Get That Co-op Money Now!
By Jack Mannix
August 09, 2012 11:45 PM
Just how important are your 2013 co-op dollars? The answer, of course, is that they are extremely important to the vast majority of travel agents, yet I find that most travel retailers don’t leverage this tool adequately. It’s not really all that difficult, but it takes some preparation to get your preferred suppliers to invest in your marketing efforts. And it needs to happen right now!
What’s the rush? The reason is budgets for 2013 are being set now. Sales representatives are receiving their co-op allocations and will be dividing up that largesse in the very near future. Once allocated locally, you’ll have very limited opportunities to access more, so it’s now—or probably never!
First of all, a marketing plan is really a subset of your overall business plan. Hopefully, you’ve got one that has been updated in the past year, if not more recently. It’s your road map to a successful business whether you’re a one-person operation or have hundreds of employees.
Your marketing plan is how you’ll attract business. It doesn’t have to be scores of pages, but it should identify the vast majority (80 percent) of your marketing for the year. Opportunistic promotional investments will come along, but most of your marketing should be planned well in advance and executed on time. Here are some questions you should ask as you develop a cooperative marketing program:
What destinations or products do you want to sell? You can’t “focus” on selling everything and if you’re not clear on what it is you’re trying to sell, you can’t begin approaching suppliers to help partially fund your marketing efforts. Marketing is driven by sales goals, not based on what supplier might have money available. Picking supplier partners is pretty straightforward, but you must limit the number of vendors in each competitive set. No supplier wants, or deserves, to be one of several and usually will not pay for that anyway. Exclusivity is most desirable in this case.
Who’s going to buy what you’re selling? How good is the quality of your database? Can you segment out the juiciest of clients and prospects? You’ll need to be able to find the people who will buy what you want to sell and the supplier salesperson will have to be confident that you can do that. A strong database is like gold to a supplier and to your agency.
What’s your track record like? Have you successfully marketed with this supplier in the past? Did both parties see a strong return on their investment (ROI)? If so, congratulations! That’s key to your future success and it’s likely that supplier will want to do more of the same with you in 2013. If on the other hand that ROI was disappointing, you’ll have a harder time convincing the supplier salesperson to work with you again. It’s not impossible, but you’ll certainly have to credibly demonstrate what you’ll do differently this time to significantly improve your sales results.
Are you just using other people’s money? Do you have “skin in the game”? Unless your volume is already substantial, it’s unrealistic to expect the supplier to entirely fund a campaign. There is no question that when some of the money is yours, those marketing efforts will pay off more for both parties.
Are you specific and can you project results? What campaigns will you run and when? Who is the target customer? What methodologies will you employ (e-marketing, social media, direct mail, newsletter articles, etc.)? What investment are you seeking from the supplier? What kind of return are you realistically expecting (how many passengers, what sales volume and so on). “Doing the best we can” simply won’t cut it. Suppliers know what kind of return they can get on their marketing and they generally won’t invest in yours unless it’s at least as productive.
How are you presenting your plan? Make an appointment with the supplier representative to walk them through your plan. Optimally, it will be in person but if that’s not possible, use GoToWebinar.com or a similar website to present it live. It’s fine to send the document to your salesperson for subsequent review, but your professional, well-thought-out delivery of an impressive plan will separate you from the vast majority of those asking for cooperative money.
If you’re focused on what you want to sell, can clearly identify your target customers, have a cogent plan to get them to buy and can present that in a professional fashion, your supplier salesperson is likely to have the confidence that you’ll deliver sales in return for that marketing investment. And don’t forget to do it now!
Jack Mannix, CTC, is head of his own consulting firm, Jack E. Mannix & Associates (www.jackemannix.com). He also serves as chairman of The Travel Institute. You can reach him by emailing email@example.com. This column is adapted from one set to appear in the August 2012 issue of Agent@Home magazine.