Manufacturers and distributors that supply mid-market and enterprise retail businesses will sometimes pay those retailers to place ads alongside content as part of a cooperative advertising program. The secret to receiving this funding is in how the retailer asks for it.

Co-op advertising is common in the retail industry. It is normal for a retailer to place an ad specifically mentioning a brand and, in return, that brand reimburses the retailer for some portion of the advertising expense.

Some suppliers may even pay for 100 percent of the cost of advertising if the retailer uses ads the brand specifies or that meet other requirements.

Brick-and-mortar Legacy

Co-op advertising programs have their roots in brick-and-mortar retailing and in traditional advertising.

Ask for co-op funds for a newspaper ad or a radio commercial, and the answer is probably “yes.” But ask for the same amount of money to pay for an online article as part of a content marketing initiative and you might get “no.”

For many suppliers, content marketing is difficult to understand and justify.

First, your sales rep — the person who sells the supplier’s products to your company — may be responsible for approving co-op requests. This is a problem because sales reps are not typically marketing experts. He might know the product line well, but he doesn’t know content marketing.

Second, the executives at your supplier likely don’t understand marketing either. Your sales rep probably has to justify his decision to approve your co-op funding request to an executive, perhaps the company’s national sales manager, who also doesn’t understand content marketing, either.

Finally, content marketing can be hard to evaluate. If it co-ops a newspaper ad, a supplier bases the value of that ad on the newspaper’s circulation. Similarly, it has an idea of how much radio ads or television ads cost, and it will ask for a copy of invoices to justify the expense. Your supplier is used to making these sorts of valuations. But that supplier may not have a way to evaluate content marketing. From the supplier’s perspective, content marketing could be throwing away money.

Provide an Advertising Vehicle

So that is the quandary.

You want to have a robust content marketing program with…