Manufacturers: Do You Have a Loyalty Program?

We all want to capture more business, and the best source of that is from existing customers. If you were a retailer, it would be much simpler to develop a program. But if you’re a manufacturer who sells through distribution channels, your challenge is where do you put your efforts … at the distributor or end user? You’re between a rock and a hard place.

From a distributor’s perspective, all manufacturers are trying to get more time and attention. If you’re an A or B line item, chances are you’ll get some time. Here are some challenges to consider:

  • When you do, what kind of plan are you presenting?
  • Is just like everybody else, or does yours stand out from the crowd?
  • And what about the cost? You know it’s coming out of your margins, not the distributors.
  • Do you incentivize for total sales or for incremental sales once they’ve met last year’s numbers?
  • How do you get their sales force excited?
  • Do you incentivize the distributor or the salesmen?
  • Tracking program – make it simple so you’re not spending all your time figuring out who gets what.

End users aren’t as loyal as they once were. Most will change brands at the drop of a hat or for 5 cents.

There are some iconic brands out there that have worked very hard to build that trust and loyalty over many years, and for the rest of us, we are envious. But even these brands have to fight for incremental sales outside their core “loyalists.”

The younger tradesmen, for the most part, have little brand loyalty unless they were brought up through an apprenticeship program or trade school where your products were used.

So if you’re considering doing an end-user promo, here are some things to think about:

  • What’s your objective? Is it brand building or product related?
  • Are you developing an end-user database? If so, what do you plan on doing with it?
  • What’s the offer? Is it memorable? Can you tie it into other branding activities?
  • Are you involving distribution to help create the buzz?

Manufacturers, you do have your challenges. I’d like you to share programs you’ve seen that have been effective.

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