How to Maximize Co-Op Fund Utilization

James Morse | December 16, 2020

To maximize co-op fund utilization, it’s important to understand what factors may be acting as a barrier for your channel partners to use your co-op marketing program. In Why Co-op or MDF Funds Go Unused, we discussed how complicated program rules, a lack of transparency about available funds, and limited marketing assistance in channel fund programs lead to poor fund utilization. Naturally, the follow-up question is: “How do I fix these problems within my program?”

Make Available Co-Op Funds Easy to Find

Marketing and finance teams spend months constructing channel fund programs only to stash them in a drawer—out of sight, out of mind. This lack of transparency often leaves channel partners unaware that they have funds to spend, let alone how much. If they don’t know the amount they have available to spend, we can’t expect them to even utilize the funds.

Channel partners not only need, but deserve to see their available funds easily and in real time. Gone are the times when we would expect local marketers to pick up the phone and call corporate to determine their budget. To increase efficiency, provide your partners a web-based fund management portal they can quickly access. Viewing their fund balance should be as easy as checking email. Knowing they have funds and how to check their balance will dramatically reduce friction around your channel fund program engagement and adoption.

Make Using Co-Op Funds Easy

Local marketing execution can feel arduous at times. Local campaigns often require pre-approval from corporate prior to deploying the marketing and advertising. Some co-op programs then require a reimbursement proof of performance submission to ensure that rules were followed and the marketing was brand compliant. Channel partners crave tools to streamline the approval process and reduce the amount of money they foot upfront for marketing.

Your channel partners don’t care about all of the legal and financial checkpoints necessary to review their reimbursement requests. After they have spent time meticulously executing marketing on behalf of your brand, their main concern is getting money back as soon as possible. You can help make their effort worthwhile by flattening approval loops where possible to expedite reimbursement, and automate reimbursement approvals for requests that have little to no risk for corporate. Remember, the quicker you can get your partners successfully through the approval and reimbursement process, the more likely they are to utilize the co-op funds you provide.

Providing a one-stop-shop experience for your channel partners to easily engage with your program will reduce the challenges of knowing where to go for different tasks, while providing automation along the way. Your channel partners should be able to create customized marketing materials, execute the campaign, and utilize eligible channel funds for payment within a single platform. Being able to spend less money out of their own pocket is an incredible incentive for your partners to work with you and market your brand more.

Provide Co-Op Marketing Support and Education

Within a single hub for these marketing needs, it is also important to integrate approved vendors, whether it be for print, OOH, or digital paid media programs. Your channel partners may currently have a plethora of vendors for marketing services and printing. Empower partners by ensuring they have access to your approved vendors so they don’t have to search for the right vendor or risk having their reimbursement requests declined down the road.

Most channel partners are entrepreneurs and often marketing novices. Educate your channel partners on the proper avenues to market in their localities so they can eventually reach a level of marketing maturity that enables them to make their own marketing decisions and execute local campaigns flawlessly.

Our local marketing research of over 1,000 channel partners clearly indicates a relationship between marketing maturity and business outcomes. Partners at the highest level of maturity demonstrate two times higher year-over-year revenue growth compared to those in the bottom two levels of maturity. Investing in the time and tools to educate your partners will ultimately help them hear cash registers ring more frequently and produce greater ROI for corporate.

Ready to Make Your Co-Op or MDF Program a Success?

Contact BrandMuscle to begin engaging your local channel partners and increasing co-op or MDF fund utilization today.

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