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5 Ways To Get Your Distributors to Love You.

You may love both, one or neither, but most of us can agree cats and dogs are fundamentally different. A dog is usually loving and loyal by default, while may cats reserve their loyalty and attention for those who earn it.

Your distributors today are like cats, not dogs. You believe they don’t give you the business you think they should, they spend a lot of time requesting help and information with few results and you suspect your rivals get the real attention.

Maybe the problem is you're not taking the first step toward doing something important for them, something to earn their love and attention.

To do their best job selling the products you manufacture, your distributors need real-time product information and better sales support. This is where you, the manufacturer, can step in with digital solutions that help your distributors boost their sales, marketing effectiveness and operational efficiency.

A personalised brand portal is a web-based system that combines digital catalogues, support for critical marketing and sales processes and enhanced user experiences to deliver compelling benefits that your distributors might well find irresistible.

Here are five big benefits you deliver to your distributors when you provide them with a brand portal.

1. Save your distributors’ time.

Distributors are in the information business. Sure, they get paid for selling your products, but they depend on using the right information, including pricing and availability. Distributors can no longer trust paper catalogues, which are out of date as soon as they are printed. Getting the information they need fast enough to beat out competitors is a huge challenge.

Online sources are better, but even they often have problems. Information may still be out of date if it is not tied to product databases. A distributor might not be able to see all the particular prices and availability for its varying territories, including special deals, sales spiffs, geographic limitations on product sales and regional inventory.

If you can't get the right information to distributors, they can't afford to make you a priority. However, a brand portal can address all these issues. Distributor staff members see the products you've authorised for them, as well as accurate pricing and all the relevant content that can help them close a sale. Pair that portal with digital asset management (DAM) and you can automatically update information as soon as it's available. There are fewer lost opportunities or chances for costly mistakes.

2. Boost your distributors’ operational efficiency.

Just like you, distributors want to make more money. They work within the constraints of tight margins and with the reality that everything that slows down closing a sale is a problem. That includes time on the phone or via email with someone at your company to get information, to learn potential items for cross-sales or to get pricing for an RFP. Additionally, having to cross-reference printed and online manuals and confirm products, price and availability, leave your distributors watching their money circle the drain.

When everything is available through a single brand portal, business is easier. Searching the portal gives authoritative and up to date answers, marketing tools help address special needs and the distributor is back making more money faster than ever before, thanks to you.

3. Drive your distributors’ revenue.

For distributors, making a sale involves a lot more than taking and filling orders. They often need to price out deals, create detailed proposals, respond to RFQs and analyse statements of work.

A brand portal lets you help the distributor boost its productivity by integrating critical tools and processes. Instead of requiring your distributor to flip or surf through your catalogue to find all the necessary parts for an order and then transfer that information into their sales document, help them out with recommendations based on their searches and with a way to download the information they need in an usable format. Even provide an API so your distributor can tie your information seamlessly into their own enterprise systems for more efficiency.

A distributor may want some of its customers to have direct access to their brand portal, letting the distributor implement a self-service option. This will allow distributors to attract customers to their site for research, prior to contacting that distributor. A brand portal might also integrate an e-commerce system to automate routine sales.

4. Help your distributors create great customer relationships.

As much as you want to get repeat business from distributors, they want the same with their customers. That includes continuing relationships long after the initial sale. The brand portal you provide can help distributors in this area as well. It might include FAQs to help address common issues, video tutorials, manuals, technical support information, online warranty claim filing, rebate processing and an area for feedback and suggestions. Take pressure off the distributor by offering these helpful tools.

Post-sales support can also generate future sales, thereby increasing revenue. Automatic replenishment, upgrade qualification, timed notifications for future add-on sales, maintenance scheduling, recall notifications, service options and training are just some examples of how you can help drive more value for your distributors and expand sales opportunities.

5. Pump up your distributors’ branding, reach and reputation.

Ultimately, because distributors sell third-party products that competitors also have, they need to focus on promoting their own brand. Everything you do for a distributor should help them. Customised brand portals — not generic online info — show your interest in the distributor and help them project credibility and importance to their customers. This is particularly important if a distributor's customers can access the portal directly. The relationships with customers need to stay with the distributor.

When you use DAM to populate a brand portal with the right information, you can support your distributors’ brands with syndicated content. By feeding customised content that addresses any specifics to their business — like including the proper languages, territory-appropriate pricing, product variations, regulatory requirements and appropriate contacts — you give them the tools they need to market and close sales. Content can be branded for your company or co-branded with the distributor, depending on the particular relationship and distributor needs.

DAM also enables you to deliver all materials in the file formats and sizes necessary to deliver the best experience, whether someone's on a computer, phone or tablet. At any time and from any location, the distributor's employees and customers get a relevant and optimised experience. You also help the distributor ensure that its staff only uses authorised versions of materials to reinforce its customer relationships and branding.

Here's what you get in return.

Everything you do for your distributors comes back — your relationship with them deepens and you’ll gain more of their business as it becomes more convenient and cost effective for them to turn to you. Greater efficiency in working with the distributor translates into lower costs of doing business and higher margins for you. Automated information helps drive add-ons, cross selling and a potentially broader product set (because it’s more visible to the distributor), as you and the distributor expand the market and revenue.

Another key benefit is the usage data you’ll be able to gather. You’ll learn more about how your distributors work, where their interests and those of their customers, lie and then use that information to continually optimise the distribution and sales. Best of all, it’s a win-win arrangement. Both you and your distributors do better, with happier customers to boot.

Learn more about how to build a brand portal and leverage its many benefits for you and your distributors.