One of the easiest and most efficient ways to get your product to market is through a distributor. Manufacturers can't afford to transport their goods cross country, and retailers can't afford to go and get them. Distributors bridge that gap and make life a whole lot easier on both ends. True, distributors add to the cost of products, but with what they bring to the table, they're worth it.
On top of transporting goods, distributors store products in warehouses throughout the country, saving manufacturers a large chunk of change in facility costs. Distributors also handle paperwork, invoicing and collection. They are more than just liaisons; they're what manufacturers and retailers focus their attention on. Rather than complicating things by working with two different parties and allowing things to get lost in translation, manufacturers work with distributors to make sure that their products are going to the right places, and retailers work with distributors to make sure that they are getting the right products. Direct contact between manufacturers and retailers is minimal at best.
When you first start looking for a distributor to handle your products, find out what your competitors or other successful businesses in your industry are doing. You can also consult directories compiled by distributor associations or attend meetings and trade shows relating to your industry. This should give you a good idea of who?s out there and what they can do for you.
Once you have a nice long list of possibilities, start narrowing it down. Look at financial stability, sales and marketing capabilities, knowledge of the market and growth potential. What is the distributor?s inventory handling capability? Overall, how well does the distributor fit with your goals, philosophies and business practices.
There?s more to choosing a distributor than simply having your pick of the litter. The distributor also has to want to carry your line, which is tough for companies entering into a market that already has a ton of products just like yours. So unless you have a product that is genuinely unique, you're going to need to market yourself to distributors by doing something to stand out. You can offer more money or some nice perks. You can demonstrate that your product has strong consumer appeal or that you have a track record of successful new products. Pitch whatever you need to to show distributors that your product will be profitable for them.
Keep chipping away at potential distributors until you've found the one that fits, and then go with it.
Now that you're working together, there are several things that you should expect. Your distributor should maintain a well-qualified sales team that demonstrates skills as well as adequate knowledge of your products and customers. Your distributor should be willing to commit sufficient resources to the sales and marketing of your products. You should expect prompt payment of all financial obligations along with clear lines of communication regarding any changes or issues that might occur. Basically you should expect your distributor to provide a level of service that encourages long-term loyalty. Your distributor is the face of your company, or at least to your customers it is. A distributor that is not portraying the best image of your product or company is only detracting from the future of your success. So if your distributor isn't meeting your expectations, then go back to the drawing board and find one that does.