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Back the front line to improve the bottom line

This month I want all  the manufacturers and distributors out there to stop for a minute and remember who it is that really makes our profits for our companies.

It is not our boards of directors, or our marketing departments, or even our sales staff. The people who really make our profits are those at the retail end of the market; those who sell our products to the end users: contractors.

As a manufacturer, we often talk to the larger end users that are planning major projects, but the vast bulk of our business comes through contractors of all shapes and sizes. It is their decision to use us and their ability to sell our equipment to their customers, and potential customers, which pays our salaries.

These are the people that invest time and money in making and maintaining contacts with local doctors, shopkeepers, builders, facilities management companies, and so on; and these are the ones on whom the end users’ ultimate satisfaction with our products depends.

In other words, they are our front line, and it is up to us to ensure they are supported.

In practical terms, this means giving them the right products at the right price, the right information, and the right level of service, as well as assistance with tendering, design and marketing materials, and ensuring they are rewarded adequately for their efforts on our behalf.

Of course, all manufacturers like to think we cover most of these points already.  However, the ‘rewarded adequately’ issue is more of a problem as margins for everyone are already squeezed low in the current climate.

Obviously, we manufacturers will do what we can to keep margins for contractors as high as possible, but it also relies on the contractors themselves being able to hold their own price levels with their customers, by adding value to the sale in other ways.

Budgets are stretched and delivering value for money has never been more challenging, and yet customers are more likely than ever to shop around.  Hanging on to your market share right now is all about ensuring loyalty. That’s why we have invested a lot of our marketing resources into our loyalty scheme, The Comfort Club.

We don’t want this to be a transient promotion that will run its course in a matter of months, once a handful of people have collected enough points to get a colour telly.

It has been designed as an on-going mechanism to reward our contractor customers with a variety of benefits that deliver added value in terms of financial rewards, customer service and the member experience – and yes, Comfort Club points can be traded in for various consumer products and gifts, as well as business tools and marketing support.

With various incentive schemes available from other manufacturers, the results should hopefully mean added value for the contractors and improved service levels for the customers – and that can only be good for the industry as a whole.

Julian Brunnock is sales and marketing director of FG Eurofred, the face of Fujitsu in the UK. Email Julian at julian.brunnock@fgeurofred.co.uk

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