Regular news and observations from the cutting edge of the industry.

How hard can pro audio distribution be? Episode 1.

  • 15th December 2016

Having set up my own consultancy business over the summer, it’s given me the chance to look back on my previous industry experience and reflect on what really sets a good pro audio distributor apart from the rest of the pack. There are too many facets to this to squeeze them all into one blog piece, so I’m going to break it down into three separate pieces that tackle what I think are the key relationships that dictate how well a distributor is going to do their job.

In this first blog, I’ll be starting with the all-important relationship between distributor and manufacturer – so let’s dive in……

As a distributor, the one thing never to lose sight of is that while you may have many revenue streams coming from multiple brands, your manufacturer partners will have just one way to pay the bills –  via sales of their own brand’s products. So, by choosing to work with you in your territory, they’ll be entrusting the stewardship of their brand to you, and relying on you to maximise the brand’s potential. That’s a big responsibility.

It’s also a challenge when you’re handling multiple brands to give each manufacturer the impression that you’re 100% eating, sleeping and breathing their products – when in reality you are having to juggle your efforts to keep every individual brand ‘plate’ spinning.

To me, the key to this is communication and respect.

Communication is vitally important – if a manufacturer is putting in calls and sending emails to a distributor and not getting an adequate or timely response – then alarm bells can soon start ringing. So, if as a distributor you’re asked for sales figures, inventory levels, marketing reports or just to have a catch-up phone call, then don’t be tempted to dodge the bullet just because you’re busy. Better still, be proactive and keep the manufacturer constantly vibed up on what you’re doing for their brand – whether it’s prestigious sales, product reviews, dealer marketing activities, or anything else that will keep them focussed on what a great job you’re doing.

Remember also that the distributor is the best way for a manufacturer to better understand and get closer to the local market – yet some distributors will try and keep the brand at arm’s length and be reluctant to share information on the basis that “it’s OK, we know what we’re doing.” To me this is  fundamentally wrong – if you’re doing a good job as a distributor, you should have nothing to hide and you should do everything you can to help that manufacturer get closer to your market – after all, the more they understand it, the better they can serve it. If you’re worried that by allowing the brand to have any sort of dialogue your customers then they’ll seek to sell direct into your market, then you probably shouldn’t be working with that brand in the first place. By the same token I think it’s proper that manufacturers keep the distributor abreast of conversations or discussions they’re having with local customers – openness works both ways!

Respect is key too. If a manufacturer comes over to visit you, don’t book them into a cheap hotel on the outer ring road and ask them to fend for themselves for the night as you’ve got to go and visit your Auntie Doris – make them feel welcome, be attentive and enthusiastic, and send them away feeling better about the job you’re doing than when they arrived.

And lastly…..while challenges will undoubtedly affect every brand, distributors should be careful to always tackle issues with manufacturers in a constructive, positive way – a torrent of 24/7 whingeing can wear down even the most patient brand.

In my next blog I’ll be looking at the relationship between a distributor and their dealer network, so stay tuned.

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