One of the greatest challenges your small business partners face in a rapidly changing market is fully understanding how and what to advertise. What is truly the most effective tactic to reach consumers during their path to purchase? According to the 2017 State of Local Marketing Report, there is an apparent discrepancy in how co-op dollars are spent versus what your small business partners are actually using.
For example, small business partners know more and more consumers use mobile devices to search for local businesses, read reviews and ultimately make their purchase decisions. It makes sense that businesses would want to turn to digital and social tactics to keep up with the trend. Last year, 74 percent of small business partners surveyed used Facebook for advertising, but there were zero co-op dollars reported to have been applied to support that initiative.
With 60 percent of co-op dollars currently being spent on traditional tactics, making the shift away from traditional to digital can feel stressful and unfamiliar to both the national brand and the small business partners. Many of them have already built relationships with their local newspapers and radio stations and have developed ongoing advertising plans. Because of that, it becomes even more critical to create a very easy plan for them to execute other tactics outside of traditional.
Here are four ways to refocus your co-op program to meet the needs of your small business partners and their local consumers.
1. Make online, digital and social media tactics co-op eligible
If you have not explored online tactics in relation to your co-op program, now is the time to start before you continue falling behind your competition. Here’s an example: while 76 percent of local affiliates reported to have used a website to advertise last year, only 7 percent of co-op dollars were spent on this tactic. This means that your local websites are probably not up to par with what they could be if you allotted co-op dollars towards truly optimizing the sites. And with 90 percent of consumers conducting online research before making an in-store purchase, having a solid website is crucial to generate leads. Allowing your small business partners to use their earned co-op dollars on the advertising that is working for them is key to your brand’s success.
2. Adjust co-op program guidelines to be accessible and clear
If the digital and social space is newer to your co-op program, it might be easy to either oversimplify or overcomplicate these sections of your guidelines. This is especially true if you have not fully defined your strategy at the corporate level. You know your small business partners are going to be using these tactics, so be sure to include explicit details on what advertising is allowed while keeping it simple enough for them to understand. This means including key items for successful co-op submission such as pre-approval requirements, specifics on what is included in eligibility, what is excluded, and what is needed for reimbursement for each tactic. Reducing confusion will likely increase tactic usage.
3. Align tactics with your corporate strategy
Think of your goals and your small business partners’ goals as one in the same – to increase sales. What successes have you had with digital and social media at the corporate level? Where is there room for improvement? Communicate those best practices to your small business partners when allocating co-op dollars to these eligible new tactics.
Consider feedback and behaviors of your sales channel when developing your own strategy at the national level. Send out quarterly surveys to ask about their needs as it pertains to co-op. This way, you’ll be able to better align tactics with your corporate strategy while also heeding to your small business partner’s needs and wants. Here’s some questions to help get the conversation started:
- Which tactics do you spend the majority of your co-op funds?
- What tactics are not available to you that you wish you had?
- What are your current challenges with executing certain advertising?
Asking the right questions will give you feedback you need to adjust your co-op program to make for a more successful local marketing plan.
4. Provide support for small business partners who seek help with digital and social tactics
One of the main reasons small business partners do not use their co-op dollars is because they don’t have the support they need to execute certain tactics. Many of your small business partners wear several hats, including that of the marketing manager. Without the proper support from corporate, they don't have the time nor resources to develop websites, manage social media and execute other digital campaigns. Developing a simple, step-by-step plan for executing this advertising will increase engagement and usage. The key to kicking this off is regularly communicating it through the proper channels.
As the times change, and the way consumers hear about and research your product or service is transitioning to digital, it’s important to incentivize your small business partners to shift how they spend their co-op dollars. Allocating your funds to the right tactics will increase usage of that tactic, which will further propel your brand name into the community. It’s a win-win situation for you and your small business partners.