Create opportunities for co-op advertising

April 1, 2010

When did you or your staff last ask your vendors how they could help grow your practice?

When did you or your staff last ask vendors how they could help grow your practice? Not many optometry practices ask this key question, yet it can open many doors for creative co-op advertising opportunities, according to Cathy Ives, a 35-year industry veteran who now blogs at http://www.theopticvisionsite.com/.

With this in mind, Ives introduced a seminar, "Effective Use of Co-op Advertising," at the Monterey Symposium in November. During the 1-hour workshop, Ives offered tips on how optometrists can effectively co-op with vendors and other professionals in their communities to advertise their practices' services and products.

Co-op advertising, as part of an overall marketing plan, can be very effective if done correctly. For starters, Ives recommends that optometrists or their employees meet with vendors to discuss vendor support and explore different marketing avenues.

One suggestion for conducting meetings with your vendors: Avoid talking about co-op advertising when they show you new product lines. This requires a vendor's full attention-and yours-so don't minimize its importance. Schedule a separate meeting with each vendor.

Then, move beyond traditional co-op tactics. Work outside the ad box to build your brand, reputation and image, she said. Ask how the vendor creatively works with optometrists in other parts of the country. Can the vendor assist with online campaigns or co-sponsor local charity events? Does the vendor have any experience with mobile marketing?

Other times, you may want to exclude vendors and work with other professionals in your community. Consider a co-op ad with noncompeting medical practices, such as physician or dentist offices, she said. Experiment by approaching different people. Then, track each ad with a coupon code so you know which ones are the most effective.

Your marketing plan probably will use more conventional strategies as well. For example, Yellow Pages ads work great if you're targeting seniors. Likewise, if you want to reach your community's Hispanic population, Latino radio stations are proven magnets.

"There are a lot of ways you can use co-op advertising to reach out to a whole different clientele," Ives said. "It's a partnership. Find out what you can do for each other to increase business for their company and your practice."