A key piece of the marketing strategy puzzle for any manufacturing company is to market to the people and organizations who actively promote and sell your products - distributors.
Using an independent distributor network to represent and sell products is not new for many business-to-business (B2B) companies, especially not manufacturing companies. At Mezzanine B2B Growth Agents, we work with several small and medium-sized manufacturers that actively use distributors and know what tactics will get distributor attention and help build long-term success.
Marketing is a complex process. It is especially challenging for manufacturers. By incorporating strategic content marketing to engage distributors - your ambassadors, your company could realize enhanced communication and the opportunity to exponentially grow. How? By recognizing distributors as partners in the growth and future of your company you commit to making sure they have everything they need to help your business soar.
We know that communicating and marketing to distributors requires strategic and focused effort, and in some cases, adopting new tactics. It doesn’t mean you need to start fresh. Many of the tactics we recommend could be extensions of ones you may already utilize. Begin by implementing the ones that are most relevant for your company. The payoff will be enhanced communication and the opportunity to exponentially grow your business with the support of your distributors, as partners.
We routinely see 6 reasons marketing isn’t working in B2B companies. If you recognize your company in any of these areas, we have 11 essential tactics to kick-start or revive your distributor marketing efforts. (Note: Start with a new cross-section of your distributors. Get to know them and discuss their needs, before investing time and effort in marketing to them.)
1. Enhance Email Marketing
Distributors are a key part of your network and should be treated as valued partners in your market. Keep them up-to-date and informed or even ahead of others by ‘pushing’ information their way. Let them know what is happening, what is coming and how you are responding to their needs and requests. Share this information well ahead of changes, updates and new products. To do so, develop a standard email program for regularly communicating with them through newsletters and timely single-topic messages. Emails could focus on a sneak peek of a new product, a significant product announcement, an update on a new or pending system and more. We’ve got some tips to make your email marketing more effective.
2. Product (and Product Launch) Packages
Product launches are exciting and critical milestones and also among the most vulnerable points of the product development process for any B2B company. When done correctly, they can boost sales and the overall reputation of an organization. Get the most out of product launches by giving your distributors the best possible product information as soon as possible. Too often, we see companies who haven’t prioritized distributors or put the necessary tools into their hands quickly enough. These same companies then find sales are lacking and wonder why. To sell your product most effectively, distributors need to be armed with the latest product collateral (sales sheets, technical specifications, demos, videos etc.). If you haven’t yet tried video, we have 4 steps to creating a video to help. When new products are introduced or changes are made, make sure your distributors have the updated packages right away. Packages could contain technical overview documents as well as an outline of the activities you will do to introduce the product in the marketplace.
3. Sales Conferences
For many years, regularly scheduled conferences have been a great way to bring distributors together. Times are changing, and post-pandemic many companies may not return to this popular marketing tactic. When they do happen, they serve as fantastic platforms for launching new products, showcasing the upcoming product launch road map, educating distributors on technology and discussing necessary system and process matters. They also give easy access to your team for any questions they may have about your products and are a great way to reenergize sellers about existing products. Don’t let the momentum and excitement of these events pass you by if large, in-person events don’t happen the same way into the future. We have 10 tips to create an unforgettable virtual event as a very real alternative to this tried and true tactic.
4. Relationship Nurturing
Another key strategic marketing tactic for manufacturers is ongoing relationship nurturing and development. Distributors, like other B2B companies, are often methodical first-time purchasers and take time to compare vendors, research the product or service, and set a budget. Depending on the distributor’s business structure, developing relationships at several levels (e.g. CEO to CEO, sales rep to sales rep etc.) could be extremely beneficial. Building multiple one-on-one relationships across an organization opens the door for more in-depth discussions. Staying in touch with leads using a strategic marketing function, makes your company more likely to land a deal – no matter how long it takes customers to be ready to make a purchase. Learn 6 more ways strategic marketing impacts the growth of manufacturing and service companies.
Hosting webinars is a great way to stay in touch with distributors and educate them on new products, emerging technology and/or provide training. Here’s why webinars are awesome and how to get great at them.
6. Dedicated Distributor Section on Website
In addition to a customer log-in section on your website, make sure you also have a secured distributor portal. These portals can serve as the home base for all of your sales collateral, prerecorded webinars, training materials and newsletters to name a few. It gives distributors an all-access pass to the materials they need, when they need them and helps make them feel like part of an exclusive group with exclusive access to your team and material.
7. Feedback Mechanism
It’s important for distributors to have a platform for sharing their feedback, providing suggestions and informing you of opportunities. Mechanisms are not limited to your website and can be put in place at sales conferences, during one-on-one calls as well in your ongoing email communications. Make sure distributors know you value their feedback and have a system for gathering and acting on positive as well as negative comments.
8. Create Case Studies
Not only do case studies build credibility with your distributors, but they’re also important tools for them to use in their selling activities. Case studies use your key points and key messages to clearly illustrate examples of where your products work well in specific target markets and how they will benefit customers. Need some more info? Here are 3 reasons why you need case studies.
9. Get Social
If your manufacturing business hasn’t embraced social media yet, it’s time. While there are some social media platforms that lend themselves better to manufacturing companies, in many cases the key is to get started on a platform where your distributors and potential customers are already active. For many B2B companies, a good place to start is LinkedIn and Facebook. Before you get started, be sure to answer 5 questions every manufacturer should consider before jumping in.
10. Build a Blog
This useful tool helps B2B companies demonstrate their expertise, bolster their reputation, raise awareness and attract prospects. Blogging is a great way to up-cycle existing content and grow brand followers including distributors and other markets.
11. Produce a Podcast
Podcasts aren’t just for celebrity interviews and a way to read more books anymore. Hosting a regular and informative podcast establishes your authority within your industry and can help your distributors and customers understand more about your company, how it operates and why your products are superior to others. Learn more about how to integrate and leverage a podcast in B2B marketing.
Help your manufacturing company rise above the rest by seamlessly layering onto your existing marketing efforts and choosing strategic tactics that your distributors will be able to easily use. The goal is to make your products top of mind when distributors are asked for recommendations by their customers.
If you’re looking for inspiration to further enhance your marketing efforts read 7 Ways To Make A Bigger Splash With Your Marketing Content.
Mezzanine B2B Growth Agents specializes in B2B demand and lead generation for companies that have a complex sale. It’s all we do, so we have the depth and breadth of experience to help your manufacturing company continue to grow. If you’d like some help deciding what tactics will work for your manufacturing company, contact us today.
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