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Manufacturers that sell exclusively to B2B customers face a unique set of marketing and digital content challenges. Formatting digital product content for an in-house B2C ecommerce platform is one thing, trying to manage that same content across dozens of individual retailers, distributors, or wholesalers is much more complicated.
Not only do B2B suppliers need to ensure digital product content is complete and accurate, but it needs to be formatted specifically to meet the various requirements and parameters set by each individual retailer. Managing those ever-changing requirements can be all but impossible without help.
Another major challenge for B2B manufacturers is the diversity of the audiences the digital marketing materials and product content needs speak to and support. A manufacturer selling products direct might focus a majority of its effort generating consumer-facing content. Manufacturers selling to retailers have three core audiences to consider.
In the case of B2B suppliers, sales reps are the main point of contact with the retailer, and need to have a comprehensive understanding of the products the supplier produces and the role those products could play in a retailer’s assortment.
Retail buyers generally start with a series of basic questions when evaluating new products, so it’s critical that a manufacturer defines the value proposition its products deliver, and explain that value proposition clearly to the sales team.
Here are some examples of the basic questions retail buyers will be asking:
Having answers to these questions is even more important for organizations that rely on independent rep groups. Because they often rep multiple product lines and multiple manufacturers, an independent sales agent might not be as familiar with the product as an employee of the company would be. Having a library of impactful and easy-to-use digital marketing materials helps them stay informed and makes their job easier.
Digital sales materials should always include things like product catalogs, sell sheets, and price sheets, but a deeper selection of materials will help them make a more impactful pitch. Explainer videos and tech sheets help the sales team better understand key benefits of product functionality. Renderings of product packaging, proposed signage, or in-store plan-o-grams give them tools to help retail buyers visualize how the product will look in-store and on the shelf.
Once a B2B manufacturer has developed quality materials for its sales team, it already has a head start on explaining the value proposition of its products, so for now let’s focus on establishing industry expertise and showcasing ways a supplier’s marketing efforts can help drive ecommerce and in-store retail sales.
Your materials for retailers must:
Establishing an organization as an industry leader starts with data-driven research materials that speak to topics like market size, industry trends, target customer profiles, and consumer buying patterns. This can be done with white papers, infographics, and other forms of competitive analysis. The goal is to show that the organization doesn’t just make quality products, but that the product marketing team designs products based on considerations of the the current and projected retail landscape, the target consumer, and whether that product meets an unmet need in the marketplace.
Of course, in the world of retail it’s not enough to simply make the initial sale. There’s also the issue of driving sell-through and generating reorders. Getting a product in-store or up on a retail ecommerce site is just the first step, and often won’t happen unless the manufacturer is able to show the buyer how it will help drive consumer awareness, customer demand, and ultimately, a sale.
This means having a well-defined plan for supporting the product launch. This could include examples of digital advertising, social media and email marketing campaigns, influencer programs, SEO and SEM strategy, and product promotions. Basically, anything designed to reach consumers.
Consumers are an audience often overlooked by B2B suppliers, so delivering high-quality, effective, and customized digital product content can really help separate an manufacturing organization from the competition.
These days retailers expect manufacturers to serve as an extension of their own marketing teams. They want dynamic digital product content unique to them. Whether it’s marketing copy, product photography, or video content, retailers don’t want boilerplate content that’s used for multiple customers. If a supplier is trying to sell the same product to Walmart and Target, it has a much better chance for success if it’s able to syndicate digital content to their ecommerce site that’s unique to each retailer.
Salsify helps organizations format product specs and digital assets to meet individual retailer requirements and guidelines, but it also lets users easily create and manage properties they decide should be unique to that retailer. Using the Walmart and Target example, the content team can easily create separate properties for “Walmart copy bullets” and “Target copy bullets.” From there those properties can be easily mapped in the retailer channel, helping to deliver product content tailored with the retailer’s particular target customer in mind.
The bottom line is this: ecommerce is getting more sophisticated every day. Retailers of all types are gravitating toward manufacturers and suppliers that can deliver high-quality and enhanced digital content to support ecommerce sales growth. B2B suppliers that can’t keep up will be left behind.
Chris Vanasdalan has more than 20 years of experience in professional communications and marketing. Most recently, he was marketing manager at Deflecto LLC where we ran channel marketing for 5 product categories and used Salsify daily.
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