Beyond Direct Selling: Winning Strategies for Developing a Strong Distribution Network

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At Alexem Studio, we work with several clients whose company has a very strong B2B (business-to-business) component. We are actors and witnesses of the success that it is possible to have with this business structure, alone or combined with direct sales. Today, we present to you winning ideas and strategies for developing a good distribution network.

Even though the web occupies a large place in the lives of consumers and brands speak more and more directly with their target customers, many people still love stores and shop there (virtually or in person). Why ? Because stores not only have an essence, a distinctive character that appeals to consumers in their niche AND they also offer choice , because they represent and offer different products from different brands.

The fact that they have the role of “distributor” only, as opposed to the creators of the products, confers on the shops an impartiality in appearance which generally appeals to customers. The latter feel less the biased side that can disturb when the sales pitch comes from the company that manufactures the products. Basically, their marketing often goes better. They also offer good customer service right at the store.

And let’s say it, as a consumer, finding “OUR” shop, which looks like us, is precious! Yes, because a shop that is aligned with our taste values simplifies our lives because it makes the choices for us! So we have a natural propensity to welcome its marketing with open arms.

Pssst… we are talking about shops here, but we could totally replace the word shop with “influencer” here. It’s the same effect. 😉

In short, if you are a company that sells directly on the web, perhaps you have already considered this mode of distribution, which is called a short distribution circuit. It is when the marketing of a product passes through an intermediary before reaching the final consumer. The manufacturer is then the supplier of retailers who distribute the products and who are partners in its success. And it’s a relationship that works both ways: the manufacturer relies on the strength of its retailer’s distribution network to sell, and the retailer reinforces its offer to consumers with quality products. Everyone wins! 🎉

But on the other side, even though they are kind of business partners, there is quite a business 👉 customer relationship that takes place between the manufacturer and the retailer. Because the retailer buys the products of the manufacturer to sell them himself. He is therefore a client, and this relationship must therefore be nurtured . Maintained.

In this business relationship, there are several things to consider. Of course, we have to market our product, but we also have to think about the necessary support to allow them to sell our products well and with the fact of having us in store. There is an added “service” aspect that should not be overlooked.

5 aspects to put in place to develop a strong distribution network

  1. Benefits or promotions exclusive to retailers
  2. Marketing materials provided to retailers, also known as point-of-sale advertising (POS)
  3. Support and sales incentives for retail staff
  4. Showcasing/visibility of points of sale by the manufacturer
  5. Easy access to equipment and products

1. Benefits or promotions exclusive to retailers

This is about planning marketing initiatives that include points of sale. If they are not exclusive to retailers, they should be considered and made attractive to them as well. This will certainly require adjusting an offer and clarifying its application for points of sale as well as for end customers.

Some examples of retailer benefits:

  • Exclusive promotions
  • Early product launches and availability
  • Quantity discounts
  • Competition
  • Product demos

2. Point-of-sale marketing/advertising materials

Point-of-sale advertising (POS) ensures a brand presence at the point of sale, makes it visible in the space and communicates its essence. It must provide information to the client, while positioning him. We use this type of marketing to announce, for example, promotions, special offers, draws or in an informative way. The goal: to attract the customer’s eye and convince him. Or at least, initiate a reflection.

Some examples of point-of-sale marketing materials:

  • Displays or stands
  • Posters
  • Flags
  • Vinyls
  • Gift boxes
  • Leaflets
  • Samples

Depending on the distribution networks, and their independent status or being part of a chain for example, the points of sale will have different freedom as to their display possibilities. Take the time to discuss it and assess their needs! You can adjust.

3. Sales staff support

Depending on the nature of your points of sale, maintaining a good relationship with sellers is key to their opinion of your brand and therefore their propensity to recommend your products to store visitors. Take care of your retail partners and their team, they could become your best ambassadors.

A few ways to support your retailers

  • Sales incentives (contests)
  • Gifts
  • Free products
  • Dedicated newsletters
  • Product information (scripts, guides, information sheets, etc.)

4. Showcasing and visibility of points of sale on your platforms

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, this is a two-way relationship. Retailers being businesses themselves, like you, they are looking for visibility allowing them to discover their offer!

Some examples offering great visibility to retailers

  • Store locator on your site
  • Relaying of information/promotions
  • Shoot-outs – social media mentions
  • Creating content that features them

5. Accessibility of products and materials

Finally, that’s all well and good, but it should also be easy to order products from you and return them if the need arises. Depending on the outlets and whether they are part of a network themselves, ordering methodologies may vary. Some industries are by default still quite old school in their way of doing things (hello fax). However, you must put in place easy control mechanisms for you and for them. Be responsive and flexible in your implementation, but also keep efficiency on your side as the ultimate goal.

  • Easy and adapted ordering process (e.g. private B2B web store)
  • Easy and flexible returns
  • Fast deliveries/Re-stock
  • Easy communication mechanisms (chat, email or dedicated line)

In conclusion…

You have seen that beyond simply shipping your products to a retailer, a strategy must be established to guarantee successful results when you conquer this new mode of distribution. It is certainly not necessary to implement everything at once. And you don’t have to start on your high horse either. But try to cover at least 1-2 points of each aspect, and you’ll be well on your way! And if you need help, we’re here.

With that, happy B2B marketing!


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