Manufacturers – “Jumping” the Channel

Dan Ribolzi, Vice President, Sales, Manufacturing Vertical

Manufacturers of every kind – automotive, pharmaceutical, appliances – face a similar challenge. They rely on a retailer or other channel partner to deliver their product to the end consumer. Although this is an important partnership, it leaves manufacturers lacking customer insights. Many struggle to know who their customers are and what they think of the product.
There is a way to create dialogue directly with customers, and many manufacturers already hold the key in their hand. Engagement programs such as rebates, channel incentives, sweepstakes and contests are used by manufacturers to “jump” the channel and connect with the end consumer. Yet the true opportunity is acting on that information, applying that customer data and creating a dialogue with that end customer to capture insights and be more relevant to them.
Here are three ways manufacturers can shift their relationship with their end customers:

Think longer term. Look at your entire customer lifecycle, from awareness and consideration to purchase and re-purchase. It can be a challenge to look beyond the transaction, particularly for a bigger durable good such as an appliance or an automobile. Mapping out the entire customer lifecycle often helps a client see opportunities for engagement points beyond the transaction. Customers need support after purchase, and are also great resources for reviews and ratings as well as referrals moving forward.

 Identify your best customers. Stop looking at your “average” customer. Astronaut James D. Wetherbee is a veteran of six Space Shuttle missions. Between you, me and Captain Wetherbee, we averaged two space flights each. Not helpful. I always encourage clients to do even the most rudimentary segmentation, trying to understand those best customers and what they have in common. At the other end, look at customers that are using loopholes – and even fraudulent behavior – to capture incentives. Segmenting your customer base can help improve decision-making and help clients focus scarce resources on the right customers.

Create an agile customer engagement plan. One key advantage of engagement marketing levers is the ability to pivot and alter the plan. We do try to start with an annual customer engagement plan, mapping out points of incentive and interaction throughout the year. As the plan progresses, program results and customer feedback create opportunities to shift and improve upon the plan while it is in motion. Creating test scenarios allow clients to learn on the fly and nimbly react, maximizing business impact.
Overall, manufacturers should be optimistic regarding how quickly they can begin a dialogue with their end customers, creating engagement programs without a lot of capital investment. Taking the right approach can create focus on their best customers, building a more sustainable incentive strategy that drives business impact beyond a single transaction. While working within the channel should not be abandoned, opportunities to “jump” the channel can bring valuable customer insights while also driving strong business results.

If you’re a manufacturer looking for ways to turn even first-time customers into loyal brand advocates who take action, buy more and spread the word, please contact me at dan.ribolzi@yaengage.com to begin the conversation.

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