Distributors provide your small business with an important channel to market, enabling you to reach customers in regions that you cannot cover with your own field sales teams. Distributors typically sell products on behalf of many companies, some of them competitors of your business. Develop a marketing strategy that motivates distributors and encourages them to give priority to your products by helping them build their own business.


To develop your marketing strategy for distributors, analyze the sales that come from the channel to identify success factors. Review results from your most important distributors, comparing their performance with the level of marketing support you provide. Review other characteristics of your distributor network, such as location, proximity to customers, size of business, commercial relationships with your competitors and experience in the market sectors you target.


Use your analysis to set objectives and priorities for your distributor marketing strategy. If market coverage is poor, consider a marketing campaign to attract new distributors. Where you have identified weaknesses in product or market knowledge among distributor staff, incorporate training in your marketing program. If your sales through a distributor are low compared to those of your competitors, prioritize marketing support and incentive programs to increase share.


Achievable sales targets are an essential element of your distributors’ marketing strategy. If your distributor network includes businesses with different levels of turnover, set up a tiered structure that provides rewards throughout the network. Provide rebates, marketing materials or other incentives to distributors that exceed their sales targets. Allow high-performing distributors to move through the tiers to access higher rewards in line with their achievements.


Distributors provide an important link between your business and your customers. It is essential that your distributors provide customers with the right level of service and support. Your strategy should include programs to improve product knowledge and customer service. Provide distributor sales staff with product guides and access to online training resources. Include standards for product knowledge and customer support resources in the qualifications for moving into higher levels of your tiered structure.


Include elements to build strong relationships with the distributor channel. Appointing a marketing manager with responsibility for developing distributor business demonstrates your commitment to the channel. A program of regular communications through newsletters, product announcements and face-to-face meetings to brief distributors on product or market developments helps build understanding and commitment to your business.