Actionable Tips for Bridging the Communication Gap With Dealers
Your dealers are on the front lines.
They’re the ones closing the sales with potential customers.
In many cases, it’s the dealers who dictate which brands and products customers hear about — the good, the bad and the ugly. They offer intelligence about products or services. And they have the power to shift buyer preferences from one brand to another.
So what happens if your brand isn’t in the forefront of your dealer minds? Or, worse yet, what if a dealer and brand haven’t built a positive relationship?
If this is the case for your brand, ineffective communication is likely the cause.
Communication gaps can and do develop. Even if you’re working hard to prevent them. If most brands are honest with themselves, they can recognize the fact that better communication is possible.
There are lots of missteps that can create or worsen a communication gap. Here are few common ones we’ve found, along with actionable solutions to fix them.
Common communication issues
1. Too little communication
If you want your dealers to be your brand heroes, they must know what’s happening with your brand. If the only time your dealers hear from you is when you have something else you want them to sell or a promo to push, then you’re missing opportunities to both strengthen the manufacturer-dealer relationship and build brand loyalty.
You must touch your dealers regularly, especially before you start incentivizing them. Reaching out via social media, email, a periodic newsletter, and in person, for example, are highly effective ways to ensure your dealers are kept in the loop and your brand top of mind.
Let them know things in advance, especially marketing programs. You don’t want to send a time-sensitive promotional kit that never gets opened — because your dealer didn’t know you’d launched a program.
This regular stream of communication not only gives them the heads-up they need, it also makes them feel like a vital part of the team.
You’ve got a lot going on. It’s all-too-easy to forget to communicate. Avoid this by developing a clear communication plan. Plan out some tentative dates to connect with dealers in order to avoid long gaps between outreach attempts.
And this is a must: establish a scheduled newsletter. Whether your newsletter is sent via email, provided in print, or even takes the form of a video, your regularly scheduled outreach will make a difference.
To get dealers as excited as you need them to be about upcoming promotions, let dealers get an inside look before they’re finalized. When you send material out, accompany it with a heads-up to your dealer, whether via text or email.
Bottom line: Communicate directly, clearly and often. And never surprise a dealer.
2. One-way communication
When was the last time you had a conversation with the dealers in your network? The last time you sent an email that elicited a response? The last time a brand executive or director stopped in for a visit?
Real communication is multidirectional. It’s more than just sending an email or delegating all “communication responsibility” to your brand’s sales reps. When messages travel in one direction, dealers don’t feel valued. When they don’t feel valued, they won’t buy in.
You want your dealers to be your brand advocates. Quite simply, they will like your brand — and you — more if you listen to them. Everyone likes to be heard — even in the world of business. Having a voice makes dealers feel like an indispensable part of your business. And, honestly, they are.
Your dealers have valuable input that can help refine your future communications and marketing promotions, as well as direct your product evolution. Your dealers know what customers like and dislike about your product. They know what features get someone to make a purchase decision.
The primary messages here are to engage in conversation and invite feedback.
Develop a relationship with your dealer that allows for two-way conversation. The initiation of this two-way conversation can be simple. Try an email with call to action that drives feedback, a phone call or face-to-face visit from a brand executive. Your efforts don’t have to be extensive to be meaningful. One way to get started is by sending a short and simple survey via email — two questions will do — to get quick feedback on future or existing marketing programs.
Want to take on a more high-tech approach? Consider hosting live chats, webinars or virtual town hall meetings. Leverage these platforms so your dealers have an outlet for questions and concerns — and maybe even a chance to learn from one another.
If you want to take the conversation to another level, consider a custom communication portal or app such as Slack — a team communication platform that offers a variety of communication channels as well as file sharing. Each dealer could have his or her own Slack channel to address issues and field questions.
3. Too much communication
Yes, there is such a thing. And it’s just as bad as having too little communication.
If you’re sending dealers five emails a day, your dealers will tune you out. When they receive information 10 – 15 times a week, your messaging rapidly becomes white noise.
If you’re bombarding your dealers with information, stop. Only communicate information that’s important, and filter out the rest.
Also, pay attention to the length of your communications. No one wants to slog through a 1,000-word message communicating something that could have been summed up in a paragraph.
If you want to provide daily updates, leave it for social media. That way your dealer has the freedom to decide when to engage.
Finding the right communication balance with your dealers is never easy. Your dealers should be your brand’s heroes. But in order for that to happen, they need the right amount of support. And sometimes you just need a little extra help to get there.
Do you need help creating a communication structure that works for both you and your dealers? That’s where we come in. Contact using the box to the right.