Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Marketing · The Economy

When budgets are tight, some businesses stop marketing and advertising.  In fact, according to American Express Open, about 40% of SMB owners reported eliminating their ad budgets in 2009 due to economic uncertainty.  Yet we know that this approach costs businesses much more over the long run (if they ever live that long).  Still, if you don’t have the money, what are you going to do?

Take a cue from several of the businesses featured after the jump – they found creative ways to ‘partner’ with larger, complimentary businesses to get their names out there and their brands burnished, with relatively little hard cash invested.

Why would a larger business carry you on their back when they’re footing the bill?  Good question.  It all comes down to two things: 1) They can make a big brand seem more local/personal (small firms often have unique ties to the community that are based on heritage, know-how, and local flavor), 2) The larger business can use the services of a smaller partner directly to differentiate itself and attract broader traffic.

The Big Idea:
Find a larger business – ideally a steady advertiser in a crowded, competitive field and approach them with a great idea about how your well-liked product or service can help them differentiate their brand image or provide an incentive for consumers to traffic their location.  We’ve seen winning combos as diverse as bakeries/coffee shops setting up house in auto service centers, high-fi/electronics businesses kitting-out the waiting areas of local car washes, retailers working with the local ASPCA, grocers with local vintners and specialty food purveyors, banks and credit unions with a host of companies that benefit from easy financing.  The possibilities are endless

If you’re a larger business, look for cool local firms that have strong connections to their communities. Businesses that have strong social networks, loyal customers who make regular purchases, etc.  Have these firms set up shop in your location and drive their customers to YOU.  Recently, we worked with an auto dealer who gave discount certificates to one of the premiere local restaurant groups to anyone who took a weekend test drive and awarded several drivers complimentary all-inclusive meals.

• Promote it. These partnerships typically work best when both partners use their respective marketing – and the practices that each does best – to get the word out in a syncronized way.

• Use a matchmaker. It can often be difficult to identify the right partner and make the initial approach to the right person at the right time.  Unless you’re highly networked and have some experience designing cooperative marketing efforts, use your local media experts to get things started.  Our radio sales teams usually have a deep knowledge about potential partners and relationships with the decision-makers themselves.  Moreover, they can help advise you on creative, out-of-the-box ways to promote your partnership for optimal impact/minimal cost.