Build Your Marketing Muscle
Close working relationships between distributors and manufacturers can improve sales for both.
Selling solutions involves more than just finding the right form in a catalog. These days, it often requires teamwork, with the distributor involving experts in software, production equipment and technology—all from a manufacturing partner.
But it doesn't have to stop there. Today, manufacturers also provide printed marketing collateral, product education, plant tours and joint sales calls to boost marketing efforts.
For instance, Highland Computer Forms, Hillsboro, Ohio, offers sample packs and welcomes distributors and their customers on plant tours. "It provides an additional level of comfort if they see the actual operation," said sales manager Rob Jones.
"I firmly believe it has secured business for us when we visit Highland Computer with a customer," said Chris McBride, vice president of corporate sales for the Paper Express and Ambrose divisions of Ambrose International, Detroit. He added that quality control is critical to many of his customers, so plant visits can make or break a deal.
"[Highland] brings technical aspects to the table—such as expertise with the equipment clients are using and why or why not a product would work with the equipment. They support our paper expertise; it's a good blend."
Technical support calls can blossom into full-fledged marketing efforts, according to Robert Fortner, an account rep with Powers Business Forms. A rep from CFC Print Solutions, Peachtree City, Ga., accompanied Fortner on a site visit when an end-user experienced a registration problem.
"Customers see that we have a direct connection with a manufacturer. Working toward one goal makes us appear bigger than we are," Fortner explained. "The manufacturer and distributor then become like one company in the end-user's eyes."
Teamwork has also helped another CFC distributor, Tri C Enterprises in Atlanta, land a major piece of business worth more than $500,000. President and CFO Bill Cole had been working with both CFC and the Chick-Fil-A restaurant chain for nearly 18 years. "My credibility with the customer was well-established and I could demonstrate a long history of working together with a manufacturer," Cole said.