August 10, 2009

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Arm in Arm

Utah Companies Cash in on Each Other’s Brand Power

By Heather Stewart

August 10, 2009

Log Haven restaurant owners know how to keep food on their tables during an economic recession: help their neighbors. It’s not a philanthropic effort, though. Instead, the restaurant is cashing in on a creative marketing trend: we’ll promote your brand and you promote ours. Drawing on each other’s established brand appeal, Utah’s small businesses are developing cross-promotional incentives to push customers through the door. Log Haven restaurant has a long tradition of relying on local food vendors for its fresh, seasonal menu. The restaurant’s printed menu highlights the local ingredients that are incorporated in entrees and appetizers. But Log Haven took it a step further in May with a “Meet the Makers” night, giving patrons an opportunity to sample wares directly from the local suppliers. “It was an opportunity for our clients to meet some of the purveyors that we use,” explains Faith Sweeten, co-owner of Log Haven. Representatives from Beehive Cheese, Amano Artisan Chocolate and Creminelli Fine Meats were on hand to help a crowd of nearly 80 nibble on samples of their gourmet products. Customers could also purchase a mixed drink featuring spirits from High West Distillery. The Meet the Makers event allowed local foodies to learn more about some of their favorite artisan food makers. “These companies are all celebrities in their own right—they have all won prestigious awards,” says Sweeten. “There is a movement right now to use local products,” she adds. “There’s a real awareness of it right now.” During the event, Log Haven capitalized on promoting its own menu and the restaurant’s local suppliers to an influx of new diners, since some people stuck around to eat dinner or a decadent dessert featuring Amano Chocolate. “The vendors all felt like it had been a very successful event,” says Sweeten. “I talked to someone who has lived in Utah for 20 years and had never been to Log Haven.” The match-up of a renowned restaurant and its equally celebrated suppliers was ideal for a successful cross-promotional experience. The Marketing Jargon “The strategy is to leverage off of each other’s promotional capability,” explains Bruce Law, president of Sprout Marketing. In other words, Company A can draw on Company B’s brand cachet—and vice versa—in order to reach a new audience. Sprout Marketing both lives this strategy and preaches it to its client base. Law describes Sprout Marketing as a full-service marketing department for hire. The company’s offerings include brand management, public relations, market research and social media, among other standard marketing fare. The company does not, however, build Websites, translate marketing materials into other languages or produce tradeshow display materials. But Sprout employees know companies that can do those things—and they are happy to refer clients to these “partner” companies. In turn, companies like SolutionStream and Graphik send their clients to Sprout Marketing to service their marketing needs. The collaborations benefit the entire partner network, especially since each company provides a specialized service that does not overlap the others. “The synergy happens really well if the collaboration is within your food chain so there’s linkage between your companies,” says Law. “We’ve helped launch more than 250 companies and more than 400 products,” he says. “We see a lot of synergies within our client base and when we can, we encourage them to promote together.” Law estimates that about three quarters of Sprout Marketing’s clients cross-promote in some way. For example, a Web technology company may team up with a Web design company to offer a broader range of services. “Many companies are looking for ways to get a greater marketing impact than they could get on their own,” explains Law. In some cases, that may mean a younger, less established brand will try to team up with a stronger brand. “New companies should look for opportunities to cross promote with a product that people are already familiar with in order to pull their product along,” Law says. Blogging the Word Although Goldsmith Co. Jewelers in Provo is a well-established company with a 30-year history in the community, the company wanted to introduce a brand new product line. Now, it is the exclusive dealer of PANDORA jewelry in Utah. Because PANDORA jewelry was new to the Utah market, Goldsmith Co. turned to Sprout Marketing for innovative cross-promotional strategies to introduce the line. “PANDORA has its own brand cachet,” says Law. The trick was to link Goldsmith Co. with PANDORA, and to achieve that, Sprout Marketing turned to an entirely different group with their own brand cachet: “mommy bloggers” who often have vast networks of devoted followers. Goldsmith Co. invited some of the top mommy bloggers in the state to an exclusive event, at which the bloggers were each given a PANDORA charm bracelet, a free charm and a pearl necklace. The bloggers were also provided with a coupon for a free pearl necklace that they could place on their blogs for readers to print and bring into the store. To encourage the bloggers to write about Goldsmith Co. and PANDORA, the company allowed each blogger to give away a $50 gift certificate to the store. To enter the contest, readers simply needed to comment on the blog post. They could earn additional entries by writing about PANDORA on their own blog, on Facebook or on Twitter. “The outcome was explosive,” says Law. “Anytime you bring two things together that haven’t been married before, you get a big bang of excitement.” The blogger event took place a couple of weeks before Mother’s Day, and Goldsmith Co. Jewelers snagged a tremendous influx of holiday shoppers. Finding Allies Small businesses in particular are looking for ways to create strong partnerships in order to survive the economic storm. Law has some advice for companies that are considering forging cross-promotional bonds. First of all, he says, “Find a brand that you’re compatible with. You’ve got to make sure the brands are of equal strength.” A strong, popular brand really has no motivation for teaming up with an unknown company or product. The big fish in the pond will not likely be interested in collaboration with anyone, let alone newcomers. Second, there has to be a reason for the collaboration—the customer has to care. It’s all about the little fission of excitement created by a food tasting event, product giveaways or even the introduction of an innovative new product or service. Third, “You’ve got to come up with equal expectations,” says Law. “There’s got to be a plan.” And last, Law emphasizes that companies should make sure they are not competing in certain areas to avoid stepping on each other’s toes. For example, Law points to the Utah Business Builders Series, a series of workshops and seminars provided through a collaboration between Sprout Marketing, the law firm Durham Jones & Pinegar and NOW Advisors, a firm that provides financial and accounting services. Each member of the alliance offers distinct services to the business community, which enables them to avoid any uncomfortable competitive overlapping. Sometimes, though, the only thing that unites small businesses is geography. A handful of business neighborhoods in Salt Lake City have nurtured a cooperative spirit and distinctive personalities, the best examples being the 15th and 15th area and the 9th and 9th community. Ellen Reddick, president of the Vest Pocket Business Coalition, says these neighborhoods have found tremendous success in marketing as a group. “Everyone is looking for opportunities to collaborate and reach more potential customers.” Particularly in a recession, small, local businesses are reaching new heights of creativity to not only stay afloat, but flourish. For small businesses, says Reddick, cross-promotion can range from companies simply recommending each other to joint advertising or even to product exchanges or discount coupons. Others turn to marketing partnerships out of sheer necessity, which is the case for businesses located along the road construction on 3500 South in West Valley City. According to Alan Anderson, president of Chamber West, companies in this zone are searching for ways to cross-promote the area and give customers a reason to brave the torn up road. Businesses as diverse as a coffee shop and a tire store are developing in-store coupons to promote each other—and hopefully survive the brutal months of construction. Friends and Neighbors Although they are located less than a mile apart, it was more than geography that brought together The King’s English Bookshop and Liberty Heights Fresh. “We’ve always loved and admired each other’s businesses and have long talked about ways to work together to promote local businesses in Utah,” says Steven Rosenberg, owner of Liberty Heights Fresh. Betsy Burton of The King’s English is as passionate about books as Rosenberg is about fresh, high-quality food. And finding a natural fit for a team marketing effort was as simple as tapping into each other’s passion. Prior to Christmas, the duo came up with a simple, elegant idea: each store would stock a product from the other. Liberty Heights Fresh set up a book display about olive oils and The King’s English offered a premium olive oil from Liberty Heights Fresh. The two companies simply exchanged products of equal value so no extra bookkeeping would be required. “It worked out extremely well,” says Rosenberg, so well that the two businesses revived the partnership later in the spring. “As long as they have a cookbook that is suitable for us to sell, we will continue to do it.” Although each business is well known in the Salt Lake community, Burton says new customers have discovered The King’s English through the cookbook display at Liberty Heights Fresh. And established customers have been delighted with the display of olive oil strategically placed near the Italian cooking section. “Although we are a bookstore, a well-chosen sideline will really help to highlight a section and frame it well,” says Burton. Rosenberg and Burton are co-founders of the Salt Lake Vest Pocket Business Coalition and have been instrumental in the effort to promote Utah’s local businesses. They have created similar displays out of the olive oil and cookbook, which include a little talking piece about how important local businesses are and how they are interconnected. “Each locally owned business is very distinctive and has its own personality—which makes it easy to find ways to cross promote with just about any other local business,” Burton says. In a marketing partnership, small businesses can bask in the reflected glow from other strong local brands. “It’s a great marketing idea,” says Burton. “But it’s also a great way to underscore the community of local businesses throughout Utah.”
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