As a manufacturer, the relationships you have with your dealers and distributors are of the utmost importance. These relationships affect everything from your product sales and bottom line to the experience your customers have with your brand. Creating and maintaining effective, productive relationships with your partners should be top priority.
There are many strategies you can use to create effective brand-channel relationships, but here are three to start with.
1 - Develop Mutually-Beneficial Programs
Developing programs that are beneficial to both your partners and your brand is one of the best ways to nurture those relationships. The best programs not only provide mutual benefits, they also reward and enhance the behavior you want to see in your dealers and distributors...all in an effort to create a better experience for your customers.
As a brand, creating these mutually beneficial programs puts you in a place where your products will be favored by your partners. You won’t always be the only brand being sold by a dealer or distributor: to stay competitive, you need to stay top of mind by over-indexing your brand through your programming.
2 - Clearly Communicate the Purpose of Your Programs
So many brands don’t know how to maximize their programs — they don’t connect the dots to the overall purpose of what they are trying to accomplish.
You need to create an atmosphere in which your dealer and distributor partners understand the level of investment you’re putting in to spur your mutual growth. You must clearly communicate:
- That the investment exists, and
- What that investment is meant to accomplish
Think of it this way: Each of the programs you put in place (mutual benefits, rewards, training, service, warranties, and so on) is a planet. Ultimately, you want those planets to form a solar system, not just a bunch of disconnected planets. The atmosphere you create around these programs is what accomplishes that. You need to make sure your partners understand the overarching purpose of your programs so they (and you!) can get the most benefit from them.
3 - Challenger Brands: Raise the Bar on Creativity
If you are a challenger brand, you need to be more clever and creative with your programs than your competitors. If you want to compete with the brands that have all of the market share in your industry, you need to raise the bar.
The ultimate goal is to be unique — to stand out so much that your brand and your products are what your partners think about first thing in the morning. You have to create programs and products that spark their interest and make them want to choose you over the competition.
Client Success Story: New Product Introductions
As an illustration, let’s take a look at an issue one of our recent clients was having. When they came to us, they were struggling with new product introductions through their channel. In looking at those introductions, what we found was that they were out of order and incomplete within the channel. (And they aren’t the only ones who have struggled with this issue — we see a lot of clients with the same problem!)
When it comes to introducing new products to your partners, it’s not a “build it and they will come” mentality. You can certainly do it that way, but you won’t generate the lift and excitement you should with a new product.
Instead, when you introduce a new product, you should do the following with each of your partners:
- Educate them about the product
- Put incentives in place
- Walk through the marketing campaign and ask them to participate
- Create events around the campaign
- Reward your partners for participating, and
- Measure the success of the campaign once it’s over
- Celebrate your success with your partners
With these steps, we’ve been able to change the game for how products are launched for this client and for many others in the same boat.
When you’re relying heavily on someone else to be the tip of the spear (i.e., your dealers and distributors), you need to clearly articulate what each partner’s role is. When you don’t control all of the steps, you have to create a repeatable process you can articulate to your channel, then provide the right education, incentives, support, follow up, and measurement to determine if your efforts were successful. And then take a moment to celebrate what you were able to accomplish together.
Working through a process like this alongside each dealer or distributor will solidify their position as your partner in selling your products and promoting your brand. This in turn will serve to nurture your ongoing relationships with those partners.
No Matter Your Industry, Miller Wittman Can Help You Create Effective Brand-Channel Relationships
All of this will look a little different depending on your brand’s market share, where you sit in the market, where you’re coming from, and what industry you’re in.
When we take on a new client at Miller Wittman, we first spend a lot of time looking at where the client is coming from. Then we develop their strategy from there. What we do for each client may seem similar, but is developed and executed differently based on each brand’s starting point, needs and desires.
If you want to strengthen your relationships with your dealer or distributor partners, but aren’t sure where to start, Miller Wittman can help. Contact us today!