Amidst the uncertainty, we’re all trying to settle into the “new normal.” One thing is for certain: this moment provides building product brands with opportunities to grow business partner relationships… now in refreshing, new ways.

As a result of sheltering-in-place, your team isn’t  getting the same “face time” with distributors, dealers and sales service staff.

The number one mission for several of our clients during the past couple of weeks has been in developing impactful ways to keep our brands front and center, and – just as important – creating programs to help inventory move off their shelves. The goal: to help your customer’s customer.

Fortunately, it turns out that there are 8 ways to accomplish this.

Make a Positive Impact

It goes without saying that dealers and distributors are a crucial and valued part of any brand’s success and that it’s important to support them as much as possible during this challenging time. Just showing you care is the most important valuable asset you can contribute to your relationship. Customers want to buy from people who they like and trust. And who deliver empathy, rather than mere shelf stock.

Host a Virtual Roundtable

As your brand works within some type of sales network, consider using one of the available web conferencing tools such as Zoom to hold a virtual dealer meeting. Encourage dealers to participate in your hosted council, to share what they’re each doing to cope.

And committing to brainstorm new ideas and building best practices.

Discuss your plans for growing brand awareness during this “downtime” and how you are supporting your partners in keeping their businesses going. Since no one knows how long it will be until we return to business as (somewhat) usual, it might make sense to hold bi-weekly roundtables… as a means of informal “check in.” In a time of social distancing, a little social connection for your brand could add significantly to both “awareness” and “preference.”

Offer Dealer Training

Hold webinars on sales and marketing topics that can help dealers and distributors increase their business, including:

  • How to Develop (or Expand) E-newsletter Campaigns – with supplied content, as well as design suggestions for a motivational E-blast Series
  • Training for use of (or actually hosting) a CRM Platform to Implement Marketing Automation Campaigns 
  • Education on the Difference Between Lead Scoring and Lead Nurturing
  • How to Create Buyer Personas and Ways to Influence your Customers’ Journeys
  • The Best ways to Utilize Blogs – can also include training on how to incorporate your brand’s keywords/phrases into blog posts
Suggest Special Incentives

Recommend that dealers who are in a position to do so, offer their customers a deferred payment program for new purchases – for a specified period – or financing options via a host of nimble fintech partners. Also, encourage dealers to let customers know that they can shop online or by phone, and then receive orders with “no-contact” curbside pick-up. In some cases, the dealer may be able to waive minimum order requirements for deliveries. Companies experiencing cash flow issues could instead offer a gift card for a future purchase. Just make sure to be mindful of accounting regulations, as – in some cases – they won’t want to record a sale until the gift card is redeemed.

Encourage Adoption of E-Commerce

Some of your distribution partners may already offer online sales. However, it’s likely that many smaller dealers may not. If your brand currently supports e-commerce, share your expertise and best practices. A number of tools are available to set up a basic e-commerce platform… which can influence additional revenue generation for mutually-rewarding (long term) opportunities.

Give a Virtual Plant Tour

If your manufacturing facility has operational efficiencies to promote, consider offering a virtual video tour for your dealers and distributors. This will not only help to create more affinity for your brand with an “up close and personal” experience, but will also give your manufacturing staff a chance to share their own expertise and craftsmanship. All with no need for airline travel. Similarly, dealers can offer a video tour of their showroom… that can be accessed via their website.

Reallocate Sales Staff

Dealers may want to consider reassigning employees to different jobs – for example, cold-calling previous customers to let them know you’re ready, willing and available to help. This is also a great opportunity for brands to add capabilities such as tele-support or incorporate chat functionality into their websites.

Reinforce Dealer Resources 

Take this time to re-familiarize your dealers with all of the resources that your brand offers, including product collateral, videos, product training, research, reviews and white papers. How about, providing a steady stream of relevant business articles, technical specifications, new code updates, changes in the law, and studies from your industry association? Or simply reach out to dealers directly… and ask what other tools you could provide to support them. 

And, how you can help them increase sales.

The key is to stay in touch with your business partners and reassure them that you’ve “got their backs” and remain committed to helping them successfully navigate through the uncertainty.

On the Other Side. While your forward-facing troops all realize this time is challenging and full of unknowns, it’s important for you to help them feel confident that we’re all going to come out of the situation on the other side. With a newfound appreciation for relationships… which we may have  taken for granted pre-pandemic.

Among the many lessons a crisis can teach us, is that we are all capable of much more than we think. We will get through this together, and the building products industry will be stronger for it. Stay safe and well!