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Co-op Marketing – Is it right for you?

Group travel is all about the destination as a whole. Operators view your offerings collectively, which is why cooperative marketing makes sense for a lot of destinations. Amy Spain, executive director of the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau finds cooperative marketing to be very effective for their limited budget and offers some good advice on making it as easy as possible!

Q: What makes co-op marketing so effective for your destination?

A: Partnerships! We are a small bureau with a limited budget.  In order to reach our target audiences in a more efficient way, we must find partnerships. When selling a destination, we sell our region, our state and then our individual destinations. It makes sense to cooperate with others from our state and individual destinations in the packaged travel market because those customers (group travel planners) view our product collectively. They need all of us–the destination, attractions and lodging establishments.

Q: How do you get buy in from your partners who may be resistant to the general idea of cooperative marketing?

A: That depends on the opportunity. I find that in these economic times, collaboration and partnerships are something that most of my partners will consider if it is an audience that they are also trying to reach, and if the co-op design allows their own messaging/branding/contact information to be included. If it is a market they want to reach, and the price is equivalent to or less than what they could get on their own, they are more likely to participate.

Q: What are some of the coordinating issues you face in putting together cooperative programs, and what have you done to overcome those challenges?

A: The biggest challenge has been time! It takes time to reach each potential partner.  Every organization is understaffed and overworked– add in travel schedules and other work on their plate­–sometimes it’s just hard to reach them. Secondly, getting them to consider a new opportunity when it was not part of their original annual plan takes time. Time to evaluate the opportunity, consider how that opportunity enhances their overall plan, review their budgets to see if they can participate, and then the creative part–ad design and copywriting. With every opportunity there is a cost–both financial and the resource of time. However, cooperative campaigns can lighten the load for my partners. I do the research on the market (in this case packaged and group travel), attend trade shows/conferences within that market segment, and inquire of my clients what publications/websites they use to get information. I look at the various publications/websites that serve that market, meet with advertisers, and evaluate how my limited budget can reach my target audience given all those options. My partners may be less familiar with the market and trust that I have done my due diligence before I even contact them with an opportunity. That saves them one of their most valuable resources–their time!

Q: What advice would you give to others looking to create a cooperative campaign?

A: First, work with your advertising sales representative to provide the information on readership, distribution, and value to the advertiser. Send those potential partners an e-mail introduction for your advertising sales representative stating the benefits of advertising as a collective. Then engage your sales representative in making that follow up to the potential partners. I don’t send cooperative opportunities to my partners unless I support the idea and think it’s a good opportunity that will add benefit to my organization and provide the same potential benefit for my partners. My partners know that. My ‘seal of approval’ at least gets my partners to look at the opportunity they might otherwise not consider if it were to come directly from a publication if they haven’t worked with them before. My sales representative is still making the sale–I’m just providing the introduction and making the first commitment to participate.

Photo: Snohomish County Tourism Bureau


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