The start of a new year is an appropriate time to review distributor performance. This process starts with the evaluation of the usual metrics such as shipment results, market share, and success delivering new item placement. Normally, distributor performance ranges across the spectrum from outstanding results delivered by top distributors to under-achievers who fail to meet their shipment budget. Each scenario warrants a different approach in terms of managing for the future.

Distributor Segmentation Analysis
Avaluable exercise is to segment your existing distributors into the three groups: Leaders, Performers, and Laggards. Look at the organizational models of your “Leaders” and Laggards”. Are there consistent threads between the business specialization of your distributor network? For example, do you find that your “Leaders” are all Large Distributors (versus small), Big Brand Distributors (vs. niche), Category/Ethnic specialists (vs. all types of Food), technologically savvy versus “old school”? Asimilar analysis should cover your “Laggard” distributors. Are under performers small organizations that fail to meet your requirements? Or alternatively, large distributors where your brand is too small to gain sufficient attention? Your analysis may reveal that one type of model works well for large or adjacent countries while another approach works best for smaller or remote countries. Look for the trends!

Lessons Learned
Completing the distributor segmentation exercise described above should yield some important conclusions on the best partner models to pursue for your brand. For example, an Italian manufacturer of candy may confirm that his best performing distributors are international confectionery experts, versus distributors specializing only in Italian products. On the other hand, an ethnic Asian food producer may find that the best candidates to represent his brand are Asian channel specialists versus distributors that represent all types of fine food categories such as Tea & Olive Oil.

Next Steps
Honor your leaders and drive themto higher levels. Recognition such as Distributor of the Year, visits with your company CEO, or requests to deliver a presentation on their “success story” are inexpensivemotivators. “Laggards” impact our own ability to achieve our personal objectives.We often like the people who work at “Laggards”, but at times, youmust act to protect the long term interests of your company and pursue a change in distributors. It is important to recognize that all companies have distributors that are “Leaders” and “Laggards”. Proactive attention to fix the “Laggards” will only improve your results versus suffering through another year with a poor performing partner.

Export Solutions Can Help
Our industry leading database has been used by more than 2,700 brands to locate partners in 95 countries. This includes an average of 63 unique distributors per country. There are always many alternatives to consider in every country when you have access to the Export Solutions database. Export Solutions serves as a consultant to European and American brands of all sizes. Our work includes analysis of distributor networks and development of strategies for motivating, measuring, and rewarding distributors. Export Solutions has helped companies identify, interview, and sign distributors on every continent. Contact Greg Seminara  to discuss your project. Our motto is “Spend time Selling to Distributors vs. Searching for Distributors”.