Destination Innovate Blog

Co-op Cuffing Season. A simple checklist to get the most value.

It’s called cuffing season, and the term first appeared in Urban Dictionary in 2011, defined as, a time during Fall and Winter when “people who would normally rather be single or date around find themselves along with the rest of the world desiring to be ‘cuffed’ or tied down by a serious relationship.

But, let’s be honest. It’s always cuffing season for co-op advertising. All year long, you receive dozens of opportunities from associations, media providers, publishers and randos selling you on opportunities, some good some not-so-good, on the basis of FOMO (fear of missing out). Without a keen gatekeeper, a set of policies and clear expectations; it is really easy to buy into co-op which can be …. well, crap. We’ve put together some top tips for evaluating co-op opportunities after assisting in thousands of buy evaluations. The top questions to ask:

  • How does this fit into my core KPIs?
    • I encourage you to look past broad stroke KPIs (which aren’t KPIs at all). You want to reach more visitors from XYZ region? That’s not a KPI. You want to get in front of sports planners? That’s not a KPI. You want to convert permission from Wedding Planners and schedule a site visit? That’s a KPI.
  • Am I an advertiser or an investor?
    • If your brand is not getting personalized ads in the co-op with measurable effect in proportion to your ad budget in the co-op, you aren’t an advertiser, you are an investor in the core brand of the co-op. While all awareness has some value, balance this with your expectations of the co-op up front. Smaller destinations can feel bullied into larger association co-op because their brand is slight in comparison. Ok, fine. You’re a big dog. But, that means you should have the tools to help me and make the most impact with my budget. Otherwise, you are an investor to the larger org and should have say about what they do operationally.
  • Is the co-op delivery mechanism benefiting me?
    • With so many marketing buzzwords launching daily, it’s easy to get caught up in language that seems logical, but is aging or misleading. For instance, so many vendors (especially for B2B marketing) are still selling email banners. Please. πŸ‘ Stop. πŸ‘ Email is a great marketing tool and is highly recommended, but as a single focused email. In a pool of banners in a larger brand email, your chances of ROI is about the same as marketing on MySpace. It’s just done. Another consideration is if the co-op partner is promising social exposure akin to influencer pop-language. “Tag in two posts. One post on social media. Shout outs on 3 insta stories.” Barf. A true social co-op should have true business goals and a cooperation past checking the boxes. I could go on and on about this and how social co-op is changing in a way brands aren’t aware of, but another post, another time.
  • What is my why?
    • Be totally honest and transparent with yourself. Is this to support an organization that needs you? Is it because your competition is in and you might miss exposure? On either scenario, if it isn’t a good buy, neither of these even matter. Your competition isn’t getting a leg up, they’re getting a crappy deal. If you want to support an organization with good intentions, suggest other ways for a relationship that is MUTUALLY beneficial.
  • What is the potential impact of my alternatives?
    • So, it’s really expensive to reach some of your target audiences and the cost of media (especially digital) is increasing faster than political retweets. Can your potential investment work harder somewhere else. Let’s take international. A very expensive target audience. But, also an aging targeting technique unless we are talking tour operators. Targeting today should be agnostic. Travelers and consumers no longer fit into a Geo/HHI/gender/interest box. What are you really trying to achieve with this co-op? Look at getting in front of these audiences in delightful discovery ways. Social media for one. Direct social media, adding to your earned assets. “Target” by habits and matched psychology.

Just a couple of ways my team and I coach on co-op buys. And it’s not all a co-op vendor witch hunt. We want them to do better and be successful. After working with many DMOs and co-op partners, our feedback has been that the suggestions have improved their own business model. We make it a habit to leave things better than we found them. πŸ˜‰

Want to put your co-op to the test? Gimme a shout. If it works, let’s work it hard. If it needs a stronger strategy/eval, let’s lift the hood and tighten the oil cap.

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