Here’s why it’s crucial to maintain direct contact with your end-users when you set-up a distribution network in Europe.
Over the years, I have found that small businesses get confused and sometimes intimidated by their European distributors, which are trying to dissuade them from having direct contacts with the end-users. It’s a very common practice, as distributors are trying to protect their key clients relationships.
Also, sometimes small businesses don’t realise the ton of value that lies in having a direct contact with their customers (end-users), they almost see having a distributor with a sigh of relief, this way they won’t have to deal with end-users. I would like to show you in this article what are all the benefits of keeping direct contact with your end-users.
It does not mean you won’t work with your distributors anymore, you will, but it means you will just know your market better. Here are the many advantages of having direct contact with your end-users :
1-It enables you to monitor the satisfaction of your end-users with your product. If there is an issue you will know it and you will be able to evaluate the situation with first hand feedback. Sometimes, you would be surprised that some distributors or channel partners don’t know their end-users that well. Therefore, you really need to have that direct relationship.
Likewise, it’s a great way to monitor satisfaction of your end-users with their distributor. Do they get good support and service?
2-Learning: don’t rely on a potential distorted vision of the market, it’s better to learn directly from the persons that are germane to the topic. For example, a distributor may describe you issues that are her own and not necessarily the end-user’s. The best way to learn is to drill down the issues with the people that are experiencing them. They will tell you the why, the how and they may come up with the solutions for you. High-growth businesses, particularly in the technology sectors we work in, need feedback from the market to fine tune product features, shift and adapt strategies and make the right decisions in terms of R&D.
3- Independence: it gives you as a small business some freedom. It gives you the ability to change a distributor that does not perform, because the end-users know you. It gives them the ability to reach out to you if the distribution channel changes and vice-versa you can also inform them of a change in your distribution. To be honest the goal is not to constantly change distributors, it is disruptive and it’s a lot of time and effort. I think if distributors perform well, you need to stay with them! Re-assess and eventually change if performance deteriorates and cannot be solved.
5- Detect training needs: our clients mainly develop technology products, whether they are cloud-solutions, devices, equipment or machinery. Typically, the commonality among all these products is that they all require training. And the level of adoption is often driven by the quality of the training provided to the end-users. That’s why having direct contact with end-users is crucial to ensure that the training has been done. It also allows you to re-assess if users need to be re-trained. This is again a great learning exercise for a small business, to learn during the training. It is also an opportunity to create a strong and long-term relationship with your customers.
For all these reasons, I think it’s vital for small to medium-sized businesses to build their relationship with their end-users, even when they have a distributor in place. It benefits everyone: the end-user, the distributor and the small business.
For more questions about creating and maintaining direct access to European customers, contact us to have a chat! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Christelle Damiens founded Exportia in 2006, shortly after Christelle migrated from France to Australia. She started her career at IBM Paris looking after large corporate customers, but she decided to turn her back to a corporate career to go back to her passion for international business and to focus particularly on small businesses.
“Having taken dozens of Australian businesses to Europe, I personally know the difficulty for a small business to significantly grow their sales in the European market. It is a very diverse market and small businesses often don’t know where to start. Small business owners are often caught up with running their business and with their domestic market to be able to allocate enough time to the European market. Lowering the risk for small businesses and guiding them to maximise the export sales results are what drives us at Exportia.”
She is a speaker and an Amazon best seller author. Her second book “The 4 Steps to generate your first million euros in sales” is due to be released on the 29th September 2020.