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Cross-Selling for Fun and Profit

When my clients ask me what's the first thing they should do to promote and market their businesses, I strongly suggest that they put their checkbooks away and don't do a thing until they discover the watering holes where their customers hang out. Then, be there to sell to them. A watering hole is any person, place, or thing that already has your potential customer's "attention" as well as some credibility in their eyes. Find these sources, and you not only find your potential customers but also a partner that may market your product for you—for free! This is called cross-selling.

Here's how IT can help the marketing department with cross-selling:

  1. Show your marketing colleagues how to find web sites that link to your site already. It goes without saying that if those sites link to yours now, they might be interested in deepening a business relationship with your company. How can find out if the other sites link to yours? Simple. Go to AltaVista, Yahoo!, Google, and other major search engines and enter in the search box the following command:

    link:domain_name_of_your_site

    For example: link:yourdomain.com

    The search results will list sites that include links to your site. These are the first people that your marketing staff should contact for a strategic relationship. Ideally, these sites would be non-competitive content or community sites that reflect the interests of your potential customers.

  2. After finding out who links to your site, your organization should use the same search engines to search for other compatible content and community sites, using the keywords that reflect your business.

    The cross-linking relationship could be something as simple as reciprocal linking or even a banner ad exchange. If you go for a reciprocal link, set up a "recommended resources" page on your site to list your linking partners. But reciprocal linking can go much further. Instead of a simple link on your resource page, you can add copy to a partner's link and place it strategically around your web site (if the partner will do so in turn). You might even make it part of your navigation structure, framing the partner's page with your navigation when their link is clicked.

  3. Finally, suggest that your marketing department syndicate their content to your partner sites. Think about this: You sell a product or a service. You not only know your product or service but also a lot of other information about the market it inhabits. This content could be a welcome addition to your partner sites, and that in turn gives you the opportunity to sell your product or service.

    Here's an example. Suppose you own a photography company and specialize in taking quality pictures of pets. Where's a waterhole where pet owners congregate? Veterinarian practices, for one. Put sample photos in the vet's waiting room with your company's logo, telephone number, and web address.

Though many of these tactics are common sense to the IT professional, remember that most of them would be foreign to your marketing colleagues. So bring these strategies to their attention and help them reach your organization's marketing objectives.

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