The Secrets of Making the Most of Co-Op Marketing

The Secrets of Making the Most of Co-Op Marketing

Travel agent professionals share strategies for building successful marketing relationships with suppliers By: Chelsee Lowe
Travel agents can benefit from a strategic marketing partnership. // (c) 2013 Thinkstock
Travel agents can benefit from a strategic marketing partnership. // (c) 2013 Thinkstock

During “The Secrets of Making the Most of Co-Op Marketing,” TravelAge West’s recent webinar with ASTA’s Young Professionals Society (YPS), panelists discussed co-op marketing strategies, including how to determine when a travel agency is ready to enter into a marketing partnership and how to evaluate the partnership’s effectiveness.

Jason Coleman, president of Jason Coleman, Inc., and TravelAge West senior editor Mindy Poder moderated the conversation, which included panelists Mimi Cassidy, co-owner of Moraga Travel and Anthony Cheng, COO of APF Travel Inc./GoLatin Travel.

Following are the key co-op marketing takeaways from the webinar and the subsequent Twitter chat.

What is a Marketing Partnership?

  • Definition: A marketing partnership is a cooperative agreement that builds a new relationship, or furthers one that already exists, and utilizes co-op funds to grow business.
  • The relationship might aim at a market that the companies already have a presence in, or at a market that they are trying to break into.

Before Starting a Marketing Partnership

  • Set goals through an internal audit. Ask yourself: Where do I want to be? Do I want or need outside assistance to get there? 
  • Consider whether or not your business is in the right place to be joining a co-op marketing partnership:
    • Are sales and leads growing?
    • Do you have something to offer a supplier? Are you opening up a market for them?
    • Do you have market analysis data gathered to present what you will bring to the partnership? 
  • Narrow down your list of potential partners. 
    • What is your target demographic, and what supplier might help you reach it?
    • Do you have strong sales with a particular supplier that might entice them to partner with you? If so, take your sales numbers, and your projected growth given a co-op partnership, and share them with the supplier. Show how you will help the company’s bottom line.
    • Ask potential partners the right questions. What works in other territories? What is that supplier funding currently? What are their marketing goals, and how can you help them? Listen to their success stories.
  • Determine what you hope to gain from the partnership.
    • Co-op partnerships can be based on time rather than dollars. How might you utilize a partner’s time, which they may be more willing to give?
    • Build relationships with business development managers (BDMS). Their participation is very valuable and their time may cost you nothing. 
    • Note if you have information you might share with a BDM, such as niche market knowledge that will help grow their company’s presence. 
    • Co-op cash might be spent on print ads, brochures and more, but often an established relationship must exist before funds change hands.

Building a Co-Op Marketing Proposal

  • There are two types of proposals. The first is a short, one to three page overview of a possible partnership, and it should describe:
    • The target audience
    • The co-op partner
    • What media outlets will be used: emails, Google Hangouts, etc.
    • Expected results. If you’re hoping to have a co-op partnership for a specific event, for example, outline the guest numbers and what efforts you’ll take months and days in advance to drive attendance, such as outreach through Facebook, Twitter, newsletters and phone calls. 
  • The second type of proposal is more comprehensive and might be up to 50-80 pages long. This proposal is more appropriate for complex marketing campaigns with larger entities such as tourism boards. The proposal includes:
    • A detailed market analysis
  • Who is your target audience? Include information about its traveling and spending habits, median income and group characteristics (families versus empty nesters, for example).
  • A complete SWOT analysis, detailing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the market
  • A summary of the campaign’s takeaways
  • A detailed media plan (perhaps 20-30 pages in length), which may include:
    • Plans for commercials, brochures, Yellow Pages ads, Google, Twitter or Facebook campaigns (or their equivalent in foreign countries), slots on news programs, etc.
    • A full explanation of each media outlet’s size, company structure, reach and pricing
    • A list of the order in which the campaign will be carried out and an explanation for this order.

How Much to Ask For and Other Co-op Marketing Considerations

  • Control of marketing is important. Expect partners to make adjustments to marketing tools, but be certain that you are getting the control you want. If you have entered into a 50/50 co-op, be sure that is what you get.
  • Because partners will have to send materials back and forth, consider lead time. Work 2-4 months in advance for campaign approvals, or even further ahead of time for more comprehensive campaigns.
  • If you write an annual business plan, start thinking about co-op marketing then, including how a partnership might help you attain yearly goals.
  • When a partnership does involve asking for co-op funds, many agree that the secret number to ask for is one percent of sales.
    • “If you’re doing $100,000 in sales for a particular airline, you can ask for $1,000 in co-op funds. That’s an average, depending on who your supplier is,” said Cheng.

Measuring Return on Investment (ROI)

Industry professionals can measure the effect of a co-op marketing partnership in various ways. 

  • Email marketing tools can measure views and clicks, making email more data-friendly than direct mail.
  • Google Voice allows professionals to set up unique phone numbers for campaigns, helping them track which campaign led callers to the company.
  • A company Facebook page can supply useful analytics.
  • Note that it is harder to track the effect of certain media outlets (such as Yellow Pages ads and commercials) but that suppliers might still be interested in using them as such ads often result in a larger market awareness.

Co-Op Marketing Twitter Chat

Following the webinar, TravelAge West editors and ASTA YPS members co-hosted a chat on Twitter. During the chat, we heard many insightful tips on making the most of a marketing partnership, and some of our favorites are listed below. Find our entire Twitter chat by searching the #YPSTAW hashtag.

Keep your clientele’s needs first. Don’t take a supplier’s funds if they don’t fit your niche — nobody wins #ypstaw — @planesNcronuts

Have a clear goal in mind with a well thought out plan of action, budget and ROI metrics before you contact a supplier for help. #ypstaw — @resortvenues

A current relationship is helpful, but we are always open to new and alternate avenues for business development @TravelAgeWest #YPSTAW — @TravcoaTravel

You get more with honey then you do with lemons, so be kind to your BDMs. They are a valuable asset! #ypstaw — ?@CPMichelle

Statistics never hurt. Showing some data is always better than asking for money or effort on faith. #ypstaw ? — ?@ryanmcgredy

@MimiCassidy suggested having a BDM present his/her product in a Google Hangout — track the success and use it in a proposal. #ypstaw — ?@mindypeanuts

Track ROI w/ software like ClientBase. Simpler methods: promo codes, specific emails or dedicated phone numbers for certain campaigns #ypstaw ?— @maryjosalas

Google voice is free and easy to set up, and you may set it to ring your work or cell phone. @megan_lindsay @JoanJetsetter #ypstaw — @MimiCassidy

Calculate percentage of attendance vs. bookings within 2 weeks after an event. Was it worth time and cost? @TravelAgeWest #ypstaw — @DanielaHarriso7

1% is a good rule, but it could also be how easy you are to work with. Make it easy for them to WANT to work with you! #ypstaw — @Cruisitude

As a client, designing plans with me (and my daily schedule) in mind really grabs my attention. @Cruisitude #ypstaw — @ChelsLoweLa

Insist that your brand is visible in the creative —after all, suppliers are going to you. #ypstaw — @TravelAgeWest

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