Question: Building Your Base
A DISTRIBUTOR ASKS: Where do other distributors find new clients? Are there any particular groups or websites that have been especially helpful in getting more exposure for your company and attracting new business? Are you doing any marketing or advertising to attract these new clients? If so, please share some details.
A When I was a distributor and distributor sales manager, we targeted key vertical markets such as transportation, business aviation, fisheries and the tradeshow industry. We would join their industry associations, actively participate in events and become go-to teams for their industries. We produced dedicated materials and safety catalogs featuring case studies specifically focused to their industries.
Now that I’ve been on the supplier side for nearly 20 years, the successful distributors I’ve seen have been engaged in online communities and associations for vertical markets and have become experts and bloggers for these groups. There are also a number of great distributor teams that have been successful by becoming deeply involved with LinkedIn community groups.
MARK SHINN, MAS
I joined a Business Network International (BNI) networking group. The members themselves give me [thousands of dollars] of business every year, but their referrals are exponential.
Director of Customer Delight
While most of my clients come to me by referral, I do actively market with weekly email newsletters, monthly or quarterly (depending on the year) lumpy mailings and high-level networking groups.
In addition, I take advantage of my previous experience as an event manager and trade show booth exhibit manager by consulting for these services. I attend industry conferences and trade shows to learn, consult and network with buyers for my products and services.
RAMA BEERFAS, MAS
I would start by defining your niche. Who are your clients and why do they buy from you? What is your expertise within a certain vertical, or verticals, that makes you a reliable and knowledgeable choice for your clients? What do you know about their industries that can help you communicate on their level and help them drive their business?
Once you have that information, find out where they are and reach them there. It may be writing articles for a construction magazine on acquiring new business, or writing on client engagement for a human resources newsletter. Don’t advertise—provide valuable content and demonstrate how you are one of them. Demonstrate that you understand the challenges of their particular business and you have a solution that can help them solve problems they already know they have.
In short, be where they are and communicate with them in their language. That is how you will get their attention away from your competition.
Your Brand Marketing
We have had incredible success with our involvement and investment in the American Marketing Association (AMA). There are local chapters all around the country.
Our philosophy is that since marketers are our target market, we want to be where they are. The AMA provides opportunities for learning, networking, sponsorship and volunteerism. I suggest starting as a volunteer and working your way into a leadership position.
Our AMA sponsorship is one of our largest channels for new business generation. But writing a check and seeing your logo on a banner won’t drive new business. That’s why getting involved as a volunteer and getting to really know people in the organization matters.
If there is not a local AMA chapter near you, I would look for places where your target customers are convening and invest in those important face-to-face, peer-to-peer networking opportunities.
DANNY ROSIN, CAS
Brand Fuel, Inc.
Editor’s Note: PPAI recently entered into a partnership with the American Marketing Association, which gives PPAI members special rates and access to benefits at the individual and group levels. PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, wrote about the benefits of this partnership in the Perspectives column of the January issue of PPB magazine.
I believe in cold calls and referrals. I’ve been doing this for 12 years, and I have built a lot of great clients through cold calls. I’m fortunate to work for a company where we have done creative self-promotions in the form of lumpy mail that allow for a natural reason for me to follow up with recipients.
If you’re pitching new business, you have to make several touches before getting the opportunity. I believe you should follow up and follow up again and then follow up again. Don’t forget to follow up. All relationships take time to build. Once you get an opportunity, prove yourself and continue to follow up. Consistency is the key. Keep your pipeline full of potential prospects to go after.
Sales Axis Promotions
For me, it comes down to two big things:
1 Networking. I am part of 15 networking groups, and every time I go to a meeting, there is someone new to introduce myself to. New businesses also offer a great opportunity to deliver a welcome basket in person.
2 Referral networks. Once I do the networking and land the client, referrals are my next step.
Howling Print & Promo
The best place I am aware of to get new clients is from existing ones. Nothing equals an endorsement from a delighted customer. Another source that has served me well is making advocate presentations that promote our industry to colleges, civic clubs and corporations. Most people are unaware of our profession and the unlimited possibilities we offer.
DAVID J. HAWES, MAS+
Do You Have An Answer?
A Distributor Asks:
Does anyone have a policy that specifies how samples and the associated freight charges are handled? We’re seeing more and more customers who ask for samples of products (sometimes expensive ones) but then don’t order the item. How do other companies manage this? I want to put together a consistent response to customer requests that is polite but helps reduce our costs and exposure.
What’s Your Answer?
Email answers along with your name, title and company name by February 20 to Question@ppai.org for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue of PPB magazine.