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Your scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours

Recently I took my kids out for dinner. The restaurant was in a strip mall with many other stores and shops around. When it was time to pay, the server gave us our check AND a coupon for a free ice cream cone at the ice cream shop next door. Naturally my kids started begging for ice cream!

We walked next door to the ice cream store. When we got there, they gave us a coupon for a free meal at the restaurant we just were. These two places were working together to send business each other’s way. This kind of arrangment is called “fusion marketing,” and adopting its principals to your camp is a great way to build enrollment.

It’s a “You scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours” type of thing. The key is to identify a business or organization you share the same customer base with, but not someone you directly compete with. When you’ve identified a potential fusion marketing partner. approach them to propose an alliance.

At my camp in Los Angeles, I’ve done several of these arrangements over the years. The most recent one was with a kids clothing store.  Here’s how it worked.

I walked into the store and introduced myself to the manager. Told her my kids buy lots of shoes at her shop. Buttered her up a little bit. I was in good standing with her that quickly.

So then I told her I’ve got this idea. I said I’ve noticed that lots of the same customers who shop at her store also send their kids to my camp, so maybe we should do some joint marketing to help each other out. She was very interested and asked what I had in mind.

“Here’s my proposal,” I said. “Why don’t I come into your shoe store this weekend, set up a little card table or display off to the side, discuss my camp with your customers and hand out my brochure? I’ll be totally unobtrusive and won’t interfere with your shoppers one bit. If anyone signs up for Aloha Beach Camp based on my connection with you, I’ll give you 10% of their enrollment fee right off the top.”


I got access to her customers and picked up 8 new campers for a few extra hours of work on a Saturday. And she made an extra $800 she wouldn’t have otherwise. (That’s the 10% fee I owed her for getting $8,000 worth of new business inside her store.) It was a “win-win.”

You can do fusion marketing arrangements all sorts of different ways. The thing I liked about my deal with the shoe store was I didn’t have to outlay any money up front. I only paid for results. If no one signed up for camp, I wouldn’t have owed the shoe store a penny. But I was more than happy to give her $1,000 for the 8 new kids I got signed up out of nowhere!

Here’s another positive thing about fusion marketing: it’s a valuable marketing strategy when the economy sucks like it does right now. When you’ve got other businesses and organizations helping you do your promotional work, your marketing reach is extended. You’re re getting access to many potential customers you wouldn’t otherwise connect with.

Fusion marketing pays, so I hope you’ll give it a try!

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