When ‘Co-Pros’ weren’t yet cool / by Annette Tait

-- By Katy “Kate” Kassian

Long before “co-promotion” and “collaboration” became key words for small businesses, we were co-promoting.  I still am.

After reading a fabulous article on co-promotions from Alignable, I was inspired to write about my own experiences.

Twenty-plus years ago we bought a restaurant sight unseen -- on a handshake at a football game in Eastern Colorado. Yes, that’s a true story. You can read about it here

If you’ve ever done business in a very small, very rural town off the beaten track, you know how hard it can be to drum up business. So we began co-promoting pretty early on.  It didn’t have a name or recognition yet -- it was just something we did.

Our reasons were many: to get more customers, build more awareness, make advertising more affordable -- remember, this is before the advent of social media! -- and to utilize all the assets our little bitty town had.

We co-pro’d with our neighbors at the Triple L Hotel, which had been closed for many years and had just re-opened when we came to town.  We approached them about shared advertising costs and promotions -- we routinely sent customers back and forth, and always included each other in special events. We had our menus in each room and they had all the hotel information at our place. 

We even bartered our restaurant’s deep-cleaning for free meals (they were retirees from a cleaning company). 

We co-pro’d with neighboring towns. The three closest towns had very tiny populations: 29, 300, and 175. That’s right -- just more than 500 total.

We all had cafes and kids. So we initiated a few rounds of what we fondly called our “Summer of Café Racing.” We rotated going to each town and having the racing in front of the cafés -- we strapped our kids into go-cartsand let ‘em run!  It enhanced each of our businesses on those days and gave everyone something to talk about the next winter.

We co-pro’d with the itty bitty video rental store. “Dinner & a (rental) Movie,” all for one price. We let customers drop off their rental movies with us if they were in town early. And the video rental store sold our pizzas.

Our version of “Redneck Revenue” was a little unorthodox, but it did what it supposed to do and showed what a little imagination and cooperation can do.

Fast forward 20+ years. I am now in North Dakota, on a farm, miles from town, so I began a small business, Buffalo Gals Mercantile, I run from our farm. Over the years I have co-pro’d with  Jo Khalifa, MoJo Roast Coffee, and  Amy McKinney, Inner Flair Fashion.  One business is north of us about 100 miles, and the other way off in sunny California.

Jo and I co-pro’d on a number of projects.  One my favorites was when we worked together to come up with custom burlap gift bags and branded coffee for “Dakota Fred” Hurt of Gold Rush fame (on The Discovery Channel).

Amy and I work regularly together to either dress up my Buffalo Gals SakHats with her hair-bobs, or to include her jewelry in special promotions.

What else can I say? Co-promotions WORK!

Need more inspiration? Check out Alignable's Co-Pro page and type in your industry.  I actually checked out each and every one listed. One of my faves was the limousine service that paired with a retirement home to offer discounted rides to and from appointments or shopping, as a way for the service to stay busy during slow periods.  I don’t even get to ride in a Limo now -- I would be totally tickled to at any age!

So -- get creative, think outside the box. How many possibilities can you think of?

Remember, everybody wins when you work together.


This blog post was originally written for Alignable, and can be seen here on its Co-Pro web page.