MM 063 – Channel Partner Sales Strategy for Manufacturers


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MM 063 – Channel Partner Sales Strategy for Manufacturers

Guest: Debbie Pierce, CEO Nitromojo

Highlights:

  • Sometimes trying to decide exactly who the manufacturing customer really is can be confusing for manufacturers. [4:00]
  • The most successful manufacturers have great communication, visibility, and transparency with their channel partners. Lack of transparency can cause fear on both sides. [7:10]
  • An automated feedback loop can be a huge benefit for attribution and sales projections. [9:50]

  • The ‘where to buy’ section of the website is a big black hole where sales attribution information disappears and a huge opportunity to for connecting to the end buyer. [16:00]
  • The tri-lateral model changes the old linear model to a circular model that keep channel partner, end user, and manufacturer all in the loop. [23:00]
  • Action steps for getting started with a better channel partner sales strategy: [25:50]
    1. Modify your website to capture those end buyers who visit the ‘where to buy’ page or other lead generation activities such as a trade show.
    2. Develop and implement an end customer feedback dialogue that provides actionable results.

Interview Questions:

Question 1 – What are you seeing out there in the field Debbie?

Why are some manufacturers doing better than others when it comes to mastering this complex dance between manufacturer, channel partner, and end-user?

Question 2 – One of the biggest challenges is sales attribution. In other words, the manufacturer has no idea what or when the partner may or may not sell his product.

What are a few ways you are seeing the most successful manufacturers overcoming this challenge?

Question 3 – Many a direct sales rep have said they will not share leads with the channel partner because it’s like tossing the lead into a black hole. And many a channel partner sales rep has said they will never share their customer information with the manufacturer. Not a very effective working relationship.

What is the solution? Could you share an example of a real life success story?

Question 4– You shared with me an idea that you are working on at your company called the ‘Tri-lateral model. Could you describe the model in actionable terms?

Let’s say there is a podcast listener that is nodding his head and agreeing, but wants to do something right away to start solving the problem. Something besides firing all his channel partners. What would you advise?

Challenge Question – This week our challenge question comes from an OEM sales manager in the Boston area. Here it is “Been listening to your podcast and read your book,”The New Way to Market for Manufacturing.” Currently, I am a manufacturer’s representative and trying to figure out how to implement content marketing in a sales organization. What would you advise to get started?”

  • Work with the manufacturer to co-brand their content. Share end buyer needs with the manufacturers to persuade them to build content around those needs. Leverage your manufacturers and get them to create the content. They will probably have more resources than the channel partner.
  • Build some content based on your knowledge of the pain and problems of the end user. For example, “How to Select the Right Safety Glasses for a Particular Job” if you are a rep for safety gear.

Takeaways:

  • Make the end customer a focus and take control of that relationship by capturing their information when they interact with the manufacturer. Don’t leave it up to your sales reps, you have to do it as a company function.
  • Build visibility with your channel partners. Build the end buyer feedback loop.

Nitromojo special offer to podcast listeners: Complimentary analysis of customer experience. Contact Debbie via email to take her up on this complimentary offer.

Transcript:

Bruce McDuffee:
Welcome to the Manufacturing Marketing Matters, a podcast produced by the Manufacturing Marketing Institute, the center of excellence for manufacturing marketers. I’m Bruce McDuffee. Thank you for listening.

Hello Manufacturing Marketers. Before we get started on our show today, I have a special offer for our listeners that you can now get a free PDF copy of my book called, The New Way to Market for Manufacturing. Just go to our website homepage, mmmatters.com, click on the book, the icon, and there’s a short registration form open to anybody who’s interested. This will be a limited offer for the next few weeks. On to our show. Our guest expert today is Debbie Pierce, CEO of NitroMojo. Welcome, Debbie.
Debbie Pierce:
Hello, Bruce. How are you today?
Bruce McDuffee:
Doing great, thanks. Thanks for being on the show today.
Debbie Pierce:
Thank you for having me.
Bruce McDuffee:
Folks, our discussion today is about an age-old challenge that most or many manufacturers who sell through partner channels have been facing really forever. That challenge is in making the connection between yourself, the manufacturer, and the end-user of the product when there’s a partner or a channel in between. This lack of a connection or this difficult connection, it causes several issues. Among them might be effective product development because you can’t get access to those end-users or difficulty in understanding the real issues the end-user faces, or just the inability to get that direct feedback. This has been a challenge, like I said, forever.

Today, Debbie is going to shed some light on the solution to these challenges and we’ll talk about a new way to look at the manufacturer, channel partner, end-user, that tri-lateral relationship. Debbie, before we get started, could you please introduce yourself to the audience?
Debbie Pierce:
Certainly. Bruce, I’ve been involved with industrial sales, marketing and strategic development for several decades now. I hate to admit that somewhat, it’s been that long, including owning my own B2B marketing agency over 12 years and then marketing agency world before that. My focus has always been on using data to build one-to-one customer relationships and informed business decisions that will drive long-term sales growth and profitability even if, and especially when, a company is selling through partner channels.

I’ve been a speaker. I speak now at various business schools and conferences, but I haven’t had time to write a book yet. Maybe you can give me some pointers.
Bruce McDuffee:
Sure. I’d be happy to. Great. Thanks for that background, Debbie. As I mentioned in my intro, this is an age-old challenge. Heck, I remember when I was bag-toting field salesman I had some direct clients and I did some selling. We called them re-sellers. There were two things I remember I really didn’t like about the re-sellers. One was they wouldn’t share their customer information, and two was, they always want it at a lower price. Now, I don’t know if that was just me, but I think that’s pretty common. I’m sure those re-sellers probably had their complaints against the manufacturer and their rep.

The relationship is often contentious. Debbie, you’ve been in the field working with reps and manufacturers for a long time. What are you seeing out there? Do you see that same thing or something different? What do you see?
Debbie Pierce:
No, we continually see that problem over and over again. I think the big challenge or the confusion we see with manufacturers is trying to decide who their customer is. Is it the end buying customer or is it the partner channel because they sell their products to the partner channel who they hope will sell it to the end buyer. There’s a ton of confusion. They know it’s the end buyer who actually buys and has loyalty to their product and uses it.

Once that dilemma is dealt with … I’ll give you an example of one of our clients who’s done a really good job with it. What they’ve done is they have a focus on the end buying customer but they also work very closely with partner channels. They have a highly educated, very good sales force. In fact, they use one sales rep for every million dollars in sales. You would recognize this brand. I don’t feel like I should probably divulge their process or their competitors. They’re a very well-known brand.

Anyway, they have a really good sales force who calls directly on the end buying customer, but also calls and brings in the appropriate distributor rep. They haven’t alienated the distributor, but their focus is on the end buyer. They have great customer loyalty, great brand recognition and distributor partners and partner channels have a high amount of respect for them. In fact, they get by with pricing and with inventory demands that nobody else does in their industry.

They’re dealing from a place of strength rather than where if you’re so dependent on just the partner channel, that’s where you have to give price concessions because that’s the only thing you have. They can bait and switch it. They’ll switch over to a competitor in a heartbeat. Unless you have that end buyer demanding your product, they don’t really need you.
Bruce McDuffee:
That’s interesting. It almost sounds like that example you gave where the manufacturer acts as a matchmaker and stays involved that way.
Debbie Pierce:
Right.
Bruce McDuffee:
Is that a fair characterization?
Debbie Pierce:
Right. At the end of the day, it’s the customer experience that wins. When the two aren’t working together, when the manufacturer and partner aren’t working together, focused, the end customer really suffers as well. They really do. It makes it harder for them to buy.
Bruce McDuffee:
I guess it’s like everything in business; it’s all about communicating and setting expectations and making sure everyone’s on the same page rather than just the strategy of I hope they sell my stuff or I hope I can get a better price. That makes a lot of sense. Why is it that some manufacturers, Debbie, are doing better, like the one you described, than others when it comes to mastering this, I’ll call it a complex dance between the manufacturer, the channel partner and the end user?
Debbie Pierce:
The big difference is the connection with the end buying customer without alienating the partner. You can’t have an attitude towards the partner either, that love-hate where … A lot of my clients before used to always complain about their partners as well and felt like they were a necessary evil.

The other thing is is they have a lot of visibility. If you think about what’s the problem in that relationship and a disjointed relationship, it’s fear. It’s fear of the distributor partner that you’re going to give opportunities to their competitors or you’re going to go direct. That’s why they don’t share customer information. If you’re lucky, they’ll give you POS data. That doesn’t tell you anything about the customer.

They’re afraid that you’re going to go direct or give the business to one of their competitors, and you’re afraid as the manufacturer that they’re going to switch products to one of your competitors that they might carry or not give them follow-through. What’s the answer? Fear is only because of not having knowledge. If you have visibility and transparency and the customers’ experience and can manage that, then everybody can see it. Everybody’s on the same page, then there is no more fear. They can see what’s going on. You don’t have to guess. You know what’s happening.
Bruce McDuffee:
That’s what transparency is all about, and no matter what it is, whether it’s a new presidential administration or whatever it is. When people feel that there’s not secrets, when there’s not secrets, then there’s not fear or not wrong expectations. That’s a great way to look at it. Makes a lot of sense.

One of biggest challenges, Debbie, is sales attribution. I’ve talked to manufacturers who say, I’ve sold, could be hundreds of thousands or millions or tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of product but I have no idea who sold it or what prompted the sale. In other words, the manufacturer just has no idea what a partner or which partner might sell what and when. There’s a problem with attribution, like what’s working, what’s not, as well as projections. When you don’t have that information, you can’t project your sales. What are a few ways that you’re seeing or that you would suggest that are more successful to help manufacturers overcome that particular challenge of attribution and projecting sales?
Debbie Pierce:
I think that, again, goes back to the relationship with the end buying customer. If you have and automated feedback loop that gives you a two-way dialog, automated two-way dialog, so you don’t put the pressure on your sales reps. Your sales reps never give you the feedback, nor do they have the time to keep going after end buying customers or they give it to the partner. Partner’s not going to give you feedback on where things are at. It has to come from the customer.

Let me give you an example of this. We have a client that actually had a pretty significant new product launch. We’re in the middle of the launch. We’ve engaged the partner channels that are inventorying the product for the first phase of the launch. We have this end buying customer loop in process. We hear back from the customer prospect, “I’m very interested in this product but I’m waiting for pricing. The partner channel that you sent me to is not giving me pricing.”

That sent an automatic alert to the sales rep that was responsible for that territory. It’s an alert they get right on their phone. This is act on this right away. He called the partner channel responsible and said, tell them the situation. He gets pricing from the partner channel. By the end of the day, this happened in the morning, by the end of the day, he had an order for $250,000 of that new product.

If that feedback loop had not been in place, what would have happened is that end buying customer would have got frustrated and just either went to another partner channel or another product and you would never know about it.
Bruce McDuffee:
Never know.
Debbie Pierce:
You’d never know. Another example of why that process is so important is another client we’re working with was launching into the construction market. Now, this was a market associated with the industrial market. They work primarily in the industrial market, but they developed a whole new product line that was going to the construction market, slightly different distribution yet their traditional partner channels did play in there somewhat.

We’re monitoring the end customer feedback loop over a month or so and we see a lot of the customers didn’t buy the product and why was because they could find it in stock. They couldn’t find it in stock because they were going to construction channels, distributors, that our client had not engaged with yet. We were able to show that if we could go to … and we knew who the customer wanted to buy from. For example, one of them was Johnson Controls. We could go to them and say here’s a whole list of customers that want to buy our product from you and they signed up for a partner channel right away, and automatically we converted 15% more of the leads coming in to sales just by being able to monitor that.

If we did not know that from the end buying customer, you wouldn’t know what to do. You might be thinking this market’s going to fair or our product isn’t good when, in fact, all they needed was a few key new distributors in that particular vertical market.
Bruce McDuffee:
Interesting. That’s a great example.
Debbie Pierce:
And, they were able to give them a list of their customers who wanted the product. A partner channel may not want to take on a new product unless they know there’s demand, right? They don’t want to carry inventory if there’s not demand. They could hand them over instant customers.

That’s where that end buying customer, if you don’t have that information, if you don’t have it quickly … See, you can’t do a customer satisfaction survey once a year and learn this stuff and act on it. It’s got to be a part of your regular sales and marketing process, just automated. As automated as marketing automation is, this is just as automated and integrated.
Bruce McDuffee:
It sounds like there’s a theme running through here so far, Debbie, in that I’m thinking back to like I mentioned earlier, when I was a sales rep and selling to resellers, my strategy was hope and fear and sometimes anger.
Debbie Pierce:
Why?
Bruce McDuffee:
Because didn’t have the trust, didn’t have the communication, didn’t have the understanding, didn’t have any of the things that you’re mentioning. I think that’s the theme I’m picking up anyway so far is that everything is just about that communication and setting up a trusted relationship, plus that automated feedback loop you mentioned, that sounds like a critical part. I love anything automated because then it happens instead of relying on a person to pick up the phone or send an email.
Debbie Pierce:
Right or sales reps. They’re not supposed to be admin people.
Bruce McDuffee:
They hate admin.
Debbie Pierce:
They don’t even like to fill out expense reports and that money for them.
Bruce McDuffee:
It’s true.
Debbie Pierce:
Asking them to ask pointed questions in a consistent manner is not a good thing. Let them sell.
Bruce McDuffee:
That’s probably not going to happen. You’re right. Probably not going to happen. Next question I have for you, Debbie, is there’s many a direct sales rep has said they won’t share leads with a channel partner because it’s like tossing the lead into a black hole. Many channel partner sales reps say they’ll never share their customer information with the manufacturer because they’re afraid they’ll go direct. Not really a very effective working relationship like we’ve been talking about. Talk some more about the solution and maybe even if you have another example about how this type of thing can be solved.
Debbie Pierce:
Again, the real thing there is is visibility. Let me give you a couple examples where there’s a problem. One is if you took, and we look at these every single day, but I’ll take an example of one of our customers who we did an analysis, before they started using NitroMojo, we did an analysis of their past leads and their website. They had spent, I don’t know how many, over a million dollars a year on driving traffic to their website, and yet when we looked at their web traffic and their lead conversion, if you look at most manufacturers, you go to their website and they almost all have where to buy or find a distributor or find a sales rep, but the distributor one is the one we’re going to talk about most or find a partner channel.

They’ll go and they’ll put their zip code in. They’ll get a list within so many miles or whatever with a phone number and the address, and then they call up that partner channel. Now, what we found was that they had over, and this is a mid-size company, it’s not a real big company, but they had 15,000 hits to that find a distributor in six months.

Now, they didn’t know who those people were. They never captured the customer information. The customer went and called the partner but the partner didn’t even know that that response or that inquiry came from the manufacturer. The manufacturer gets no credit for even driving that business, so how loyal is the partner going to be?
Bruce McDuffee:
Not much.
Debbie Pierce:
An example, I have a friend that was interested in a Dixie Chopper lawnmower. He owns a landscape company. He goes to the website, he reads all the specs. He goes to find a distributor. He calls the partner. The partner says, “Have you ever seen the new Toro?” because he didn’t even know. What’s the solution to that?

What we told our client was instead of just sending them to find a distributor or find a rep, what we do is say what are you looking for, Mr. Customer? What kind of product? Just a little bit of information, say who do you prefer to buy from? Maybe they already have a contract with a particular partner channel. We’re honoring the partner relationship. We’re not giving that person to a competitor. We’re not even putting a competitor in front of them, and we hand it off to the partner channel so they know it came from our client. They know that they better sell our client’s product to that customer because it came from them. I don’t know if I’m making any sense. If I don’t even know-
Bruce McDuffee:
It does.
Debbie Pierce:
… somebody, why am I going to be loyal to them. Now on the flip-side of that, I’ve signed back through that automated process from the end customer, what was your experience? Did you make a purchase decision? Oh you did? Did you place the order yet? Oh you didn’t. When do you plan on placing it and who are you going to buy it through, what channel?

What we find out is if they bought a competitor product, we find out why. When you talked about this black hole, now there’s no longer a black hole. That black hole is eliminated. I can go back to a partner at the end of the year or at a quarterly basis or however you want to and I can say, “Okay, Mr. Partner Channel, I gave you 2,000 leads in the last six months and I see here the end customer has told me that 35% of the time, you’re selling one of our competitor products to them. I see which competitor you’re selling. I see you’re selling a lot of Toro. Why’s that? I’m sending you leads.”
Bruce McDuffee:
Interesting.
Debbie Pierce:
It sounds adversarial, but it’s really not because now you can sit down, and I have some funny stories because a couple of our clients have done that where they’ve been able to go in and sit down with them at their regular partner meetings. The partner right off the gate says I need price concessions. If I’m going to get more business for you and I’m competing against this other partner for this bid, then I need you to lower your prices.

The sales rep or the channel manager who’s in charge of that relationship just pulls out the report and says, “By the way there, Ned, I sent you this many leads the last six months. I’m looking at your loyalty to our brand and I’m wondering what we can do about that.”
Bruce McDuffee:
It’s more information. It’s more transparency.
Debbie Pierce:
It’s changes the conversation. Instead of price concessions, it changes the conversation. Now you as a manufacturer have more control over the situation because you have information.
Bruce McDuffee:
As far as the rep or the partner, what’s in it for them? Some people might be wondering what’s in it for the rep.
Debbie Pierce:
Here’s a couple things: One is that we have found that have been big benefits, first of all, the partner had no rela … I’ll give you the first example I gave about handing the leads off rather than just letting end customers go directly to the channel. They [never 00:20:38] realized they got leads. We’d get comments back from the partners of, “Thanks for the lead.” If they didn’t know it came from you, they would never thank you for it. They don’t even recognize that it’s something you’re doing for them.
Bruce McDuffee:
They’re getting more and more qualified leads.
Debbie Pierce:
Right.
Bruce McDuffee:
That’s one big plus.
Debbie Pierce:
They’re qualified and that they know they came from you as the manufacturer. Then the second thing is they know that you as the manufacturer are protecting their relationship. By you finding out from the end customer who they prefer to buy from … Let me give you another scenario that happens.

I’m an end buying customer. My Granger rep, I usually buy from Granger, my Granger rep comes in to see me one day. I say, “John, I just got a call from one of your competitors who was following up. I wanted some information on this new product.” The Granger rep goes, “That was for what product?” Now he’s suspicious because he thinks the manufacturer gave this lead to one of his competitors when really the manufacturer was just dishing him off. The manufacturer gave it to somebody because he didn’t know who to give it to.

That’s where the partner now doesn’t trust the manufacturer. If the partner knows the manufacturer is protecting that relationship with their customer and is jointly working together on that customer experience, then they trust the manufacturer more. Would they ever give them, the manufacturer, end customer information? No. That doesn’t mean they would do that. That’s why you have to have your own relationship with the end buying customer.

They don’t trust the manufacturer, number one, because they think they’re going to go direct. If you prove to them that you’re willing to work with them, the goal is for everybody to make money-
Bruce McDuffee:
Everybody wins.
Debbie Pierce:
… and for the customer to have a great … Yes, that’s the goal.
Bruce McDuffee:
Good. That leads nicely into my last question in the interview section, Debbie, is I know you talked with me before about what you guys call the tri-lateral model. Could you describe that in a nutshell? What is that? I know it’s probably what you’ve been talking about for the whole time here, but maybe just put a nice bow around it for our audience.
Debbie Pierce:
If you think about the traditional model of a company that sells to partner channels, they manufacture a product and then they sell it to partner channels. They beg and plead partner channels to carry inventory and then they hope the partner channels will then in turn sell it to the end buying customer.

What we’re saying now is changing that. Instead of being linear, it’s being multi-dimensional. Instead of being flat, now you’re circular. It’s you and the partner channel working together to serve the customer, provide the customer with the best experience they can have which then in turn creates better loyalty for not only the manufacturer but it’s the partner as well.

It sounds complicated, but really it’s automated and it’s very easy to do. You’re still going to sell to the partner channel. You’re still not going to sell direct unless you have some kind of Amazon business that you’re able to do at a higher price, but for the most part, the majority of your sales are still going to go through partner channels. The difference is is now you also have a relationship with that end buying customer. They’re the ones that are the future of your business. You lose them, you don’t have anything. It’s really a win-win for everybody.
Bruce McDuffee:
The tri-lateral is a three-way relationship really between the manufacturer, the channel partner and the end user where they all are free to talk to each other at any time because there’s that trust. That trust has been built up or the transparency, whatever you want to call it. That makes sense because I think [crosstalk 00:25:45]. Go ahead.
Debbie Pierce:
One of the things we’ve also found because of that automated loop, manufacturers are able to forecast sales better, not only overall, but by partner. Partners don’t have that good of a forecasting. They go by modelling past transactions but they don’t necessarily have good pipeline information. There are benefits to the partner’s business that working together provides for the partner as well.
Bruce McDuffee:
I can see that. I can see that being beneficial for everybody, all three legs of the stool, if you will. Let’s say, Debbie, let’s say there’s a listener out there listening to this podcast and he’s nodding his head saying, “This makes sense. This is something that sounds like it would make sense for my business.” What is some things that he could do right away to start solving this problem, something besides firing all his channel partners? A few actionable steps would be great.
Debbie Pierce:
I think the first thing is to look at their website and start grabbing on to those responses or those leads that are going to where to buy or find a distributor or find a sales rep. They’ve got to do everything they can to capture end buyer information. That is number one. You can’t have a relationship with the end buying customer if you don’t at least capture who they are.

Like I said, what we did with that one customer alone, the one client of ours, if you took 10,000 leads that they missed by just letting them get away through that and just capturing even 35% of them, had a huge impact on their sales. Now they could control the sales process.  If there’s one thing, I would not ever let a customer go directly to a sales rep or directly to a partner channel without capturing at least their name, company and email.
Bruce McDuffee:
That’s the [crosstalk 00:26:45].
Debbie Pierce:
At least something about them.
Bruce McDuffee:
That makes a lot of sense because that’s a huge canyon, a huge gap when you can’t put those two together.
Debbie Pierce:
No, and it’s a huge leak. That’s one thing they can do right away and just not send leads randomly or blindly to partners. [Gather in all the 00:27:04] end buying customer relationships and experience with your brand.

Then two, develop and implement an end customer feedback dialog that provides actionable visibility into the sales process and measures the customer experience. I’m sure every one of your listeners out there has heard or read a ton of content about the customer experience. Most of the time, they relate that to customer service, like a customer service center.

In fact, most customer contact is not through your customer service. They only call customer service if they’ve got a severe problem. You don’t hear about what happens in the sales process. That person that went to buy a Dixie Chopper lawnmower and got talked into a Toro, he doesn’t call customer service and tell them he’s dissatisfied with his experience.
Bruce McDuffee:
No. That’s a great point.
Debbie Pierce:
You need to put into place the mechanisms to have dialog. No relationship is good without a two-way dialog. I hear companies. They spent a lot of money on developing great content. They do all this work and push it out, push it out, push it out to the end buying customer but don’t have the regular systematic feedback. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a relationship.
Bruce McDuffee:
Makes sense.
Debbie Pierce:
If all I do is talk to my kids and don’t listen, I don’t have a relationship with them. Those are the two things I would focus on, those two things right away.
Bruce McDuffee:
Just to recap; number one, make sure you capture that interaction on the manufacturer’s website and, number two, facilitate that dialog. Does that sum it up?
Debbie Pierce:
Yes. Also, I just want to say, I mentioned the website because it’s such a blaring problem, but you would want to do the same thing through any of your other lead generation tactics like trade shows. We help our clients, help educate them and help them make sure that they’re consistent in the way that they take in end buying customer information including who they prefer to buy from. That would be at a trade show or anyplace else, anything else they do.
Bruce McDuffee:
Or even phone calls, right?
Debbie Pierce:
Right.
Bruce McDuffee:
You want to capture it all. Good. That’s some great information. Thanks for sharing all that and those great examples, Debbie. That brings us to our challenge question section of the show. This week, our challenge question comes from an OEM sales manager in the Boston area. He’s a manufacturer’s rep, perfect for this show. Here it is.

“I’ve been listening to your podcast and read your book, The New Way to Market for Manufacturing. Currently, I am a manufacturer’s rep trying to figure out how to implement content marketing in a sales organization. What would you advise to get started?” Debbie, what do you think?
Debbie Pierce:
What I would do is I would work with the manufacturer and if they have content, repurpose that content and co-brand it, and get that out to your customers or prospects that you’re working with or it works the flip-side. You have a lot of contact with the end buying customer so you might be hearing leads the end buying customer has, questions, areas for educational improvement, that you can work with the manufacturers who you represent to develop more relative content. I think you don’t have to go on and develop all this on your own. Work with the manufacturer.
Bruce McDuffee:
I agree. That’s what I would say, too, is try to get your manufacturer to either share or, like you said, Debbie, give you some content. You could repurpose it. That’s the easiest way. I would also add that a lot of that about using content marketing, and let’s say content marketing is where you’re creating useful, helpful information that solves a problem for your customer, if that’s what we’re talking about for content marketing, first thing is you have to educate the salespeople about what it is. If you give a salesperson a document about some kind of useful information that’s not pitching the product, the sales rep’s going to say, “I don’t know what to do with this. I can’t use it.” Educate the sales reps. Say, “Here’s how you use it. You share the information to build a relationship so they remember you so they call you and they do have a need. That’s why you share that type of information.”

Number two, if you’re going to jump right into it, think about the needs and the problems of your target audience. What are their problems? Then take your company’s expertise, solve the problem. Build some content around that, just sharing it, sharing it freely.
Debbie Pierce:
One of the things I’ve seen, Bruce, a lot is a lot of manufacturers are very product orientated, right?
Bruce McDuffee:
They all are.
Debbie Pierce:
Product solutions, product solutions, product solutions. Yet from what I’m seeing from the end buying customer feedback loop that we see through our NitroMojo users and research projects I’m involved in, a lot of times the real opportunity is in education, educational support. Let’s say that, and that’s something a manufacturer’s rep organization could do. I’ll give you an example just how to select the certain product type.

Let’s say I’m rep-ing safety glasses, how to select the right safety glasses for the right job or how to select the right battery for this application. Real simple. It could be just boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
Bruce McDuffee:
It should be simple.
Debbie Pierce:
Or how to put it in correctly in one page thing. We find nobody’s doing that. It’s a great opportunity.
Bruce McDuffee:
It’s a huge opportunity. Thanks for saying that. I say it all the time. It’s a huge opportunity for manufacturers because most are still pitching the product. Absolutely. Good. Thanks for that feedback, Debbie, and I hope that was helpful for the OEM of the manufacturer’s rep up there in the Boston area.

That brings us to our last section, Debbie, is takeaways. I also ask our guest expert to share, it could be one or two takeaways, maybe sum up a couple of action points from the podcast or maybe you’ve got one or two nuggets you want to share to remember you by.
Debbie Pierce:
I would say, number one, make the end buying customer a focus. Take control. Take control of the future of your brand and the future of your company, future of product development, and get a relationship with those end buying customers. That starts with capturing them and then nurturing them with a two-way dialog. I’m not saying you abandon your partner channels. You’re not going to start stocking product and delivering it. The partner channels are still important to you but you’ve got to really capture this information and start working with those end buying customers.

I’ll give you another real good example of that. Another client that we worked with, they started that process out with a special promotion. They generated 10,000 leads of end buying customers that they used to start this end buying customer relationship process and used this basis to build on for the next four or five years. During that next four or five years, every single product launch after that exceeded sales budget in two or three months sooner than was expected. I promise you, it will pay off. It will be your company’s greatest asset.

End buying customers, focus on that, refocus on that and don’t leave it up to your sales reps. Don’t make them be the one to build this database, for crying out loud, or build this mechanism. You’ve got to do it as a marketer or as a manager. You cannot leave it up to the sales force.
Bruce McDuffee:
Agreed.
Debbie Pierce:
Second of all is to, besides the end buying customer relationship is to build that visibility with your partner channels. Right now, you can leave it up to them and you don’t know what happens to them. You don’t have a continual flow of that information. I’ll give you another example.

Just recently, I was involved with a research project with my clients. They wanted to know who’s the brand leader in all these product categories and where do they sit. You know what? If you’ve got an end buying customer loop, you will always know that. You don’t need to find out six months after the fact that one of your competitors slashed prices. You’ll know that from the end buying customer tomorrow and you can act on it.

You’ve got to get more visibility on what’s going on out there on a regular basis. I know sales reps will tell you. Sales reps right away will call marketing and say, “I’m getting chilled out here because we’re too high priced.” They’ll always do that, but you can’t quantify it and you can’t measure it in a way that C-level management or CFO will appreciate.

Getting that feedback measure, visibility into the partner channel, visibility into the marketplace, what competitors are doing on a regular consistent basis, I think is vital.
Bruce McDuffee:
Just to clarify on when you said focus on the end users, Debbie, you’re not saying leave the channel partners out. You’re saying focus on the end users along with the channel partners. Is that right?
Debbie Pierce:
Right. The reason why I say that, and when I say focus I mean gather and purposely get to know them. You do content marketing but how often do you have enough information on that end buying customer to do it on a one-to-one basis? How do you become relative to them? It’s not that you’re trying to avoid the partner channel.

A lot of customers that we start working with them with NitroMojo and we’ll say, “Send us your existing data.” Everything in their CRM system is all partner channel information. By the way, it’s mostly who they bill to. What they do with their leads is in a separate Excel file somewhere.
Bruce McDuffee:
Or an Outlook contact list.
Debbie Pierce:
How is that focusing on a customer? It’s about putting the attention and gathering the type of information that you can really talk to that customer in ways that they understand and appreciate and respect who they want to buy from.
Bruce McDuffee:
To put a fine point on it, folks, you’re not doing that behind the partner’s back.
Debbie Pierce:
No.
Bruce McDuffee:
You’re doing it right in front with them. Makes sense.
Debbie Pierce:
You’re not doing anything differently than you did before in terms of you’re still doing content. You’re still trying to generate demand. The only difference is you’re blocking up the attribution. You’re just taking better control of it. You’re building a relationship with that end buying customer. You’re not selling to them. You’re just knowing them and appreciating them.
Bruce McDuffee:
Got it, got it. Good point, good point. Before we sign off, Debbie, is there anything you’d like to leave with our audience about yourself or your company, NitroMojo?
Debbie Pierce:
Yeah. Just real quickly, Nitro Mojo is a technology that solves the major problems that companies who sell through partner channels experience: accurate forecasting, long-term loyal customer relationships, accurate measuring of ROIs that the CFO appreciates. I’ve listened to a couple other podcasts and I’ve read a lot of content about measuring marketing ROI and through a channel that’s especially challenging, build trust and respect with partners and greatly improves the new product development and launch process.

We’d like to offer listeners of this podcast something special and that would be to do a complimentary analysis of their customer experience. What I mean by that, we’d be willing to take in their last four to five months of lead records and get that customer feedback. We’d be able to tell them pretty much what’s going on. Then that will be enlightening enough. I think it’s a great value. It’s a big eye-opener.
Bruce McDuffee:
I bet it is. I bet it is. Great. Thanks for making that offer.
Debbie Pierce:
Otherwise if they just have questions too or in particular about their industry or they have some unique situations, feel free to contact us. We’ve been doing this a long time. There’s not much we haven’t seen yet.
Bruce McDuffee:
Perfect. I can tell, you’ve got a lot of expertise to share. Folks, I’ll put the contact information and specifically, this offer in the show notes so you don’t have to write it down right now. It’ll be there.

Debbie, thank you so much for being a guest on Manufacturing Marketing Matters today, sharing your knowledge and experience and all those great examples. That was fantastic. Thank you.
Debbie Pierce:
You’re welcome.
Bruce McDuffee:
That was Debbie Pierce, CEO of NitroMojo. For more information about Debbie and the company, visit the guest bio page at mmmatters.com, and don’t forget about that free PDF copy of my book. I think you’ll find it very interesting and a lot of it goes to what we talked about in this podcast and others.

Thanks for listening to Manufacturing Marketing Matters. If you find this podcast helpful and useful, please subscribe at iTunes or Stitcher.com. You can download this episode of MM Matters and get the show notes and learn more about the podcast at mmmatters.com. I’m Bruce McDuffee. Now let’s go out and advance the practice of marketing in manufacturing today.

 

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