As manufacturers, we have to serve two masters, the distribution network we sell through and the ultimate end-user. Sometimes we can take these relationships for granted. Remember, they have other options. Here are a few thoughts on how to nurture the relationships:
- Distributors do have a choice in what they carry. Chances are they have your product as well as several competitors on their shelves. So let’s assume for the sake of this exercise that product performance is comparable.
- What makes their counter guys and sales force sell more of one brand over the other? Yes, you can offer SPIFs, but that at best is a short-term solution to increase sales.
- I’d say things like ease of ordering and timely delivery might be helpful.
- What about knowledgable factory people available for product training and troubleshooting?
- How about making end-user calls with their sales force?
Here’s a unique thought – thank them for their business instead of hammering them to help you make your numbers this month.
Most distributor/manufacturer relationships have a long history. Don’t take them for granted. Sales will come, but distributors are looking for more than a quality product at a competitive price.
My grandmother used to tell me you’d catch more bees with honey than vinegar.
Many of the same tactics work at the contractor level. But here’s a place where you can make a brand difference:
- If you have their back and they know they can count on you for product/technical support, you’ll make a friend for life.
- Contractors-like elephants-have long memories, and if you drop the ball too many times, they will find alternative products. Trust me, I’ve seen it.
- Contractors want to be recognized for the trade professionals they are. Something as simple as sending them an email for example, on National Plumber’s Day, recognizing how hard they work. Wouldn’t you think that would have a positive brand experience?
You know, this stuff isn’t rocket science, it’s more common sense. And it doesn’t have to cost more money, just use good business practices.
My golden rule is to treat people the way you expect to be treated. It works and it makes life a whole lot simpler.