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When it comes to marketing your shop, there’s really no need to do it alone, Diane Eschenbach says.

In fact, in a city filled with other local businesses also trying to get by, marketing alone flat-out doesn’t make sense.

That’s a critical piece of advice Eschenbach has relayed to businesses as a marketing consultant for the past three decades. And although she now specializes in start-up companies for DE Marketing Consultants (she also helps identify children with autism that can be helped through new therapies; wrote a book for people who want to start an online business; and founded the Meet Me Next app), Eschenbach has coached enough small, locally established businesses over the years to understand the importance of what she calls “cooperative advertising.” By properly networking with other local businesses, she says you can expand your reach, more than double your word-of-mouth referrals, and become more easily ingrained in your community.

When you have a business that’s part of a community, you always have to be thinking locally. And when it comes to business networking, you’re making marketing part of your life. It’s all about conversation, and it’s great for when you have a limited budget. 

Here are five tips for effective cooperative advertising:

 

1. Have a general speech prepared. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an outright script, but more like recorded soundbites about the business you can use for various situations. You want something that will stick, something that’s going to stay in their minds.

When I consult a business, I get all the information about that business—their vision, their specialties, their target demographic—and then we find their soundbites. We make sure they have those characteristics and that they’re easy to remember. Talk to friends, family, co-workers, and figure out what really appeals to people and what you can sell. You could spend months nailing down the perfect soundbite.

And then you have to memorize those soundbites. There is an element of preparation involved. You just keep doing it and practicing it with everybody. People love to learn about what you do. They are naturally curious and love to help.

 

2. Find the right partner businesses. I recommend joining the chamber of commerce and being present at every meeting. Speak up on issues that affect your business, and keep your soundbites in mind when speaking about your business. The more people that know about your services, the more the word spreads.

Sometimes business owners will naturally gravitate toward you, if they’re responding to your message. More often than not, though, you’ll need to identify people that fit into your target customer base. For automotive repair shop owners, it sort of runs the gamut, since everyone needs their vehicles serviced. So really try to focus on businesses that have a similar customer base as yours.

 

3. Offer word-of-mouth referrals to other businesses. For this tip, I recommend having lot of business cards on hand. When you connect with another business owner—in this case, let’s say it’s a local dentist—just ask them, Do you mind giving me a few of your business cards? I’ll hand them out next time I meet someone looking for a new dentist. You wouldn’t believe how willing people are to reciprocate. They’ll ask for several in return and hand them out to other people.

 

4. Give up your personal time to other local businesses. You have to gain people’s trust first before you can ask them to do something for you. Find a way to offer them your time and build a relationship. When you do that, and then they’re talking to other people, you’re more likely to come up in a conversation. 

All business owners are super busy people, and they could always use extra help for different things. If you find a business owner that you want to partner with is hosting a local event, offer to help out. One of my clients once volunteered to check people in for an event, and that was great, because they got to meet everybody who walked in.

 

5. Exchange services with other businesses. Go beyond referrals and give them something tangible. You could, for example, partner up with a car wash business. You could each hand out coupons to your customers that drive people directly to each business.

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