While there’s no surefire technique for guaranteeing coop dollars from suppliers, there are ways travel sellers can ensure their requests for coop aid are treated seriously.
Travel sellers should carefully choose which suppliers to approach for coop dollars; create targeted and detailed proposals; pay attention to timing and track records; and get to know their supplier reps in order to build rapport and prove their serious intent.
These points were raised during a panel discussion called Maximizing Marketing Partnerships To Build Your Bottom Line at ASTA’s recent Travel Retailing and Destination Expo in Las Vegas. Two travel agents and a supplier participated.
“I have always had trouble deciding when and how to ask suppliers for help,” Ryan McGredy, owner of Morago (Calif.) Travel, told Travel Market Report. McGredy created and moderated the session on maximizing marketing partnerships.
“I figured if this was something I struggled with, then maybe other people on both the agent and the supplier side of things could benefit from hearing specific knowledge from people who have been successful running co-marketing ventures,” he said.
The first step in obtaining coop aid is deciding which suppliers to target, Bonnie Lee, CEO of host agency TravelQuest, told the audience.
The next steps are to determine the content and purpose of the promotion, along with the demographics of the clients to be targeted, said Lee, whose firm is in Albertville, Minn.
Next, decide which supplier best matches your promotion and demographics. It’s just like mining your customer database to find the right prospects for a promotion, Lee said.
Before creating a proposal and sending it off to a selected supplier, it’s important to establish rapport with the sales rep, advised Nancy Gonzales, regional sales director for Silversea Cruises.
“Generally the starting point is meeting and getting to know each other,” she said. A good way to accomplish this is calling the rep to discuss ways of working together.
Ask the rep for ideas and show willingness to put time and money into the relationship before asking for the supplier’s time and money, Gonzalez suggested.
When suppliers evaluate a coop proposal, they look at timing, track records, commitment and exclusivity, Gonzales noted.
A matter of timing
The first consideration in terms of timing is when the travel seller expects to receive the money, Gonzales told the audience.
She makes commitments for the following year from September through November, so a request for coop dollars that comes in during the summer for that same fall cannot be granted – the money is simply not there, she said.
The second consideration is how much timing the travel seller allowed for the promotion itself. Is the seller asking to put together an event in just a few weeks? Does the seller want to start promoting a group sailing only three months before the sail date?
The more time dedicated to putting together a campaign, whether it’s an advertisement or event, the better, Gonzales said.
What’s your track record?
Both the track record of the promotion type and the agency submitting the proposal are scrutinized, Gonzales said. In other words, historically has the promotion type brought the travel seller — and Silversea — bookings? And, has that travel seller been a good producer of bookings in general?
For travel sellers who are relatively new to Silversea, Gonzales said she is much more likely to agree to non-monetary forms of coop aid.
Suppliers also want partners who are committed and passionate — both to the promotion itself, and to the supplier.
“You have to love the promotion,” Lee said, and Gonzales agreed.
If agents are passionate about their promotion or campaign and have personally invested in it, both in terms of money and time, a supplier is much more likely to offer coop dollars.
Never ask a supplier for 100% coverage of a promotion, event or campaign, Gonzales advised. Agents who are risking their own money have a much bigger stake in seeing the promotion be successful.
Similarly, suppliers are much more likely to back travel agents who are passionate and knowledgeable about their brand. “You should have a certain level of expertise about my product,” Gonzales said.
Lee told the audience, “You have to be enthusiastic about the brand. Meet them, learn about them, take their seminars.”
Exclusivity a factor
Another question suppliers ask when evaluating a request for coop aid is: Am I the only supplier involved in this promotion or am I one of many?
Most prefer to be the only supplier, or only travel supplier, involved. They are highly unlikely to put a lot of money into a promotion that also features several of their competitors.
“I shouldn’t be just one of a number of suppliers you’re hoping to get money from,” Gonzales said.
But Silversea doesn’t have to be the only supplier the seller is targeting. In fact, one of the most successful coop promotions Gonzales funded was an event for a car dealer’s top 100 customers that also featured several non-travel luxury suppliers, including a jeweler, furrier and clothing designer.