Effective Cross-Promotions

A few years ago, my parents gave me a coffee maker as a gift. The thing is a total monster — it makes espresso, cappuccino and a bunch of other stuff. But I’ve never used it for anything other than making basic, run-of-the-mill coffee.

I suppose this is because I’m a plain coffee kind of guy. But I’ve never used the espresso maker or any other features because Mr. Coffee hasn’t gone out of its way to make it easy to use those features. The manual is complicated and poorly written, and the product is far from intuitive.

Sure, it’s nice to know that if someone forced his way into my apartment, put a gun to my head and demanded a cappuccino, that I’d probably be able to figure it out. But barring any such unreasonable demands for fancy hot beverages, I will go to my grave without having used the extra features on my coffee maker.

Whether we’re talking about coffee makers or web businesses, we want consumers to make use of all of our features. We add features and services to our web sites because we want the opportunity to sell additional product, to address additional consumer needs, and to expand our businesses.

When we add products and services to a web business, it only makes sense to leverage what we already have to promote that which has just been added.

Successfully expanding the offerings of a web business requires an elegant blend of design and promotion strategy. The design aspect of expansion should always allow for not only the addition of new products and services, but also for effective cross-promotion. Since this isn’t a design column, I won’t even attempt to put a finer point on this.

Instead, let’s talk about the promotional aspects of expansion into new products and features.

To be successful at launching an additional offering, it is important to realize that no one will use the new offering unless they know about it. Integration and design can help here, but more importantly, cross-promotion will address the low-hanging fruit and inform your existing user base of your new offering.

Yahoo does a terrific job of cross-promotion. Throughout its site, remnant banner inventory is used to promote offerings like Yahoo Clubs, Yahoo Messenger, Yahoo Calendar and more. The ads for these features are text-based and benefits driven. Not only do they load quickly, but the ads also showcase the benefits to the consumer in a simple and effective way.

Don’t forget the traditional media, either. Amazon has been promoting the addition of auctions to its suite of services in outdoor and radio ads. Kozmo.com’s outdoor ads have reflected the addition of books, magazines, video games and other stuff to its original home video delivery service.

Another way to effectively cross-promote online is by use of collaborative filtering software. Such functionality would allow Kozmo’s servers to determine appropriate upselling and cross-selling opportunities based on the behavior of Kozmo’s existing user base. For instance, if six of the last ten people to rent “The Road Warrior” also bought a pint of ice cream, the system would likely push Ben & Jerry’s on anyone who had Mel Gibson action flicks in their shopping cart or on their wish list.

But it’s not enough to simply cross-sell at the appropriate moment. It’s important to remember that you are selling not just a product, but also a process.

The next time the Mel Gibson fan in the above example is at your site, will he be able to find and purchase the ice cream on his own? Your goal in cross-selling, whether it be a new product or a new feature, is not only to stimulate trial, but also to make it easy for the consumer to become a regular user in case the trial is successful.

MyWay.com utilizes this principle to retain new users. Once trial subscribers have created a personalized offering using the service, MyWay makes it easy to get back to the service by featuring a “Make This My Start Page” link prominently on their home page. After all, once you’ve convinced a user to go through a selling process, why make them go through the same process again every time they want your product?

E-mail lists can also be tremendously effective at helping to launch new offerings, especially if you have a core of solid fans for your brand. LucasArts leverages its brand in this way. Anyone purchasing a LucasArts PC game has the opportunity during product registration to sign up for a newsletter that gives advance notification of new products and upgrades.

Don’t let your web site remain a one-trick pony like my coffee maker. Promote your new offerings in the right way, and your brand will represent more to your consumers.

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