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updated 4/19/2012 7:20:42 AM ET 2012-04-19T11:20:42

When you're a startup with a new product and a small marketing  budget, it's tough to get customers' attention. Finding a marketing partner with an established audience that might like your product can help boost your own sales. 

Take the case of Healthy Foods LLC. Founded in May 2011, the company had a fun new product called Yonanas, a machine that turns overripe bananas into a tasty, low-cal, dairy-free frozen dessert. While Healthy Foods did well initially, selling the machine on the Home Shopping Network and getting it into some major department stores, there was potential for better sales. What Yonanas lacked was exposure to more of its perfect target customer: people who love bananas.

Meanwhile, a big brand in bananas -- Dole -- had a problem of its own. Grocery stores were complaining that their bananas too often started turning brown and became overripe before their purchasers had a chance to eat them. 

Last fall, Dole reached out to the company, and announced a partnership with Healthy Foods to promote Yonanas. Dole even made an equity investment in the company.

Related: How to Spread the Word About Your Business (Video)

The co-marketing campaign just began rolling out. Dole plans to distribute 100 million bunches of bananas with stickers that say "Turn me into Yonanas." Future plans include adding the sticker to Dole frozen fruit.

This case demonstrates that if you can get the marketing started, a big player may notice you and reach out. But don't wait for opportunity to knock -- small business owners should also be out proactively approaching partners.

The Curious Child, a new upscale toy store in my Seattle-area neighborhood, did just that. I noticed the place when it first opened, but I saw that it was in an out-of-the-way location that's easy to miss.

Related: Seven Effective Marketing Methods for Our Ad-Cluttered, Digital Age

But the store made a smart move in partnering with my children's public elementary school. The school sponsored a family math-game night with dozens of interesting games that involved geometry or calculation, set out on tables in the gym. About 200 people turned out.

The Curious Child had provided the games and had a large display table at the event. Families had a chance to try the games, and then buy them on the spot. 

The partnering event offered an educational opportunity the school might not otherwise have been able to afford, and it provided a terrific marketing opportunity for the toy store, putting its products in front of its ideal target audience. It was a classic win-win.

Who would your ideal marketing partner be? Leave a comment and tell us who you'd love to team up with. 

Related: Six Strategies for Partnering with Big Brands

This article originally posted on Entrepreneur.com

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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