What Really Works in Distributor Marketing

What Really Works in Distributor Marketing

Do you ever wonder if one of your sales and marketing activities is working? Marketing partners in the electrical wholesaling industry spend thousands if not millions of marketing funds in their efforts to create demand for products. Yet they often have distinctly different views on which activities are most effective, according to one recent study.

At the recent North American Electrical Sales & Marketing Conference, David Gordon and Neil Gillespie of Channel Marketing Group, Raleigh, N.C., asked distributors and manufacturer attendees to rank the effectiveness of sixteen sales/marketing activities. The results were tabulated based upon distributor and manufacturer responses. As can be seen in the chart, results are varied.

Manufacturers and distributors view activities that center on planning and end-user interaction as the most effective. But the effectiveness of promotional activities and brand-building initiatives receive a wider range of scores. The activities where there was significant difference of opinion included distributor-created promotions; sales spiffs; open houses/trade shows; premiums/items with logos; golf tournaments; customer training and manufacturer-created promotions.

In reviewing open-ended responses from distributors and manufacturers, the differences can be attributed to distributors conducting specific activities as components of brand-building initiatives (with some activities being "required" by the marketplace, many times in response to competition), and manufacturers valuing activities that drive product awareness and sales at the end-user.

Distributor-created promotions, when professionally developed, are seen as significantly more effective than manufacturer promotions, as distributors better understand their marketplace, have greater sales support and the promotion differentiates the distributor whereas manufacturer promotions are "one size fits all." Longer term incentive strategies, if part of a measurable plan, can be very effective in building sales, getting "last look" and strengthening relationships for distributors. However, manufacturers view these strategies with a degree of indifference, as the programs do not primarily focus on their company/product.

While results of the survey are not surprising, it's interesting to note that many respondents mentioned that "effectiveness" is dependent upon in-field execution - be it being prepared for a joint sales call, periodically reviewing annual plans, the quality of mailing lists, the number of (and level of) people who attend training sessions and other activities and the support of both sales organizations. Not surprisingly, manufacturers and distributors find end-user oriented sales and marketing initiatives to be the most effective. Distributors also value co-branding initiatives differently than manufacturers. For more information on Channel Marketing's study, contact David Gordon via email at [email protected] or by phone at (919) 488-8635.

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