5 common co-op advertising and MDF program challenges (and how to fix them)

A neglected co-op advertising or MDF program can be a killer for campaigns at the local level. Even the best national brand message or sales promotion might lose steam without the support of local channel partners. An easy way to get your local channel partners involved is to establish a well-organized, easy to use co-op advertising or MDF program. Below are the most common issues that get in the way of a successful through-channel marketing program, as well as easy-to-implement solutions that can create positive change and immediate impact.

Challenge #1: The primary focus of the person responsible for program support is not co-op/MDF
Solution: Establish dedicated program support staff

Providing support to your co-op advertising or MDF program should not be just another responsibility that’s loaded on top of what your marketing and/or sales staff already have on their plate. Instead, there should be a dedicated staff that’s working on your through-channel marketing program to ensure that those co-op dollars or market development funds are being well spent. That team should be a go-to resource for everything from questions about the program, quick review/feedback on prior approvals, fast turnaround time on claims for reimbursement, and everything else in between. That’s a lot to handle for someone whose primary focus is not on your program. The result will be poor performance and unsatisfied channel partners. Instead, establish staff whose primary focus is providing a well-oiled program that leaves your channel partners happy. If those partners are confident that your brand will provide a high level of service, they are far more likely to participate. The result is greater local activation that will leave your channel partners wanting to participate even more.

Challenge #2: Channel Partners are confused by the program process and requirements
Solution: Streamline your program guidelines

Confusing guidelines are one of the main reasons co-op advertising and MDF programs have low participation. Channel Partners are busy selling. They’re unlikely to participate at all if they feel overwhelmed by trying to understand the program requirements. A simple remedy is streamlining the program guidelines. Try to establish three to five commandments or mandatories for your program that act as a quick checklist for channel partners to consult when putting together an advertisement. Requirements can be as simple as only advertising your brand or using the proper trademarks, or they can be more specific as it relates to price or finance offer requirements. Just do your best to keep those requirements to a page or less, and your channel partners are sure to participate more frequently. Streamlining your guidelines will also be a valuable tool for the staff in charge of running the program, as they will always have a quick answer to questions about what is/is not eligible.

Challenge #3: An outdated platform or worse, a program managed by email and spreadsheets
Solution: Upgrade your co-op advertising or MDF platform

Is your process for tracking co-op and MDF program activity easy to use and does it provide real-time data, transparency, and value to your channel partners? If not, it’s time to upgrade your platform. A sufficient platform is a great way to improve program participation. An added bonus of an easy to use platform is that your channel partners might be more inclined to use your program instead of a competitor’s, which means more local activation for your brand. Over a decade of experience in co-op advertising and MDF has taught us that channel partners appreciate when brands make it easy for them to advertise. The reward is greater exposure and an increased willingness to promote your brand.

Challenge #4: It’s not clear where channel partners should go for advertising resources
Solution: Centralize advertising materials and documentation with a Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution

Ideally, advertising resources should be available to channel partners on-demand via a DAM solution. It’s not uncommon for a local media supplier to call one of your channel partners with a great deal on some last-minute media. It’s unlikely that the channel partner and/or vendor will wait around for the file(s) to be provided if your materials aren’t available on-demand. Instead, there’s a better chance that the channel partner will end up running an ad from one of your competitors that has an on-demand DAM solution in place. Additionally, there’s no reason to put an undue strain on your sales or marketing staff by making them responsible for the transfer of files. Plenty of solutions exist to organize your brand’s assets effectively. Getting such a solution in place could be the difference between a local partner running your ad versus an ad from one of your competitors.

Challenge #5: Local Channel Partners aren’t using funds
Solution: Focus on channel partner satisfaction

If you’re looking for a key metric to judge your program, total fund utilization might not be the right one. Dealer satisfaction is key for a couple of reasons. First, channel partners are far more likely to advertise a brand that makes the process simple. One of the biggest reasons channel partners don’t participate in co-op and MDF programs is that the program seems confusing and/or time-consuming. Removing that mental barrier takes a bit of time and patience but pays off. Second, you have to make sure that local channel partners don’t see the co-op or MDF program administrators as opponents. Instead, those administrators should make it very clear that they are there to help with approvals, not look for denials. If local channel partners believe that your administrators are helpful, they will be more engaged.

In summary, take a quick inventory of your co-op and/or MDF program and answer the following questions:

1. Do you have staff dedicated to providing support to your co-op/MDF program?
2. Is your co-op/MDF program simple and easy to understand?
3. Do you have a modern platform for the administration of your co-op/MDF program?
4. Do you have a Digital Asset Management (DAM) resource for all of your co-op/MDF advertising materials?
5. Are your local channel partners generally satisfied with your co-op/MDF program?

If you answered “No” to any of those questions, think about the steps necessary to turn that answer into a “Yes”. It might not be as difficult as you think. If you need help, please get in touch. Cooperate Marketing is the industry leader in high-tech, high-touch co-op and MDF solutions. Our success comes from our focus on channel partner satisfaction. Our through-channel results build brands and increase ROI.

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