Sneak Peek: Distributors can re-use Component Manufacturers’ lead generation campaigns to develop more business. In turn, manufacturers should share their campaigns with their distributor. How should this be done? Read on, and you’ll find a couple step-by-step processes depending on the type of distributor: a more active field sales force versus predominantly e-commerce. But first, did you catch my last post on how to identify active buyers using content? If not, that’s a good place to start. Here’s a quick summary. Electronic component makers are increasingly using marketing automation platforms to deliver educational content to their target audiences and, in the process, are identifying who is actively looking for their product. It works like this:
- Most buyers or decision makers (often the engineer who specifies your components) follow a typical purchase process known as the Buyer’s Journey.
- The Buyer’s Journey is often classified as having three sequential phases: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.
- Your buyer needs certain education at each phase of the Buyer’s Journey, and this education should be mostly non-promotional.
- By using marketing automation software to deliver the right type of content for the right stage of the Buyer’s Journey in a campaign format, component makers can simply ask questions that identify the products and solutions those engineers plan to buy and when.
I recommend checking out my last post for the full story on how manufacturers are producing content that better engage buyers. But now, let’s explore how distributors can also use the manufacturers’ content campaigns.
Targeting Business at the Point of Trade
Typically, component companies (or, for that matter, any supplier in the electronics industry) are only offering their content to audiences they own or are directly targeting: email lists, website visitors, and advertising audiences. In most cases, these highly valuable and effective lead generation campaigns are missing their full potential as prospective customers in the distribution channel are not being reached. In my humble opinion, not reaching buyers that are going through distributors is a massive missed opportunity for all concerned! In conversation at the ECIA 2018 Summit last October in Chicago, I asked a few folks how much of their business came through distribution. Interestingly, most said their distribution business had grown from less than 50% five years ago to 70% or more today. Clearly, more transactions are going through distribution (more on this in a future post), and it’s increasingly important for brands to reach their future customers at this point of trade. What’s a simple way to do this? Manufacturers and distributors should share the lead generation campaigns that many manufacturers are now producing. There are two ways to think about approaching this: one for distributors like Allied, Sager, and TTI who have an extensive field sales force; and another for distributors like Digikey and Mouser who have a more e-commerce business model. Let’s look at each.
How to Generate Leads for a Distributor’s Field Sales Force
The simplest way I can explain how this works is to share with you an email I sent to a distributor last month on behalf of a client (the names have been changed to protect the innocent).
“Hi Fred Thanks for the call today, I’m happy to explain how this works to everyone’s benefit:
- Manufacturer X has already built their content campaign targeting the automotive market, so there is no need/cost for you to re-build it.
- It has 3 stages and 3 pieces of content written to help design engineers in the automotive market.
- It will be ready to launch mid-summer and there is no charge for this to you, the distributor.
- Manufacturer X has $5,000 in co-op marketing funds already allocated to spend with you this year and would like to use those funds to support this particular campaign, which we hope you will match. Total: $10,000.
- Since the goal is to generate actual leads for your field sales force, we are suggesting that the $10,000 be used to fund email blasts from third party media outlets that specialize in the automotive market.
- FYI, in our experience with these types of campaigns, email blasts are the only real effective lead generation tool. Media tools such as web banners and print ads have had little or no effect on generating actual leads.
- We will build a separate landing page/registration form for the joint campaign with you, so that all leads from this campaign will go only to you, the distributor.
- The email blasts purchased with the co-op fund will be linked to this landing page to capture the lead information.
- If you would like us to co-brand (distributor + manufacturer) the 3 pieces of content, we would be happy to do this for you also.
That’s basically it. And if you can support the campaign with some email blasts from your own list that would be a great help too. Regards, Graham.“
As you can see, by sharing the existing content campaigns, all it takes is a little coordination between manufacturer and distributor to create an efficient and highly effective lead generation system that’s beneficial for both parties. Everyone wins.
How to Grow E-Commerce Business with Micro Sites
Companies like Digikey and Mouser rely more on web-based purchases than face-to-face transactions between engineers and field sales managers. Therefore, for an e-commerce distributor, traditional leads that require sales interaction don’t fit the primary business model. So how can such a distributor leverage their manufacturers’ content campaigns? By building microsites: dedicated sections built within the distributor’s own master website consisting of a few pages devoted to a single manufacturer, market, or topic. Here’s one example of how to do it:
- The manufacturer provides the distributor with the content produced for the campaigns, such as whitepapers. Ideally, this campaign has been built to target a specific industry or need, such as the automotive market.
- The distributor creates a dedicated microsite (or section of the site) specific to the manufacturer and campaign topic, such as the automotive market. The distributor then hosts the manufacturer’s content and product (i.e. components) relevant to the microsite’s topic.
- The co-op dollars are used to buy email blasts from media partners in the relevant target market, such as automotive.
- The readers of the email blast are driven to the microsite by the offer of free, relevant content – no form registration required.
- During the initial period of media activity, usually a week or two after email send, engagement is measured by traffic to the micro site and downloads of the content.
- For a defined lengthier period after the media activity, such as the following 6 to 9 months, additional business is measured from increased e-commerce transactions originating from the microsite.
Again, a little coordination between the manufacturer and distributor can go a long way in generating new business. One last tip: Many distributors need to purchase most of their media around September in order to be ready for the following new business year in January. To align with this schedule, manufacturers should define next year’s target markets and meet with their distribution partners in the summer months. The two methods reviewed above are far from being the only ways to do this. Many variations exist, and I’m glad to review them with you.
Have any questions? Let me know at email@example.com.