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6 Digital Marketing Steps for Industrial Companies Selling Through Distributors

February 27, 2023

Step #1: Market to the Right Person(s)

You must strike the right balance between digital marketing to your end users and the distributors selling your products. In some markets, the manufacturer markets to the end user who seeks their products out from a distributor. The best recent analogy for this model is the pharmaceutical industry which spends billions to reach end users who ask their doctors for the new drug. Most industrial manufacturers don’t have the deep pockets to advertise that way, so these marketing steps can help.

In other markets, the distributor has a range of similar products, and they sell the ones they know the most about and those that make them the most money. Distributors typically want to know:

Building a solid persona based on your distributor, their buyers and sales team, can make a huge improvement in your digital marketing effectiveness.

Step #2: Allocate Digital Marketing Effort to Both Resellers and End Users

End users and distributors deserve separate sections of your website, your digital advertising if used, your resources for downloading, and more. The end users never need to see the distributors section of the site and in many cases that part is a password protected portion of the site. Each has different pain points which must be targeted in marketing messages and advertising. Distributors want to know how well your products work to keep their customers happy and about perks and incentives. End users need information around education on product use, troubleshooting resources, and customer service when they have a problem.

There is not a set percentage to allocate your digital marketing resources between end users and distributors. It’s a unique number for each company. For companies selling commodity products into industrial settings, most of the resources would typically go to distributors. For more unique, high-end products like a welding machine, a higher percentage might go to the end users who are making up their mind before contacting the distributor.

Step #3: Develop an Effective Reseller Incentives Program

In many product markets, resellers have a wide range of products from different manufacturers that will solve their end user’s problem. They need to know WHY your product is the best one for them to sell. We had a client selling high-end German optometry equipment for physicians, all through multiple distributors with overlapping geographies. Their equipment was the highest quality but also the highest priced. They used dealer incentives, a wide range of educational material for doctors, and prominent doctors as spokespeople for their products. Some customers would always buy the lowest priced equipment, but it was clear to the distributor salesperson how to sell the high-quality product and what their monetary incentive was.

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Step #4: Communicate to Make it Easy to Sell Your Product with Information

One relatively easy way to beat your competition with the distributor is to make sure they always have the latest information on your products, competitive products, and anything that makes the distributor more competitive in their market. Set up an online resource library where product information, updates, marketing information and more is ONLY shared with your distribution network. Even the smallest companies can set this up on a private social media page or group where everyone can keep up to date and make more sales. The more you can help distributors solve their problems, the easier it is to incentivize them to sell YOUR products over the competition.

We have seen many companies set up a “University” online to educate salespeople on their products. It can even include short courses on the products, so the salespeople get the valuable knowledge to sell more. Some of this is subtle, letting the salesperson know you care about them and making sure they are successful. That will stand out in their mind as they sell if the money is there too.

Step #5: Maintain Your Branding Standards and Use the Most Recent Content

A major challenge with distributors is that they are never on the same cadence at making updates to their print or online content to keep it matched with the most updated information. If this information on their website is outdated, or their branding is different than yours, it will hurt your sales. Anything that leads to doubt in the end user’s mind will move them more toward buying a competitive product from your distributor. Strict enforcement of your branding guidelines is essential, as is frequent checks of distributors’ websites to make sure they reflect your product exactly as you think it should be.

Step #6: Give Distributors the Marketing Material They Need to Sell More

Distributor salespeople want to SELL. They should not ever be asked to create any unique marketing information for you and your products. Your marketing material, both digital and print, must be the best quality you can provide. If your product is easier to sell to the end user because you have a great video on your website, or your end user resource library is more likely to help the users, then your product will have an advantage with the distributor sales force. If your information is easily available to them online as they make a sale and it’s valuable to their end users, it will be used.

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