Manufacturers: Your Long-Term Success Begins With a Loyal Dealer Base

While walking through the aisles of the recent ASIS New Orleans, I pondered why some manufacturers’ booths were beehives of activity while others were like ghost towns; an attendee would roll through those booths like a tumbleweed! Why do certain manufacturers and service providers get a consistently good volume of traffic?

I have a theory based on my 22 years spent working for manufacturers, and it revolves around the 80/20 rule. I believe that 20 percent of manufacturers sell 80 percent of all the security equipment, while others scramble for whatever market share they can get – primarily by cutting price.

So then the question is, why do some manufacturers have the lion’s share of the security business, yet may not necessarily have the most innovative products or services? I think the answer is right under our noses.

Manufacturers that have the most loyal following of installing dealer/integrators and wholesale distributors get the business, pure and simple. However, some manufacturers have the misguided notion that they can bypass the installing dealer and count on the end user to specify their products and demand a certain brand. Not very likely!

When an architect/engineer specifies a certain brand, there is usually a statement in the specifications that says, “or equivalent brand that meets or exceeds specifications.” If a manufacturer doesn’t have a loyal, nationwide installing dealer base, rest assured its products will not be installed! People buy from people, especially in our business; trust is the key element.
Allow me to illustrate. A facility manager (let’s call him Tom) of a large office building knows he needs to replace the air conditioning system. Tom is familiar with brands like Rheem, Lennox, Trane, Carrier, etc. However, Tom may be leaning toward Carrier because he saw it continually advertised in a facility manager trade journal and likes what he reads about the product line.

Tom seeks out a HVAC contractor to do the job. Everywhere he turns a certain HVAC installing company is consistently being recommended by everyone he trusts. So, Tom decides to bring in this company to give him a proposal. It turns out Tom is very satisfied by what he hears from the HVAC company.

This company has an excellent reputation, offers a great warranty, is cognizant of his concerns about hot/cold air distribution and will do the job at a fair price. However, the HVAC firm is a Trane dealer! Do you really believe Tom is going to demand that they install Carrrier? Not very likely, especially if the local Carrier dealer is not highly recommended or possibly doesn’t even exist in his town.

People who buy for their companies will not endanger their reputations by recommending or choosing a product or service that is not highly regarded, well accepted or well known. Very few people in responsible positions will have anything to do with purchasing an unknown product for fear that, if it fails, their judgment will be in doubt.

You may have the best product or service in existence, but unless it is deemed a “safe buy,” you will have difficulty selling it. Whether it’s a manufacturer selling its products to installing dealer/integrators or an installer selling to an end user, this principle holds true. Trust and being a safe buy are all that counts. Perception is reality, which is something marketing people need to realize.

That’s why it’s imperative manufacturers cultivate and support their installing dealers, who, in turn, must maintain a high standard of excellence and remain loyal. Those are the companies that will be the most successful over the long haul.

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