Connecting with your channel partners as a manufacturer is vital for every step of the buyer’s journey. Are you a manufacturer looking for new ways to improve your communication with channel partners and customers? Then this episode is for you. Joshua Rich, President and CEO of Bullseye Software, has been supporting manufacturers with location technology for over twenty years. Learn why location technology is a must have tool for manufacturers to grow their customer base and their relationships with dealers, distributors, and partners.
Using Locator Technology to Connect Sales Prospects with Channel Partners Transcript:
Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White.
Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how are you doing, sir?
Carman Pirie: I’m doing great. Yeah.
Jeff White: Excellent.
Carman Pirie: No complaints, and you?
Jeff White: I’m doing really well.
Carman Pirie: Nice.
Jeff White: No, it’s the winter is warming up, which is weird. I like winter. I need it to stick around.
Carman Pirie: Yes. Well, that makes one of us.
Jeff White: Yeah. No, I know.
Carman Pirie: Everybody that has listened to at least two episodes of this show has heard me complain about cold weather. Look, but I have no complaints about today’s show.
Jeff White: No, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a person with an interesting perspective who’s built some really interesting and focused software that’s in play in a lot of places in our industry.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. And you know, as obviously world of marketing and sales becoming transformed digitally over the last number of years, we know that it was easy to point to that, but the connectivity often between the people on the ground and the people that make the stuff, sometimes there’s a connectivity that doesn’t kind of happen or translate as the digital transformation’s been happening, so I think that’s really the focus of today. I think it’s gonna be an interesting conversation.
Jeff White: Yeah. I think that often they’re just not working in concert. The manufacturers and their distributor/dealer network, they’re not necessarily providing the tools that each needs to succeed.
Carman Pirie: It’s hard to deliver a truly unified customer experience across those… what can appear to be different silos, you know?
Jeff White: Absolutely.
Carman Pirie: And they don’t always play completely well with each other.
Jeff White: Yeah. Yeah, so joining us today is Joshua Rich. Joshua is the President and CEO of Bullseye Software. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Joshua.
Joshua Rich: Hey, Jeff. Thank you. Hey, Carman. It’s great to be here.
Carman Pirie: It’s great to have you on the show.
Joshua Rich: I also like winter, by the way.
Jeff White: Where are you located again, Joshua?
Joshua Rich: I’m in New Jersey, so you know, we get some winter.
Carman Pirie: I don’t know that anyplace that calls itself The Garden State can lay claim to winter, but I’ll give it to you a little bit. I have experienced a bit of winter in New Jersey.
Jeff White: Well, we are Canada’s Ocean Playground, and yet it’s not all just beaches and warm weather.
Carman Pirie: Everybody’s ganging up on me today.
Jeff White: No, no. It’s not that. It’s Nova Scotia.
Carman Pirie: I got two people that like winter. Joshua, tell us a bit about the company and yourself, if you would.
Joshua Rich: Sure. Absolutely. Well, I’m the Founder and the CEO of Bullseye Locations. Company was founded in 1998, so we’ve been around for quite a while, and have been doing locator technology since sort of the early days when we started with a downloadable product. Over the years, that’s evolved to a cloud-based product, and we serve over 5,000 customers right now globally. And we’ve seen a lot of different implementations and have really worked with all kinds of different companies with all sorts of different business goals over the years.
Carman Pirie: Very cool. It sounds almost obvious, of course, once you say it, but it’s when people are seeking location information, it’s when you can draw a bit of a point of connection between say a manufacturer brand and a distributor, a dealer network. That’s when I guess both of those interests are swimming in the same direction and have a shared interest in serving a customer that’s obviously at that point looking to buy. So, it must be interesting for you to have kind of seen the evolution of that and how kind of attitudes around either sharing leads, or transferring information, sharing information, et cetera, to kind of enable these tools, how that’s kind of evolved over the years.
Joshua Rich: Yeah. Well, in the early days, a lot of manufacturers just put up lists, right? Lists of locations. They maybe had a phone number. And certainly, locators have evolved considerably starting with that. Then you get into search capabilities, and then mapping was introduced, but what you’re sort of looking at is the idea that you’ve got a customer who’s sort of at a critical moment in the purchase process. They’ve looked at your products. They’re ready to actually make a purchase. And so, when a manufacturer looks at it through those lenses, it’s really important to make sure that that customer is connected to the dealer or contractor, whoever it is, that sort of the last mile is gonna provide the delivery of that service.
And there are all sorts of components to making sure that that handoff is done correctly. Making sure that the customer sort of knows who they’re gonna get, has a feel for the types of projects maybe that they’ve worked on that are relevant to what they’re looking for, actually capturing that request, that information, tracking it, making sure that the dealer or contractor knows that that lead came from you. That’s a big challenge that we see because if that dealer doesn’t know that that lead came from your manufacturing company, it’s easy for them to sell a competing product. There’s sort of that loyalty component that is really critical to making that handoff work.
And so, over the years we’ve seen more and more companies look at their locators as an opportunity to bridge that gap and make that connection point between the manufacturer and the contractor, dealer, distributor, whatever is sort of the third party who’s gonna sell that product to the customer.
Carman Pirie: One of the kind of reverse sides of that accountability I suppose when we think about attribution is that I find that these types of technologies can also help a manufacturer in some ways manage the performance of their distributor or dealer network to understand what percentage of leads are actually being followed up on, moving through to closed-won, et cetera. How much do you see it kind of operating in that reverse?
Joshua Rich: In reverse in the sense that the manufacturer is using that information to drive the dealer to sell their products?
Carman Pirie: Well, more like… Of course, one way is kind of natural flow of the technology is that we’re trying to get customers to go from a manufacturer, what have you, through to a contractor dealer, so that that lead can be transferred to, like you say, that last mile of fulfillment. But of course, I think a free prize inside sometimes for the manufacturer is they get a better glimpse into their dealer community and-
Jeff White: The performance of it.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. And who’s actually following up on online leads versus who isn’t, and things of that sort. I’m just curious. Have you seen that?
Joshua Rich: Absolutely, we have. Some of the things the technology that’s out there can provide for is you can track a lead, you can see how quickly a dealer followed up on a lead, you can obviously also just sort of at a baseline get reports on here are how many leads we provided for a particular dealer. Your field reps can go out, can talk to those dealers and say, “Listen, this is what we’re doing for you guys.” So, in terms of tracking responsiveness, in terms of tracking the close of sales, that’s all data that now can start to flow back to the manufacturer so they can see sort of what is the ROI of the efforts they’re putting into their website and driving traffic to their locator.
Jeff White: One of the things that you mentioned a moment ago was that the dealer knows who the lead came from so that they don’t end up selling a competing product. Do you find that the fact that they know that that lead is coming from a specific manufacturer, is there any evidence that they do have that affinity for the brand that actually sent them the lead? Do you know, like are… A lot of distributors would have more than one system that’s feeding them leads, one from each brand.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Of course. I really like where you’re going with this question, Jeff, because you’re kind of asking is the human desire for reciprocity and to be in balance, does it actually drive this?
Jeff White: Does it work?
Carman Pirie: Does it work? Yeah. Or is there evidence of that working?
Joshua Rich: Well, it does work, for sure. I mean, when you consider that a lead comes in, that request can be branded with the manufacturer’s information, the customer can get a confirmation back, so the correspondence then can all be sort of branded by the manufacturer, and so that is gonna influence the consumer purchase. I think that it also works in concert with sort of this larger idea of developing relationships with your partners and using the locator to support them and using the locator as a component within a broader program to get them to be more loyal and understand your product, so I think it goes with things like sales training. I think it goes with making sure that they have the correct collateral. I think that it goes with providing tools for them that help them make a better sale, whether that’s quoting tools, or pricing tools. But there are a number of things that I think the manufacturer needs to do to support the relationship around the partners and the lead, and the ability to know where that lead came from is a part of that.
Jeff White: Yeah. I think one of the great things that you hinted at there, though, is that obviously this is very much an omnichannel environment for the manufacturers and for the distributors, that they’re a part of that system that helps get the manufacturer’s product to market and to the end customer. One of the things that I’ve heard you talk about is that the really big challenge here is how this integration of this tool is used in order to orchestrate the whole buyer’s journey. And do you find that manufacturers, as they’re beginning to look at implementing a tool like this, that this is part of a whole? They’re not seeing this as kind of solving all the distribution and lead handling problems, but it’s part of a bigger process that they need to implement and understand?
Joshua Rich: I think it sort of fits in an overall marketing stack. There are components in terms of marketing automation that can be integrated, and sort of implementing advanced locator technology within your marketing stack then allows you to leverage data that you might be getting from other places on your website. For example, you might be getting activity downloads of product information. Being able to sort of integrate that into an ecosystem where that information can flow out to the dealers or the contractors to be able to do a better job closing sales is a component of that. Being able to offline those leads also, so that the manufacturers can start building direct relationships with those customers, putting them in their sort of outbound marketing campaigns, integrating with a system like HubSpot or Salesforce, a CRM component can be a part of it.
So, I think it is a part of… Sort of the tip of the iceberg is your basic locator functionality and we see those sort of everywhere. But as you look beyond the sort of basic functionality, which is user does a search, they get a list of locations, and here’s a phone number. As you start to look at the importance of your locator within your whole digital marketing stack, it becomes an opportunity to generate new traffic to your website, generate new leads, generate activity, and push that activity down to the salespeople or your dealers.
Another area that I think it’s important to consider is just integration with remarketing capabilities. So, if you’re running Facebook campaigns, or you’re running Google remarketing campaigns, knowing that a particular user has viewed a particular location, or dealer, or contractor, knowing that they’ve looked at maybe a local page that tells you about projects that they’ve worked on or reviews, all of that can then be factored into sort of remarketing and digital marketing that can help play a role in Facebook campaigns or Google campaigns and so forth.
So, I think it’s sort of on a digital platform, it’s a part of lots of different components and can be integrated, and I think sort of at a more strategic level it is sort of part of the relationship that you have with your partners. It’s a component that helps provide support for them. It’s a component that helps sort of establish the relationship and helps communicate, helps provide communication between those two parties. And as manufacturers look at what can we do to really help our partners be successful, whether that’s just providing them leads or sort of doing more, I mentioned training, or bringing them to seminars, teaching them how to operate their business, then they start to view you as a trusted partner who’s really got their best interests in mind, and that I think becomes a competitive advantage.
So, I think that’s where it sort of fits in from a strategic perspective.
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Carman Pirie: Joshua, in covering all of that off, very detailed in terms of things like site traffic information, pages that have been visited on the site, and maybe intent data that’s been harvested along the way of that buyer’s journey, et cetera. Even CRM information that may detail previous sales activity or approaches that had dead ended for some reason or another in a B2B sales environment. You can easily imagine the kind of ecosystem, if you will, of data that would be available to the manufacturer. And as a lead is in some ways captured and transitioned to a dealer or a distributor, I guess I’m curious. How aggressive are you seeing manufacturers get in terms of how much they enrich that information? I mean, are they passing along that site traffic information? Are they passing along their CRM information to help make that dealer sale more effective?
Because it would seem to me that there’s some boundaries there that maybe some people don’t cross.
Joshua Rich: Yeah. Well, I can say that it’s really the most progressive companies that are sort of looking at integrating systems that way, and certainly there are privacy issues around how much you can share and what data you can share, but I think in terms of which pages somebody has viewed on a website, which products they’ve looked at, being able to capture that and pass that along with the lead information is a really big opportunity that not too many companies have started to look at.
Jeff White: I have to wonder too, you know, because in that scenario, one of the things you talked about was the manufacturer can then enroll them in a marketing automation program or something, so effectively the lead is potentially being hit in a number of different locations, in a number of different ways, right? So, the dealer’s going to reach out that, “Hey, this lead has approached us about product XYZ, can you follow up and try to close the sale?” Meanwhile, that person’s getting enrolled in a marketing automation campaign from the manufacturer perspective. I wonder, does it cause any confusion around the manufacturer owns the customer, but the dealer owns the lead? Are there any potential pitfalls or best practices that you can think of in terms of engaging from all directions?
Carman Pirie: Yeah. How to navigate that so that this doesn’t all of a sudden end up being a bombardment. Yeah.
Joshua Rich: Well, what we’ve seen is that manufacturers are gonna take different approaches based on their goals. They’re gonna take different approaches based on their configuration of salespeople. A lot of manufacturers really want to push that lead off to an independent sales team, and so aside from sort of generally marketing stuff, they’re not trying to close the sale. They’re just trying to create an environment that is good for the customer and makes them feel good about the purchase, but I think it’s the individual contractor dealer who’s gonna follow up and close the sale.
I’ve also seen some companies that have sort of a hybrid salesforce where they might have an in-house salesforce, or even direct locations, and then they’ve got a whole set of independent locations, as well. And in that case, the customers are segmented based on who’s the nearest location, based on who is a fit in terms of the product match, that kind of thing. And then in that case, the ownership sort of gets split. So, I think that the answer to your question is really it depends on the manufacturer, and do they want to control the sale, or do they want to hand that off to a contractor dealer?
I think a lot of manufacturers don’t have internal sales teams and that’s sort of part of the crux of it. They might have marketing teams, or they might have management infrastructure for sales, but it’s really the independent, the on the ground dealers who are talking to the customers and closing those sales.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Often there’s just no infrastructure for dealing with customers. I remember one conversation I had with a manufacturer; we were talking about the possibility of them standing up an eCom environment. It all sounded completely obvious that you could do this until they said, “Wait a second. We’d have to start talking to customers.” We have no interface for that, we don’t have that today.
Joshua Rich: Yeah. And when you talk about digital transformation, I think for manufacturers that’s sort of the biggest change, historically, is that prior to the web they didn’t have a customer-facing front. Customers weren’t going to the manufacturer’s plant and saying, “Hey, I’m interested in your product.” And all of a sudden the internet comes along, and they’ve got a presence that the consumer can actually go to their website and learn about their product, but they don’t then have the ability, the infrastructure, to be able to close that sale, and they’re reliant on their dealers and their distributors to do that.
So, the transformation then is, “All right, well, how do we do a better job integrating? How do we do a better job making those partners feel like they’re part of our organization and that they want to sell our product and there’s value to them? And we have a relationship?” And that’s, I think, been a gradual change that manufacturers have had to adopt. They used to just create marketing material and ship their stuff to distributors, and then the distributors would sell it.
Carman Pirie: I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but I kind of… I’m intrigued by problems where the previous difficulties have kind of flipped on their head, and I’ll tell you what I mean. There was a time when we think about what we’re talking about here, dynamic location, providing dynamic location information, integrating all of the CRM data, site traffic data, all that. There’s a time when that just technically wouldn’t have been possible. It’d be very hard to figure that out. Well, now we live in a world where that’s incredibly possible, but what is the tougher thing to change is the human side of it, right? It seems to me that it all boils down to changing those business relationships and those, whether it’s corporate policy to retain certain information or hold it close to the chest, or just the… It’s not even policy. It’s more like just the inclination, right? It’s just like we don’t share at that level. We don’t cooperate. Businesses don’t cooperate at that level.
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Not used to doing it.
Jeff White: Well, and their systems don’t necessarily, even though yes, it’s easier now to have location, and have all of these different online distribution platforms, their systems don’t necessarily all talk to each other, either.
Carman Pirie: But they can. It’s just the hardest thing seems to me to be the decision to do it.
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: And with all the big, hairy problems that come along with making that decision, I understand.
Joshua Rich: Yeah. Well, there’s learning the technology. There’s the required follow up. It’s potentially staffing to support programs like that, even though there’s long-term value, there’s sort of a commitment in terms of, “Well, we need to hire somebody who runs our premier partner program,” for example, or we need to hire somebody who is dedicated to channel relationships in a digital environment. Those are specializations that are sort of all new. I think I see that as being a big hurdle. I think that manufacturers tend to have… They’re still sort of in the old school mentality of we make the product and somebody else sells it, and they don’t really see the need to spend effort and resources building out the relationships that they have with their partners, because they’re not sort of in their business.
But I can say that there are a few companies that are doing a great job with that, and they have a huge competitive advantage when it comes to dealers who want to sell their products.
Jeff White: How are you seeing this come to life beside a… So, on a manufacturer’s site, you may have a dealer locator, but you may also have at this point a manufacturer eCommerce platform. So, you can purchase the product directly, maybe we can direct you to the… maybe there’s inventory information. We can say we can find it nearest you. Are you finding that those two kinds of systems are cohabitating well or is there a concern at the dealer level about the manufacturer poaching the sale with their own eCom implementation?
Joshua Rich: Yeah. Well, that has affected all industries, right? Anybody who sells through channels. We were doing a lot of work in the travel industry for a while, and that was a big problem that they were worried about, but I think that they have to commingle to answer your question. And the companies that do that well are gonna be the ones that are successful, because it all boils down to giving the user the option and giving them the best solution for them, and sometimes the best solution is here’s a link to an eCommerce, you go and just buy this, and sometimes it’s a product that needs support, it’s a product that needs service, and training, and somebody who’s gonna hand hold the customer and give them the white glove treatment that they need.
And I think both have to sort of coexist, so as a manufacturer you need to look at how you’re handling that. There’s eCommerce at the manufacturing level. There’s also eCommerce at the partner level, right? So, you’ve got sort of those two equations. At the manufacturer’s level, I think the manufacturers, if they’re gonna start to go into eCommerce, do we need to think about, “All right, well, how are we doing product fulfillment?” And there’s sort of a bunch of logistic components that come along with that.
I would like to see if you’ve got partners that have eCommerce actually being able to pull that back into the manufacturer’s site, and so the consumer has the option at that point of I can go to this location, and I can buy that way, or I can order the product and I know that it’s gonna be in the store and shipped to the store. Looking into the future.
Jeff White: Yeah. Yeah. No, I think as we wrap up here, that was gonna be my next question. Where do you see this going? What’s next? Is it really this true deeper integration? CRMs, marketing automation, inventory, ERP, eCom, all of that? Or is there something else on the horizon that has you excited?
Joshua Rich: Well, I think that we’re gonna see a continual progression toward that, an integrated ecosystem, and it’s gonna be built on the exchange of the information and the ability to exchange information quickly and the sort of quality of that information. So, we look at we’ve got a lead that’s a piece of information, so manufacturer’s providing some information to the dealer contractor. Here’s a lead. The manufacturer wants to know, “All right, well, how quickly did you follow up? What’s the status of this information?” And so, that begins to sort of form this dialogue between the manufacturer and the dealer contractor.
And so, when you start to look at sort of the future, I think you’re gonna see more and more integrated workflows. Manufacturers are gonna have a promotion that they want to offer, and they’ll put it out to dealers who can participate just by clicking on a link and saying, “Hey, I want to participate.” And then there’s sort of this whole automated piece that flows behind that where there’s a promotional website that gets created, the contractor’s already built into that, the leads are flowing into the system. Even on a locator listing, you show that, “Okay, there’s a promotion going on and you can redeem that at this contractor or whatever.”
And so, there are a number of these sort of workflow opportunities that I think are important to connect and make sure that the data is flowing in both directions. So, a big one actually is getting inventory information back to the manufacturers, because they have very little insight right now into that, and that becomes very important in terms of communicating to the customer, not just here are stores where potentially you can buy this product, but here are stores who actually have your product in your selected color, or size, or whatever the attributes are.
But again, it’s just an exchange of information, and so I think it’s removing the friction between that exchange of information and all parties are gonna benefit from that.
Jeff White: Joshua, I really want to thank you for your insight on this today. It’s been a fascinating discussion and I know our audience will find it valuable. Thanks.
Joshua Rich: Well, thank you Jeff. Thanks, Carman. It’s good talking to you guys.
Carman Pirie: Yeah.
Joshua Rich: You guys always ask great questions, by the way.
Jeff White: Thank you.
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Joshua RichPresident and CEO of Bullseye Software
Joshua Rich is the President and CEO of Bullseye Software, a locator solution built to close the loop on digital marketing and sales. He founded the company in 1988 focusing on locator technology, first beginning with a downloadable product. Over the decades, Bullseye Software evolved into a cloud-based product which is currently serving over 5,000 customers globally. The companies range in size and industry type, working with different business goals over the past twenty-four years. Josha is an experienced entrepreneur with a successful history creating and growing technology companies. Strong technology focus with a background in Location Marketing, Digital Marketing, Application Development, Business Analysis, Application Architecture, Software Development Life Cycle Management and Project Management. Joshua graduated from Dartmouth College and currently resides in New Jersey, USA.