New Product Launches: Don’t Overlook Your Distributor Partners

Many manufacturers are so focused on the features and benefits of their new product that they sometimes forget about educating and motivating their distributors to insure a successful launch.

Distribution is a key link in the launch and if your distribution isn’t on board or even understands what or where this product fits into your overall strategy, it’s going to be hard for them to sell. Let’s face it, especially in today’s economy, a distributor needs to understand why he should invest in inventory of this new widget.

Here are some tips to help make sure your distribution is on board:

  • Give them plenty of notice – They need to know 45-60 days in advance so they can get the new SKUs into the system, onto the promotion calendar and most importantly, get you that initial stocking order.
  • Incentivize the initial stocking order – Give them an additional discount on that first order or give them extended dating or waive your minimum order requirements. The key here is to make sure they have your product on the shelf so when the contractor¬†comes in and asks for it, they have it.
  • Train/educate distributor sales force – It’s an important step in the process that’s often overlooked. Many manufacturers assume they understand the big picture, and most of the time, it’s not the case. With time and travel expenses being what they are, traditional things like lunch-and-learns may not be the best way to introduce the new product. You might want to use an online training tool like BlueVolt that can both train, verify and motivate the sales team.
  • SPIF sales – For at least the first 3 months, put some sort of incentive on the product to get the sales folks excited. Put yourself in their shoes. Most distributors carry anywhere from 15,000-25,000 different items. Which ones do you think they will be talking about? And oh by the way, don’t overlook those inside and CSRs. They have 5-7 times the number of contacts with customers everyday and can talk up new products and create add-on sales (do you want fries with that?)
  • Make key end user calls – This seems like a no-brainer, and while you the manufacturer might be making those calls, you don’t always include the distributor in them. Chances are that key potential for you is already a key customer for the distributor. He can make sure you get in front of the right people and brings a relationship to the table.

These are some simple ways to insure your new product launch is successful.

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