An effective distribution channel is of prime importance to many manufacturers where it is part of the product placement strategy. Therefore, manufacturers using a distribution channel need to take particular care to support that channel across many functions.
Different customer segments will need different levels of service and support so it is important to first choose your distribution partners carefully, and secondly work closely with them to support their own marketing and sales.
One area that has been very successful for Accuride is an online customer portal via the company's website.
This portal gives 24/7 access to the latest product information, such as catalogue drawings, photos and CAD drawings, training manuals, order and delivery information, pricing and stock levels. The fact that the web is always open is significant for companies who operate globally and where staff may need information outside of office hours.
Authorised distribution partners can access the Customer Site using passwords and usernames issued by their Accuride sales manager.
One of the more recent upgrades to the Customer Site was the linking to the back office Fourth Shift ERP system.
Fourth Shift integrates our finance and accounting, manufacturing, supply chain management, and customer services so that the information flows between all areas of the organisation. Once an Accuride partner has access to the portal they can link direct into parts of the system and view their past and current orders and delivery times, search their price book, and check live stock data.
Accuride prides itself on being able to hold large off-the-shelf stocks of products ready to ship. We know, from talking to our distribution partners, that being able to check our stocks has been a popular service; it gives them confidence that we can deliver product when it is needed.
Keeping open lines of communication between our sales managers, customer services and marketing department with our distribution partners has been the means to make this sales network so successful in growing both reach and revenue.