The relationship between a brand and its third-party sellers is a vital one: Distributors, retailers, dealerships, and e-commerce platforms are the faces that greet consumers. They bridge the gap between creator and customer, and in that privileged role, they become the conduits for a brand’s values, features, and aesthetics.
Because of the crucial position they play, third-party sellers should be seen as business partners — not just empty vessels into which brands can spew product content, but as co-creators. Third parties should be experts on the features and benefits of products, espouse brand values, and have confidence in what they’re selling to tell the best story to the end customer.
This is especially true when it comes to high-consideration products that require trust and loyalty to be successful. A relationship of mutual trust between maker and seller can transfer to the customer and boost sales strategies to new heights.
The key to forming this kind of mutually beneficial partnership? Stellar communication.
How communication can unite (or divide) makers and sellers
Good communication can mean the difference between a transactional relationship and a meaningful partnership.
Without regular, careful communication, the marriage between manufacturing and third-party distributors will break down. Poor communication chips away at sellers’ confidence, leading to misalignment of strategies and values and, most importantly, causing confusion for the end customer.
Neglect communication with third parties, and problems could arise for your brand.
Here’s a prime example: A distributor and manufacturer with a long, positive, prosperous history get together for a planning meeting. A few product lines are struggling, and together, the manufacturing and distributing teams work through an improvement plan.
A visitor to the meeting notices the tone of the discussion isn’t very collaborative. “Isn’t this about joint planning?” he challenges. This provokes the manufacturing representative, who basically reveals that he believes the relationship between manufacturing and distributing is more of a hierarchy than a partnership: “You work for me,” he says.
And thus, this niggling resentment has ruined an otherwise productive relationship.
If these teams had been communicating well, they’d learn their goals were actually the same. Studies show that makers and distributors have many of the same priorities —improved profitability, customer experience, and sales of share growth. But if they’re not talking about these priorities, crossed wires can cause endless problems.
3 ways to practice good communication with third-party sellers
Actively practicing good communication can save brands from these issues; it can also maintain brand integrity while ensuring post-sale marketing by distributors is as successful as it can be.
- Join the conversation with the end customer.Be a good partner to distributors by taking part in the brand dialogue with the customer. Don’t leave them to do all the work in servicing and storytelling. Continue to communicate in a personalized nature through relevant content to keep customers connected and loyal.
Sharing responsibility for customer communication will increase trust and familiarity between you and your partners. It will ensure you’re presenting a united front to the end customer, which will in turn make products sing on the shelves.
- Measure satisfaction at the product and distributor level.Part of having good communication is being able to detect when people are dissatisfied. Put tools in place to measure satisfaction — not just of the customer, but of partners and third parties, too.
Set benchmarks together with distributors so you can see when problems arise, then set up regular evaluations so negative experiences (and positive) can be reported in a timely and helpful way.
Strengthen the connection between all vital players in your selling network by giving them ample opportunity to share their feelings or concerns about situations and operations.
- Watch satisfied customers carefully.Your happy customers are a model, showing you how and when your product is at its best. Use this model to inform selling and distribution strategies and to promote loyalty in others.
Satisfied customers will be willing to share and review your products, and you can leverage these reviews to inspire others to buy. Studies show that positive reviews are twice as effective as “likes” on social media when it comes to building trust. Additionally, a whopping 90 percent of consumers read customer reviews prior to making a purchase decision — just another reason to make sure your satisfied customers are leaving satisfied reviews.
Join together with third-party sellers to celebrate happy customers, and educate yourselves on what a satisfied customer looks like. As partners, you and your distributors take joint custody of your customers’ happiness. Don’t let miscommunications and preconceived ideas get in the way of that crucial relationship. Take ownership of the post-sales experience by opening up the lines of communication.
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