For many OEMs, success is closely tied to quality – and that’s often a matter of supply chain and distributor management. Whether it’s managing the supply of parts to an end-product producer, or building a growing distributor and reseller network, today’s OEMs must be ready to adapt to changing market demands. 

This means creating a more flexible and adaptive mode of managing and communicating with partners, while at the same time ensuring complete brand (and quality) control. 

In this blog, let’s focus on the OEM-to-distributor model. 

Collaboration is key to building an engaged distributor network

Regardless of whether it’s a strategic, or purely tactical, relationship, the process covers several stages, from distributor strategy, distributor selection, logistics, supply-chain collaboration, and distributor training and support. 

It’s a process that requires careful communication and collaboration between all stakeholders. For example, not only is it imperative that distributors and resellers have access to the information they need (from pricing and data sheets through to training guides and even Point-of-Sale promotional assets), but as an OEM, you must also maintain the integrity of your brand as your products pass through the distribution network.

That’s because OEMs typically have very little say on how their product is sold. You're at the mercy of the distributor to ensure that the customer leaves a store happy, and that they’re satisfied with the brand and product performance. 
For those in highly price sensitive markets, where brand equity plays a role in protecting price points, creating transparent engagement with the right distributors, fields reps, and customers has never been more important!

Unfortunately, while this sounds simple enough, much of the industry is hampered by legacy technologies that are creating dangerous knowledge silos.  

A reliance on legacy technology
The use of email, consumer-grade file sharing apps like Dropbox, and legacy extranet solutions remains dangerously prevalent in the industry for the sharing of content. This creates several challenges if you're hoping to achieve the transparency, engagement, and control required of today’s highly complex distributor networks. 

Here are five things that can go wrong! 

1. Partners can’t access the content they need, when they need it (or they’re using out-of-date content).  

From pricing data to the latest product brochures, when content is shared through email, it can get lost in-boxes, and quickly forgotten about. 
Worse still, head office teams often have no way of knowing whether distributors (and their own field reps) are even using the latest versions of a document. 

2. It’s impossible to know if distributors have actually read or used your latest content. 

This is particularly important during new product launches or updates, and when your head office team needs complete assurance that its distributor network has been adequately trained and briefed.
Unfortunately, this can be impossible to achieve with many traditional file sharing solutions (and email) – leaving the head office team blindly hoping that the information has been disseminated across their network. 

3. It’s hard to protect your IP
In hyper-competitive markets, it’s important that you can protect your intellectual property, and restrict who has access to sensitive documents (such as your latest price lists or product release calendar). 
Unfortunately, this can be challenging when sharing content through email. The minute you click send you effectively cede control to the recipient. Attachments can be forwarded to unintended recipients or downloaded and stored locally.  

4. It’s getting harder to control document versions
Whether it’s a pricing update, or a change in your latest product brochure, it’s important that your content stays accurate. However, it’s not uncommon for your documents to be stored in several locations – from internal network drives to recipients’ email servers and C: drives. 

This makes it increasingly challenging when the time comes to make an update and ensure that everyone is referencing the latest document version. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find your own field reps using out-of-date, inaccurate content. 

5. Partners aren’t engaging with your content or communications. 

Email is not collaborative! It was never designed to be!

Creating a generic, one-way push of information is unlikely to create engagement across your partners. Email might have its strengths, but for group collaboration, organizing conversations, and accessing files, it falls short. Your partners suffer from the same inbox overload as you, so don’t be surprised if they seem disengaged. 

The Huddle solution 
Huddle offers a more effective solution for managing content and communication across an OEM’s distributor network

For OEMs that want to build more engaging, branded experiences for their distributors, a Huddle portal is the perfect choice. Huddle workspaces can be created for each distributor partner – offering them a branded, and personalised space where they can access the content they need and engage with their OEM account reps and HQ teams. 

  • A single source of truth: From field reps and distributor partners, to your own head office team, everyone knows were to go to find the latest content and updates. Huddle also makes it simple to search and find the content that you need; so you field fewer questions from partners looking for the latest materials. 

  • Accuracy: Huddle automatically manages file versions. This means that when you make an update it’s automatically synchronised across your team and partners – so you can say goodbye to out-of-date materials being used in the field.

  • Security: Security is at the heart of everything we do. Unlike sharing on email (where content can be downloaded / forwarded), Huddle offers several levels of access, depending on the user’s permission. This includes read-only access and blocking the physical downloading or onward sharing of content. Perfect for protecting your sensitive documents. 

  • Auditable: When you add a file to Huddle, every file and user activity is time-stamped. This means that you can see who has read, and is actively using, your content. Ideal for new product launches! 

  • Content and communication in one place: Every document stored in Huddle has its own comment stream where you can @mention individuals and entire teams. This ensures feedback and comments are always tied to your document, and not buried deep inside your inbox. Everything is there, in one place. 

  • Control: If you email content to recipients, you lose control of it. However, with Huddle you can restrict a user’s access (or remove them entirely) with just a couple of clicks. 

To learn more about Huddle, and how we’re helping OEM brands such as NGK Spark Plugs (UK) to better collaborate across their distributor networks, request a demo with one of our industry experts

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