Maximizing Co-Op for a strong Q4 – 4 Questions to ask your vendors

With the fourth-quarter in sight, now’s the time to be planning for ways to end the year strong and insure you maximize your dollars and their effectiveness.  One way is to make sure you evaluate how you maximize OEM reimbursements and move more inventory.  Co-op funds can substantially improve a dealer’s ROI by reimbursing up to 50% of your marketing spend.   Think about it, if you have a $50,000 budget and spend it in Co-op eligible ways, you’ve increased your budget to $75,000. 


But too many dealers are missing the opportunity to maximize Co-op.  Yes, keeping up with Co-op requirements and guidelines can be time-consuming and frustrating, but the potential payback is too big to brush aside.  Big dealerships may have the manpower to work through the process alone, but most dealerships need help to capitalize on Co-op opportunities and process the paperwork for payment.


Here are the most crucial questions to ask your third-party partner or OEM-approved vendor to ensure you’re not leaving Co-op dollars on the table.

1. What are the most up to date Co-op policies and submission guidelines?  And what was the most recent change?

Let’s face it, staying on top of OEM Co-op rules and guidelines is challenging because they change often.  For example, General Motors and FCA update their Co-op requirements every month based on logo and incentive requirements. Other OEMs update annually. 


Checking in monthly is a best-practice to stay compliant and verify submission deadlines.  Steps like adhering to logo and whitespace requirements, obtaining pre-approval, and submitting frame-by-frame screenshots of artwork, vary by OEM and must be rigorously followed.


Also, your vendors should be keeping an eye on paperwork deadlines. Most OEMs require Co-op paperwork be submitted within 60 days of campaign launch. Miss the deadline and all the time and money spent to accrue Co-op dollars goes right out the window.


Test your vendors to make sure they are up to speed on the most recent changes and well-equipped to secure the full funds you are counting on. 


2. Are there any special discounts or upcoming opportunities for additional Co-op dollars?

Throughout the year, OEMs may introduce special events or programs to help move more metal. This is a great way to get more bang for your buck. This is especially relevant for Q4.  For example, in the past Honda has offered additional Co-op dollars in the fourth-quarter to help move aging inventory.


Other OEMs offer seasonal promotions when they add more Co-op contributions to your advertising.  For example, FCA offers “Special Programs” made available by region.  Take a few minutes to call and find out what is available for your dealership and start the application process.  It is extra work on your part, but that call every few months has the potential to bring additional marketing dollars for your business at timely junctures.


Ask your partners to help you be a proactive about special events and programs.


3. How much of my Co-op money is available for digital?

At the beginning of Q3, Ford changed its program to require 75-percent ad spend on digital.   Mazda, Hyundai, and Chrysler all have digital specifications that you must know to build marketing campaigns that earn you money back (some even include email in the mix which, as a bonus, is easily tracked for ROI).


As audiences for broadcast and print media continue to decline, you can expect to see OEMs continue to skew Co-op programs toward digital media. It pays to stay on top of changing requirements. Dealers who do it successfully, could get 100 percent of marketing reimbursed.


Strategize with your partners to evaluate if the marketing solutions offered maximize your digital spend.  Your best options are partners who have omni-channel solutions that work across devices and channels including display, social media, and email.

4. What tracking do you provide and how do you measure ROI for Co-op dollars?

As the digital requirement in Co-op continues to grow, so does the necessity for 100 percent transparency in ad spend and performance for your marketing dollars. The opportunity for digital waste and fraud has been well-documented.  Don’t be a victim of waste.  This requires you be diligent in holding your partners accountable in how they are investing these digital ad dollars. 


Make sure the partners you choose can track the dollars spent, create visual graphics of campaign performance, and provide meaningful reports detailing Co-op reimbursements.


Wrapping it up

Its estimated that only about 20 percent of dealers maximize Co-op opportunities. You don’t have to fall into the 80 percent who leave money on the table.  If you haven’t evaluated Co-op recently, now’s the time to do it.  Take inventory and challenge your vendor partners do their due diligence to be experts and turnkey providers on your behalf. These steps might uncover the push you need to end the year strong.

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