Cross-selling became popular in through customer service and sales centers in the 1990s and on the web more recently. At the time, The Economist described it as “the synergistic notion that buyers of one of a firm's services would become customers for another.” As expected, the rules and opportunities around cross-selling have evolved and expanded since. It’s still effectively used to generate revenue but also as a value-added service to a customer.
The travel industry is a great example. Airlines have done it for years – with hotel companies, rental car companies and the like. Think about your last experience reserving a flight online and the corresponding relevant offers or discounts you received. Targeted marketing.
If you sell ice cream and I sell spoons, we could both sell more of each if we do it together and present it to the ‘right’ customers. Clearly, that’s a simplified example. Here’s a better one. If company A sells home insurance, they would make some customers very happy by offering company B’s discounted cable service to a new home buyer. The products are relevant and complementary.
So why do so many industries and leading brand companies stigmatize or shun cross-brand selling? I don’t know. But I do know how to overcome them.
Here are the myths:
1. Customer experience will suffer. No, it will not. If partnership brands are aligned, and cross-sold products and services are highly relevant and complementary, the customer experience is enhanced. If a company helps to solve customers’ problems and complete their experience, the customer feels goodwill towards the company.
2. Cross-brand partnerships are challenging to set up and administer. They can be, but they don’t have to be. Conventional approaches, like one-to-one contractual agreements, are time consuming. However, with the right tools, the latest collaboration services simplify and streamline the agreement between and administration of partnerships. This can include matchmaking between relevant brands, simplified contracts, as well as campaign success metrics and measurement of desired outcomes to ensure a positive return on investment. Search long and hard for the best and often newest tools.
3. Cross-brand selling dilutes or erodes the value of the leading brand name value. No, not with the right partnerships and follow through. With forethought into brand and product alignment, partnerships can enhance and strengthen all the company brands involved. In fact, with the right partnerships, you can draft off the success of your partners’ brand and their investment in it. When there is brand relevancy, customers perceive value in engagement, and it can increase loyalty and engagement.
4. Handing off of phone calls or to another web site is problematic and alienates customers. No, not with the proper technology. Many companies believe that cross-selling must be handled entirely by them. That means, their agents must be well versed on the main company’s products and then also be trained to sell and answer questions about partner company products. That may not be the best solution. With today’s seamless voice/web infrastructure and supplemental desktop tools, call transfers and web-based CRM system transfers that are handled well won’t have adverse impact on the customer experience.
5. Cross-brand selling cannibalizes a company’s own products. It won’t. If a company offers cable service, they won’t likely partner with a cable service company. Few companies have the breadth of product offerings to satisfy all of a customer’s requirements around a life trigger event. For example, someone buying a new house will need a mortgage, utilities, cable, telephone, and maybe a security system and a moving truck. Do you know a company that offers all of that? I’d doubt it. Most companies cannot handle all that. Partnerships allow companies to complement their products and services with those from partners.
Cross-brand selling through partnerships with companies offering relevant and complementary products and services is a wave of business that is growing.