15 Marketing Strategies For Distributors that Work in 2023

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Editorial Team

We need to brush up on the definition of wholesale marketing before discussing marketing strategies for distributors.

Marketing wholesale is all about promoting your products to retailers and institutions.

Wholesale orders are generally high-ticket items and bulk quantities. To be successful, you must plan and implement an effective marketing strategy.

Execution is more important than ideas.

The trade industry in the United States generates over $8262 billion in revenue each year. Additionally, it employs over seven million people.

If you want to succeed as a distributor, you should focus on these three things:

  • Pricing
  • Quality
  • Service

In light of the above, let’s explore some ideas for distributor marketing.

1. Offer Referral Incentives To Existing Customers

Offer them an attractive referral incentive, and most of your existing customers will gladly refer you to a new customer.

The answer is simple. Not everyone belonging to a particular industry is a competitor. You get to know people through networking.

A wholesale distributor of electric wires might be referred to an electrical shop or retailer by one of your clients (such as a civil contractor).

Which referral incentives work best? Here are a few ideas:

  • Trade discount for next order
  • Cash discount on outstanding payment
  • Instant cash reward
  • Free stock/goods or merchandise
  • Priority service for the next few orders

Due to the trust and endorsement of your existing customers, the quality of customers you get through these referral programs is typically high.

As a result of this referral strategy, there is a ‘chain reaction. How so? Since each new referral implies a new referral, the chain continues!

As a result, distributors can benefit from this simple & effective marketing strategy.

2. Actively Participate In Trade Shows

Trade shows are the best way to get lots of qualified leads. Trade shows are marketplaces where buyers and sellers interact.

Preparation is the key to success at a trade show. Here are some major points to keep in mind:

  • Book a prime location or slots
  • Invest in attractive displays or signage
  • Display as much products samples as possible
  • Hire an experienced sales executive having excellent communication skills
  • Prepare excel spreadsheets to record details of all leads
  • Offer fair discounts for spot orders

Trade fairs are a great way for sellers to generate leads if they are well-planned and executed.

While trade shows work best for exporters, they can also benefit domestic sellers, particularly institutions and corporations.

3. List On Industry Directories

Wholesale business directories can help you reach your target audiences more easily. Online or offline, they can be useful to your wholesale business.

Online industry directories include:

  • Kompass
  • IQS Directory

Unlike online directories, offline directories may require you to join a particular industry association to be included.

Depending on where your target clients are located, you may need to list your business in city, state, or country directories.

Include all the important details you need to know, such as:

  • Mobile number
  • Email
  • Postal address
  • Business location(s)
  • Brand name(s)
  • Incorporation year(s)

Also, you may be able to get orders from directory-cum-marketplaces like Alibaba.

4. Catalog & Take Orders Online

The following steps are involved in this strategy:

  • Firstly, you must purchase a domain name (like xyz.com) on NameCheap.
  • Step 2: Build an e-commerce store using Shopify. No, you don’t need any expert help. Shopify simplifies building an e-commerce store by dragging and dropping elements.
  • Step 3: Take pictures of your products and upload them to the Shopify panel, adding details like description, price, etc.
  • Fourth Step: Add the Catalog Maker app to Shopify, automatically creating wholesale catalogs.
  • Step 5: Promote your online store and catalog link among your prospects.

Using the steps above, you can easily create a wholesale product catalog & distribute it digitally to your clients. Additionally, your clients can order directly from the website.

Wholesale online stores are best to:

  • Update clients on prices
  • Display products
  • Distribute product catalog
  • Accept orders & payments
  • Update on industry news & happenings

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Alternatively, you can use the wholesale pricing app Wholesaler, which allows you to offer different pricing levels to different customer groups on your website.

5. Partner With Influencers

A brand influencer is someone who influences the buying decisions of their followers. Think of them as industry gurus.

An automobile blogger, Kristen Cline, is an influencer in the automobile industry. Her advice and recommendations are very useful and carry a lot of value. Therefore, she has the power to break a brand.

You can partner with influencers for meaty sales orders since they usually promote a product they like or admire.

Alternatively, you can reach out to known influencers via industry contacts or a platform like Influence.

Be tactful when pitching influencers so they will promote your products.

To avoid a brawl, it is also recommended to enter into a legal agreement with the influencer. Please ensure you include the following in your agreements:

  • Promotion periods
  • Promotion platforms
  • Proof of promotion
  • Fee or commission to be charged
  • Mode of payment
  • Frequency of payment

Since influencers do the research for you, you do not need to pitch much to their customers.

6. Merchandise The Customer Outlets

In a store or retail outlet, merchandise is used to promote the sale of goods.

Among the formats available is signage, glow sign boards, posters, stands, and t-shirts.

Merchandise materials serve the purpose of getting people to know about your product from the retail stores where they purchase your products.

Then, distribute the merchandise materials to your retail customers after investing money in getting them ready.

Ensure to  have below merchandise items’ properties:

  • They must be unique & attractive
  • Must contain contact information like phone number & email IDs
  • You must have your brand logo & business name boldly displayed
  • Must display your range of products

By contacting agencies like these, you can easily make merchandise materials

You use merchandise to sell your products, but you also use it for marketing your products. It helps you get people’s attention.

7. Execute Cold Visits To Prospects

Marketing your wholesale business this way is one of the most effective.

Make a schedule, plan, and visit as many retail stores as possible. Maybe at least ten a day.

You should have at least 28-30 new customers monthly (assuming a conversion rate of 10%).

Cold visits, however, require a lot of preparation and skill. The success of cold visits heavily depends on the visitor’s marketing skills.

Delegate the cold calls to your most skilled employee (marketing). You might also need to get involved personally, depending on the situation. For instance, you, a business owner, must visit reputed retail outlets.

The more stores you visit, the more customers you’ll get. Keep in mind that the number of visits is the key.

For the execution part, it is highly recommended for you prepare excel spreadsheets with the following columns:

  • Visit date
  • Name of prospects
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers/Mobiles
  • Email Addresses
  • Order Status
  • Follow-up dates

Ensure that you hand over the following to the prospects:

  • Visiting card
  • Product Catalog
  • Product samples
  • Business pamphlet or brochure

Some FMCG brands use cold visits to increase wholesale sales. They are also effective marketing strategies.

8. Offer Periodic Freebie Schemes

Offering periodic schemes is undoubtedly the most powerful marketing strategy for distributors.

In periodic schemes, buyers are offered free products for meeting certain conditions. Generally, these conditions are transactional and periodic.

As a wholesaler, you may offer a promotion: Buy 1000 units of ABC within one month and get 30 units free.

In addition to boosting sales, freebie schemes can also spread positive word of mouth about your company.

There are several formats available for freebies:

  • Products at no cost
  • (TOD) – Turnover discount
  • Award nominations
  • The gifts

The reason this idea works is that people love freebies. Such schemes are periodic so that you may run them weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually.

To achieve their periodic sales targets, many top brands use this strategy.

9. Become A Wholesale Dropship Supplier

A drop shipper lists products on an eCommerce website but does not necessarily keep an inventory of these items. As & when orders arrive, retailers request wholesale suppliers to ship the ordered products directly to the customers immediately.

There are four parties involved in the dropshipping model:

  • Online retailers
  • Wholesale supplier
  • Customers
  • Dropshipping platforms (connecting online retailers with wholesale suppliers)

A wholesale supplier fulfills orders directly to the customer. An online retailer creates, manages, and markets an eCommerce website.

It will help to connect online retailers with wholesale suppliers by tying up with platforms that facilitate dropshipping. Some of these platforms include:

  • sPocket
  • Oberlo
  • Jungle Scout
  • Worldwide Brands
  • Dropship Direct

When approved, you can ship your products worldwide (on behalf of online retailers) from the platforms’ websites above.

10. Tie Up With An Export House

Wouldn’t it be better to look beyond national boundaries for customers instead of targeting domestic customers?

Your wholesale business can benefit from export if you have good products and services.

Due to paperwork, licenses, payment risk, shipping woes, and other factors, exporting your products may seem daunting to you.

This is where export houses come in.

A specialist export house is an agency that takes your products to international markets. They have a good base of international customers in almost all categories/niches. They will also handle all export formalities, including customs clearance and shipping.

Here are a few sites that one can use to find export houses in their area:

  • Buy USA
  • Importexportfirms
  • Google
  • Yellow pages

11. Partner With Affiliate Marketers

Publishers (bloggers or vloggers) promote businesses’ products in return for commissions through affiliate marketing.

When a lifestyle blogger’s readers click on the affiliate links on her blog and buy the products, she will receive commissions from garment wholesalers.

Following are some platforms which connect affiliate marketers with brands or businesses:

  • Rakuten Marketing patform
  • Admitad platform
  • Commission Junctions
  • Click Bank website
  • Amazon Affiliate
  • Namecheap

You will need a website to use most of these affiliate platforms. If you consider using this strategy, I recommend you build an eCommerce website. Without the same, it’ll be hard for them to track conversions and award affiliate marketers.

A business can almost completely avoid risk by using affiliate marketing. Why? Because you only have to pay affiliate marketers when their audience purchases your products.

There is an affiliate management program at Alibaba, the world’s largest wholesale marketplace.

12. Target Institutional Buyers

It is common for wholesalers to be so busy selling to retailers that they neglect other simple strategies.

Among these strategies is selling to institutional buyers. Institutional buyers are bulk buyers who don’t trade or deal with the product regularly.

  • Hospitals
  • Public parks & libraries
  • Railway stations
  • Airports
  • Schools, colleges & universities

School uniforms are usually required once a year. You can sell school uniforms at wholesale prices if you are a garment manufacturer.

A great network with management and persistent marketing efforts are both necessary for you to gain orders from institutional buyers.

However, institutional sales offer very high margins and sales.

13. Direct Mail

What are the chances of direct mail still working in 2022? Yes, in a nutshell. Only when done correctly. Direct mail is very similar to cold calling.

A direct mail campaign involves making a list of prospects, sending them direct mail, and watching how they respond.

As a result of direct mail’s ease, it is tempting to send a generic mailing to thousands of people at once.

In the past, this shotgun approach worked well. Nowadays, you must consider how you will stand out in this highly sophisticated market. Personalization is the future of direct mail, in my opinion.

Personalization is a great way to increase response rates when it comes to direct mail.

It will be appreciated by your prospects if you go beyond simply addressing them as “Hello [First Name].”

Your reason for contacting them shows you’ve given it some serious thought.

14. Send Cold Emails To The Prospects

In terms of scale & reach, this cold email marketing strategy is very effective.

A cold email’s purpose is to briefly introduce yourself to someone you don’t know and do business with them.

To explain how this works, let me break it down into steps:

The first step is to find the email addresses of your potential customers using a tool such as Prospect.io

The next step is to prepare your email content in a Word document or a Google Doc

Send bulk emails to prospects based on the email content and email addresses you have entered in your email marketing software

You can choose from a variety of email marketing software on the market, such as:

  • Gmass (works great with Gmail)
  • GetResponse
  • Aweber
  • MailChimp
  • Constant Contact, etc.

Depending on your needs, choose the one that suits you.

Take care not to spam your prospects. Therefore, make the cold email valuable, not just promotional. Then, make sure you only include targeted prospects in your email list. Sending mass emails to random people isn’t ethical.

15. Word Of Mouth Marketing

Eventually, you’ll have to rely on word-of-mouth marketing for your wholesale business, no matter your marketing strategy.

Customers, employees, friends, and family who are satisfied with your service refer business to you without expecting anything in return. They are like free brand ambassadors.

Would you be able to solicit word-of-mouth marketing? That’s not the case. If your product or service is awesome, it happens naturally.

Customers are attracted to your business like a magnet when your products speak for themselves.

One of the best examples of word-of-mouth marketing is the electronics giant Apple. Apple has built a loyal following over the years. Apple fans are passionate and committed to their products. In other words, Apple is paying for the same thing.

What is word-of-mouth marketing? To help you start your own wholesale business, here are a few tips:

  • At the very least, develop your brand (stop selling others’ products) by private labeling.
  • In the wholesale business, you must price your products generously (Price is the key to success).
  • Create a unique promise for your business (for example, a guarantee of quality, a full refund, a 24-hour delivery guarantee, or a price guarantee that’s the best).
  • Ensure that your employees are well treated
  • Customer service that is second to none
  • Keep your customers’ trust by never lying to them
  • Send birthday or Christmas wishes to your customers even if it’s not a business need.

Since word-of-mouth marketing is organic, it cannot be easy to implement. But it works like a charm. Who doesn’t want FREE customers now and then?


You can build a strong marketing strategy by focusing on the following methods.

Pick two tactics from each focus area above and apply them to your business. Test their performance one by one by knocking them off.

Double down on what works well. Be ruthless and cut out whatever is not working from your strategy.