How to Create a Smarter, More Powerful Co-Op Program

BrandMuscle | January 29, 2019

We talked the other week about How to Make Your Co-op Guidelines Easier to Increase Participation. Maybe you took our advice, and leapt that hurdle. Good show. Yet there’s still more work to be done to ensure program success, specifically with regard to educating your program partners. Co-op programs can be complex and elaborate. You wouldn’t want someone to give you a 1,000-piece puzzle with no picture on the box, so why would you implement a co-op program without educating your partners on the details.

Don’t risk letting your partners become needlessly frustrated with the program as a whole and retreat to what they know – AKA not using the program at all, and, by all means, do not just blast out a bunch of how-to documents.

Here’s three ways to effectively improve the educational aspect of your co-op program to drive participation and increase ROI.

1. Find the Right Vendor Partner

As a corporate marketer, clearing your to-do list can feel as futile as spraying for mosquitoes in the Everglades. Meanwhile, your local business partners are playing multiple office roles to keep their business running smoothly. So you know who has the time to think about co-op education? A vendor partner. This will not only take a difficult task off your plate, it will give you the confidence that your local business partners will fully understand the program. The right vendor will train your local business partners on the co-op guidelines, and then be there every day to help answer tough questions. They’ll be experts in your co-op program so you don’t have to be.

If your local business partners don’t understand the intricacies surrounding your complex co-op program, chances are your current partner doesn’t either. To increase program participation, consider what an experienced and dedicated vendor partner can do for you.

“As a corporate marketer, you can rely on your vendor to do the work for you,” said James Morse, Senior Solutions Architect at BrandMuscle. “If you’re a corporate marketer, you get one more thing off your plate. Find a vendor you can trust, and put some of the work on them. If they’re a good partner, they’ll be happy to work the nuances with your local business partners.”

The right vendor won’t keep your local business partners guessing and will free up your time by fielding questions and requests, and that makes them a powerful marketing ally.

2. Education = Communication

Executing external marketing campaigns are rote on our psyche like pouring a bowl of cereal, yet when it comes to executing internal marketing campaigns, we fight with the packaging until the Cheerios explode all over the kitchen. Why overlook assembling an internal program at the corporate level that educates participants, field teams and sales teams?These dealers, agents and franchisees can either be your brand’s biggest stumbling block or a powerful team of ambassadors for your co-op program. Determine what form of communication works best for your team, and then stick to it. Some communication types to consider for frequent education:

Email – send it on the same day and time based on your read rate trends, but be sure not to email-overwhelm
Private messaging networks like Slack or Facebook Business – these can be great channels for communication as long as their adopted across your organization
Use this avenue to communicate all things co-op related. When are funds expiring? What changes have occurred to the co-op program? How much will reimbursed for certain tactics? By keeping this line of communication open, education will happen naturally.

Keeping everyone on the same page will eliminate confusion and allow for consistent and important messages to get through to your local business partners in the format that works best, whether that’s monthly webinars, weekly emails, frequent phone meetings, or road shows.

3. Explain the “Why”

“Why am I getting denied?”

How often do you hear that question as a corporate marketer? Probably more frequently than you’d like, especially if you have complex rules. After crawling through the sometimes arduous process of submitting for reimbursement, your local business partner gets a message alerting them to one of the most frustrating things: their request was denied. The more denials they see, the more defeated they feel and the less likely they are to participate in your program.

If your partners don’t understand why they’re being denied, then you can infer that they’re not properly educated on the program, that there is a lack of transparency, or both. Having clear guidelines will help local business partners understand exactly why a request was approved or denied. To that end, your local business partners should still have the opportunity to hear from a person (not a computer) for out-of-the-ordinary circumstances when submitting a request. Providing a human explanation to the “no” is more powerful than a computer denying the request. You may also want to step back and take another look at your guidelines. Why is the local business partner being denied? Is the denial because of just one piece of the claim? If it’s a low-risk or recurring denial item, is the ROI worth it to rework your guidelines versus rounds of re-approvals?

Ask yourself these questions when thinking about education:

  • Do partners know how co-op is allocated or earned?
  • Do your partners know when their funds expire?
  • Do they know the deadlines for claim submissions?
  • Are reimbursement percentages consistent, simple and transparent?
  • Are you working to minimize the claim denials?

Educating your partners on your co-op guidelines will help eliminate questions down the road while creating a more enjoyable environment. They shouldn’t dread submitting co-op requests because it’s a guessing game for them. The right partner will empower your participants to confidently submit requests that will be approved, creating a positive experience for all parties involved.

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