60% Co-op Reimbursement – Now What?

The New Year always brings about big changes and challenges, and this year is no different, especially with DISH’s co-op reimbursement percentage change from 80% to 60% already in place. Don’t panic! We’ve got the team to guide you with a few tips to  change your advertising focus from volume to value.

When thinking about your advertising budget, quality, not quantity, is what you’re looking for. Take a deep breath and really think about where you spend your advertising dollars: Which mediums are working for you and which ones aren’t? Are you doing any advertising just because it’s inexpensive, even though it may be ineffective? Now is the time to scrutinize your marketing plan, eliminate the part of the plan that is not working, and get creative to spend your advertising budget in the areas where it’s the most effective.

Review your Marketing Plan

When analyzing your current advertising budget, you can place your initiatives in one of two categories: those you spend money on and those that make your business money. If the majority of your leads are coming from one or two advertising tactics, but you have three or four total, then you need to shift your money to the mediums where you’re actually getting a return on your investment. Stop spending in the areas where you are not. Just because your out-of-pocket expense per initiative is going to increase doesn’t mean that your total budget has to.

Cut the Fat

Once you have identified the mediums that aren’t bringing in quality leads, you need to pull those ads as soon as possible. If you have gotten in the habit of advertising in ways that aren’t the most effective, make it your resolution to focus the money on other avenues that can make your business better. Even if the advertising is cheap, it’s still money wasted if it’s not bringing in customers and it is money better spent elsewhere. Now that you’ll be responsible for paying 40% of the total cost on any advertising initiative, you really need to focus on getting the best value for that money and only advertise where you are seeing results.
Get Creative
With a higher investment for advertising on your end, you want to look for every value-add opportunity you can. See if your radio station or newspaper will give you a better rate if you commit to a larger number of advertisements. Is there a discount for running on certain days of the week? Many newspapers will include a web ad at no additional charge when you buy a print ad. It’s ok to be shameless in asking your vendors for discounts or bundles– the worst they can do is say no, right? Don’t forget to look into opportunities for free advertising, too. Get those social media pages in shape, start a blog, or send out a newsletter to current and prospective customers. You could even try bartering or trading advertising. Ask a popular local business if you can hang a banner in their store or place some business cards at the counter in exchange for the same at your business. Networking and word of mouth will always remain powerful advertising tools.
It’s certainly going to be an adjustment switching over to a lower reimbursement percentage, but if you sit down and take the time to analyze your business’s marketing plan and think outside the box a little, you can make it work without breaking your advertising budget.

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Help Us Help You: 3 Simple Ways to Keep Your Business Running Smoothly

If you’ve tuned into our blog before, you know that I work here in the Marketing Department at DOW Electroincs. In my 2 years here, I’ve seen a lot of retailers falling into the same traps time and time again. I deal with the co-op process every day, and sometimes I have to remind myself that our retailers don’t, so it may not seem as straightforward to you as it does to me.  Recently I read a blog post about people who offer criticism without giving a possible solution at the same time, and I decided that I don’t want to be “that guy” (or “that girl” in my case). With that in mind, I put together a short list of common problems that I see come up for our retailers and how to fix them.

Image: Bruno Girin | Flickr

1. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute (or later!)

“A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” We all heard this back in school when we asked our teachers for an extra day to turn in that term paper or when we showed up late on test day. One of my teachers even had it posted on the classroom wall, and I couldn’t stand it! Like it or not though, the statement often rings true in the busines world, just as it did in the classroom.

We know that accidents happen and sometimes you may forget that you need to submit an approval a few days before you plan to advertise or that your claim paperwork got lost in a stack of paper, but sometimes exceptions and rushes just can’t be made, so planning ahead is always the best bet. The simplest way to keep deadlines and due dates in order, and to keep your business flowing smoothly is to keep a calendar. Write all of your advertising run dates, events, installs, and truck delivery dates on your calendar and then go back and see where you’ll need  to add your deadlines:

  • Approvals should be submitted a minimum of 2 days before your vendor’s deadline (make that 5 days if Dow is creating your ad).
  • Note that you’ll need all of your claim documents from your vendor immediately after your initiative is complete so you can send them in as soon as possible, why wait to be reimbursed?
  • Check your co-op guidelines  for the final submission deadlines and co-op expiration dates you’ll need to keep in mind, or just give us a call!
  • Go through your inventory of equipment, approved parts, and accessories, and try to estimate when you’ll need to order more.

Write all of these “to-do’s” on your calendar, in red, so you know you need to pay special attention to them. If you’re using a digital calendar, make sure to set a reminder alarm and your phone or computer will let you know!

Whether it’s an old-school desk or wall calendar, or your Outlook or phone’s calendar complete with reminders, writing all of these dates down will make your job (and ours) much easier.

2. Have a Plan B

I can’t stress enough the importance of always having a backup plan. I’ve seen several retailers who are left in the dark when a key employee leaves their business and they don’t know where to start with a particular process. Obviously, you can’t always be in control of every aspect of your business, you are just one person after all, but having a strategy for these scenarios is key.

The first step is to make sure that the person you are placing in charge of any part of your business is qualified and trustworthy. As salespeople, a few retailers think that they can’t do marketing, so they brush it off to the first person who knows how to use a computer– vendors, sales reps, interns, children, even the kid’s pet hamster! Okay, maybe that last one was a stretch, but the point is that Marketing is a key part of your business and your sales process, so why would you put it in the hands of someone who isn’t quite sure what they’re doing?

Once you’ve carefully selected a qualified party to head up your marketing efforts, make sure that this person creates a written process for all of their duties. On top of that, have them run through these processes with you. In the event that that person is out of the office, or should they leave the business for good, you now have the basics to jump into their role without missing a beat.

This is one specific scenario, but there’s always value in having a Plan B, you never know when your Plan A might fall through!

3. Check, Double-Check, Triple Check!

We all know what happens when you assume, so don’t fall into this trap. We see it all the time in the Marketing Department: you don’t read your co-op guidelines, you participate in an event, and then you realize after the fact that you forgot to display your business name, or even worse, you didn’t know you needed to get a pre-approval beforehand. This is easily fixed by simply consulting your co-op guidelines, or your DOW Electronics Marketing Department– think of us as your human co-op guidelines. We’re here to make sure that you are doing everything you need to in order to receive reimbursement for your advertising initiatives, but we can’t help you if you don’t ask!

Another area where this comes into play is when there is an issue with your account.  It becomes very difficult, and in some cases impossible, to fix a problem months after it occurs. Make sure that you are keeping an eye on your email and your Dow bulletin board to ensure that your payments are coming through as they should and that we don’t require additional action on your part to complete a process. By simply staying on top of your account information, or selecting a qualified employee to do so, you’ll be sure to keep those mistakes and oversights to a minimum. Trust me, we’d rather you call us 10 times a day and get it right the first time than have to deny your claims, and I know your sales reps and everyone else here at Dow feels the same way.

Going back and checking with your sales or marketing rep, or reading your co-op guidelines could save you time, money, and a big headache.

So there you have it! A “Do this, Not that” on being a DOW Electronics retailer. As a Marketer, most of my observations come from a Marketing and Advertising perspective, but these pointers can apply to all parts of your business. Let us know your suggestions in the comments below!

Co-Op Claims: A Crash Course

Claim FormIt’s that time again! We are in the middle of the first quarter and it’s time to start getting all of your documentation together and sending in those co-op advertising claims you’ve been holding onto. Claims for each quarter are due the first day of the last month of the following quarter– not confusing at all, right? Basically, you have 2 months after a quarter ends to submit claims for that quarter. For example: on March 1st,  you should have sent us all of your co-op claims for the fourth quarter of last year (that’s any advertising that took place in October, November and December of 2011)– If your claims are postmarked to DOW Electronics after 3/1/2012, unfortunately you will not receive your reimbursements. Here are a few tips for getting it all right  and getting your money as quickly and painlessly as possible:

  1. Don’t wait until the last minute! When your advertising is finished and you have your invoice, submit your claim. Often times, we get from retailers who forget to submit claims and then miss the deadline. DISH is VERY strict when making exceptions and even as your distributor, there is little we can do to help when this happens.
  2. Get it right the first time! It’s very important to send a complete and correct claim to us. This not only saves you the hassle of having to mail us documents multiple times, but it also saves you from missing important emails asking for additional information. You may think a claim has processed, but in reality something was missing and you didn’t provide it to us. Even if you do meet the postmark deadline, if your claim is missing information and you don’t get it to us in a timely manner, you may miss out on your reimbursement. . Generally we’ll need the following, but refer to your co-op advertising guidelines for specifics of what is required for each type of claim:
    1. A co-op claim form. You can find this on our website. Simply fill out your information in the required fields.
    2. An original invoice. You should always have one from your vendor, and remember that original means original. Faxing, emailing, or making a copy of your original invoice and submitting it to us is not sufficient. Make a copy for your own records and send us the original. Think of it this way, DISH is paying the bulk of your bill, so they want original records.
    3. A co-op pre-approval.As DOW Electronics retailers, you should be submitting all of your approvals through our online submission system. As long as you submit your ads to us , we have your approval on file and it is not necessary for you to send it to us.
      1. Just make sure you actually submit your ads for approval before using them in market and that you make any changes that are requested!
    4. Proof of your advertising. For print ads this means a tear sheet, for events, kiosks, and vehicle wraps it means photos, radio and TV ads require a notarized script on station letterhead and a station log– just make sure the script is correct (word-for-word) and approved before having it notarized.
  3. Stay on top of it! This is the most important one. Make sure you are aware of all claims you have pending or that still need to be sent to us. We do our best to inform you when we require additional documentation to process your claims and by what date we need to have this information, but there is a limit to how much guidance we can provide. We process dozens of claims a day and it’s impossible for us to send every retailer multiple reminders about their individual claims. Check your email, watch your bulletin board, call us and ask. Do whatever you have to in order to stay knowledgeable about your claims.  You are the business owner and it is your job to know what is happening with your business. If you don’t, you’re losing money.

And that’s my two cents. I know that the co-op advertising process can sometimes be confusing, but that’s why we in the marketing department are here. Don’t hesitate to call or email us with your questions. We are here for you, at your disposal, 8am – 5pm, 5 days a week. It’s really a simple matter of paying attention and staying apprised of the matters at hand. The other thing that you should all do is read your co-op advertising guidelines, they are located on our website so that you can access them at any time. Many of you would be amazed by how clear the co-op advertising process becomes when you actually read the guidelines! The moment you tune out and stop listening is when you get into trouble. A good habit for everyone is to mark these deadlines on your calendars or set a reminder in your email so you don’t miss a thing!