Yesterday, I posted Mark Mitchell’s useful infographic describing the manufacturer-to-consumer marketing channels for building products and services. He has responded with his equally-useful industrial/commercial/institutional (ICI) perspective.
Not surprisingly, it presents a more indirect and challenging perspective, with plenty of opportunity for vagueness. After all, it is a true challenge in general to convince architects and designers to specify your product or technology. Generally, specification writers try to avoid one-product-only specifications, unless they receive explicit instructions from the owner. The situation is more complex with competitive materials/building processes, and this explains the intense efforts of industry trade groups representing diverse building products to present their cases (both to specifiers and regulators, for example to have the building code amended to require specific systems allow different materials such as wood-construction skyscrapers.)
Mitchell also points out in this email to me the importance of considering the marketing channel from all perspectives.
I tell my building product manufacturer clients that they need to sell through their channel customers and not just to them. You are correct that many sales people are under pressure to just deliver a sale. Like you state, I find the ones who take time to step back and take a wider view are the ones who are more successful over the longer term.
When I speak or write articles for builders, contractors and other channel members, I tell them to ask manufacturers to help them be more successful. With the growth of design build this partnership is becoming even more important.
In a practical sense, you may find upstream suppliers are quite eager and ready to help with your marketing costs, especially if you are a current worthy client and your success will result in more orders for their product/service. Some have formalized marketing co-op programs. In other situations, your suppliers may simply want to help you out. If you are creative, you can really parlay this stuff to higher levels.
Some further examples:
- In Ottawa, Merkley Supply Ltd. co-ordinates a highly successful trade show/event, where suppliers exhibit and help to fund the cost of top-notch food and refreshments; receiving in return the opportunity to present updates about their products/services to hundreds of architects, engineers, contractors and a few local media types, like myself. (The link above takes you to an old show promotional piece — the event happens in March each year — but the gist of the program is apparent here.)
- We produce company and association-related profiles and generate most of our revenue for these initiatives through supplier/channel marketing. The result, when done properly, is a triple win. The profiled business acquires a powerful marketing resource (it can be used as a pdf on websites, and included in marketing materials, as well, of course, as from our own product/service links), the manufacturers/distributors gain additional business through their supplier channels at relatively low cost, and of course, we are able to support a viable publishing business by fostering the channel marketing process. (If you would like more information about this process, you can email me at email@example.com.)
If you look a step beyond your direct client and see others who can influence, encourage or even instruct your ultimate client to do business with you, you have captured the core “target” for your marketing initiatives. You need to be thoughtful about the best way to approach the challenge, especially since in the ICI space, the ultimate decision-maker will often be the owner, who could be a municipal government, large developer or a medium-sized businesses. How do you reach these influential people? The answer, often, is through community service and relevant association participation at the highest level. This approach requires patience, selflessness and plenty of character.