Uncover the hidden profitability of your indirect customers

You may not realize it, but marketing to your indirect customer may have a significant impact on the purchasing decisions of your direct customer. Whether you’re a cabinetmaker, millworker, furniture maker, or lumber company, you may have indirect customers who can help increase your sales.

Let’s start by defining direct and indirect customers:

  • Direct customers are those who actually purchase your products.
  • Indirect customers don’t purchase your products, but they can have an outsized influence on those who do.

Once you have identified your indirect customers and figured out how to communicate with them, you can begin to leverage them to grow your business.

How targeting indirect customers grew my business

Here’s an example from my days as a business owner in the wood products industry. In those days, I sold mouldings, doors, and millwork. My direct customers were building contractors – residential, commercial, and institutional. While I did market to contractors, I found that they were not the best target for my efforts. I discovered that marketing to my indirect customers – architects – proved far more profitable. Why? Because when architects specified my products in their blueprints, contractors were more likely to buy from me.

By marketing to my indirect customers, I also gained four unexpected and valuable benefits:

  1. Enhanced credibility
    Having my company and products named in blueprints gave me legitimacy. My company was associated with some very well-known architects, and their trust in my products increased my credibility.
  2. Market expansion
    My products were appearing in projects in many other states. Suddenly I had sales in markets that would have been difficult to capture otherwise.
  3. Greater visibility
    Every blueprint specification increased awareness of my company with contractors to whom I was previously unknown.
  4. Increased sales
    Being specified in blueprints resulted in getting a higher percentage of those jobs. Builders know that top architects don’t want their product choices changed.

Big brands market to indirect customers

Most large national wood products companies like Andersen, TruStile, or Merillat market to both their direct and indirect customers. One smart way they reach their indirect customers is by devoting entire sections of their websites to helping them with their specific needs:

  • Homeowners find help with design, planning, and inspiration.
  • Contractors find detailed product information, installation guides, and care and maintenance instructions.
  • Designers find design tools, product documentation, and customization information.

These companies know that every marketing interaction with indirect customers will strengthen the connection to their company, build product loyalty, and influence the purchasing decisions of their direct customers.

How to find your indirect customers

Identifying your indirect customers may not be easy or obvious. Don’t just look in your core market or industry; consider opportunities in other segments and industries. Brainstorm, be creative, and look for tangential relationships.

A good starting point would be your customer’s customer. If your customer is a builder, a homeowner would be their customer. Homeowners hold a lot of sway with their preferences, and builders will find it hard to go against their wishes.

You might find indirect customers in other trades, even in other industries. An architectural ironworker, for example, could make a strong recommendation for you to a general contractor needing to source a specialized product, like Ipe, for their project.

And think about design professionals like architects, kitchen planners, and interior designers who may be good indirect customers. Their confidence in your company and products carries considerable clout.

Capture profits through your indirect customers

Don’t underestimate your indirect customers’ ability to positively impact your sales. They can play an important role in influencing the purchasing decisions of your direct customers. When it comes to marketing, sometimes your indirect customers are your most profitable targets. When you tap into the power of your indirect customers, you can expand into new markets, gain credibility, increase your sales, and grow your business.


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Think of your website as you would a top salesperson

person-apple-laptop-notebookFrom your potential buyer’s point-of-view, your company’s website is like your salesperson, and it’s very likely the first “salesperson” he or she will encounter. That’s because buyers prefer to do online research first, rather than contact a company directly, to get the information they’re looking for.

In fact, 94% of today’s B2B buyers do online research, according to Acquity Group. Buyers go online to search for, evaluate, and select suppliers – and they do it all anonymously. What this means is that potential buyers are visiting your website, checking out your company, and deciding whether to contact you based on what they find.

With all this behind-the-scenes research going on, you need to ask yourself if your website is effectively selling your company to prospective buyers. Is your website providing the important information that your potential buyers need to properly evaluate your products and services? Is your website helping your company to advance to a buyer’s short list?

Use your website as a salesperson, or risk losing sales

Consider this: Nearly 60% of the buying/decision making process is already complete before prospects ever contact a supplier, according to Google. Because contact with a company’s sales department comes much later in the purchasing process than it used to, you need to be sure that your website works as your virtual sales rep, or you could miss out entirely on new business opportunities.

Unfortunately, many manufacturers don’t invest in their website’s sales potential. They’re not using their websites as a sales tool to provide the useful content that creates value for buyers. Many B2B buyers, in fact, report being frustrated with suppliers’ websites because they often find the information lacking, according to a study by Google and ThomasNet. This lack of useful information is causing many manufacturers to unwittingly lose business they might have otherwise won.

Give your website the right sales tools

pexels-photo-175039 To be successful, a salesperson has to be prepared. For your human sales rep to be effective out in the field, he or she has to have complete knowledge of your products and services. He or she also has to have detailed product information to leave with customers, such as product catalogs, spec sheets, CAD drawings, etc. By being prepared, your sales rep can educate your customers, answer questions, offer solutions, and make a convincing case for using your company. Without having knowledge and information, your salesperson wouldn’t be much benefit to your customers, and his or her value to your company would be diminished.

The same holds true for your website. If your website isn’t equipped with the information that buyers need, it’s not helping you to maximize your sales potential. Properly armed with useful product information and resources, however, your website can become a hard-working and valuable sales contributor.

Much like a human sales rep, your website can:

  • increase revenue
  • reach new markets
  • contribute to your company’s growth
  • promote your company’s products and services
  • educate prospects
  • cultivate new customers
  • keep existing customers engaged
  • generate sales leads
  • stand out from your competition

A good salesperson does more than just sell

handshakeA successful salesperson knows that sales is about more than selling. It’s about building relationships, establishing trust, educating customers, solving problems and inspiring confidence in the products and services that he or she is selling.

If you want to turn your website into a top sales contributor, you need to treat it as any other member of your sales team. And that means using your website to do more than talk about your products and services. It means having a website that focuses on your customer while also contributing to your company’s sales performance.

Incorporate these tactics to make your website a sales contributor:

1. Create value

Anticipate your buyers’ questions and provide them with the information and resources they need. Searchable online catalogs, extensive product information, downloadable CAD files, FAQs, case studies, and testimonials are some of the elements to have on your website that will create value for buyers. The more valuable you become to your prospective buyers, the greater your chances of getting the sale.

2. Build relationships

Your website can build relationships with your customers just as a human sales rep can. Use your website to share your knowledge and offer helpful solutions to your customers’ problems. A blog, for instance, can be a useful tool for providing information and nurturing prospects. Think about how a human salesperson builds rapport and trust in a face-to-face meeting with a customer, and incorporate those methods into your website content.

3. Adapt the conversation

Many businesses sell to more than just one customer group or industry. Human sales reps interact differently with each customer group and adapt their messages accordingly. In the same way, your website content should be customized to speak specifically to each of your customer groups. Whether you devote separate sections of your website to your major customer groups or use targeted calls-to-action, it’s important to show your customers that you offer solutions to their specific needs.

4. Capture sales leads

Just like a human sales rep, your website should be capturing qualified sales leads. One way is to offer valuable information in exchange for contact information from prospective buyers. Consider special offers, how-to guides, e-books or other useful information that your buyers might want. Request-for-quote forms and newsletter sign-ups are also a good way to acquire sales leads.

While incorporating these sales-focused elements might mean a website upgrade or redo, the potential for return on investment through increased sales is worth the expense. And like your top salesperson, your website might just deliver your next big client.


Uncover the hidden profitability of your indirect customers. Read more.


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