Marketing fulfillment is a necessary part of the supply chain for building supply companies. The dealers and salespeople in the stores who sell construction and building supply products are key players in helping these businesses expand the brand and reach new customers.
These sales representatives have the potential to help building supply companies expand their marketing reach through networks of people. The advantage of a network marketing strategy is that the company can grow by word of mouth and referrals through an expanded sales force of unique individuals who are based throughout the country.
The challenge of a network marketing strategy for businesses is to maintain brand consistency and control accurate product information. How can you ensure your brand is consistently represented when your main sales force consists of individuals who are spread out throughout the province or country? To complicate matters these sales representatives often work for another company (a distributor or the Home Depot or Canadian Tire store where your product is sold, for example). A solid marketing fulfillment strategy can help solve these dilemmas.
What is marketing fulfillment?
If your building supply company is producing marketing materials like ads, signs, business cards, promotional flyers, posters, etc., then you’re already dabbling in marketing fulfillment. The key is to ensure these marketing materials are available to your network through fast, effective channels and processes. In order to do this, there must be clear guidelines and “rules” that maintain consistency for each piece of marketing collateral.
When your network is spread out geographically, maintaining brand consistency becomes more difficult. Here are 3 common marketing fulfillment challenges that building supply companies often face:
Problem 1 – Promotional materials
Well-intended distributors or dealers trying to sell your product through a promotion may be able to get locally produced marketing materials, or may try to put together their own promotional materials. The problem is that when marketing materials are produced in different places, consistency and quality control become difficult to maintain.
Why is consistency so important to your products? It all comes down to brand recognition. “In an effort to give your brand a platform to stand on, you need to be sure that all of your messaging is cohesive. Ultimately, consistency contributes to brand recognition, which fuels customer loyalty,” writes Carly Stec of Hubspot.
When third parties execute promotional marketing materials using different brand colours, fonts and logo sizes it has a negative effect on consumer recognition of your product and overall brand strength. Improving consistency of marketing materials improves brand recognition, which leads to higher conversions and more sales. “When it comes to local marketing you should try to maintain control so that your theme, logo and images are as consistent as possible,” says Cami Bird, marketing manager at LocalVox.
Solution: Be Proactive and Reach Out
The way to circumvent the problem with inconsistent promotional materials is to be proactive and offer stores and dealers who sell your brand fast, easy access to branded materials whenever they need them. This means that your company needs to have regular, open communication with each dealer or store that sells your products – a time consuming endeavour, no doubt.
Here are some suggestions on how to ease the internal time burden:
- Seasonal email marketing campaigns – consider sending your stores and dealers regular, seasonal suggestions for promoting your products and make the marketing materials they would need easily available.
- Check-in (in person) – A quarterly phone call or personal visit every once in a while is important to remind the dealer or store that you are there as a support and they are welcome to call on you for resources, materials or help to get your product out their door.
Problem 2: Inaccurate Product Information
It’s critical that your dealers know your product inside and out because they are your customer-facing sales team. The problem for a number of construction supply companies, however, is that their product is one of many that dealers are selling and sometimes there is little or no control over the salesperson to whom the customer is speaking to within the store. Problems will inevitably crop up should that salesperson provide inaccurate information about the product, like specifications, warranty or installation information.
Solution: Train the Dealers
It’s important that you offer training to the people selling your products about how customers can use them, how to install them, the benefits as well as accurate warranty information. Whether this training comes in the form of a webinar, a brief in-person session or is held as an informal lunch and learn, offering product training and brand awareness to the customer-facing groups, selling your product is critical to help improve your brand’s consistency and reputation.
If you are in regular contact with the stores and dealers who are selling your materials a good question to ask is whether they have recently hired any new employees. If they have, offer to provide training opportunities to this person. Whether this involves providing them with some reading material, videos, a personal phone call or even taking them out to lunch you can help ensure that every sales person is properly equipped with the knowledge to sell your products on your behalf.
Another benefit to this hands-on training approach is that you will remain top of mind to the dealer. When a customer comes in looking for advice they will be more likely to recommend your product than a competitor’s because you are taking the time to connect with and educate the sales team.
Problem 3: Keeping Tabs on Your Product is Costly
With different stores and dealers selling your products your construction supply company needs to maintain efficiency through things like tight control of materials, inventory and purchase cycles and tracking and management of ordering patterns.
Solution: Find a Compatible System
It’s important to consider that a well run and well monitored fulfillment service can save thousands of dollars across a brand’s network by efficiently executing regular, accurate reports and ensuring that marketing materials are produced and delivered when needed, all in compliance with corporate brand standards.
Marketing fulfillment software applications can provide assistance to help ensure brand consistency across large networks. If you are considering a marketing fulfillment software system, ensure that it works well for your company as well as the majority of dealers who are selling your product. You wouldn’t want to be using a system that isn’t compatible with the dealers’ system.
Construction supply companies who are able to pre-empt these problems will help to minimize the impact on their brand’s consistency. Ultimately, a marketing strategy is only as good as a brand’s ability to exercise efficient and consistent network marketing and accurate product information through marketing fulfillment channels.