Heroes, particularly in business, are not always easy to come by.
Take Webster's definition and replace the word "person" with "company."
he·ro noun \?hir-(?)?\
: a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities
Now try to come up with a list of firms who are "admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities."
The fine qualities piece is a little easier. I do believe there are lots of companies with high standards, great integrity, and hard-working staff members. But Superman and his cohorts are known much more for their acts of bravery than their "fine qualities."
Think about why you're loyal to a certain brand. If you're like me, you're loyal because:
...they've made it easy to do business with them
...they've made it fun to do business with them
...they've made you more confident
...they've made you feel important
...they've saved you money
...they've saved you time
...they've saved your life
Any of these are earmarks of a company that has taken risks, made important decisions about who they want to be, and made plenty of sacrifices along the way... just like a hero would.
Take our client base for example. We work with manufacturers who typically sell their products through independent sales channels. While those dealers, distributors, or franchisees often say they're just looking for the best price, the truth is they're looking for a hero.
How do we know? Because of the questions they ask our clients...
- How soon can you get it here?
- Can I get better terms?
- Will you help me advertise it?
- Will you tell me how much product I should carry?
- Are there any spifs for my salespeople?
- Are there any spifs for me?
- Please tell our customers what's different about your products.
- Can you train our salespeople?
- Will you help me take care of my customers after the sale?
- Will you keep those other guys from selling in my territory?
- Will you drive customers to my dealership?
These are all questions that to address properly often require taking risks. It requires investments of capital, time, and resources. It requires brave decisions and gutsy action without knowing for sure how it will pan out in the end. In short, it requires a hero.
If you're ready for YOUR cape, here are just a few tried and true ways we've seen OEMs become heroes to their distribution channels...
Offer an incentive trip for volume purchases. It's a nice reward, and a great way to reinforce relationships.
Offer a co-op advertising program. When you control the messaging, there's no more cost-effective way to build your brand at the local level, and at the same time help your dealers sell your products.
Help them keep up with technology. Offer local online marketing services. Offer web hosting services or microsites. Give them a through-channel marketing automation system that will provide leads and accountability for following-up on those leads.
For loyal, active dealers, protect their territories with a vengeance.
Invest in special events that focus on them, recognize them, and thank them for their business.
Invest in high quality marketing tools to help them sell your products. They'll not only be proud to show off materials that make them look good, but it will also enhance your brand as well.
And perhaps most important, give them a compelling story to tell about your brand and your products. There's nothing more empowering for a dealer salesperson than a story they can tell their customers that truly differentiates you from everyone else.