Marshalls explains how you can get the most from your suppliers.
A strong partnership with suppliers and manufacturers is key to ensuring your business operations run smoothly. Given your stretch of resource in terms of managing your own business, it’s vital that you understand how to get the most from these relationships and benefit from their expertise.
Although it’s likely that your merchant is your “go-to” when it comes to day-to-day interaction with the products you need and want, there’s also a place for having a good relationship with manufacturers. Here, we detail how you can get the most out of your relationship with suppliers.
Do your research
Make sure you scope out merchant branches closest to you and take note of the stock they have to offer. Consider both national and independent merchants as they can often offer different products. When comparing manufacturers, always remember to consider more than just the price; this is just one factor in selecting the right product for your project. Your business reputation relies on happy customers so make sure you’re confident of product quality, that it will be long-lasting and is suited to the purpose you’ve given it. Coming back to your capacity as a business owner, it’s also important to consider availability of stock and ease of ordering, and what the delivery service is like.
Where possible, buying in bulk will help you to keep your purchasing cost-effective and allow you to plan further ahead too. It will also allow you to keep a log of preferred products and show these easily to your customers; consider keeping an image bank of standout projects which highlight the products you know you’ve got stock of and/or can get hold of easily.
Make sure that you’re accurately measuring jobs well in advance of them starting, and always provide a couple of different product options to your customer. This shows them a full breadth of choice and demonstrates the understanding you have of the products on offer.
Widen your information sources
Your merchant and manufacturer partners are the pinnacle of all product knowledge, so tap into this as much as possible to ensure you’re offering the most up-to-date information to your team and customers.
Keep your finger on the pulse of the industry and sign up to merchant or manufacturer newsletters – this way you can keep an eye on seasonal deals, special offers or promotional discounts. Follow their social media accounts too, as many will share the latest news and products on there, as well as customer photos and videos to inspire your work.
Many merchants hold trade events, which are well worth considering too. They give you the chance to see products and machinery in real life, and an opportunity to meet and ask questions of those that make and sell them. Finally, you might also want to consider local business networks, where you can look for peer-to-peer support in other members of the trade that operate in the same area and make useful connections with those that are outside the industry too. Whilst you might be in direct competition with some, a good relationship can work out well for you both in the long run; it might be they pass on business to you when they’re busy or you can benefit from each other’s specialisms on bigger jobs.
Utilise services available to you
The majority of customers will want to see products in their space before deciding what to choose, particularly if there is a lot of choice. Thanks to virtual reality, a growing number of manufacturers are now able to offer customers the chance to use their phone to do this; it’s a quick and free way to visualise a project and get instant feedback.
Of course, some customers will still prefer physical samples, and this is where you get the benefit from good relationships with manufacturers and merchants. Most suppliers will offer samples on request, giving the chance to touch and feel products and lay them in situ. For those suppliers where you have a closer relationship, you may also find you get access to a samples kit, which gives you a range of samples to take round with you when you visit customers and potential clients.
If you’re in contact with the right people, some suppliers will offer a design service when you purchase product through them. Having a professionally created design can be the key to winning work, –tap into specialist sales teams and request support for a visual for the more technical jobs.
Supplier membership schemes
One thing worth exploring is supplier membership schemes and the potential benefit of those to your business. Particularly with suppliers you use regularly, it’s worth seeing that’s on offer. Membership schemes will vary in quality and cost but all will offer various perks that could make your working life easier. The Marshalls Register, for example, is for professional patio and driveway installers and gives members access to samples kits, design services and the opportunity to win regional and national awards. Associating yourself with a reputable supplier can help you to win more work, and secure the more prestigious contracts too, so take a look at what’s available.
In summary, it pays to be proactive and take the time to understand what your suppliers and merchants can offer you. It’s physically impossible to go to every event, read every newsletter and be a member of every scheme but if you understand what’s the most relevant to you, you can streamline the information and benefit from the most relevant opportunities.
For further information on the range of products and support available from Marshalls visit https://www.marshalls.co.uk/