One of the biggest questions I receive from my promotional products supplier clients is, “What can I do to get distributors and their sales reps selling my products?”
After years of working for two large suppliers, and now owning a business that helps both suppliers and distributors market themselves… the answer is… “Ask them.” So here’s what I learned distributors like, want and aren’t getting from most suppliers out there:
Case histories. How do we sell these products? Give us examples of what works for other buyers. Who’s buying them? What’s the strategy behind it? How did it work? What were the results?
Remember: these folks are NOT selling products… they are selling SOLUTIONS, scenarios, results. They are busy. They want to be good storytellers…. but they need good cliff notes! So help them tell your story in sales presentations and in their social media storytelling with good case histories.
(Yeah, we know it’s hard to do since you often don’t know the whole story.) So why not have a distributor case history contest? Offer future order dollars or self promo product as your prizes. It’s win-win!
Be sure you receive the distributor AND buyer's permission before you publish anything, particularly if you are showing the product with their logo.
Social Media that doesn't SELL. Have you seen the social media posts from many suppliers out there? They are posts that sell, sell, sell. Specials. Product pitches. Buy this. Push, push, PUSH. What do distributors need? Specials, sure – once in a while. But remember again – they’re BUSY. They want posts they can cut and paste. Worded FOR their end user clients, not to the distributor. Show buyers how to use your product. Why it’s a great vehicle. Types of campaigns it works best for. Be as specific as you can.
How you say it can also make a difference. Write it in a warm, friendly kind of way... me to you. It’s called SOCIAL media for a reason. One person to another. Familiar, not formal. Write like you talk. And show a great photo of that product in use. It doesn’t have to be catalog perfect… a lifestyle shot of the product in use is even better, even if taken on your smartphone.
Then create an archive of suggested social media posts your distributors can use when they're stuck for time. Create an "easy button" for them to promote you.
3 Types of Photos. It is a visual world today. (Sorry, fellow copywriters. Pictures attract. Short copy sells.) People look at pictures, then read captions and short stories, not novels. So distributors need photos to tell your story. When shooting your catalog, consider these three suggestions at the same time:
1. That great product shot, along with different angles of the product, particularly to show off imprint areas.
3. Group shots of products. Yes, in traditional photo sizes… but also Facebook banner size - 820 pixels wide by 312 pixels tall on computers and 640 pixels wide by 360 pixels tall on smartphones. (Or for us non-techie folks... 4" wide X 1-1/2" tall.)
You see, many distributors are looking for that big main header photograph for their Facebook page, so they can refresh it often. They want to see multiple products beautifully displayed to fit that Facebook cover shot area that show what they do. Give them that, and you could be the centerpiece shot of your key distributors' Facebook page. Who doesn’t want THAT exposure? (Believe me… very few suppliers provide photography in this size – with multiple products – for this area. You will be a hero, and their Facebook billboard.)
Videos. Show us how your product works. Who uses it. Features. Benefits. It doesn’t have to be fancy, even if it’s just one person in your office demonstrating it.
Make it short and sweet. 30 seconds to under a minute. And please, please, please edit it so their clients can see it, without any phone number or address of yours. It has to be client-friendly, talking to that audience, to be used.
Promote the promotion.
Whatever you provide, just make sure distributors and reps know about it... and, they are easily found. Feature them prominently on your home page. Promote what you have available in your email signatures. In your email blasts. On your Message on-hold recordings. Have your customer service reps and sales reps mention them every time they can. Frequency sells. Just let them know they're there. YOU know you have them. Most times, they DON'T.
Too busy? If you're that "one-armed paperhanger" doing it all yourself, or have just a small lean and mean team running your day-to-day operations, or don't have the creative resources in-house to get these ideas done... hire a college intern from a marketing program. Look for a budding copywriter to write for you or a film student dying to build up their portfolios with corporate videos. Tell them what you have in mind. And put them to work for a minimum investment that can be a real win-win for both of you.
And if you'd rather use professional help to develop marketing tools like these... that's available too, for perhaps less than you think. All you have to do is ask (wink, wink)... and you'll be investing in a much better distributor following.
Mary Ellen Sokalski
Diva of Direct Marketing.