Edited from an article that originally ran in the Spring 2010 issue of Rural Lifestyle Dealer.

To see the full article, click here.

It may be true that there's no such thing as free money. But when it comes to advertising, the cooperative funds that manufacturers make available to you are the next best thing. But it's up to you to figure out how to make those funds work best for your dealership.

That's what cooperative advertising is all about. The manufacturers whose products you sell have budgets set aside to help you advertise in your local markets.

They're so invested in your success as a dealer that they often have set aside funds to both help you advertise and provide you with art components and finished ad materials you can customize with your own dealership logo and ID. These ready-to-use marketing materials usually run the gamut, from print and digital ads to radio and TV scripts.

So you're not adrift when it comes to advertising. This is particularly important if you're a small shop with little or no creative capabilities or much experience in developing and placing ads.

So how do you incorporate co-op advertising into your current advertising program?

By carefully following each manufacturer’s rules and coordinating it with your yearly ad campaign. Doing so could stretch your ad dollars significantly.

Be sure to:

  • Keep careful records for each manufacturer you work with
  • Adhere to each manufacturer’s corporate guidelines as far as “tone of the ad” goes
  • Make sure your company’s name stands out in the ads; although the manufacturer will insist that its name gets heavy play, yours should too
  • Follow up with your manufacturers to ensure you get reimbursed promptly
  • Clip ads or record radio and TV spots to send to manufacturers as proof that the co-op ad ran
  • Consider all options for ads. Frequently, co-op funds can be used for advertising opportunities you might never have thought possible before, including telephone books, billboards, city busses, TV or even online.
  • Think about using co-op funds for improved-quality ads instead of increased number of ads. For example, you could buy larger ads, slicker ads, full-color ads or longer spots on the radio or TV.

Extend Your Reach

The execution and measurement of co-op advertising is no different from the traditional advertising you're used to placing.

Partnering with your manufacturers to make use of co-op funds can both extend your promotional reach and simultaneously enhance your relationship with your supplier. And if your message reaches the right audience, your investment in co-op will lead to additional sales. And that makes everyone happy.