A key factor in launching a successful reciprocal marketing program, however, is choosing the right partner or partners. Experts say you shouldn't pick a company similar to your own, but instead select one that naturally com-plements your philosophy and product line. Essentially, Proflowers took this tack. "We developed an extensive grid with a lot of criteria around things like the number of visitors a particular Web site gets regularly, what category they are in, what their brand image is, and obviously, they had to be noncompetitive sites," explains Bellach. "Then, the 10 or 15 criteria we chose were weighted, and we ranked potential partners."
While you don't have to be as recognizable as Proflowers to launch a successful reciprocal marketing program, it helps to have its level of marketing know-how. "When we first started out, nobody knew us," says Bellach. "But we understood how to put together successful reciprocal marketing programs. For example, we made an effort to really understand our partners' needs and be creative in helping them accomplish their objectives while at the same time accomplishing ours."
A good way to find partners is the tried-and-true method of networking. "Attend conferences," says Strauss. "Talk to people. And, most important, know what you can offer and understand what might be of value to potential partners."
Proflowers insists that because of all the successful reciprocal marketing deals it has set up, the site actually gets a lot of inquiries now from other Web sites wanting to establish deals. "The best way to get potential partners interested in doing reciprocal marketing with you and your site is simply to be out there, actively proposing win-win arrangements," says Horowitz.
However, for your reciprocal marketing program to succeed, make sure you're not cluttering your site with discounts for a dozen other retailers. It's a risky move, because customers might begin to confuse your site with an online mall. "I am not a believer in filling up the home page with reciprocal marketing or affiliate marketing or affiliate marketing programs," says Horowitz. "When you take the trouble and time and money to bring someone to your Web site, you want to keep the visitor there as long as possible. Off-site links interfere with this." Proflowers prevents this confusion by including on its home page a "Specials and Promotions" link to the programs taking place.
Another tip: Horowitz says netpreneurs shouldn't base their revenue models solely on their reciprocal marketing programs. "Think of it as a little extra gravy and not the primary moneymaker," he suggests. However, that doesn't change the fact that reciprocal marketing remains a great way for netpreneurs to grow-especially in today's risky dotcom environment. "I believe it is in the best interest of all businesses to expend the energy developing reciprocal and affiliate marketing programs with companies that can synergistically help each other's efforts," says Chris Anne Wheeler, vice president of information services for online market research company ActivMedia Research LLC. "By failing to do so, companies will lose revenues."
- ActivMedia Research, (800) 639-9481, ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Shel Horowitz, www.frugalfun.com
Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at email@example.com.