warehouseMany businesses, particularly those in the wholesale and manufacturing sectors, face an uphill struggle when it comes to email marketing and list building. This is particularly true for companies that sell only to trade customers and therefore have little or no understanding of who their end customer actually is.

When you have no relationship with the person using your product, your options to re-market to that person and build customer lifetime value (CLV) are limited. This means you have to rely on third parties and middlemen (who often also sell competitive products) to actively market and sell your products.

There are a number of options for a business in this position.

Go Direct

Many wholesale companies and manufacturers are now harnessing the power of the web and selling direct to the public (B2C). This is not without its issues. Some companies are wary of upsetting their trade clients. This can be alleviated by trading under a different name and not discounting. Other problems might include the logistics of selling direct with some companies that are not set up to handle small orders, and associated customer service issues.

For companies wanting to test the waters and start selling direct, online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon provide an excellent, low-risk staring point. Once you have found your feet and are able to ensure a smooth customer experience, email solutions like BigCommerce, Volusion or Magento (all of which can easily be integrated with iContact Email Marketing), provide the next steps into the world of eCommerce.

Work with Your Existing Suppliers

Instead of attempting to compete with your suppliers, why not help them sell direct to their customers by providing them with the marketing collateral to help them actively market your products or services? This could include ready-built, customizable email marketing campaigns, newspaper advertisements, blog posts and in-store point-of-sale promotional material.

Some companies may even want to sweeten the pill by providing great assistance in the form of training, technical support and even marketing budget.

Note: iContact provides all the support your partners need to start using email marketing to promote your products. Point them in our direction and we’ll help them build their first lists and create and send their first campaigns.

Find the Middle Ground

This is where you will look after your own marketing and then direct any leads to your suppliers to close the deal. Companies wanting to take this approach should consider the following options:

  • Maintain Supplier Lists: Segment your suppliers and make sure they are targeted with specific “trade only” offers. Don’t worry if these lists are small.
  • Build Brand Awareness: Build brand awareness by exploiting your company blog, building relationships with journalists (PR) and maintaining an active social media strategy.
  • Drive Email Marketing Subscriptions: Make it as easy as possible for visitors to your website to register their details with you. Detailed product information, such as an online catalog or ebook, is a great way of doing this. Remember to capture geographic information by using ZIP (postal) codes so you can pass on leads to retail partners quickly and efficiently.
  • Follow Up: Keep in touch with your retail partners to ensure they are managing your leads effectively. If leads are not being followed up in a timely manner, it might be time to start looking for new partners.

How are you using email marketing to promote your wholesale or manufacturing business? Share your comments below.

This post first appeared on the iContact Email Marketing Blog.