Hardscape Manufacturers: Adding digital marketing support to your Co-Op Plans is overdue.
Since the beginning of time, manufacturers in the hardscape and landscape industries have offered marketing support to their dealers and retailers via an advertising co-op program. Traditionally based on volume of sales, the hardscape dealer or product retailer receives funds—commonly around 50% of the cost—towards regionally-focused, co-branded advertising placements.
This co-op support, however, often only covers print, direct mail, and billboard advertising and requires the dealer to navigate a cumbersome, technologically outdated system of red tape. To boot, the landscape dealer or retailer has to fork over the whole cost for the advertising upfront, then submit a request and wait for the co-op money to be issued. If I am a manufacturer looking for my local dealers to purchase more of my product, and I want to encourage them to advertise my product on the regional level, then this system simply doesn't make sense, does it? A dealer’s ability to buy inventory is hurt while they wait for their co-op money to be shelled out.
Maybe this is the reason that more than 30%—sometimes closer to 50%—of these manufacturer-allocated funds go unused. All of the work in designing, maintaining, and supporting a co-op system for a 30% usage rate? Seems like a lot of work for not a lot of ROI.
Or perhaps the problem is deeper than usage logistics. Perhaps the problem is that most of these co-op plans haven’t been reengineered for the world we live in today. Consumers simply don’t shop the way they used to and therefore marketers can’t expect to reach them using only the same methods they used to. While magazine and newspaper placements, direct mail campaigns, and billboard advertising may still have a place in a modern marketing strategy, the absence of digital marketing support in today’s co-op programs is downright scary. With over 81% of consumers researching online before making big purchases (GE Capital), it’s hard to believe that any building products manufacturer would pass up on the opportunity to connect with prospects earlier on in their buying journey. Offering co-op support for Facebook and PPC advertising, website design, and content marketing, and even search engine optimization for local dealers, seems like a necessity.
I know, I know—this change will not be easy of course. Logistics of implementing digital marketing campaigns on a local level—as well as tracking their effectiveness—certainly poses a big challenge. But with the power of the Internet not going anywhere, it seems like the time for change is now.
One thing is for sure. The current co-op programs offered to dealers and retailers in the landscape and outdoor living space leave a whole lot to be desired. It’s time to bring these programs into the 21st century and update the forms of advertising and marketing they support, as well as how they logistically function.