Over the past 50 years, technology used to do business has changed dramatically. From typewriters to word processors to smart phones, from paper and pencil to complex billing systems, there is now an entirely different business tech landscape. Despite all of this innovation, sales methods and tactics have barely evolved over the same period of time. Field sales representatives are still tasked with driving to customers, distributors still take the lead in selling and manufacturers still have very little visibility to their end customers.
With traditional sales models, there is a linear communication and product flow: from manufacturer to distributor to customer. Manufacturers don’t typically have direct access to contractors, leaving the bulk of their sales in the hands of distribution channels. Manufacturers may provide support through marketing co-op ad spends, sales training and promotional materials - but meaningful sales support only extends to the very highest level of dealers and distributors. Manufacturer communication with contractors ends at generic advertising and web presence and doesn’t typically penetrate deep enough to generate targeted sales leads. This process then leaves only distributors responsible for engaging end customers on a local and one to one level through their fragmented and minimal field sales staff.
Ultimately, this model looks the same across the entire building products industry, leading to a homogenization of all manufacturers from the perspective of the end customer. The dealers tasked with marketing and sales are not usually experts in that field and very often waste precious marketing resources and dollars without truly understanding the needs and desires of the contractors they’re servicing. Lack of resources leads to only the largest of contractors being properly covered by field sales, while many smaller to medium sized businesses are left without proper support - opening the door for plateau or attrition. This process leaves the fate of manufacturers' sales in the hands of distributors who ultimately own the relationship with the end customers, allowing manufacturers very little insight or access to the contractors who actually use their products.
If manufacturers are unable to communicate with their own end clients effectively though traditional methods and are generally segregated by their own distribution channels, an alternative go-to-market strategy must be developed to drive differentiation and growth for long-term success.
In place of the old model, consider instead a new approach where there is no longer a linear flow of information through distributors, but where manufacturers also communicate directly to their customers. A new approach would allow manufacturers to actively engage contractors, driving demand into the distribution channel, rather than waiting for distribution to find and hopefully service the customers. Through the convergence of data, marketing and technology, an entirely new method of sales and marketing can be achieved, greatly growing sales and differentiating manufacturers from their competitors.
This process must start with a foundation of data. Customer data, 3rd party data partnerships and even web scraping can be used to build a central database of current and prospective customers. Once analyzed and segmented, communication plans can be created for each target group utilizing a multichannel, multi touch approach. Low cost engagement through a coordinated series of emails, direct mail pieces, web engagements and phone calls can serve to reach dozens or hundreds of current customers and prospects for the cost of one typical sales call.
Once customers are engaging with digital content through multichannel marketing, distributors can then be alerted of a lead, prompting one to one contact with the conventional sales force. This can save significant time and money for both the manufacturer and the distributor, while increasing the likelihood of a sale and long term relationship. From this method, organic, sustainable growth can be significant –10% to 20% growth on average has been seen across our target companies. Further long term benefits can also be numerous - from increased loyalty with the distribution channel to ever growing data and a better understanding of the needs of customers. Ultimately, the foundation of success can be secured through a new approach that uses multichannel marketing as a sales channel.