With a continually changing eCommerce landscape, digital business owners must regularly adapt to keep the sales flowing – and cross-promotion remains an easy, effective, and time-tested strategy that is too often overlooked!
If you sell digital products, you probably encounter opportunities for cross-promotion more than you think; from non-competing businesses within your industry and businesses that sell products or services that are complementary to your own, to bloggers, influencers, and YouTubers in relevant or related niches, there is limitless potential to grow your revenue and brand equity through this savvy marketing practice!
In this post we will discuss some of the benefits to be had, considerations to make, and methods to use when using cross-promotion to strengthen your digital product brand.
Why is cross-promotion so beneficial?
By design, cross-promotion is a partnership where two (or more) businesses join forces to engage in joint promotion. This can take different forms, but the point is that each partner benefits in various ways, from exposure to a new (or expanded) audience, to the association with an established (and/or reputable) brand.
Here are just a few of the upsides:
- Win-win relationships. Both parties benefit from the cross-promotion efforts. For example, a blogger can benefit from fresh content, while the partner gains in exposure to a wider audience. Or, two businesses selling related, but non-competitive products can both bring in more sales by reaching overlapping audiences.
- Cost-effectiveness. Cross-promotion can be an affordable way for businesses to gain more traction, as it usually requires less financial investment than traditional marketing methods. For example, the costs of joint advertisements can be shared between parties. In some cases, there’s really no additional cost at all!
- Brand equity boost. By partnering with bigger names or well-known brands, you associate your brand with theirs, absorbing some of their reputation and increasing your own brand equity.
- Increased brand reach. Whether it’s expanding into new territories or doubling down within a focused niche, cross-promotion gets your products in front of more potential customers than you’d probably reach on your own.
- SEO benefits. Backlinks and traffic from your partners’ sites and social media posts can have a positive impact on your search engine ranking, especially if you partner with more prominent businesses.
- Memorability. If your market is particularly saturated, unique cross-promotion deals can help you cut through the noise and get the attention of potential customers.
Cross-promotion vs. affiliation
So, what’s the difference anyway? Both cross-promotion and affiliation rely on win-win partnerships to expand brand reach and get more sales, but cross-promotion is configured in a different way. While affiliation is based on tracking traffic and conversions coming from specific affiliate links (and paying out commissions accordingly), cross-promotion focuses on an upfront, reciprocal agreement such as a specific ad campaign, podcast feature, or guest post, etc. Cross-promotion doesn’t necessarily involve the exchange of any money, and is generally just between two (or a few) parties, instead of an entire affiliate roster.
Finding the right partner(s)
To implement cross-promotion into your marketing efforts, you’re going to need a compatible partner! But, how do you choose? When assessing a potential partner, ask yourself the following things:
- Is it a credible and non-competitive business? Cross-promotion really only works when you aren’t directly competitive, so make sure your products aren’t too similar. It’s also important to make sure your partner is a credible and reliable business!
- Are the products or services complementary to yours? Some of the best cross-promotion partnerships come from adjacent niches. Think of what might pair well with your product – it could be a related service, complementary product, or something else altogether.
- Are the products or services genuinely useful to your customers? Nothing is more unappealing to your audience than being exposed to seemingly indiscriminate advertising, even if it’s coming directly from you.
- Are the business values, reputation, and marketing message in line with yours? You want to choose a partner that’s on the same wavelength as you, and has a communication style, image, and vibe that is compatible with yours. Remember that their reputation, professionalism, and quality standard will be associated with your business as you venture into cross-promotion together. By promoting their products, you are essentially endorsing them.
Creating a memorable promotion
When it comes to co-designing a promotion, think about some of the ways you can create more value or otherwise enhance the lives of your customers. Hard sells are not necessarily ideal; if your customer base already sees you as an authority, they will likely value your judgement and advice, so simply mentioning the partner’s product can make an impact.
You can create entirely new cross-promotional bundles and product add-ons, or give your customers exclusive discounts or access to the partner’s service for a limited time. You might also consider pairing unexpected items together to create a promotion that is too unique to forget. Other techniques include special holiday promotions and using plays on words or popular hashtags.
Channels and methods
Before you spring into action, you’ll need to decide which channels and methods you want to use for your cross promotion. You may recognize some of the following examples from your own observations:
Social media platforms
Popular and widely accessible, social media platforms are some of the best places to implement your cross-promotional campaigns. Posts can be easily shared, and with multiple audiences, you may be surprised how fast things can spread!One notable example is the “Instagram takeover”, during which a cross-promotion partner “takes over” the other’s Instagram for a designated time (usually one day). This gives the partner access to the other’s audience, allowing them to expand the reach of their content, or at the very least, make the new audience aware of (and curious about) the partner’s existence. Takeovers work particularly well with influencers who have a large following in your target demographic!
You can use all kinds of different social media tools and strategies, such as:
- Facebook ads designed for your (and/or your partner’s) target demographic
- YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook live videos, which can increase engagement due to the time-sensitive participation element
- Instagram Stories, as well as IGTV for long-form content such as product reviews, videos incorporating the use of your partner’s product, or other content that can be used to cross-promote
- Snapchat takeovers and custom (optionally co-branded) geofilters
- Twitter mentions and retweets
- Competitions, contests, and giveaways that require liking, sharing, or commenting on a cross-promotional post
Podcasts and YouTube channels
Combining forces with a podcaster in your industry that has a large audience can make a huge impact on your brand reach. Consider doing a guest interview or sponsor an episode. YouTube channels are similar, with a higher concentration of product reviewers and industry experts that are always looking for new and relevant products to review or content relevant to their audiences that they can incorporate into their videos.
Blogs and content sites related to your niche
A long-standing method for cross promotion, these channels offer niche-specific writers and content creators fresh new content to feed their audiences, while providing you with the benefits of increased exposure, backlinks, and a pre-qualified audience.
With more initial investment than some other options, joint advertisements can be an effective way to cross-promote – and you may pay less than if you were running ads on your own.
Often, people rely on the endorsement of those they admire when it comes to making purchase decisions. Influencers specialize in representing certain cultural subsects, industry trends, or just their own personal taste as a form of authority for their followers, and can be exceptionally useful for cross-promotion. Just like podcasters, bloggers, and YouTubers, they are on the lookout for new products to promote all the time.
Digital product examples
So, what are some examples of possible partnerships with respect to digital products? Here are a few ideas to think about:
- A Photoshop brush creator and a graphic designer or artist
- A software developer and a coding course creator
- A digital music producer and a vocalist
- A fitness app developer and a nutritionist who creates recipes online, or a health and fitness influencer on Instagram
- A WordPress theme developer and a graphic designer or artist
- A podcaster and an eBook writer
- A travel blogger and a foreign language YouTuber
- A stock photographer and a photography equipment reviewer
- A life coach and an Instagram lifestyle influencer
- An organizational web app creator and a career advice content writer
- A software tutorial creator and software template creator
There are limitless possibilities for the kinds for partnerships you can create, but do consider the nature of the different channels if you want to get the most out of your efforts. For example, Instagram and YouTube are particularly visual channels that are perfectly suited for visual products like graphics, photos, and videos, while podcasts work well for cross-promoting eBooks, audiobooks, written content, and digital courses.
Cross-promotion can strengthen your digital product brand in many ways, with increased reach, lower overall advertising costs, and improved brand equity, but it’s up to you to create a promotion that will be memorable and relevant to your audience (and your partner’s audience). Consider your target demographic, the most suitable channels for your products, and the non-competitive businesses or related product and service providers that may be the perfect match for partnership in order to maximize your cross-promotion efforts and up your game!
Do you use cross-promotion with your own digital product business? What are some of the things you’ve found most helpful? Is there something we missed? Drop us a comment below and join the conversation!
Illustration by Jessica Johnston.