We are so accustom to buying traffic that we sometimes forget the value of bartering. If you currently have a marketing asset of any kind that is valuable to someone else, and if they have a similar audience to your target market, then the ingredients for a mutually beneficial barter are present.
The first thing you must do is assess the marketing value that you have to offer. What is it that you have to give another company that would be beneficial to them in a marketing scenario? Here are some possible marketing assets you could barter with:
1) Do you have a mailing list that could be used to send out an email which highlights something for another company?
2) Do you have content that you could run ads on for another company (blog, video, photos)?
3) Do you have a social media following on Twitter, Facebook, or somewhere else, that you could use on behalf of another company?
4) Do you run an event at a physical location that you could use to promote another company?
5) Do you have a podcast that could be used to teach or educate about another company?
6) Or anything else you can think of. The possibilities are endless.
Once you’ve figured out what marketing value you could trade, now you need to find a target company to barter with. You are looking for a company that fits the following criteria:
1) They have a similar size marketing channel to the one you are offering. If you ask Amazon if they’ll swap email blasts with you then they’ll laugh at you.
2) Their audience must be filled with people that fit your target demographic (and vice versa). If you’re not reaching the right people then the swap is in vain.
3) They must not consider themselves to be your competitor. Find someone with a similar audience to yourself, but not someone who is directly competing with you.
Once you have a short list of possibilities there are a few tricks to discover how good the match would be before you reach out to them. The first thing you can do is a keyword analysis on their Twitter profile to discover how targeted the swap would be for both parties. The simplest way to do this is to look at the list of followers they have on Twitter. Then scroll to the bottom of the page a few times so that quite of few of their followers have been loaded. Now do a search on the page (cmd+F) and search for a keyword that your target demographic would have in their bio. Now you can see what percentage of their followers fit your demographic. This is helpful knowledge even if you are trading something that has nothing to do with Twitter.
You can also do an audience overlap analysis to discover further insights about the match by using followerwonk (http://www.followerwonk.com). You simply type in the Twitter handle of yourself and someone that you are considering bartering with and you see how many people follow both of you. You are looking for overlapping circles, but not completely overlapped. If they are completely overlapped then you have already reached them. If they are not overlapped enough then their audience is not targeted enough for you.
Now you need to put together a barter package. You don’t want to send your target company a vague email about how you could maybe work together. Instead, send a short concise email with a specific ask. For instance, ask them if you could tweet about each other since you have roughly the same number of followers and your demographics are aligned. People are too busy to brainstorm for you. Ask for what you want.
It is quite possible, using this recipe, to get thousands of dollars in free advertising with minimal effort. Growth Hacker TV once sponsored a conference alongside HubSpot due to a barter. HubSpot is obviously much larger than us, but we bartered our way to the top. We’ve also bartered for free distribution in newsletters, and much more. (Photo courtesy of Spencer Hickman)