The Benefits of Brand Portals in Manufacturer-Distributor Relationships
You may love one, both, or even neither; but, most of us can agree that cats and dogs are fundamentally different. A dog is usually loving and loyal by default, while many cats reserve their loyalties and attentions for those who earn them.
Distributors today are like cats, not dogs. You don’t believe they give you the business they should; they spend much of their time requesting help and information (with few results); and you suspect your rivals are the ones who receive the real attention.
Maybe the problem, though, is that you’re not taking the first step toward doing something important for them — something that will earn their love and attention.
When selling the products that you manufacture, your distributors need real-time product information and better sales support to do the best job possible. This is where you — the manufacturer — can step in to provide digital solutions that will help your distributors boost their sales, marketing effectiveness, and operational efficiencies.
A personalized brand portal is a web-based system that combines digital catalogs, support for critical marketing and sales processes, and enhanced user experiences to deliver compelling benefits that your distributors might just find irresistible.
Five Benefits of Providing Distributors With Personalized Brand Portals
Following are five big benefits you deliver to distributors when you provide them with a personalized brand portal.
1. Save Your Distributors Time.
Distributors are in the information business. Sure, they are paid for selling your products, but they depend on having access to the right information, including pricing and availability. Distributors can no longer trust paper catalogs, which are out of date as soon as they are printed. Providing them with the information they need — and doing it fast enough to beat your competitors — is a huge challenge.
Online sources are better, but even they often have problems. Information may still be out of date, if it is not tied to product databases. A distributor may not be able to see all the specific prices and product availabilities for each of its (often varying) territories, especially when it comes to special deals, sales spiffs, geographic limitations on product sales, and regional inventories.
If you can’t send real-time information to your distributors, they won’t be able to afford to make you a priority. However, a brand portal can help you address all these issues. A personalized brand portal allows your distributors’ staff members to see not only the products that you’ve authorized for them; but also, accurate, up-to-date pricing and all the relevant content that can help them close sales. Further, pairing that portal with digital asset management (DAM) will enable you to automatically update product information as soon as it becomes available — resulting in significantly fewer missed opportunities and reduced chances for costly mistakes.
2. Boost Your Distributors’ Operational Efficiencies.
As is the case with most people, distributors want to make as much money as possible. In addition to working within the constraints of tight margins, they must always be fully aware of everything that threatens to delay closing on sales — including any time that must be spent, either on the phone or via email, communicating with other employees from your company to gain information, learn about relevant items to cross-sell, or obtain pricing for requests for approval (RFPs). Having to cross-reference printed and online manuals and confirm products, prices, and availabilities leaves your distributors watching their money circle the drain.
When everything is available through a single brand portal, business is easier. Searching the portal provides firm, up-to-date answers; marketing tools help address special needs; and unifying the two means that distributors can get back to making more money much more quickly than ever before — thanks to you.
3. Drive Your Distributors’ Revenues.
From distributors’ perspectives, sales involve much more than just taking and filling orders. Oftentimes, they need to price out deals, create detailed proposals, respond to requests for quotes (RFQs), and analyze statements of work.
By integrating vital tools and processes into a single, all-inclusive company and product database, a brand portal allows your distributors to boost productivity. Instead of requiring distributors to not only flip and surf through both print and online catalogs to find all the necessary components to complete orders, but also then accurately transfer that information into sales documents, consider helping them out. Simplify and accelerate the sales process, as well as lower the risks of errors, by providing:
- Relevant product recommendations based on distributors’ searches;
- Convenient methods for downloading essential information into usable formats; and
- An application program interface (API), which will enable distributors to tie your information seamlessly into their own enterprise systems for further efficiency.
Distributors may prefer for some customers to have direct access to brand portals, letting them implement a sort of self-service option and attract customers to their sites for research prior to contacting distributors to place orders. In fact, brand portals may also integrate e-commerce systems to fully automate routine sales.
4. Help Your Distributors Cultivate Great Customer Relationships.
As much as you want repeat business from your distributors, they want the same from their customers — and that involves continuing relationships long after the initial sales. Brand portals can help distributors in this area as well. To help address common issues, questions, and complaints, brand portals may include:
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs);
- Video tutorials;
- Product manuals;
- Technical support information;
- Online warranty-claim filing;
- Rebate processing; and
- An area where customers can read and/or provide feedback and suggestions.
Providing post-sales support can also work to generate future sales and, thereby, increase revenue. Automatic replenishment, upgrade qualification, timed notifications for future add-on sales, maintenance scheduling, recall notifications, service options, and product training are just a few examples of ways you can help drive more value for your distributors and expand sales opportunities. Take some of the pressure off your distributors by offering these helpful tools.
5. Pump Up the Branding, Reach, and Reputations of Your Distributors.
Ultimately, because distributors sell the same third-party products their competitors have, they will need to focus on promoting their own brands. Everything you do for distributors should help them. Custom brand portals — containing more than just generic information anyone can find online — show your interest in distributors and help them project credibility and importance to their customers. This is particularly important when distributors’ customers can access portals directly; relationships with customers should remain with distributors.
When you use DAM to populate brand portals with accurate information, you can support your distributors’ brands with syndicated content. By feeding custom content that addresses any specifics of distributors’ businesses — such as local language, territory-appropriate pricing, product variations, regulatory requirements, and appropriate contact names and information — you give distributors the tools they need both to market and close sales successfully. Content can either be branded for your company or co-branded with distributors (depending on the particular relationship and that distributor’s needs).
DAM also enables you to deliver all materials in the file formats and sizes necessary to produce the best experiences possible — whether on a computer, a smartphone, or a tablet. At any time and from any location, distributors’ employees and customers receive relevant and optimized experiences. You also help distributors ensure their staff members only use authorized versions of materials, further reinforcing customer relationships and branding.
Here’s What You Stand to Gain in Return.
Everything you do for your distributors benefits you as well — your relationships deepen, and you gain more of their business, as turning to you continues to become more convenient and cost-effective. Greater efficiency in working with distributors translates into lower costs of doing business and higher margins for you. Automated information helps drive add-ons, opportunities for cross-selling, and potentially broader product sets (because they’re more visible to distributors), as you and your distributors expand the market and revenue.
Another key benefit is the usage data you’ll be able to gather. You’ll learn more about how your distributors work — where their interests (and those of their customers) lie — and be able to use that information to continually optimize distribution and sales. Best of all, it’s a win-win arrangement. Both you and your distributors are more successful — and with happier customers to boot!