Product, price, place, and promotion. One of the keys to success for a small business is mastering marketing. Whether entrepreneurs are advertising their business, using promotional strategies to reach their target customers, or working to place their products into a new market channel, marketing encompasses many aspects of business. Are cooperative approaches to marketing opportunities a fit for your small business to save time and resources?
Does your business use supplies that many other businesses also use?
Purchasing supplies as a group, via a purchasing cooperative, for example, may help businesses lower per unit costs for supplies, improve market information across the supply chain, consolidate transactions to reduce administrative burdens, reduce inventories, coordinate shipping, or even control quality attributes. For example, restaurants may use a purchasing cooperative to purchase food, packaging, equipment, and other commonly needed supplies together in bulk. The Wendy’s Quality Supply Chain Co-op works with suppliers to provide member restaurants with products and services, pooling billions of dollars in buying power.
For a more detailed look at the purchasing cooperative model, see the publication “A Guide for the Development of Purchasing Cooperatives,” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Could your business advertise with businesses in the same industry or geography?
Marketing cooperatives and similar approaches may offer opportunities for small businesses to reach new market channels or audiences while reducing costs and administrative burden for individual businesses.
In Ohio, businesses in the tourism industry like convention and visitors bureaus, lodging, restaurants, attractions, festivals, and others, may be able to utilize TourismOhio’s “Ohio, The Heart of It All Co-op Advertising Program,” which provides members opportunities to purchase advertising like paid social, digital, and paid search, as well as opportunities for marketing contact creation offerings like photography, videography, storytelling, and influencer engagements, among other potential benefits.
Does your business have the ability or opportunity to share physical space with other businesses?
In some instances, cooperative approaches to helping businesses access the physical space they need to operate or market their business might offer benefits. For example, shared-use space like business incubators or artist cooperatives might help create affordable opportunities for start-up businesses, help businesses attract new customers in spaces where customers who enter the space to shop at one business may also be encouraged to shop at others, and reduce administrative burdens by sharing maintenance and upkeep for the space and outdoor areas.
Learn more about artist cooperatives in this “Toolkits for the Arts: Toolkit 2: Form an Artist Cooperative” from the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts in West Virginia.
Some Considerations for Working Cooperatively
Small businesses exploring how a collaborative approach might help them better market their products and businesses will need to consider various key questions. The questions below are a starting point but are by no means exhaustive. Entrepreneurs who are interested in exploring a cooperative approach further can reach out to the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Center for Cooperatives at Ohio State.
- Who will be engaged? What is their role?
- How will the group make decisions?
- How will the group be formally organized?
- How can the group manage risk?
- Will working together provide the intended benefit
For more information about the CFAES Center for Cooperatives at The Ohio State University visit go.osu.edu/cooperatives. Contact the CFAES Center for Cooperatives at email@example.com or 614-247-9705.
For assistance with registration or additional questions about events, please contact Samantha Black at firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-247-9774.
CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information, visit cfaesdiversity.osu.edu. For an accessible format of this publication, visit cfaes.osu.edu/accessibility.
 Reynolds, B. & Wadsworth, J. (2009). “A Guide for the Development of Purchasing Cooperatives,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, Cooperative Information Report 64.