Last week was an interesting week.  The senior leadership of Endai spent 4 days with the leadership of an innovative U.S. based manufacturer.  The conversation revolved around a common theme: End User Relationships.

For more than half a century manufacturers have depended on strong relationships with distributors in order to grow their businesses.  For many manufacturers, this has been a successful business model.  There are a number of weaknesses in this model.  One in particular is the fact that the manufacturer is disconnected from the end user- the company that uses their product every day.  While some manufacturers have some contact with end users.  This relationship, for the most part is occasional and often dictated by the distributor.

While some initial solutions may seem “obvious”, there are a significant number of complexities involved in creating new relationships with the end user, maintain strong relationships with distributors and continue to adapt to the changing market place.

Here are a few initial thoughts on creating an environment for a better relationship with the end user AND adding value to existing distributor relationships.

End Customer Data
It’s hard to build a relationship with the end user if you do not have any data on that customer.  Your investment in understanding who the end customer is, what their needs are and how your products fit into their plans is critical to your ability to establish and grow a relationship with the end user.  In other words, you need to have contact information and purchase history data on the end user in order to get the process started.

Today, more than ever, Search is being used by B2B customers to start their research of a product or service.  When your end user is searching for your products, are they finding you? Search is a great place to “start the conversation”.  Providing the end user with relevant, helpful information is a great way to start your relationship with the users of your products.

Once you start the relationship, you must nurture it.  Email provides you with a scalable means of communicating with the end user.  Targeted, relevant, expected email messaging can establish you as the subject matter expert and your product as the obvious choice.

The result of having a real relationship with the end user is significant and game changing.  Rather than depending on the distributor to do a good job of representing your products, you do that in advance of the end user discussing their needs with a distributor and ensure that you are in the consideration set with a greater consistency.

The object of the game is not to eliminate the distributor- that is too risky and it’s unnecessary.  The object is to play a major role in positioning your company and product with the end user.