Tips to effectively market your practice using co-op funds
Many frame companies incentivize ODs and their practices with cooperative (co-op) marketing funds. Advertising dollars can be reimbursed when ODs use these funds to promote their practice and the frame brands. This collaboration creates a win-win scenario for the frame company and the practice by developing brand awareness for both parties and is a smart way to compete with the advertising dollars of big box optical chains.
Remember: use it or lose it
The amount of co-op advertising funds that go unused each year is substantial––$14 billion, according to a Borrell Associates study.1 These annual unclaimed millions are mostly due to clinicians not understanding how to use them or being aware the money is available.
ODs can use co-op dollars to create marketing campaigns, promotions, and advertisements that will bring in new, desirable patients; increase brand awareness; and result in repeat sales. Most frame companies have specific rules about what can and cannot be used for co-op advertising. In order to be reimbursed, some follow-up is required, so make sure you keep track of how much you are spending and on what.
Now is the time to find out how much co-op money you have accumulated this year so that you can use it wisely. If you do not have a lot of available funds, talk with your frame vendor or representative to create a strategic co-op marketing campaign for the next quarter. Failure to do so could result in marketing dollars being wasted.
Every frame company is different when it comes to their co-op advertising funds. Start by reaching out to the representative from your best-selling frame collection and have a conversation about a marketing campaign. Set clear objectives with your rep and come to a mutual agreement on how you will spend your co-op dollars to avoid any misunderstandings in the future.
Qualifying co-op advertising expenses
Co-op dollars can be used in multiple ways; the important thing to remember is that they should promote both your practice and the frame brands your co-op funds represent.
Frame companies may allow you to use co-op funds for the following:
» Printed ads
» Digital marketing
» Practice management consulting
» Point of purchase displays
» Staff training or lunch and learn
» Window displays
» Reusable branded retail bags
» Email blasts
» Trunk shows
» Local TV and radio ad spots
» Direct mail
» Continuing education
» Event promotions
» Gift with purchase
» Raffles and giveaways
» Social media post boosts
» Local magazine print ads
» Incentives for staff sales
Talking with your frame vendor or representative will clarify exactly what their co-op dollars will and will not cover.
Co-op advertising dollars are the most underutilized incentive that eye care professionals and their practices have at their disposal. The strategic use of these funds can build practice and brand awareness for your business as well as the frame company.
How will your practice benefit?
Co-op advertising dollars benefit eyecare practices in the following ways:
They help ODs reach new markets.
They reduce advertising and marketing costs while creating brand awareness for the practice.
They allow ODs to work with frame vendors’ marketing specialists to create ad campaigns and marketing materials that benefit both practice and frame brand.
In my practice, we gained $19,000 in revenue in quarter 3 (Q3) of last year utilizing co-op funds. Here’s how we did it:
We met with our top frame vendor representative and established concrete, measurable goals for Q3. We determined we would do a hybrid giveaway, boosted on social media, to benefit both our in-person and virtual patients.
For the giveaway, we featured a branded perfume worth $120 (Figure 1) and a pair of branded sunglasses worth $300 in retail value. Our frame representative covered the cost of the sunglasses in full and our co-op funds covered the rest. We agreed to purchase at least 36 frames to start this co-op funded giveaway and reorder any additional frames sold during the giveaway.
Next, we determined which social media platform we would use for this marketing campaign. We decided to focus on our Facebook page because most of our active followers used that platform at the time.
The brilliance of this strategy was that everyone visiting the practice would be incentivized to follow our social media page for the opportunity to participate more than once in our giveaway. This created buzz and grew our social media following. Remember: ask yourself what’s in it for the patient. In this case the answer was a giveaway.
We worked with our frame vendor’s marketing department to create digital and hard copy fliers to promote the giveaway in the practice and on social media.
We hosted a Facebook live video feed, showing the giveaway prizes and encouraging viewers to share in our giveaway by tagging their family and friends for an opportunity to win. We also urged them to call us to receive a frame styling session with this particular frame brand. We cross-promoted this video on our Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube accounts to drive even more traffic.
Our practice used $100 co-op dollars a month for each month in Q3 to boost our live video. The total amount used in the marketing campaign was $420 ($120 for perfume gift set + $300 to boost live video giveaway).
After 90 days of the giveaway, social media insights were as follows:
Total post clicks: 1600
Clicks to play: 1200
Total video views: 5700
Total reach: 11,000 (Figure 2)
The revenue results of this giveaway were as follows:
Branded frames sold after 90 days: 52
The frame vendor was happy because we re-ordered an additional 12 frames to replenish what we sold. In addition, we gained 13 new patients.
When the marketing campaign ends, meet with your frame vendor or representative to discuss results, including what worked and did not work, and how both parties benefited from the initiative. Make plans for the next quarter.
Co-op marketing is a great way to reach a profitable, favorable end to boost revenue for your practice, acquire new patients, and grow your social media presence. It truly is a win-win for you and your frame vendor.
1. Melton A. Study: local advertisers are leaving behind $14 billion in co-op marketing every year. Street Fight. August 13, 2015. Accessed . http://streetfightmag.com/2015/08/13/study-local-advertisers-are-leaving-behind-14-billion-in-co-op-marketing-every-year/