Greg Seminara, Export Solutions

Successful distributors may represent twenty companies or more, with each brand shouting for attention. Exporters should identify ,develop, and applaud a 
Brand Champion at each of your distributor partners. A Champion is someone who is passionate about your brand and values leadership results for your company as something deeper than just selling another case. At some point your company and distributors made a commitment to work together. This decision was based upon a sense of shared company values and belief that your brand could make consumers happy and the distributor money. As time progresses, this initial enthusiasm fades, and partners forget the fundamental reasons why they decided to work together.

Recently, I was in the Middle East for two distributor search projects. We hitched a ride back to our hotel with the  “purchaser” of imported brands for one distributor. This person had not participated in our meeting and maintained oversight for at least 40 companies. We exchanged pleasantries in the car, then introduced our brand. This manager immediately exclaimed: “That’s my Baby”  and spouted out  movement figures, category insights and sales by store for each of our core sku’s. His spontaneous enthusiasm was based upon the fact that he felt personally responsible for the success of our brand in his country , even though we had never met him before.

Listed below are Export Solutions ideas for promoting the importance of Brand Champions at each of your distributors.

1. Who is your Brand Champion ?
The champion is not just your assigned brand manager who you deal with everyday. I prefer senior people of influence who originally supported the idea of partnering with your company. The ideal champion is the distributor CEO or National Sales Manager. Brand development is a “team” sport and you need someone who can inspire the entire group.

2. How do you Develop a Champion ?
As with sports, it takes years of training to support natural ability. Invite the Brand Champion to your corporate headquarters. Organize factory tours and meetings with the global brand managers. Introduce him to the CEO or head of international and treat him to a meal at your home. Spend time with your Brand Champion visiting stores in his country to secure his ideas to take your business to the next level.

3. A Champion Delivers Year After Year
A Champion is defined by leadership results. A true champion is not a “one year wonder”.
It is someone with a long term commitment and personal investment in your brands success.

4. How do you Treat a Brand Champion ?
Champions thrive on recognition. Give them an award as “Distributor of the Year” or for  serving as a member of your companies Brand Champions club. Invite them to serve on your companies “Distributor Advisory Board “, if you have one.

5. Brand Champion Responsibility
Challenge the Champion to deliver exceptional results. The Brand Champions are “true believers” and are aligned with your vision.

Many distributor sales teams are filled with Brand Champions. Distributors have favorite brands, based upon the prestige of the brand and personal characteristics of the people working for the manufacturer. One of my mid size clients has many Brand Champions. How ? They offer a great brand, inclusive corporate culture, and some of the nicest, most genuine people you will ever meet. Brand Champions are essential for your brand to elevate from just playing in the export game to category leader.