If you are not currently conducting a reciprocal marketing program you are missing out on an excellent means of promoting your business at relatively low cost.

Let me explain: a reciprocal marketing program is an arrangement whereby you solicit other traders to enter into partnership with you to allow you to offer discounts and other benefits, such as free services, at their stores. You benefit through giving them special offers for doing business with you and they benefit by attracting new customers with these offers.

It’s easy to get started, because it doesn’t require a lot of your time to approach other traders. Simply type up a form letter.

Send copies to several different types of businesses. Be prepared to answer questions about how the program works and have a plan as to exactly how you will publicise this scheme. I would suggest a direct mail flyer to all of your customers – you do have a customer list, don’t you? – backed by local area newspaper advertising and an in-store display, listing all of the participating traders and their special offers that are valid only for your customers.

Encourage each trader to make a strong offer: an upscale beauty salon, for instance, might allow 25-50% off; a restaurant could offer two entrées for the price of one; an office supply store could give away a “free” appointment book or other premium. Select businesses that you know are popular with your present clientele.

As this will primarily be your promotion, use your company’s name as the headline. In fact, your business should occupy at least 50 per cent of the whole piece. Use this space to promote the numerous services that you provide and describe all the benefits of using them: like saving time, saving money and living a healthier lifestyle.

After this, tie in the other traders’ offers to your own – by having their clothes cleaned at your store, customers become entitled to these additional benefits at the other businesses.

Customers benefit by receiving more for their money. They can get free or discounted merchandise and services, simply by trading with you instead of your competitors. You give them quality work at a fair price and they get a “thank you” that has a measurable added value.

The other participating traders benefit by having new upper-end customers directed to their businesses by you. Their promotional costs are well targeted towards customers who have the potential to generate repeat business.

As your trading partners have no production and distribution costs, this is the best focused, most cost effective advertising they could do. You should have no trouble developing a waiting list of traders willing to participate. Select only high quality businesses that are potentially willing to make a meaningful offer to your customers.

By operating such a program, you will be adding “value” to the services you provide, while maintaining your full price structure. That is, even though you are paying for the production and distribution of the advertising, you would have been paying for advertising anyway, and you don’t have to discount your own work. Let the other traders discount their products or services. You collect the full price for your work and everyone wins – the customers, the traders and you.