Seven Questions Channel Marketers Should Ask to Build a Better Co-op Program

BrandMuscle Marketing Icon Written by: BrandMuscle Marketing

Co-OpFundingMoneyWalksFor global brands executing local marketing, money talks. That is to say, offering marketing funds to your channel re-sellers (dealers, agents, distributors, sales reps, etc.) is a necessary element to getting the word out about your brand’s products/services. But building and optimizing a channel marketing program across regions, vertical and sometimes continents isn’t easy. As you reflect on how you can help channel re-sellers drive awareness and sales, ask yourself these seven important questions:

I. Do I Have the Time to Manage Co-Op Advertising?

You know the feeling. Emails and paperwork keep piling up. Curveballs like last minute deadlines and or long, drawn-out meetings steal your focus. The clock ticks away and before you know it, the day’s almost over and you feel like you’ve accomplished nothing. Work is busy and for channel marketers juggling multiple brands, products and/or verticals, this line of work isn’t easy. But it is possible to master.

Manage your time by doing what works best for you and be careful not to take on more than you can handle. If you’re currently engaged in an existing co-op or MDF program, then all hands on deck! Keep in mind, you’ll need to continuously gather market research to keep your program exciting and fresh for your affiliates. If you find it too difficult and time-consuming to regularly conduct marketing, then you’ll want to consider looking to your global marketing counterparts for support.

If you’re confident in what you’re doing, by all means don’t be afraid to ask for help in the form of marketing dollars or resources in order to execute an effective co-op program. If you’re not-so-confident, consider scaling back your efforts to focus on the specific regions, product lines or industry verticals where you see the most opportunity. (Not sure where the opportunity lies? Refer back to our advice about market research! :-) )

Whether you take on the challenge yourself or choose to partner with your global marketing counterparts, make sure to consider the following questions as well.

II. Is My Channel Marketing Program Easy to Use?

This question refers to more than simply looking in the mirror. Think about your program from your channel resellers’ perspective:


A. Are you providing excellent customer service? The customer service you’re providing should act as an extension of your marketing team – and the global brands itself. Have you ever called a support line in complete frustration, but after speaking with and receiving guidance from an associate, felt clarity and gratitude? You need to provide strategic direction, ongoing training and professional guidance to your local affiliates if you want to generate these same positive emotions for your brand and co-op program. By providing value through great customer service you’re ensuring channel resellers are generating the greatest return on your co-op investment because they will be satisfied and actively engaged in marketing your brand.

B. Are you offering a unified co-op platform? Eliminate confusion by keeping the technology simple. Don’t send your affiliates to multiple sites and vendors in order to produce one marketing tactic or campaign. By offering a unified co-op platform, you’re empowering affiliates with the ease to manage co-op funds independently. With everything these resellers are managing, making the marketing of your brand easier is the difference between it happening or not. (As reference, check out how Brandmuscle streamlines the process by offering an integrated co-op marketing platform.)

C. Do you have co-op marketing guidelines that are easy to find? Not having program guidelines is similar to riding a bike the first time without ever using training wheels. Or assembling a piece of IKEA furniture without instructions. Or getting a brain freeze while attempting to enjoy a delicious ice cream cone. You get the idea. Resellers need guidance and instructions in order to conduct marketing on your behalf. But don’t overwhelm them. Which leads us to the third important question you should ask yourself when building a better co-op program...

III. Are Your Co-op and MDF Guidelines Clearly Defined?

In addition to ensuring program guidelines are readily available for your dealers, agents, distributors or retailers, ensure they’re defined efficiently. Don’t be afraid to have a few sets of eyes review the program; ask for feedback, and edit as much as needed. Your guidelines at minimum should include:

  1. Eligibility of products and/or brands
  2. Expectations and deadlines for claim submissions
  3. Eligibility of media types and tactics
  4. Reimbursement percentages and timelines, including earned dollars/points and insufficient funds
  5. Pre-approval and compliance recommendations
  6. Documentation and advertising requirements
  7. Support contact information



Phew. Let’s take a break to allow these questions to sink in.

There are so many opportunities to enhance your current co-op program, especially when you’re invested in getting your channel resellers the largest return on investment. But setting your co-op program in motion with these three questions is only the beginning.

Stay tuned for part two of this post where we’ll discuss questions 4-7:

IV. Are You Selling the Program?

V. Is It Driving Digital?

VI. Is Reimbursement Timely?

VII. Is Reporting Defined?


NOTE: At Brandmuscle, we support your co-op advertising program by excelling in all phases of co-op management.  By understanding the needs of our affiliates and constantly developing our processes, we’ve established a platform to support you in planning, budgeting, and claim and advertising audit processes. If you're interested, contact us to learn more or see a demo.


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