Part three of this three-part article examines who a wholesaler can function as a marketing department for smaller distributors.

Distributors don’t always take advantage of their wholesalers’ marketing services, says Kroha, because many are overwhelmed by the seemingly endless options available. They may be unsure what materials they need or how to use them.

What distributors don’t realize is that wholesalers often offer more than basic printing services. Their marketing departments can serve as consultants, an extension of the distributor’s team, to devise a strategy.

“A lot of times distributors don’t know what they want to do or the tools we can provide to do it,” says Kroha. “The majority of them don’t have marketing departments, but our marketing department is really their marketing department.”

Creating a catalog or other promotional materials in house means reaching out to multiple vendors to get all of the information and images needed to build the piece. Because a redistributor carries lines from many sources, they already have easy access to all of those resources.

“Being a small company, we don’t have the resources to do [a catalog],” says Bell. “Without RJ Schinner, we would not take the time to do it. They take on the burden of laying everything out, proofing it, printing it and bringing it right to our building.”

Catalog re-orders are typically as simple as a phone call from the distributor (or they may even be anticipated and prompted by the wholesaler). Minimums are also often much lower than with traditional printing houses. Bell says he is able to order as few as 25 catalogs at a time. Changing product artwork and descriptions inside the catalog is also as easy as giving the marketing rep a heads-up.

“We have a buying group that produces our other catalog and I know that’s fairly expensive compared to this program,” says Bell. “And quality-wise it’s right alongside what we do. For smaller distributors, this is a great tool to use, because it’s so painless and inexpensive.”

Given the myriad benefits of using redistributors to create custom catalogs and marketing materials, Kroha says distributors who overlook the service may be short-sighted.

“They are missing out on ways to communicate with their customer,” she says. “It requires relatively minimal effort on their part, and they could be missing out on sales, turning inventory, and bringing their name to the market.”

Bell & Sons has been using its custom publications through RJ Schinner for about five years. Reps can email or print digital versions, and the company orders about 500 printed copies each year. Bell doesn’t have specific metrics to analyze the program’s success, but says he has anecdotal evidence that it’s helped boost sales.

“It’s always very convenient to have a written publication to leave behind,” says Bell. “You can tell someone something 15 times, but visuals are everything.” 

Becky Mollenkamp is a freelance writer based in St. Louis.

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Custom Catalogs Provide Useful Sales Tools