More building materials distributors are selling products online. Those with local branches offer e-commerce as a convenience for local customers. Others, like Decks Direct, are totally online with no brick and mortar presence whatsoever.
As more customers from contractors to facilities managers, small business owners and consumers shop online, the line between distributor and dealer can get blurred.
As distributors shift more of their business online, the type of support they need from manufacturers is changing. The strategies that helped your distributors sell products in person don’t always cut it. Building materials companies need to adapt.
To find out how, I asked Jeff Oxford from Decks Direct to tell us what manufacturers can do to better support distributors who sell their products online. If you want to help your distributors to sell more of your products, I recommend you pay close attention to his advice.
5 Ways to Grow Your Sales by Supporting Your Online Distributors
Finding customers for your distributors is finding customers for your business. It creates a chain effect that benefits everyone in the supply chain.
It’s true: not all products sell, no matter how great, revolutionary, or “next-generation” they may be. This is where distributors can help you by getting your products where they need to be.
This article focuses on how building materials companies can help distributors with e-commerce platforms increase their sales online.
1. Humanize Your Company
The bigger companies get, the colder they seem. Making your presence known, particularly in accessible social media networks, can help break the stereotype.
Your social media posts, for example, can sound business-like and friendly at the same time. And this can be your tone when responding to comments or engaging with your audience.
Consistent interaction also makes consumers feel that there are people behind the company. It is thus counterproductive to use templated responses because you’ll sound like a bot.
Content, as elaborated below, is one way to build trust online. Another is to be reachable and show that you are there for customers.
2. Build Your Content
Nowadays, people go online first before making decisions. They don’t start buying right away; they look for and gather information and click on the results that will answer their query.
For example, they want to build a deck, so they read up on the steps, the materials and tools needed, and the potential costs, including hiring contractors for the job.
They may have seen your videos or blog posts on the topic and found those helpful. This positive experience may lead them to look you up and nudge them in the direction of your distributors.
The distributor or retailer can take it from there by offering more information. Users discover that they need to install balusters for their deck railings. And they can choose from different styles to match the deck’s style and calculate the cost before buying to plan their budget.
So your content creation strategies can center on the following:
- Videos, especially tutorials and how-to guides, are in demand because of the information they provide in a convenient way.
- Blog posts let you elaborate on topics that would concern consumers, share industry trends and insights, etc.
- Social media posts make content distribution more effortless and more widespread.
Your educational content can include collaborations with industry professionals, home improvement experts, and other companies.
Relevant and fresh content is one of the best ways to rank on search results. A higher ranking means more exposure and traffic to your website.
3. Keep Investing in Your Website
Your website is an important business asset because it:
- Creates or boosts your online presence
- Adds legitimacy to the business
- Meets a business goal, like selling, collecting leads, and providing information
Functionality and usability are critical elements of a website. But don’t forget the visuals too.
Use stunning, high-quality images to present your products or the finished structures with spectacular views. Do the same for your downloadable brochures and product catalogs on your site.
You can dedicate a web page listing your distributors and links to their e-commerce stores. Or add a call-to-action button like “Buy Here” or “Find a Distributor Near You” in your content pages.
Conversely, if you are looking for more distributors, you can create a landing or sign-up page. One quick note: check if they match your branding and target market and have a solid track record.
4. Be on the Same Page
Having an indirect distribution channel can simplify the process of selling products you manufactured. You don’t have to worry about distribution logistics, for one thing. And the arrangement can free up resources for other business needs.
There can still be glitches and gaps in the system, so your task is to work with the distributors to iron things out.
Communication and Automation
The ultimate cost of an inventory stockout is losing a customer. Prevent this problem by maintaining effective and open communication with your intermediaries. Also, work with automated tools that enable effective demand forecasting.
Because they are closer to customers, distributors get more information. With communication that encourages feedback and turns it into actionable insights in place, you can help each other create strategies that keep customers engaged.
Distributors may face tougher competition or changing buyer trends that erode their earnings. While users primarily shop online for less hassle, they may still ask about things beyond the information available. Imagine their frustration if no one can answer their questions.
Make sure that your product manuals, references, and other informative papers can cover possible queries. You can also prepare sheets with the most frequently asked questions from customers. After all, it’s not only contractors who will need those product materials; a growing segment of DIY consumers also need them.
More importantly, provide training so that distributors’ customer service staff members can respond to queries and provide technical support, as necessary.
Unique Selling Proposition
Why should one select your sprinkler valve in this collection on Sprinkler Supply Store? Durability, easy installation, and compatibility with existing irrigation fixtures may convince customers to buy the product.
A unique selling proposition works. It’s something that you should be clear with distributors and retailers so that they can leverage it in marketing the products. Needless to say, your products should be complete and ready to compete in the market.
5. Offer Value
You “sell” the products to distributors that, in turn, sell them to customers or end-users. While end-users may have a clear idea of how a tool will solve their problem, the distributors may not be that sure. What’s in it for them to distribute or continue carrying your products?
Find out how you can add value to them. Whether it’s prestige, quality, variety, or more revenues, this can be key to a mutually beneficial relationship or the perfect sales pitch to potential distributors.
At the end of the day, understand your distributors and their role in your business. Find out what they need and how you can best help them.
4 More Ways to Help Your Distributors Sell More of Your Products Online
- Don’t assume you know what they need. Ask them, “How can we help you sell more of our products?”
- Their sales people are selling online and on the phone. They are not meeting with customers in person. How can you train them to be more successful?
- They are very dependent on website traffic. How can your marketing team help them to grow their traffic?
- Some of their customers know exactly what they want. Others are looking for the recommendations of the distributors. Find out how you can be the product they recommend when asked.