When your business is in the early growth stage you may be focused on selling well known brands that belong to multi-national corporations. How do you leverage their brand strength and grow your sales, while establishing your own brand?

I have worked with many smaller companies selling on a B2B basis, which focus on building the brands of their suppliers while ignoring the opportunity to grow their own brand identity. One of the dangers in this particular strategy is that you may have to constantly compete for your customers’ business. If the branded products you are supplying are widely available from other suppliers, you may find that price becomes the only differentiator and that simply drives margins downward. It also means that your customers may have little loyalty to you and shop their business every time they need to buy.

If you are a value added reseller of well known branded products, you need to meet typical market prices if you want to stay in the game. However, you also need to establish a distinctive competence or a unique selling proposition that differentiates your business from the competition. If you are just like everyone else, your business will never soar. The challenge here involves building your own brand. So how do you do it?

One way to start building your brand is to stop handing out product brochures developed by your suppliers and to create your own. Provided that your suppliers are prepared to allow you to use their marks and brands in your own promotional literature, you can then create brochures that clearly identify you as the branded supplier of a range of well known quality brands. Your logo and contact details are in big print and the multi-national suppliers’ brands are in smaller print. So, if you are the supplier of many well known brands, then your customers will know that they may come to you for a wide range of purchases, not just a single line. This creates a value added component to your relationship with your customer.

If your marketing budget is limited, then you can produce your brochures in-house using inexpensive tools like Microsoft Visio or one of the desktop publishing packages. If you are smart, you will lay out each brochure in exactly the same way with your brand, contact details, photographs, product descriptions, product codes, product features and product benefits all in the same place for each individual product.

This has two separate benefits. Firstly, your customers get used to seeing your product information in this particular format and no longer have to go searching for specific details because they are unsure where these details might be. Secondly, if you have a mobile sales force, then it becomes a training aid for them. Because they are put together in a structured way, the average sales person can learn about new products quickly and sell them confidently to customers. The net effect of this is that order sizes tend to be bigger and overall value of each sale increases.

You need to take time to plan your sales and marketing campaigns. This is part of the business planning process. Try not to do this in isolation but rather involve your sales and marketing team in the process. Take the collective inputs from everybody before deciding on the strategy and tactics you are going to pursue. If you don’t have a business plan, you ought to seriously consider writing one. We can help you by providing you with an effective planning tool at
Niall Strickland is an MBA with more than 20 years of business and management consulting experience working with entrepreneurs in small and medium companies. He offers lots of business tips and tools at http://www.kkmembers.com

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