Five tips for successful distributor partnerships

Jeff Greene.
Jeff Greene.

Jeff Greene has been CEO of New-York-based Announcement Converters for 15 years. The company was founded in 1972 in Hialeah, Florida as a division of American Business Card, a large trade themographer located in New York City which began operating in 1924. During that time he’s headed the company’s expansion into an international supplier of fine envelopes and papers serving customers around the world. In his current role, the Duke University grad has integrated traditional customer service values with state-of-the-art fulfillment and e-commerce technologies. His experience also includes consultancy work for Port Jackson Partners in Sydney, Australia. Here, he delves into a key component of marketing that’s too often overlooked – distribution.

Every product is the same – without good distribution it’s sunk! For more than 50 years, Announcement Converters has been partnering with others as both a supplier to distributors, as well as a distributor for others. During this time, we’ve organically developed some ‘road rules’ for successful distribution. I recently found myself trying to explain these distribution practices to my team, because Announcement Converters is now sharing that we’re the national distributor for GMUND Leather and Wood Veneer paper lines. Several minutes of stammering later, I realized that I had to go back to my desk and turn this institutional knowledge into plain talk. The result was five tips for successful distributor partnerships:

  1. Tell them why to care. Just because you believe in a new product doesn’t mean potential distributors will care. They have customers to look after, multiple vendors to juggle, and targets to hit. Show them how your product will stand out and why their customers will demand it. Even better, share testimonials and prove it. If you can show that your product opens doors and creates conversations, distributors will follow.
  2. Make it easy. Make samples and swatches easily available to distributors. Support your product with digital content, slide decks and eye-popping examples. Make pricing and technical specs easily accessible. Beyond the collaterals, make sure every distributor is matched with a personal rep who knows the distributors’ market and its specific needs.
  3. Do your homework. Distribution partnerships are two-way streets. Make sure your partners can help build your brand, not tarnish it. Find out what geographic areas potential distributors cover and how long they’ve been in business. Ask how many salespeople they have and what other product lines they represent.
  4. Deliver. If you enter a distribution partnership, both sides must commit. At Announcement Converters our products are on the floor ready to same-day ship. If someone does the hard work to promote your product, you have to support that effort with easy and rapid fulfillment.
  5. Listen and Learn. No product line experiences equal demand, one colour, one size, or a single element that’ll be more popular than others. When we release new lines, we follow up with distributors and customers immediately to get their opinions. With this data, we quickly adjust our marketing and inventory strategy to focus on hot-ticket items that move quickly, open doors for our distributors, and make all those involved successful.

Working with distributors or acting as one, can be unfamiliar territory for entrepreneurs used to calling all the shots. But ultimately, when done right, these partnerships can benefit everyone.

To learn more about Announcement Converters and see its inventory of specialty paper and envelopes, please visit https://www.announcementconverters.com/.

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.