to reinforce our collective and respective messages,” she said, adding that comarketing had her helped increase her social media following and engagement.

Comarketing offers many benefits to small businesses

Comarketing can help small businesses save money, increase their marketing budgets, build a stronger brand identity and increase customer awareness.

“We’ve found it to be valuable to us, to our retailers, and to our customers,” Charles Negaro Jr., the CEO of Chabaso Bakery, a wholesale bakery in New Haven, Connecticut, told Insider. “It’s a smart use of our time and it works within our budget.”

Chabaso partners with cheese producers and olive oil brands on in-store displays and Instagram recipe campaigns.

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Employees contribute to the co-marketing campaign with recipe development and social media posts. Then the company hires a photographer, Negaro said. “Our marketing dollars are human labor dollars, so we try to find creative ways to work with people,” he said.

Comarketing also enables companies to help each other. Emily Merrell, the founder of the networking company Six Degrees Society, and Lexie Smith, the founder of the public relations agency ThePRBar, met at a conference in 2020 and decided to collaborate on training programs for coaching companies, cross-promoting them on their own social media platforms. media channels.

This eventually led the pair to start a company, Ready Set Coach, aimed at coaching people with coaching companies. Now, the three organizations are marketing together by amplifying each other’s messaging and hosting social media events.

Comarketing is “one of the most important things small businesses should be doing,” said Merrell, adding, “You grow so much faster. Rising tide raises all ships.”

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4 ways to make comarketing work for your small business

1. Set goals for your comarketing efforts

Successful comarketing depends on companies knowing what they want to get out of the partnership, Boone said. For example, companies can focus their efforts on increasing social media followers, driving sales, or reaching new customers.

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“It’s important to be very thoughtful and intentional about identifying what our ROI is, and then essentially building the campaign around that so we can deliver on those goals,” she said, referring to a return on investment. “It’s effective from a financial point of view.”

From hosting co-branded giveaways, Postal Petals has gotten more newsletter signups and more customers. Besides the time and effort it takes to create campaigns, Boone said, the only expense she incurs is the items she gives away.

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2. Connect with like-minded small businesses

Alignment is crucial when choosing other small businesses to partner with, Smith said. Companies should enter the market when they have similar audiences, coordinate products, or have similar missions.

Because their audiences overlap, Smith said working with Merrell helped them expand their “top funnel.”

“There are now three entry points and three different categories that can lead people to our brands,” she said, referring to their individual businesses and Ready Set Coach, the one they started together.

Small businesses should start with their existing networks and ask for recommendations, Boone said. She has also reached out directly to brands she wants to work with and companies have contacted her with collaboration proposals.

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“You actually come up to them and say, ‘Hey, how can we explore opportunities to support each other?'” she said. Postal Petals often theme their social media collaborations and, for example, have partnered with skincare and candle companies for self-care giveaways.

Boone declines co-marketing requests from other small businesses if they make no sense, such as when a company’s products or mission don’t align with its own.

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3. Get everyone involved in the campaign

Small businesses should collaborate in setting up co-marketing campaigns. Smith said it’s a good idea to put responsibilities, duties and deliverables in writing “so there are clear expectations.”

When working with other companies on social media marketing, Boone said everyone agreed on a time frame. They contribute photos and product information, then create posts that align the company’s assets and messaging.

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“We usually work together to build it out,” she said. Then the organizations approve posts before they go live. Each company posts the content on its channels.

Chabaso has many aspects of comarketing in-house. Negaro said his company comes up with recipes using items from other brands, photographs them and creates recipe cards with QR codes to place on supermarket shelves. The recipes and photos are also posted on social media.

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4. Create campaigns that resonate with audiences

Smith said small businesses should focus on authenticity, provide value to the public and not over-promote in co-marketing campaigns.

She and Merrell do this by sharing similar topics on their brands’ social media channels, but tweaking the messaging slightly to appeal to each audience.

“We just learned to be flexible,” Boone said. “It can’t be all things that work best for us. It has to be the best for all brands involved.”

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Successful comarketing sometimes requires experimentation and trial and error. Still, Boone said it’s an effective way for small businesses to expand their marketing reach, even if they don’t have a big budget.

“Most small businesses just can’t afford traditional marketing,” she said. “So we have to be very creative in expanding our audience and our networks. Collaborating with other brands is a very efficient and effective way to do that.”

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