Partners, Opportunists & Competitors: Why It’s
Time to Start Caring About Supplier Websites
There currently exists a tough reality in today’s distribution sales funnel that many distributors are ignoring: today’s end user customer base is increasingly searching for – and finding
– distributor products first and foremost on supplier websites.
While this trend can be turned into a positive for many distributors, it does require these distributors to both fully understand the
trend and be proactive in their response. Prior to diving into exactly
what a proactive response could look like, it is important to first
understand the full scope of the trend.
The great migration of customers to
supplier websites has been ongoing
for years, and is, by and large, rooted
in the now ubiquitous adoption of
online search engines by customers
(i.e. – Google). These search engines
have largely determined supplier
websites to be the “most relevant” website for a given user’s
product search, and have incrementally continued to send more
traffic to supplier websites year in and year out.
Lovejoy, Inc. is a strong distribution-centric supplier and active
champion of the distribution sales channel. Lovejoy can be broadly
categorized as a single digit growth organization that participates
in the mature mechanical power transmission marketspace. As such,
the consistent double-digit organic growth seen in organic search
engine website visits per month over the past several years far
exceeds actual corporate growth, and cannot be easily explained
away by any particular action of the supplier.
Distribution’s Silver Lining
Having accepted the reality that supplier websites will play an
increasingly important role moving forward, it is equally important
for distributors to know that this trend can be spun into a positive,
particularly for those distributors with strong pre-existing supplier
Distributors can and should be actively working with those strong
supplier partners to ensure they have solid representation on the
supplier partner websites, and that they are afforded a solid oppor-
tunity to service the sales leads generated from their supplier part-
ner websites. Coming from a trusted long-term distribution partner,
this should not be viewed by a supplier as an over-the-top request.
Under such a scenario, the historic trust and value between a
distributor and supplier is reinforced, and customers see increased
value. By having a smooth sales hand-off on a supplier’s website,
not only are end users getting great supplier product content, but
they are also seamlessly being put in touch with someone who can
knowledgeably serve them in their local market.
Distribution’s Achilles’ Heel
Unfortunately, many distributors have
been indifferent, ignorant, or just un-
comfortable with discussing supplier
website strategies with their supplier
partners. Given limited distributor
feedback, a number of suppliers,
some historically with very close ties
to distribution, have now developed
websites that are not openly distribution friendly, and do not fun-
nel sales leads back to their historic distribution partners.
This is both a short and long-term threat to the distribution
sales channel model if left unaddressed. Fortunately, assuming a
meaningful number of distributors start working with their supplier
partners, much can be done to nullify the risk.
Broadly speaking, supplier website strategies fall into one of
three categories: Transparent Partners (channel protectors), Opportunists (channel neutral), and Competitors (channel detractors).
Success lies in maximizing distributor relationships with Transparent
Partner suppliers, encouraging Opportunist suppliers to behave
like Transparent Partner suppliers, and steering clear of Competitor
suppliers whenever possible.
Who Are Transparent Partners?
Starting with the good, a handful of suppliers have already developed and are promoting a distribution-centric website sales funnel
approach. Transparent Partner websites are designed primarily to
be a resource center and sales funnel for distributor partners, and
actively reinforce pre-existing value-added distributor relationships.
Transparent Partner sites purposefully drive business to their distributors across their entire website, generally by making use of an