As a company, you have many options for getting products to your customers. You may sell them in an online store, brick-and-mortar shops, or through big-box retailers. Another option used by many manufacturers is a dealer or distributor network to do the selling for them.

Many of our clients at Two Rivers Marketing rely on dealer/distributor networks to sell their products and to be the local face and experts for their brand. Dealers and distributors provide that personal relationship that builds loyal customers and, ultimately, increases sales.

In short, dealers and distributors are incredibly important to your success. But they haven’t always been treated that way. Dealers and distributors have long cited a lack of communication and support from their manufacturing partners.

If you want your dealers and distributors to sell your products and become loyal advocates for your brand, you must help them be successful. You must provide them with mutually beneficial tools and resources that help them become stronger business people, more knowledgeable brand experts and better sellers.

We’ve identified five successful marketing strategies that help the brands we work with strengthen their dealer/distributor relationships:

Get to know your audiences

Companies spend countless hours and dollars researching, studying and surveying their customer audiences for insights about purchase behavior and habits. Are you investing enough research time in your dealer and distributor audiences?

Although many companies want to start with their customers, we often advise our clients to begin their audience research at the dealer/distributor level. In addition to the owners/c-suite who run the dealer/distributor businesses, who else on their teams do you need or want to communicate with? In many cases, manager-level audiences are the most eager to communicate with your company and will appreciate and use any information that makes their jobs easier and more efficient. And remember, they typically have the most interactions with your end users.

Provide regular communications

How often do you communicate with your dealer/distributor network? Do you provide both day-to-day operational information as well as high-level, strategic news? If you don’t have dedicated communication channels to reach your dealer network, it’s time to create some. Identify the best channels, topics and publishing schedule to reach their audiences… And this works just as well for dealers as it does for end users. They’re people, too!

We work with our clients to create many different types of content to communicate with their dealers and distributors, including weekly emails, webinars, articles and videos for intranet sites or dedicated dealer/distributor websites, private forums and enterprise social networks, electronic and print newsletters, annual meetings, regional events, podcasts, and more. How do your efforts stack up?

Offer training and education

Successful dealers and distributors need up-to-date product information and easy, accessible training opportunities to keep themselves and their staff educated about your company. Proactive manufacturers offer ongoing product, sales and service training; business management and skills training; new technology education; and industry insights to cover current topics. As you plan your training efforts, find ways to make them interactive and fun. Many manufacturers reward learners with prizes and incentives.

Create valuable tools

Depending on the size of your dealer or distributor network, you simply won’t be able to fulfill every request or support every need they have. But you can create the right tools to help them succeed.

Two Rivers Marketing works with one of our clients to create a valuable advertising and promotion center to support their dealers’ local and regional marketing efforts. Our team staffs the support center and offers assistance and counsel for websites, social media channels, advertising, direct mail, open houses, billboards, mailing list management, training, annual strategy plans, and much more.

Ask for input

How often are you asking your dealers and distributors for their opinions and top challenges? Do you regularly schedule input sessions or conduct online surveys to listen to them? Communication is a two-way street, and your dealers and distributors want to share feedback with you. Use these opportunities to learn more about their pain points, successes and what they need from you to be more successful. You’ll be amazed at what you learn and the new content ideas you’ll uncover.

Dealers and distributors are the face of your company and can be one of your strongest marketing tools. They will be most successful when they feel informed and valued by your company.

Your marketing team can improve and strengthen the relationship with your dealer/distributor network by better understanding their needs and challenges, regularly communicating with them on the channels they prefer, offering valuable training and educational opportunities, creating useful business tools and seeking out their input and opinions.

Investing in your dealer/distributor marketing is not just a smart decision, it’s the only decision if your company wants to remain competitive in today’s changing world. For more dealer/distributor marketing ideas check out Debbie’s blog on creating dealer personas, to serve as the ultimate substitute for networking.