Whether you’re an insurance company with independent agents or a manufacturer going to market through a distributor or dealer channel, selling via third party sales channels presents a unique set of challenges. Because distributors and dealers traditionally coordinate sales activities for multiple product lines, how do you rely on a third party channel to market your products effectively, and how can you help to ensure that you are the brand of choice? Here’s your go-to checklist for improving distribution channel engagement.
1. Create a clear brand position and competitive differentiation that drives product demand, and empower your third party sales channels with the resources they need to become effective brand ambassadors. Establish strong brand awareness in the marketplace so that customers are aware of your product or service and pull demand to third party channels. Then empower your distribution channel sales force to become effective brand advocates by providing pre-canned marketing kits with marketing resources such as sales banners, sales kits and collateral materials.
2. Make sure that distributors and dealers represent your brand properly to your customers. The brand impression your third party sales channel creates with your customers is just as – if not more important – to manage than a direct touch with your company: The support and training you provide can make or break any partner’s comfort level with selling your products and the quality of support they provide to your end-customers.
3. Make sure you’re easy to do business with. Review your ordering, training and marketing systems and remove any barriers within these systems that may hinder your goals of being easy to interact with and do business with. Proactively develop your systems to improve ease-of-use on an ongoing basis.
4. Support your third party sales channel with joint marketing initiatives. Collaborate with your third parties to define the target customer profile and develop campaigns targeting relevant segments. Joint marketing activities can include planning campaign target lists, educational seminars, direct mail and email campaigns, and tradeshows. Additionally, consider joint marketing initiatives such as co-op marketing programs, which can incentivize distributor and dealer channels to promote your products based on criteria you specify.
5. Automate the co-marketing process with marketing resource management systems. This goes back to an important point we made above: Your business should be easy to interact with, which means that anything you can do to simplify the process of marketing your product or service is a win. Marketing resource management systems enable companies to push communications templates and turnkey campaigns directly to third party sales partners where direct mail and email campaigns, for example, can be executed on behalf of the third party partner through a simple opt-in process. Messages can be modified as needed by third parties based on their knowledge of local markets. In addition, marketing materials can be automatically routed for review to ensure appropriate representation of your brand.
While becoming the brand of choice for your third party distribution channels can be challenging given the number of products or services competing for their attention, you can improve your chances of being the specified brand by following these three quick tips:
1. Provide turnkey marketing resources
2. Be as easy as possible to do business with
3. Be the brand distributors and dealers know best
After reviewing some of our ideas above, what approach has been most effective at helping you to become the brand of choice?