Editor's Note: We are very pleased to have the following trend spotting report from Kare Anderson, former Wall Street Journal reporter and Emmy-winner. She reports on a new trend among businesses and organizations, called "smart partnering": Even as many Floridians were fleeing their homes to avoid Hurricane Frances, their *neighbors* in Florida and Georgia had a small way to support them, just as they did after Hurricane Charley and tropical storm Bonnie hit. When people visited a Winn-Dixie grocery store they could help towards storm relief by "evening it up" at the checkout counter. That is, they could round up their food bill to the next dollar, with the extra change going to the local Red Cross chapter for relief efforts. This isn't a random event. It reflects a growing trend of organizations joining forces with others who serve the same kind of consumer. Together, they have discovered that they can act quickly to offer extra value, convenience or other stand-out benefit. People Are Partnering in Unexpected Ways - and Winning the Hearts of Customers and Communities That's how Applebee's attracted more customers - many first-time visitors - to their family restaurants this summer, without advertising more. That's how T-shirt designer Tami Minatelli was able to exhibit at nine street fairs this summer without paying for her booth space. A new manufacturer of a unique, no-stain suntan lotion paid for Tami's booth. Why? Because she wore their lotion and her T-shirts, with a sign above her head, describing her original painting-on-cotton method and the lotion's "do no harm" guarantee. Next to burn protection, that's the biggest concern of people who use suntan lotions. When Weight Watchers designed and branded several low-cal menu items for Applebee's, followers of the Weight Watchers program (and those who were thinking of dieting) had a new reason to eat at Applebee's. Applebee's customers opened up their menus and saw how appetizing a WeightWatchers entree could be. Consumers got introduced to products by organizations they already knew and trusted. In each story you just read, organizations that serve the same kind of consumers created new opportunities for each other. They didn't just forge a partnership. They crafted what I call a "smart partnership". Together they accomplished more than they could have in "solo" outreach efforts. They attracted and delighted their mutual market of people while spending less. As you can tell, any kind or size of organization can adopt this trend towards joining forces to generate more value and visibility together. Perhaps that's why partnering is the fastest growing and most controversial marketing approach used today. Warning: with the wrong partners or methods, your efforts can backfire. You may irritate or even alienate prospective customers and supporters. Pick Your Partners with Care One must pick partners with great care. Notice how one *sweet* cause campaign got lambasted recently while another attracted praise. "Maybe Krispy Kreme should offer free coupons for insulin and syringes to the kids who end up with diabetes," said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert. Krispy Kreme is lambasted by this watchdog group for its longtime program of rewarding students in kindergarten through sixth grade with a free doughnut for every A on their report card in communities across the country. Yet there is nary a peep of protest when M&M teamed up with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to raise funds through the sale of new "pink & white" M&M candies. In fact, on behalf of a cause to keep women healthy, groups are jumping on the bandwagon to encourage people to buy a candy that is certainly no more nutritious than a donut. In light of the alarming leap in obesity in the U.S. some long time partners may attract controversy today, as Krispy Kreme is learning the hard way. The lesson? Stay clear of controversy. Even if the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation isn't criticized this time for what could be described as an unhealthy partner, it could be soon. But recognize that partnering is a fast-growing trend because of its power. Businesses can use it to stand out from their competition or provide a fresh reason for people to support a cause or buy a product. They become a bigger customer magnet. Bottom Line Benefit of This Trend At the very least, with a partner, you get introduced to each other's customers. You can read more from Kare Anderson on this topic in her new e-book SmartPartnering: How to Attract and Delight More Consumers While Spending Less.