Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Collaborating with complementary businesses

I’m hopeful that spring is just around the corner in the mid-Atlantic and because of my optimism I’ve been thinking of what outdoor project we might tackle this year.  Along with making a list of supplies I’ll also need to make a list of retailers I need to visit to purchase everything I need – and hopefully I don’t forget anything on that master list.

Retailers have a natural fit in this plan and can certainly make shopping easier by taking the guess work out of what’s needed to complete a project.  For example, what does a customer need to recreate a display garden or outdoor seating area they see at a garden center?  Placing plant material used in the display garden next to the garden, for easy retrieval, is the first step but providing a check list of materials needed to complete the job would ensure that the customer is less likely to forget that they also need mulch, landscape fabric, etc. 

However, just because an ag business doesn’t sell upholstered patio furniture, grills, decking materials, or grills doesn’t restrict them from inviting complementary businesses to provide these items, brochures and pricing list, along with signage advertising the source (be sure to ask these businesses to reciprocate).  A garden center, retail nursery, or even landscaping company could then create a fully outfitted display garden intermingled with plant material, containers, fountains, and signs describing services available. 

Other ag businesses could take a similar approach.  Wineries, cheese shops, and on-farm markets could develop gift baskets using other local edible and non-edible products ( retail industry sources have indicated that gift basked have been big sellers for many establishments and most likely will continue to be popular for both holiday and non-holiday occasions).  Or, these retailers could showcase a local artist’s paintings, sculpture, etc.  Signage placed near items for sale could include a full list of the complementary business’s offerings or directions to the artist’s studio. 

Cross promotion shouldn’t be limited to just in-store.  Rather, consider promoting each others’ logos, websites, etc. on printed materials, talk about each others’ business on social media sites, and link to each others’ web pages.  These are just a few possibilities for cross promotion and even tapping into new customer pools.  Ag. businesses have been successful hosting events, contests, and sponsoring causes with complementary businesses.  Working together can be a win-win situation for ag businesses and the customers they serve. 

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