“Build it and they will come.” That misquoted line from the movie “Field of Dreams” is an apt description of how many building products brands have preferred to relate to distributors. But today’s time-crunched and spread-too-thin distributors? “They” won’t be coming to find you or your new products any time soon. They’re simply too overloaded to do their job effectively. Which means building products brands who seek to boost distribution need to be much more proactive in getting found and building product preference.
Where are today’s distributors looking for information? A recent Point To Point research study of 499 building products distributor attitudes and behaviors revealed that the top three ways distributors find information about products they will stock are from:
- A manufacturer’s sales rep
- A manufacturer’s website
- Trade shows and industry events
So being proactive, what can you do to maximize these information sources on your behalf? We have a few suggestions.
Step up the contact.
Get in front of distributors, either physically or virtually. As noted above, the number one way distributors want information is from a manufacturer’s rep. And the three best ways for manufacturer reps to communicate with distributors are, in priority order:
- In-person visits
- Phone calls
You may be thinking your reps already do these things. Yes, but probably just to sell product. When they contact distributors, they’re talking orders and promotions. They need to be doing more. They need to get to know each distributor as a person and a partner. They need to ask good questions and listen.
For instance, how big is the distributor’s online business? Can you do anything to help him grow there? Is he active on social media? How’s his inventory management? What interests him, frustrates him, amuses him?
When reps get distributors talking about the things that matter to them, both personally and professionally, it builds authentic business relationships based on trust. And trust is invaluable when it comes to choosing between two equally competitive products.
Remember the power of the Internet
Distributors also like to find information on manufacturer websites. But they have to know about you first to do that. So how does a distributor who’s never heard of you find you? Two ways: searches and good content.
For a successful Google search, website SEO is mandatory. Not yesterday’s SEO, as in keyword-stuffing SEO, but strategic SEO. This means choosing keywords that target what distributors are looking for. It also means distributor-focused content, updated regularly. Today, SEO and content are inextricably linked. By placing distributor-targeted keywords strategically throughout quality distributor-focused content, including videos, you and your products will be found. Why? Because you’ll be where distributors are looking and what they’ll be looking for.
Mine tradeshows and industry events
According to our survey, building products distributors do value shows and events as places to find out about new players and products, see products demonstrated and network. Be sure to use your website to maximize these events:
- List the shows and events you’ll be attending
- Create a landing page or microsite highlighting the show’s new products and demonstrations. Be sure to include a registration area on the microsite. This will help your team set appointments at the booth. And promote the landing page with a targeted email campaign.
Connect through social media
Forty-six percent of those studied use social media to promote their businesses. More than half that number use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram on behalf of their company three times a week or more.
If your distributors are on social media, you need to be there with them. Don’t just friend or follow them—engage. When done right, social conversations can be just as powerful as in-person ones, especially with millennials, who comprised 40% of our surveyed audience and are a growing and influential part of today’s distributorships.
Ask a friend
Distributors will rely on word of mouth to find information. If you know someone who knows someone at a distributorship you’re interested in, use the contact. A personal recommendation can still open doors.
Today’s building products brands need to be proactive to both build product preference and get found by new distributors. Being where distributors are, and actively engaging with them in all arenas — in-person, online, at trade shows, through social media and via personal recommendations — will build the authentic relationships that will build business and benefit all.
For more distributor insights, read our whitepaper, Why Building Products Brands Are Falling Short With Distributors.