Manufacturer Sales Trends to Watch in 2023

When manufacturers change, it opens new opportunities for distributors, too.

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As we head into 2023, we’re seeing a shift in the ways manufacturers are growing their businesses. These trends are a reaction to ongoing economic and supply chain concerns that have many businesses reevaluating the strategies they’re using to reach their customers.

For industrial distributors, there are good reasons to pay close attention to these trends as they continue to unfold. When manufacturers change their operational models in order to sell more products, it opens new opportunities for distributors, too.

Manufacturers Are Proactively Seeking New Sales Channels

When I attended the most recent International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), I was struck by the number of manufacturers who approached me to ask about working with independent manufacturer’s representatives like Durrie Sales. These manufacturers are eager to move into new markets, and they’re looking for partners to help them do it.

While independent reps can help, distributors are also well-positioned to help manufacturers achieve this goal at scale. The relationships and network connections that distributors provide are invaluable in getting products into new markets.

Manufacturers will need distributors with generalists who can service all their product lines as well as experts who focus on a particular product. As a distributor, think about which niche you’re poised to fulfill and have a go-to-market strategy to match. Taking these steps will make you more attractive to any manufacturer looking to establish a partnership.

Inbound Marketing Is Helping Manufacturers Generate Leads

Another trend in manufacturing is an increased interest in utilizing inbound marketing platforms for lead generation and product awareness. “Inbound marketing” is a strategy that attracts end-user interest through blogs, eBooks, videos and other content that positions the manufacturer as a reliable product expert.

This might sound a little concerning for distributors who worry they’re being left out of the loop, but rather than see it as a potential threat to your business, I’d encourage you to see this as a new source of valuable information for your customers. As manufacturers generate content for their inbound marketing platforms, it offers you a new suite of marketing materials to share with your end users.

This frees you to serve as a generalist, selling a wider range of products while relying on manufacturers to supply the particulars of their expertise. Ultimately, this trend should lead to even more cooperation as you work with manufacturers to educate end users on the tools they want to buy.

Manufacturers Want to Build Trust Throughout the Supply Chain

As I alluded to before, manufacturers and distributors sometimes behave as though they’re in competition for the same customers. While there are all kinds of reasons for this, manufacturers recognize that it’s important to build trust throughout the supply chain.

It’s better for everyone if distributors and manufacturers cooperate to enter new markets and support each other’s growth. To help each other succeed, leverage existing relationships by sharing market information, product spec sheets, promos, end-user testimonials, quotes and targeted end-user accounts.

There is a big opportunity for distributors to connect manufacturers to new markets. One trend to watch is companies pulling operations out of Asia to “nearshore” them to the United States or nearby countries. This shift is part of an effort by manufacturers to bring greater control and resiliency to their supply chains. For distributors, it means manufacturers will be looking for partners to help them maximize their success after relocating their operations.

Changing Operations Mean New Opportunities

Savvy distributors know that a shifting marketplace means new opportunities. As manufacturers rethink their sales channels, marketing models, and how they structure supply chains, they will need strong partnerships with distributors to ensure these changes pay off.

Now is the time to position yourself to be that trusted partner they need. When you do, you’ll discover manufacturers eager to bring you into the fold as they grow their businesses.

Patrick McKeever is president of Durrie Sales, an industrial manufacturers’ representative agency specializing in cutting tools and industrial products.

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