BEST PRACTICE

Take Advantage of $50 Billion in Available Co-op Funds

Lori Stutsman By Lori Stutsman, President & Chief Customer Service Officer, Extra Mile Marketing

Most of you know that I have been involved in the marketing world for a long time…a REALLY long time

But did you know that my first job out of college was in the billing department at a large advertising agency in Los Angeles, putting together proof of performance packets?

Proof of performance packets?  What the heck does that mean? 

It’s old school. Okay, maybe OLD, OLD school at this point. 

Before everyone lived on their computer, we still did marketing.  We even did co-op marketing. 

Yes, my first job was building our retail clients’ proof packets, so they could collect co-op dollars from the manufacturers carried in their stores. 

One of my first clients was ComputerLand, a large computer retailer who funded almost all their advertising through co-op funds with partners like HP, Compaq, and Dell. 

Who would guess that all these years later, we would STILL be talking co-op?!

I worked at several advertising agencies, becoming a specialist when it came to co-op.  Then, I took a job at PACCAR, running the marketing department for a chain of 250 auto parts stores, where we lived and breathed co-op. 

So, I guess what I am saying is that I have learned a thing or two (or two thousand) about co-op funds – how to earn them, how to spend them, and, most importantly, how to make sure the reimbursement is secured!

 

Here are 6 keys to co-op funds that you need to know:

  1. They exist! 

This may seem like a no-brainer, but trust me, sometimes these funds are hidden. They may be called “Market Development Funds” or something similar, but virtually all manufacturers have some sort of program where you can earn funds for marketing. 

Even if you are a small business, the funds are there, waiting for you to grab them.  In many cases, you can earn substantial amounts from the products you sell.

And the best part? You don’t have to be a retailer to earn them.  You could have a construction company that uses name-brand materials, or you could be a restaurant that serves name-brand seafood or wine, or you could be a car dealer who uses branded motor oil or batteries. Or, you could be a Microsoft Partner.

In all these cases, there is co-op available to you!

 

  1. Make sure you understand the rules.

Each manufacturer has strict rules and guidelines around the usage of co-op funds.  Make sure you read these and have a thorough understanding of the rules.  These rules may be around:

  1. Brand guidelines, including the use of the manufacturer’s name, design, and logo
  2. Key messaging to use
  3. Types of marketing allowed
  4. Reporting KPIs and frequency (i.e. Proof of performance packets 😊)

 

  1. Build a plan to run a cohesive, integrated campaign.

Align your plan with your business goals and objectives for your co-op program to ensure your funds are used to drive meaningful results.

You may use several manufacturers in one campaign, so have a strategic overarching message that you can plug different brands into. 

For example, you may have an overarching message like “We put the Quality in Quality Motors”.  Then, with each manufacturer that you feature, you can state how they put ‘Quality’ into their product.

 

  1. Invest in high-quality content.

Allocate funds specifically to create compelling and high-quality marketing materials.

This includes eye-catching visuals, well-crafted ad copy, and engaging videos that resonate with your target audience.

Too often, retailers skimp on production costs, and the co-op funded advertising is cheap-looking and not consistent with their brand image. 

Co-op campaigns should reflect your quality branding, painting a picture and telling a story about your business. 

When choosing a vehicle for your campaign, consider avenues that have been seeing higher than average results, like Account Based Marketing (ABM), Digital marketing (including SEO and SEM), and Thought Leadership eBooks, videos, infographics, or a landing site with interactive elements.

 

  1. Find brand name partners.

Consider your co-op strategy when signing contracts with manufacturers. 

Think “Will this particular brand add value to mine?” 

Negotiate co-op funds into your deals.  Ask in advance what restrictions will be put on these funds. 

Can you use them for broadcast? For digital? For events?  If you are considering a supplier change, reach out to the household name companies, as they will likely have more funds available and may be able to do reciprocal ads, where they talk about your company. 

 

  1. Lastly, don’t forget your Proof of Performance packets!

Be sure you are tracking the effectiveness of your marketing. 

When designing your plan, designate which KPIs you will be tracking, and build tracking mechanisms into your ads. 

For example, when we send out an email, we track the typical open rates, click-through rates, and impressions. 

But, did you know you can add in tracking so you can see where, specifically, someone clicked on your email?  You can then tell which offer was the most popular or which link was used most often, so you can further optimize your performance. 

Keep yourself aware of all deadlines for submitting claims, and be sure to submit samples of your ads along with any metrics required.

 

There is so much more that I could share but then this blog would become a book.  So, if you are looking to build out a co-op program, or want to enhance your existing opportunity, send me an email. We’d love to help you out.

And with that, I’ll leave you with a ChatGPT joke about marketing:

Why did the B2B marketer go to art school?

To learn how to draw in more leads and paint a better ROI!

 

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