How to Engage Your End Users While Supporting Your Dealer Channel
As a manufacturer, you’re faced with responding to the evolution of your end customer. Technology continues to change the playing field. Before the Internet, manufacturers relied on sales reps, dealers, and distributors to build awareness and get their products into the hands of their customers.
Today, customers can find you online and learn about your products and services long before they engage your traditional sales channel. Studies show 88% of people trust information direct from the manufacturer (via website, social media, etc.) more than they trust information from the manufacturer’s sales channel.
This is further compounded by the increasing complexity of physical products that require software to function and ultimately interface with the end user. Furthermore, these products are becoming ‘web-enabled’ — falling into the iOT — to deliver updates and additional features.
This presents a problem with the current sales channel made up of sales reps, dealers, wholesalers, distributors, etc. Similar to how the world is getting smaller through technology, the distance between the manufacturer and the end customer is closing. What does this mean for those in the middle? They must find new ways to continue to add value to both the manufacturer and end customer.
In this new world, some have become afraid of their position. That fear has lead to a contentious relationship with their manufacturers and loss of their customers to their competitors – companies that have figured out new ways to partner with manufacturers and deliver innovative value on their own.
The misconception of these sales channels is that they are becoming useless now that manufacturers can go ‘direct-to-consumer’. That may be the case in some industries (though I would question that assertion) but it is largely not true in manufacturing. Most manufacturers recognize that dealers, wholesalers, distributors, etc. are still critical to the process.
The challenge is not that dealers are a dying breed; it is that their function is changing and some see it while others do not.
Adaptive Innovation in Action
I recently had the opportunity to attend a dealer convention for one of our clients, SVP Worldwide, and I can tell you, no one better understands the value of their dealer network than they do. In an industry that some might perceive to be a less tech-savvy one, they are making leaps and bounds in technology, solving some of the age-old challenges faced by sewists that extend beyond the machine—from digital projection of patterns to subscription services for downloading, modifying or even creating your own patterns and designs.
SVP recognizes that bringing cutting edge technologies and services directly to the end customer is a smart move. They also recognize that their dealer channels are critical to their success. Perhaps not in the traditional sales and distribution of their products, although that remains important, but more so to engage with, learn from, teach, and service their customers.
After spending five days with SVP and their dealers, I saw first-hand how their dealer network is a direct extension of their team. That was clearly demonstrated by the level of training they provide, the constant feedback they seek, and how they make themselves readily available to their dealer network. Witnessing that was impressive in and of itself, but it didn’t stop there. SVP goes above and beyond by supplying sewing trainings through templated classes for dealers to run themselves, or through industry experts who act as brand advocates and travel to conduct sewing classes on-site for dealers.
At the end of the day, it is possible—and wise—to implement both direct to consumer solutions and a fully supported dealer channel. Here are some things to keep in mind as you assess your sales and distribution strategies:
- The younger, more tech-savvy generation is looking to engage with your products in new ways—ways that they are used to. (Think streaming and on-demand services.)
- 88% of end customers trust and seek out manufacturers sites before engaging in their traditional sales channels.
- As a manufacturer, you have to find ways to meet your customer in the digital world, support your dealer network with information and capabilities that give them a competitive edge, and help them transition from a transaction-oriented focus to a more customer engagement-focused, brand champion mindset.
If you are looking for a partner to help you improve and implement new technologies, let’s talk about solutions that are right for your business – and how your dealer network can help you to leverage them.
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