For many B2B companies, an independent sales network (distributors) is often a key sales channel. Distributors provide B2B companies with the ability to broaden their sales reach, grow their customer base and penetrate new, untapped markets. It can be a highly effective model, especially for small-to-medium sized businesses in which the economics of setting up an extensive in-house sales force isn’t feasible.
For companies that have a distributor network, it’s critical to include this target group within your strategic marketing plan. In a previous post, I highlighted the 7 essential tactics for marketing to distributors to help companies identify and prioritize marketing activities targeted at distributors. As you embark on marketing to your distributors there are three key themes that your activities should achieve – Educate – Empower – Engage. These themes provide a way to organize your activities and ensure you have an appropriate balance. Take note – every activity doesn’t necessarily have to cover all three themes.
1) Educate – As cliché as it may sound, information is power. We often see companies who expect the world from their distributors, yet have little activity in place to actually educate them. For distributors who are representing several products and technologies, it can be increasingly difficult for them to understand your value proposition. Educational activities are meant to inform distributors about your products and solutions, equip them with consistent messaging, and share timely and relevant information – e.g. a new certification, customer success story, etc.
2) Empower – Information is a necessary and useful asset; however, it’s also critical to have activities in place that drive action. Tactics such as product packages, online tools and portals help to equip distributors with materials and mechanisms to support their own sales efforts. When you are able to provide them with a combination of the right tools and education, you are more likely to yield greater results.
3) Engage – Finally, there must be a set of activities that nurture and cultivate longer-term engagement. This is especially important for companies who are committed to a distributor network as their long-term sales structure. Activities such as relationship nurturing and sales conferences can be highly effective in keeping your distributor sales force engaged and committed to selling your products. These types of activities foster in-person exchanges, create opportunities for reps to share information with one another, and provide a platform for ongoing feedback and collaboration.
As you embark on marketing to distributors, ensure the above themes are addressed in the activities you pursue. If you’re not sure what to try or haven’t had success in the past, give us a call to see how we can help.