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Inside View: July 2013

June 17, 2013  By Gary Jones

My wife and I were recently ordering food in a restaurant in Entebbe. Well, she was ordering in the “restaurant.”

My wife and I were recently ordering food in a restaurant in Entebbe. Well, she was ordering in the “restaurant.” I was ordering from the street food vendor on the adjacent sidewalk. He was allowed to let his customers enjoy the tables and chairs in the restaurant – securing extra target clientele who did not want to eat “on the go,” but also did not want to eat standard restaurant food at higher than necessary prices.

It was, initially, all quite confusing, but we soon got the hang of it.


I was also pretty intrigued by this system. Here were two very small businesses working closely together to increase sales for each other. On the face of it, it seemed like a fabulous partnership.

How much do we, or could we, increase partnerships in our industry? How do we handle marketing in general in horticulture, particularly for small businesses? My experience is that small businesses generally don’t apply too much in the way of resources to marketing, since most are in the industry because they “want to grow plants.”

So, what can we learn about this idea of teaming up with other businesses to market and sell products together?

According to Barbara Findlay Schenck1, “co-marketing campaigns unite businesses in partnerships that” can “deliver all participants greater visibility, credibility, market reach and sales success than they could have achieved independently.”

This is certainly true of the food retailers my wife and I enjoyed in Entebbe.

By way of example, Schenck cites the 21-year-old “Intel Inside” partnership as a highlight co-marketing success. But success is not assured, and other co-marketing efforts have failed “usually because they involve partnerships that compete with, confuse or complicate brand images in their customers’ minds.”

Ironically, this is also true of the Entebbe food partnership, as I was pretty confused at first!

Schenck advises that “successful co-promotion often hinges on the issue of compatibility” and he suggests some simple rules to help tip the balance towards success:

“Form the right partnership.” The key to running a successful cross-promotion is “to partner with a business that targets a similar customer as you do but that offers a product or service that doesn’t compete with yours,” says Carmen Sognonvi, co-owner of Urban Martial Arts in the New York City borough of Brooklyn and author of the blog “Your Guide to Local Success.”

For example, in our industry small growers can form a loose co-marketing partnership to cross-sell their various food or floriculture products at a “one-stop-shop” (such as a farmers market), and offer incentives to customers who make purchases with more than one vendor.

“Avoid cross-promotion traps.” Be careful when potential partners have very different products, client lists, marketing approaches or reputations. Schenck suggests potential partners use a five-question test:

  • “Do the partner businesses complement and not compete with each other?
  • “Do they appeal to similar but not identical customers?
  • “Will the partnership enhance the reputation of all partners?
  • “Are the reputations, marketing styles and promotion goals of all partners a good match?
  • “Do all partners agree to a promotion plan, a budget, a timeline and responsibilities?”

Go for it. According to Sognonvi, “the easiest way to start a cross-promotion is for two businesses to display each other’s fliers prominently.” This could work well for a couple of (or more) horticulture businesses marketing complementary products in a local neighbourhood, especially at key gardening times of year. Included could be flower bulbs, plant pots, growing media tools, gardening books and garden wear, as just a few examples.

Another option is jointly sponsored events, such as educational seminars or workshops. Share the cost of renting room space, refreshments and guest speakers between several businesses who are selling complementary (but different) products to the same potential audience.

Just like the two small food retailers I came across in Entebbe, are there partner businesses in your area (or beyond) with whom you could link up with to cross-market your products?

If you’re both clear about your objectives, have a well-thought-out plan and can come up with the right kind of buyer incentive scheme, then perhaps this might open up new areas of sales for everyone.

1 Barbara Findlay Schenck, at

Gary Jones is a faculty member in the School of Horticulture at Kwantlen University, Langley, British Columbia. He sits on several industry committees and welcomes comments at

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