Co-op Marketing: A Powerful Tool for Selling Books

by Bonnie Marlewski-Probert

The following report was sent to me by Bonnie Marlewski-Probert of K&B Products:

We just returned from being a featured speaker at the largest trade show in the U.S. for the horse industry (our primary niche) and wanted to share some co-op marketing ideas with you that could be used in any trade show environment.

Our challenge: 1. Increase foot traffic into the booth so that we could increase sales over last year, and 2. Find enough qualified people to man our booth for the 12 hour days (4 in total) who were capable of not only selling effectively, but also of being professional in the process. To accomplish those two clear goals, we did the following:

1. We called the largest catalog house in the U.S. and invited them to provide us with 1,000 logo bags for our booth. They were happy to do it.

2. We worked with several book publishers and product manufacturers and invited them to donate product to a drawing in our booth. In exchange we invited them to send along 1,000 fliers. We put those in the bags and handed them out as people went by.

3. We held a dozen drawings in the booth and ended up with a 1,300 name mailing list of target market folks that we are going to sell.

4. We also co-oped in our booth with a national magazine and a product manufacturer so that we would have complete coverage during the event. I had to be gone 2 hours a day speaking and another hour signing autographs.

5. The result of this co-oping effort was that everyone won. We sold five times as much product from our booth this year than we did last year, our co-op partners got the word out on their products to a wonderful target market of buyers, and we have established a working relationship with almost a dozen co-op partners that we can now use in other events around the country. Two of our partners asked before the event was even over, whether or not they could work with us again, anytime, anywhere.

The lessons we learned about co-oping were many, but the most important lesson was to recognize that when you are co-oping with new partners, allow enough time to cultivate that relationship and remember that you are not working on getting through just this one event, but think in terms of working WITH these folks for the next 10 years.

Also, to ensure that we could work well together for years and years to come, we shared a cash box, shared credit card processing and had all key players count out the cash box before we started the event and had all key players present on the final day, going through invoice by invoice to balance out the drawer. This process took about 30 minutes to complete, but it was well worth the time and everyone appreciated the care that we took to ensure that everyone got their money.

Will we co-op at national events again? ABSOLUTELY. In fact, now that we have taken the time to cultivate this process, I don't know how people go to events without co-oping on some level — just to gain coverage for the booth makes it worthwhile, but the other benefits are amazing if you think things through, take your time, carefully choose your partners and are willing to be responsible for the positive outcome for everyone involved.

Today, we are sending out the last letter to one of our co-op partners from this event, thanking them for their participation. We are writing up the final credits for our second how-to video that I hope to have ready for market by Friday of this week. We are going to look at another horse at 9:00 a.m., filling Ingram orders that are backing up in our office, heading for the post office to ship product out this morning, setting up the final deal with our dubbing company to get both videos dubbed in quantity, writing the letter to chain stores across the U.S. to cultivate relationships with them (thanks to Greg Roy for the comprehensive list of chain stores!) And finally, we are working on loading that 1,300 mailing list into our computer system.

So, what are you doing today to promote your product lines or your business? I'm a great believer in doing at least two forward-moving, positive marketing things each day. What will your two be??


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