-Sponsored article by the Mezzanine Group
If your B2B organization sells products and services through distributors or resellers, you know first hand that building strong relationships with these organizations is key to increasing revenue. However, acquiring, maintaining, and growing distributors who are busy selling your products involves a strategy on its own.
How would you rate the revenue stream from your distribution channel? If this is an area of the business that you’re focused on improving, ask yourself if your organization is doing a good job of communicating, educating, and engaging the distributor community.
It’s common for many business owners to think of developing a marketing plan for the primary purchasing audience – clients. Incorporating a marketing strategy for distribution and reseller partners can be a winning formula for increased revenue overall.
In the last year, we’ve seen companies grow by more than 20 per cent based on an investment in marketing to distributors. They do this by focusing on engagement with their community.
Here are 10 ways that B2B companies can build relationships with their community and improve distributor performance:
1. E-mail program
Develop an e-mail marketing program for communicating regularly with distributors.
A consistently scheduled email newsletter should share news on product launches, upcoming conferences, new marketing materials and other general information.
Keep in mind, many vendors are competing for the distributor’s attention in a busy inbox. If possible, your email newsletters should contain special product offers or other unique advantages for subscribing to and opening up e-newsletters from your organization.
Email newsletters are great for keeping your distributors informed on what’s happening, but they are also an excellent tactic to provide content that is above and beyond expected from your distributors.
Don’t have the ability to offer up the occasional sale? Don’t worry, if you execute on the additional items in this list, you’ll have outstanding content to share in your distributor e-newsletter.
2. Case studies
Case studies are useful documents that illustrate how your products or services have worked well in specific target markets or have solved specific problems. Distributors benefit from case studies as it helps them to better understand your key messages and it can solve a problem your distributors may be having with their own clients.
Plan to build out a case study library. If your product works across multiple business verticals, produce 2-3 case studies for each vertical. Write case studies for typical sales cycles, and write some for really unique sales stories.
Case studies build credibility with your distributors and resellers, and are an important tool for distributors in their own selling activities.
3. Product launch packages
Give your distributors the product information they need to present your products to their customers. Too often, distributors don’t have the necessary tools in their hands. Ensure your distributors are regularly updated with product collateral (technical data sheets, demos) and when launching new products prepare a launch package.
In some cases, get your distributors involved in the product launch. Invite brand ambassadors, top sales reps, or company heads from distributors to participate in an unboxing experience if the product is really unique and special. Having the opportunity to be the first to get your hands on a new product can build additional buzz.
Don’t have a product that you can hold in your hand? Throw a launch party (again if the product or service is really special or innovative) and invite distributors.
Schedule a regular sales conference that brings together all of your distributors. Conferences serve as great platforms for launching new products, discussing company updates, educating distributors on new technology and reviewing systems and processes.
Sales conferences these days range in size and complexity depending on the industry and your overall budget. Some conferences that we’ve attended included gourmet dinners, live entertainment, and popular band performances.
Depending on the size of your organization and your budget, you may not have the ability to book a band to perform. That’s ok! But you should look to make this event not only informative, but also an experience that they will remember. Include a nice dinner, spend money on a introduction video, or invite a unique speaker. Whatever you do, be sure to add your own twist and surprise for guests. You want them to be excited to come back next year!
5. Relationship nurturing
You know that relationship nurturing and development is key to your business. Depending on the distributor’s business structure, it’s important to develop relationships at several levels (e.g. CEO to CEO, sales rep to sales rep). One-on-one relationship building fosters in-depth discussion and will provide greater insight into the wants and needs of distributors.
Be responsive to their needs, facilitate opportunities and spend time with your distributors via phone calls or regular meetings to ensure that you stay top of mind for them and you have a relationship built on trust and respect. This keeps your distributors motivated to perform for you.
Regular webinars are a great way to keep the lines of communication open with your distributors. Topics may include training, a video tour of the company (for those distributors who haven’t had the opportunity to see the facility), new products and emerging technology.
Webinars require a lot of work. Before investing time, money, and efforts on a webinar, clearly define the content and the desired target audience. You don’t want non-technical attendees signed into a webinar on a technical topic.
Have a lively host along with a visually appealing presentation for your webinar. It’s easy for end users to get distracted while attending a webinar. In most cases, it’s a Tuesday afternoon and attendees keep their inbox open while plugged in to your webinar. Don’t give your audience a reason to stop paying attention. Look for opportunities like polls to keep the webinar interactive and maintain interest. A great host, a professionally designed presentation, and of course amazing content will keep your audience engaged.
Remember to leave some time for Q&A.
7. Sales Collateral and Talk Tracks
If your distributors and resellers are B2B organizations, prepare sales collateral for their sales organization. Presentations, one-pagers, and talk tracks are great resources for sales teams. Anything that moves a sales rep one step closer to closing a deal will be leveraged by sales teams.
8. Lunch and Learns
These small events are a great way to build and maintain great working relationships with your distributors. For larger sales teams, go to a distributor’s office and offer up a catered lunch for the sales team while giving a presentation. Include prizes and giveaways for attendees throughout the event who are able to answer questions related to the content in the presentation.
For relationships with C-suite and upper management individuals, take the lunch and learns outside of the office and host the event at a popular restaurant. Ensure that the presenter in the room is at the same level of seniority.
9. Distributor portal
In addition to a customer log-in section you may have on your website, set up a secured distributor portal. This can serve as the hub for all of your sales collateral, pre-recorded webinars, pricing and training materials. For distributors, it gives them an all-access pass to the materials they need.
It’s essential distributors know they can share their feedback. Put systems in place to allow distributors to give their suggestions and requests. Reinforce these systems at conferences, during conference calls and in email correspondence.
Distributor marketing is an excellent way to engage your community and boost not just your revenues, but more importantly—their revenues!