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Dear Suppliers…a Love Note from Your Distributor Customer

Our industry is based on the relationships between suppliers and distributors. Let’s face it; both sides can be a bit dysfunctional. This commentary is a love note to our supplier partners. Most of us appreciate the relationships we have that are critical to our success. I wrote a piece a few years ago, that still is relevant entitled, Salute to Our Industry Heroes.

Suppliers do a fantastic job for us! Even though the lines are being blurred these days, distributors need suppliers and suppliers need distributors.

In various online groups, moaning about supplier issues is common. Some of this can get a bit hostile, with distributors pounding on suppliers for different things. The perception of suppliers selling direct or other problems. I loved the approach one distributor had on a something they found irritating. The comments were couched in a Dear Suppler letter format. With permission, we are using that format here.

We have put together a love note list of comments that suppliers may find useful. Suppliers, we would like to follow up with a Dear Distributors piece. Please feel free to reach out with your Dear Distributor comments. No names will be used…and the purpose is to create a positive dialog that EVERYONE will benefit from. Contact us with your comments.

Dear Suppliers, I appreciate you keeping in touch and remaining on my radar but we both succeed when your calls have a point. So please DO reach out to me personally with new information, new products, or new sales instead. Please do not call me and to ask if I have received the catalog you sent, or to see what I am working on. That is a waste of both or our time.

Dear Suppliers, emails alerting me to your booth number at upcoming shows are great to get! Emails thanking me for stopping by your booth when I never stopped by your booth make me realize that you don’t keep track of much of what happens at your booth. It’s obvious this is just a blanket e-mail, and instead of stimulating the result you want, you made it clear we have no relationship.

Dear Suppliers, I understand and appreciate the detailed information in the "general information" section of a catalog, or website. However, could you please put commonly needed information like product dimensions, imprint area and setup charges close to the product. Flipping thru pages of general information in the back for a setup cost or having to call you for a product size should not be necessary.

Dear Suppliers, thank you for your great looking, easy to navigate web page. I know the most current information is always found there. And as a wonderful extension of your print catalog, details under the general information tab on your website should not say “see page X in our catalog for more information.”

Dear Suppliers, my contact in your office is my lifeline to you. If they are out of the office for half a day or longer, please check their voice mail and email, so I am not left hanging. And if your company will be closed for a religious or local civic holiday, please let me know. Work-life balance is important, and I don’t begrudge you being closed for something important to you, I just really want to know in advance so I can plan accordingly.

Dear Suppliers, I don’t mind giving you my shipper number for samples, and I appreciate that you are responsive about getting my requests out timely. But can you please use the most cost effective packaging? As we all know dimension can add a lot to shipping and as a small business, an extra $10 on shipping here and there adds up fast. I appreciate you helping me keep my costs down.

What we have here is of course not a comprehensive list, but perhaps it will be helpful to put a spotlight on a few things that irritate distributors. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.

Suppliers, as mentioned, you have an opportunity to share a love note with distributors. Things like; Dear Distributor, please understand that production ready artwork is not a pencil drawing on a napkin would be good. Your comments will be anonymous. PLEASE don’t be shy. Send them! This is your chance to be heard.

Everyone we talked to for this column agrees that suppliers do a great job. We respect that you deal with a lot of people and have a lot of moving parts in your company. But it is the smaller details that can make us loyal. In the midst of a fast-moving e-society, good business is still built on good mutually beneficial relationships. Let’s build good business...and great business relationships!

© 2017 Jeff Solomon, MAS

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