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Manufacturers who sell through independent distribution channels all have their own ways of communicating with their distributors. I recently wrote about one of the ways – distributor advisory councils – manufacturers have formalized those communications to gain more insight into what's happening at the local level. (Read that article: The Value of Distributor Advisory Councils.)
As Kevin Boyle, who used to run adhesives manufacturer Loctite's advisory councils and is now president of Industrial Distribution Consulting LLC, said: "The distributors are in the perfect place to tell you about trends and issues in the marketplace. There’s no one better. An advisory council allows a distributor to provide that value-added service for the manufacturer.”
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There's no way to know exactly how many manufacturers have implemented some form of distributor advisory council. And it seems to vary greatly by sector. That said, some say the number is growing, despite being a small percentage of the overall market.
Still, just because a manufacturer has a distributor advisory council doesn't mean it will have its intended effect. Nearly everyone I spoke to for this article said that one of the "worst practices" was turning an advisory council meeting into a sales meeting – and not actively seeking distributor input on plans.
Boyle says: "A lot of people put a lot of expense into them because they use them more as a sales event for distributors, rather than looking at it as engaging consultants. An advisory council does not need to be expensive as long as the distributors know that you are really sincere about seeking their help.”