The terms, “channel selling” or, “selling through a distribution channel” are essentially the same thing. It means the distributor doesn't sell a product direct to the consumer, but instead, through a channel of resellers. Marketing in this type of arrangement can often be a challenge because there's a need for an effective strategy that markets the product or service to both the reseller as well as the end user.
Here are 6 tips to help combat the complexities of channel marketing:
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Tip #1: Build the Right Personas
The end users are without a doubt a very important part of the buyer persona development process, but it doesn’t stop there: your distributor is the one buying into the product or service first, after all. They have different needs and concerns than the end user. For example, many resellers want to know things like, what’s the incentive to sell more? What are the policies or processes if the product or service doesn’t work? How much is the investment and what are the yearly sales requirements to become a part of the network? Building an additional persona that represents your ideal reseller is a key starting point for a successful channel marketing process.
Tip #2: Target Efforts Strategically to Both Areas
Much like your buyer personas are different, you should also have different marketing efforts and campaigns to target your personas that represent both your resellers and end users. The campaigns for the resellers should focus on how they can effectively solve their end user’s problems with your product or service as well as more information about incentives or perks of the channel relationship. The end user should receive information from the supplier that educates them on how the solution can solve their problem as well as points them clearly in the direction of one of your knowledgeable resellers where they ultimately can make the purchase.
Tip #3: Create a Channel Incentive Program
Resellers who have a long list of offerings and options need a reason to sell yours ahead of your competition. As an example, think of all those carpet options inside your nearby flooring store. When it comes down to two comparable products, who do you think the salesperson is more likely to encourage the end user to buy, the one that comes with no sales incentive or the one providing a nice bonus payout at the end of the year for hitting the sales goal the distributor set?
Implementing through channel marketing automation systems is one way to make it easier for your partners to sell your products more.
Tip #4: Communicate Changes and Updates Regularly
One of the biggest complaints among many channel networks is that the distributor does not communicate product changes, process adjustments, or company updates early enough to the people who are actually going to be selling the distributor’s product or service. If possible, create a knowledge base or channel portal where updates and information can be shared to that network exclusively. If you’re small and limited on resources, start a private Facebook or LinkedIn group where the channel is notified about changes or updates as soon as possible. Social groups like these can also be a great resource to the entire channel, as they provide instant access to other dealers who may have help or suggestions that can solve problems without having to contact the distributor.
Tip #5: Have Strict Branding and Content Guidelines
One of the other challenges we see within channel marketing processes is a breakdown with branding across the channel. In order to maintain consistency, brand recognition and credibility, the distributor must establish strict branding guidelines across the channel. Companies selling the product should not be permitted to publish your logo or company content unless it meets the branding and content guidelines you have set and provided to them ahead of time. These processes should be monitored across the network on a regular basis. If you don’t have branding or content guidelines set, this would be a good thing to establish and distribute to the network as soon as possible.
Tip #6: Provide Distributors With Everything They Need
A network of resellers typically doesn't have the time or resources to create custom marketing collateral to help sell just one of their products. It's the distributors responsibility to create the information necessary to effectively communicate product or service information to the end users. Whether that’s digital information online through a website or knowledge base, or just a pamphlet with product specs, the distributor should create and supply that information so it is readily accessible when the reseller needs it.
Marketing through a distribution channel can be a complex process. At ManoByte, we are experienced and certified in implementing strategies that can help accomplish growth and ROI from channel marketing processes.
Looking to scale your channel program? Assess your organizations readiness across key channel management components with this Channel Growth Readiness Checklist. Or learn more first about marketing through a channel of distributors in The Ultimate Guide to Channel Marketing.