Cellular functions of the essential, ubiquitin-selective AAA ATPase p97/valosin-containing protein (VCP) are controlled by regulatory cofactors determining substrate specificity and fate. Most cofactors bind p97 through a ubiquitin regulatory X (UBX) or UBX-like domain or linear sequence motifs, including the hitherto ill defined p97/VCP-interacting motif (VIM). Here, we present the new, minimal consensus sequence RX(5)AAX(2)R as a general definition of the VIM that unites a novel family of known and putative p97 cofactors, among them UBXD1 and ZNF744/ANKZF1. We demonstrate that this minimal VIM consensus sequence is necessary and sufficient for p97 binding. Using NMR chemical shift mapping, we identified several residues of the p97 N-terminal domain (N domain) that are critical for VIM binding. Importantly, we show that cellular stress resistance conferred by the yeast VIM-containing cofactor Vms1 depends on the physical interaction between its VIM and the critical N domain residues of the yeast p97 homolog, Cdc48. Thus, the VIM-N domain interaction characterized in this study is required for the physiological function of Vms1 and most likely other members of the newly defined VIM family of cofactors.