As a manufacturer within B2B you provide solutions for other businesses that get delivered, installed, and most importantly sold by someone you don’t know.
Oh sure, you ‘know’ who your customers are. You read the trade publications, you go to conferences, you subscribe to newsletters, heck you even have an analyst in the marketing department. But do you really know what that person/company that buys your product(s) wants from your company?
While you have spent all that money on your brand, your website, your amazing new iPad app, does it mean anything to the person down the channel? This person may be sitting in a distributor’s branch, on the job-site or in a showroom making purchasing decisions with the homeowner. What does your brand mean to them?
Many times, your channel partner(s) have the ultimate power over the end purchaser and what are they armed with? Their own marketing materials. Maybe they use your brochure, or maybe that fancy new catalog; but in the end people buy from people they know, like and trust.
As budgets become available now that the economic recovery is here, be sure to include all the stops on your sales channel. Remember to equip everyone with what they need to help the next stop on the channel. What your one-step distributor/dealer needs is very different from a two-step wholesale selling to dealers selling to the end customer.
Make the effort to understand that customer. Research them. Sit with them at the table with the distributor. Put the time in to see how they use your cool new gadgets vs. what they are comfortable using. You might be surprised at the wide range of options you need to provide.
You also have to think about how your brand message is delivered. It is the last stop in the funnel. Think about how you enable the sales process to occur as easily as possible. Are you making it easy for the pro to sell your products?
One example, and there are many, is mobile sales enablement. This is a powerful way to ensure your brand voice is carried consistently down the channel. Recently, I gave a presentation on this topic at the BMA International Conference and some statistics that resonated with other B2B marketers:
- CIO increased spending on tablets 35.7% in 2012. It’s the only spending category to experience a double-digit increase.
- Businesses will spend $26B on mobile application development and mobile process reinvention in the next 4 years.
- 90% of organizations consider mobile sales enablement a priority.
- B2B customers progress 60% through the purchase decision-making process before engaging a sales rep.
Some thoughts to ponder as you really look at the customers who sell your products for you and their customer. Always keep them in mind. Provide them the tools to sell your products, but keep your brand voice consistent. Ask them what they need. Go on sales calls. Visit showrooms or distributor branches.
While not directly your customer, they are often not given the full access to the manufacturer to help them. Those manufacturers that have figured it out, and there are many, are separating themselves from the competition.
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ELTON MAYFIELD is a co-founder and Partner at ER Marketing. Founded in 2001, ER Marketing is an integrated B2B marketing firm with clients all over the US. Focusing on the B2B marketing and sales channel and helping manufacturers, distributors and dealers deliver their brand promise everyday.