What do hot tubs have in common with
If you’re Alice Cunningham of Olympic Hot Tub
Co. , plenty, considering both occupied her showroom floor for a
month this summer as part of a cross-promotion.
“More than anything else, it helps generate interest,”
says Cunningham, co-owner of the Seattle-based business.
“It’s just a matter of getting your name out there and
leaving crumbs for people to connect the dots.”
Experts and business/marketing consultants agree that
cross-promotions are a time- and cost-effective means of reaching a
broader consumer base. It takes legwork, but a well-thought out
program can yield positive returns for dealers. Below are a number
of guidelines to help ensure success. (For more tips on getting
that first cross-promotion started, click here.)
Finding partnership opportunities
Cunningham’s Harley promotion, which was run in concert with
a local dealer, played off an indirect relationship between hot
tubs and motorcycles.
Riding season in the Pacific Northwest generally lasts from May
through September. The connection to spas, then, became an
opportunity to extend the season by an additional month or
“We know it’s getting cold outside, but the thinking is
that they won’t mind it as much, or get as tired or as sore
this way,” she says. “If you have a hot tub, you can
ride longer and get more enjoyment out of it.”
Indeed, locating noncompetitive businesses that are interested in
joining forces is crucial.
“There should be a lot of synergy,” says marketing
consultant Shel Horowitz, author of seven books including
Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First
(Accurate Writing & More, 2003).
“The key step is to show the other partner the benefit of
teaming with you, whether it’s an increased money stream, a
consumer stream, or added exposure for their products,” he
Examples of possible partners include furniture, or other home
items which play into themes of comfort and relaxation. Also,
tie-ins with luxury services such as high-end restaurants or
wineries are a natural connection, as is an upscale hair salon:
“It’s a pampering thing,” Horowitz
George Dalhamer has twice run cross-promotions with a local seller
of high-definition televisions. Because he was able to secure a
deal for one-year same-as-cash, Dalhamer stacked and displayed 15
TVs at the front of his store for the approximately 10-day
“Other than the fact that they’re entertainment, I
don’t know that the synergy even needs to be there all the
time,” says the owner of Hot Spring Spas of Dayton in Ohio.
“The most important thing is to hit something that’s
hot. And even with the economy in the shape it’s in, TVs are
The right timing
Dalhamer’s first campaign with the TVs didn’t fare as
well as the second. The one big difference, he says, was
“One we did in the spring, and that was just totally the
wrong time,” he says. “You’ve got to make the TV
the drawing card, so we went back and figured out when the big
TV-watching time was. It’s just before and at the start of
His subsequent promotion was held in September, and it was themed
as a giant tailgate party. Complete with in-store materials and
signage, the program garnered the desired attention and helped move
Indeed, a cross-promotion may very well be doomed if it isn’t
coordinated to an appropriate time of year. Many events will
naturally see greater awareness as well if they coincide with, say,
One popular promotion could revolve around Christmastime
“Santa Paws” events — where pet owners bring
their cat or dog to have its picture taken with St. Nick. A
co-promotion with a local Humane Society or animal shelter can
bring attention and traffic to your store, says Molly Flament,
retail marketing manager for Watkins Manufacturing in Vista, Calif.
“People who spend money on their dogs, as they say, have
money to spend,” Flament explains. “And it’s an
opportunity to get some good press and positive
Cross-promotions with gyms and health clubs are ideal around New
Year’s, when resolutions to get fit and purchase memberships
Valentine’s Day certainly invites partnerships with wine
stores and romantic restaurants, Flament adds, or even weekend
getaways at a nearby hotel or bed-and-breakfast.
As for duration, Horowitz feels cross-promotions can last
“for as long as they’re working.”
But not all agree.
Dalhamer believes they typically should run no longer than two
weeks, and really closer to seven- to 10 days.
“Normally we do these promotions on the next-to-last week of
the month,” he says, “so we can put a definite end on
it. Some say you should really tighten it up — don’t
give people the chance to go home and think about it, so to
“There’s a lot to be said for creating a sense of
urgency,” he adds.
Why and how to cross-promote
The benefits of teaming with a nontraditional partner are varied
and tangible. And the advantages of broadening your customer base
“We’re all looking at ways to spread more information
about our industry to others,” says Will Kirchoff, director
of marketing and sales at Sparkling Pools & Harbor Hot Tubs in Sag
Harbor, N.Y. “And there are
opportunities all over.”
Plus, leveraging another business’s marketing capabilities to
boost your own product cannot be understated.
Experts note it’s also a time saver, reaching a wider array
of potential buyers in a relatively short amount of time.
“You just need to make sure that your marketing methods fit
with your demographics, as well as with those of your
partner,” Horowitz says.
Running a co-promotion saves money as well, as partners share
expenses and duties toward a common goal.
What’s more, cross-promotions often gain greater exposure and
attention because of their unique nature — unlikely
partnerships can quickly become newsworthy, especially when visible
entities like charities or community organizations are involved.