Use OPM to Market Your Business

I’ve gotten a lot of e-mails lately asking how much contractors should spend on advertising, which has led to an informal series of posts on the topic. But let’s face it, there’s no fun in watching ad budgets, you want to spend as much as you can to let the world know about your good name right?

Enter co-op advertising!

Thousands of manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers from almost every product you can think of in the trades sets aside a little scratch to give to contractors like you to be used in your construction marketing program. Co-op funding, short for cooperative, is second only to referrals as the best way to get new clients or customers for your contracting company, and even better if you are in startup mode.

Unfortunately, many of you either don’t know about co-op programs or how to use them to your advantage. Or maybe you didn’t even know that you had money available to you? Maybe your distributor told you in the past that you didn’t buy enough to qualify. Well, I am here to tell you, manufacturers want their products sold and you probably do have dollars waiting for your somewhere, you just need to start asking your suppliers.

What’s the downside?

Well, one of the disadvantages to co-op is that it is riddled with paperwork and is a bit of a pain in the ass to administrate. So if you suck on the paperwork side of the house, you better let someone else manage it, but don’t not do it. Using co-op the right way will give you an opportunity to move your company forward while using someone else’s nickel to do it. Just know that it’s going to take a bit of work, but in the end free advertising is free advertising.

How do you get paid?

Well, co-op programs are like snowflakes with all kinds of restrictions, but reimbursement typically takes the form in one of three ways (there are others):

  • Cash reimbursement — Provide proof to that your ads ran and your co-op vendor cuts you a check, easy peasy.
  • Discounted merchandise — You get a discount equal to the amount of your reimbursement applied to future product orders. Not as great as cash, but still pretty good.
  • Free product — Kind of the same thing as discounted merchandise, except here your entire order is gratis. Still not cash, but free product is as good as free advertising!

To me, it doesn’t matter what type of reimbursement I am getting from a supplier, it’s like finding cash on the street, and all I had to do was fill out some forms and follow a few guidelines. So the next time you go to the supply house or call your vendors, ask them what you have available to use, and do it quick, since a lot of co-op cash get forfeited at the end of the year and the meter starts all over again on Jan 1.