Is co-marketing a good idea for your small business?

Do you feel like marketing is overrated? I could totally see why you would think that. But it’s important. Marketing stops the customer from being rational. If customers are as clever, there will be friction against an entrepreneur’s need for repeat customers. After all, many other businesses offer the same type of product or service; even if it’s in different form.

So, brand loyalty (can we find another term?) doesn’t make a lot sense in some way. The goal of marketing is to sell a message beyond utility. Of course, everyone knows what a salon is. But why should a Nairobi lady exclusively come to yours? You have to push a narrative to influence perception of value. I just have to say it, rich people are suckers for these kinds of things. Think about that next time you read that poor people are poor because they are “stupid” with money. Who else buys “pure” expensive bottled water? Just so everyone else can feel FOMO.

Influencing a customer challenges you to know both what to say and how to say it. How? It’s experimental. You have to be creative. Some claim that creativity can be taught. That doesn’t make sense. Creativity is a retrospective concept. It’s not predictive. We’ll only call you miss creative after your idea has worked. There is no way to figure out what is creative and what is chancing it. Ask your favorite comedian how many times their jokes didn’t land.

You’ll have to be open-minded. But that’s risky for an entrepreneur whose money has competing needs. So, it’s not weird that most businesses take to copying what has worked before – for them or others. Others try to map it out, like business processes, by reading books on psychology. Can you really market if you don’t know how people think? It’s a shortcut to pick audience and right channels. But it’s not really a science.

How does co-marketing come in?

Even if you’re armed with all these wonderful tips, you can’t escape the truth that good marketing is expensive. Why? You will either gather the right audience yourself or compensate another party to do it for you (stop “paying” people with exposure guys, yikes). This is where you and I have to question the value marketing brings to your business. Decide. Is it worth it to do a half-effort marketing campaign when you could do other things with the money?

Concerns like the above is why co-marketing became a thing. And it’s a general direction of businesses. To reduce cost, businesses in entire industries are considering merging back-office functions. Imagine a data entry clerk handling information for multiple companies. Don’t ask me where undergraduates will get jobs. We don’t do that stuff here, ask these people.

Co-marketing is the option of partnering with complementary, or even competing, businesses to put your name out there. Importantly, it allows your own business to reduce marketing cost. You would spend less to access the same platforms you’re accustomed to. This will reduce your operating costs and improve your operating profit. Everthing in business is about bottomline after all.

You may yet access platforms that are beyond your reach while maintaining your marketing budget. It would be nice to see your own billboard posting, no? All those Kenyans walking to the CBD when the matatu ban returns will see it. This alternative would allow you to get more value for your money. A collaboration like this would give you a shot at reaching a larger audience. This can in turn lead to more buyers and reduce a reliance on a few customers, which is a risk. Remember, unlike entrepreneurs, investors don’t tolerate these kinds of risks.

As well, co-marketing can be the opportunity for you and your team to pick up marketing techniques of other businesses.

The challenge of co-marketing is turning it from a one-time gimmick to an active business strategy. One obvious trouble you’ll run into is aligning goals with the other business (or businesses). You don’t want to feel like the other party is getting more out of your collaboration; especially if they are competitors. Having overlapping vision takes time and it’s best at the start to limit co-marketing to complementary businesses. It would pose less problems if one of you wanted to, for example, increase frequency of purchase while the other looked to generate awareness for more buyers.