The 8-Step Distributor Best Practices Checklist
Following a defined process
The path to market for your carefully selected products can be long and often complicated, full of different paths to take. Making sure your clients know about, like, trust and ultimately buy your products requires a deep understanding of all the stakeholders and techniques available. Becoming overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options and choices is a predictable, if somewhat understandable, reaction.
Every choice made, from using a direct sales team, to licensed agents, to catalogue partnerships, has a different result on the ultimate goal. To avoid overreaching your team, yourself, and your resources, it is important to follow your own ‘system for success’, a process which helps you identify and implement the best distribution channels for your business.
Create a Distribution Checklist
It’s important that you develop your own list of key actions to take in regards to your product distribution. Below, we present the 8 best practices that should be included in your own process. You don’t necessarily have to include all of the points, but it’s essential that your own checklist includes a core step-by-step process that helps you make your distribution business better.
1. Test and improve on your established patterns
Accept that your distribution strategy is never set in stone and can be adapted and made better regularly. Although successful distribution entrepreneurs do not introduce changes just for the sake it, they understand that monitoring performance and introducing subtle additions at regular intervals is key.
The process of looking at your current distribution channels, their effectiveness and long-term performance, and introducing changes is known as testing. Every time you make such a move, you are iterating on a previous established model and ensuring your distribution channels are always optimised.
Tip: The three best times to look at your distribution systems again are when you are targeting a new segment in the market, launching a new product, or when you want to scale your business up quickly.
2. Know your final customer to reach your prospects
The old adage ‘know thyself’ can only get you so far. You also need to intimately understand your direct clients and their own audiences, in order to quickly adapt your channels. You should not be limited to taking orders and delivering stock. Rather, position yourself as a valuable source of information and services that your prospects rely on.
Take in the following into consideration when researching your markets:
- Know how, when and where members of your customer segments prefer to buy (online, via phone or mail order, or in person?)
- Your customers’ level of exposure to new product standards (this might depend on geographic region as well)
- Can they benefit from additional education about their industry? Be open to connecting in person!
3. Get new clients by differentiating your product offering
Knowing what resonates most with the consumers means being able to offer the up to date sales figures that retailers will love. Do your research and understand who your clients are trying to reach before you reach for the phone or type that email pitch. But how will you know that the product you’re considering investing in will help you achieve this? You can consider:
- Researching the current offerings in your target independent retail stores – including price ranges, qualities, consumer reviews.
- Leverage your personal network and your own gut feelings – go for the brands or products which resonate strongly with your family, friends, and yourself. If you don’t immediately connect with the brand, why should your clients and their customers?
- Getting in touch with the product manufacturer or brand itself. Most will be happy to give you a lot of data which you can use to make a decision, and then re-use that knowledge in your own sales process.
4. Find and partner up with strong brands
Achieving growth means looking for companies that have relationships with your end-users. Solid brands by necessity constantly talk with and really understand their customers’ needs. By virtue of their success, you can know that a particular brand or product has been specifically created with a particular user in mind. Therefore you need to:
- Find and partner up with manufacturers and brands that go beyond one-way marketing speak.
- Find the brands that consumers already trust because they can talk to them.
Only then will you be able to stand-out and achieve differentiation when you approach your own leads.
5. Build your distribution channels wisely
Connect the tools you use for sales with those you use for marketing. For instance, let’s say you are selling natural silk duvets online or via catalogues to owners of independent retail stores, you can also use those same channels to raise awareness of a related product offering, such as memory foam pillows. Or you create a mix of telemarketing or a field sales team with content marketing and e-commerce. Always facilitate the process of making connections to drive more product orders.
Note: It is important to remember that no single marketing/distribution channel will be a hundred percent effective, so keep introducing new models.
6. Provide attractive mark-ups
Any successful distribution business with multiple channels requires a very well mapped-out database of product prices so as to avoid price conflicts and be able to offer attractive profits to channel partners and retail clients. Always compare the purchase price your clients are paying with what that the end-user will pay and ensure that your client can see the benefits. Understand the standard retail prices for your product segment and optimise your offers accordingly. Negotiate with your trusted suppliers on long-term or large volume product deals. If you are offering a relatively new product that has not achieved market saturation yet make sure that your clients understand what that the consumers are willing to pay for a particular product and that you are offering the best deal per item sold.
7. Invest in your clients and partners
This does not necessarily mean sacrificing revenue, rather, it’s important to put into your business relationships something extra instead of just getting something out of it. This generates trust and secures your position in your chosen area. For example, providing your retailers with marketing material for your products to help them achieve their own goals or spending time on the phone with your product providers to share advice and observations directly from the field, will be genuinely appreciated. Remember, honesty and down-to-earth approaches work best!
8. Do not walk away
Always make sure you have an after-distribution system in place so you provide the necessary support to your buyers when they have questions or concerns. This is particularly important when the end consumer is still being introduced to a particular type of product, as the retailers may not always be able to answer their questions.
Ultimately, a lot of investment (both of time and effort) can easily go into researching, understanding and reacting to the established frameworks in order to make sure that the distribution channels chosen give the best results possible. New practitioners in the field of wholesale distributors would do well to speak to more experienced colleagues in the business, so as to avoid the common pitfalls and wasting time in doing trial-and-error when choosing the best distribution channels.
Being Flexible is Essential
Any check list for a distribution business will inevitabley tend to vary depending on the product, industry, and market segment being targeted. However we believe that most of these 8 best practices are flexible and can be adapted, mixed and matched to the benefit of most distributors in the business.
Tell us what you think of this list. Do you use some of these best practices in your own distribution business channels, and do you have any more suggestions?
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