How to Spend Your Co-op Dollars: Tips For Creating a Year-Long Strategy | Energy Circle, LLC

How to Spend Your Co-op Dollars: Tips For Creating a Year-Long Strategy

Did you have co-op funding for a marketing partnership this year? If you don't spend this "free money" before the end of December, not only will you lose those extra marketing dollars, but you could risk securing a future partnership as well! However, waiting until the end of the year to spend co-op money often leads to subpar marketing campaigns that don't gain much traction for you or your co-op partner.

At Energy Circle, we want to help you optimize your digital marketing efforts and that includes effective co-op spending. We've put together this list of tips and tricks to help you manage your co-op marketing budget throughout every season of the year.

Start Here: The Co-Op Details

Before you get into planning how you're going to spend your co-op marketing budget, it's important to read the fine print on how your specific partnership works. Some co-ops require pre approval and others don't. Plus, the details on exactly what you can spend the funds on are different with every program. Understanding these specifics will make it easier to stay on top of your ongoing marketing efforts and build a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship.

Spending Your Co-Op Dollars: A Checklist

As you start to build your plan for spending co-op marketing dollars, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Determine how you want to spend your co-op funding. You can usually choose between two options (depending on the guidelines of your agreement):
  • Spread your co-op dollars out evenly through the year; either monthly, seasonally, or whatever scheduling your company sees fit.
  • Focus your co-op marketing efforts on the shoulder seasons (Spring & Fall) or other specific times of year to make a big impact right when your company needs it most.
  • Decide how to mix your co-op marketing with your regular marketing budget.
  • Option one: You spend the same amount of money you had originally budgeted for marketing, and the co-op marketing is an add-on.
  • Option two: You save money by using your co-op dollars to cover a portion of your existing marketing budget. The co-op essentially gives you a discount. While this can be helpful if you have a tight budget, it also limits your marketing efforts. In order to receive co-op funding, your campaigns will have to cover specific brands or topics, so you may have to jettison some of your original marketing ideas.
  • Develop a basic strategy for your overall marketing efforts. This will help you find the right co-op spending plan for your business as well as improve the effectiveness of your marketing throughout the entire year. Doing this ahead of time allows you to avoid getting rushed at the end of the year.

Tips For Co-Op Marketing

Adding a cooperative partnership to your marketing plans can seem like adding a bunch of red tape to an already daunting task, but it can also have a significant impact on getting your business in front of potential customers. Here are a few tips that can simplify the partnership:

  • Don't forget to promote available incentives and seasonal promotions that either you or the co-op offer.
  • Track the success and spending of your digital marketing campaign to give accurate metrics to the partner. Co-ops will be more likely to work with you in the future if you clearly communicate the details of your campaign.
  • Get creative with how you spend your funding. We've found that paid search and social ads are an extremely effective use of co-op funds, but SEO, video, and web development can also be helpful—especially if your website needs to be refreshed.
  • Consider your target audience, their common pain points in their homes, and how your co-op dollars can help raise awareness of products that can help solve them.
  • Take note of the pre-approval process for the program (many co-ops have them!). This will be detailed in your guidelines and help you make sure you get paid on time and build a lasting partnership with the co-op.

Using Your Co-Op Funds Throughout the Year

While there are many ways to spend your co-op funding, we've put together a sample co-op marketing plan for an imaginary client who is choosing to run seasonal campaigns with their co-op dollars.

Quarter 1 (Jan-Mar)

  • Reach out to manufacturers for co-op funding opportunities, go over the details, and start building your strategy for the year. You can go by season, by month, or whatever makes the most sense for your region and seasonal promotions.
  • Submit any necessary documents to the manufacturer for pre-approval. Make sure to pay attention to any upcoming promotions your co-op program or manufacturer is offering.
  • Early Q1 is good for marketing products and services aimed at staying warm through the remaining winter months. The holidays are over and homeowners are looking to start the new year right with more home comfort and efficiency.

Quarter 2 (April-June)

  • Track the success of your Q1 co-op campaign and prepare your reports and reimbursement claims for the co-op, if they are needed. This can include ad copy, samples, invoices, and performance reports. Many co-ops require claims to be submitted for reimbursement within 90 days of the campaign, so make sure to check your guidelines!
  • As summer is edging closer, Q2 is a great opportunity to start promoting products and services for the warmer months ahead. Emphasize the benefits of the home upgrades you offer and how your partnered products or services can help solve common issues for your service area. Take out PPC and social ads or write a blog post that highlights their upcoming seasonal benefits.

Quarter 3 (July-Sept)

  • Track the success of your Q3 co-op ads, organize your reports, and submit for reimbursement.
  • Continue to promote the benefits of your services with your Q3 co-op campaign. Marketing trends and strategies will shift as the year goes on, so make sure to take into account the seasonal needs of your service area.

Quarter4 (Oct-Dec)

  • Track the success of your Q3 co-op ads and prepare your reimbursement reports.
  • As winter approaches, launch your next campaign. This is a great time to emphasize the urgency to complete home upgrades by the end of the year for them to be eligible for tax credits and other incentives.
  • Lock in your co-op funding for the next year based on your successful campaigns for the current year.

Want help finding a strategy for your co-op dollars? Call 207-747-3135 or contact us online to schedule an evaluation with our team of digital marketing experts.


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