As the internet has reached a state of maturity, it is necessary for distributors to have an online presence to be in the game.  In fact, it’s a provable fact that companies that invest in developing their brand’s online presence in a structured, consistent way, experience sustained growth.  

However, smaller distributors have big misconceptions regarding digital marketing for their business, as shown in frequent discussions about online marketing on Facebook groups and other forums. 

Since misconceptions do a disservice to everyone, I’m addressing the most common ones that seem to pop up time and again, so you can make any necessary changes.


1. I don’t want my clients to go to my website, I want them to call me when they need something

Your website is your place of business.  You want your clients to come to your site anytime they want and find a welcoming place where they can interact with your business and find what they’re looking for.


2. I don’t need a search feature on my site, my clients who like to search go to (insert big online seller here) and send me the products they want

There is nothing good about your clients going regularly to search on your competitor’s websites, or even worse, you sending them. Not only are you not providing them with a good experience, but you are sending them to be marketed to and see all kinds of offers you might not be able to match. Plus you put yourself in a situation of having to spend hours searching for items you might have a hard time finding.

It’s a matter of time before they’ll leave you for a provider that has a proper search engine where they can interact with their company more effectively, and easily click on a product they’re interested in to send a request.  Instead of having to copy links, do screenshots, and compose emails to accommodate you.


3. I don’t need a search feature on my site, when my clients ask me for a search tool, I just send my clients to my favorite supplier’s websites 

This is similar to #2, with one additional issue.  The day things change in their business they can send those suppliers sites to your competitor they just met and really like, that’s trying to get their business.


4. I don’t want to show products on my website, that makes me look commoditized

If you sell products, you need to make this clear on your website. Otherwise, your visitors will be confused and not spend much time on your site if they’re looking for someone that can help them find and source products.

If your business model is consultative or agency model, where you provide more than just the products, it is important that you communicate that effectively, while you also make it clear that you are in the branded merchandise space.


5. PPC is a waste of time because the big pocket sellers will out do you

Large online distributors spend tens, and some times hundreds of thousands of dollars in PPC. That’s because it works. When people are searching for promotional products they don’t do it for fun. They are ready to buy.

With hundreds of thousands of monthly searches, there is plenty of room for smaller distributors to benefit from PPC, even with much smaller ad spend budgets.


6. People who like to do their own search are price shoppers

Everyone who needs to buy something or needs a new provider turns to Google at some point or another. While some might be doing price comparisons to buy online, others will be comparing providers, looking for a company that understands their job and what they want to accomplish, so they can hand off the entire merchandise procurement project.


7. Email doesn’t work because people don’t read emails anymore. I delete all the promotional emails

There are people who claim to delete all promotional emails without opening them.  We tend to think that because we don’t like something, nobody does. Or that everyone behaves and thinks the way we do. But we are only a point of reference to a small segment.

I think most of us delete promotional emails, we all get so many! But there are some we always open because we love the sender’s products or the topic interests us.

The fact is, all kinds of research shows that email works. If nothing else, every distributor should be sending at least a monthly email newsletter to their customers, so they don’t forget they exist at the time they need to order something.


8. SEO is not worth it because I’d have to spend loads of money to rank

The vast majority of distributors don’t have optimized websites. When people search, Google picks those you find on top of the results based on things like their domain authority (age of the domain).  For the most part, the distributor who addresses SEO correctly won’t have a hard time ranking, unless they are in a very large metro area and are a general, non-specialized distributor.  In that case, you do need a larger budget because the target is too broad. As far as online sellers with big pockets, they typically rank at the top in geographic areas where there are no companies with well-optimized websites. Try it yourself, type “promotional products your city” and you’ll see local companies showing on the top results.


9. Online marketing is not worth it because Google is constantly changing

There is a bit of an urban legend about the devastating effects Google changes can have in rankings.  I think it that started back when SEO companies were employing hardcore black hat SEO techniques, based on tricking the search engines. Then came Google Panda (or was it Penguin?)  which penalized websites that utilized these tactics, and these companies saw their clients’ sites take a plunge overnight. They had to justify the loss of rankings to their clients, plus all the extra charges to fix the sites, so what could be better than blaming it on Google.

Personally, I NEVER engaged in these techniques because they make no marketing sense to me, but that’s another subject for another day.

While it is 100% true that algorithms are constantly changing, it is also true that a strong optimization foundation doesn’t go away, and it’s key to the success of an SEO program. The changes over the years have been to improve the quality of the search results, to present the most relevant results possible to those who are looking.

So the continuous SEO improvements provided by good digital agencies like Action revolves around quality and relevance of content, along with other key factors.


10. SEO companies are a rip-off, is best to do it on your own

It is fair to say that small businesses have good reason to distrust SEO providers. Unfortunately, there are far too many that don’t employ best practices, have no experience in B2B, have no experience at all and are learning on your dime, or provide one-size-fits-all services, that by themselves don’t move the needle.

SEO requires specialized knowledge of your business, your industry, your ideal client’s needs and wants, and their buying process, in addition to the technical know-how. There are good companies that can do great work, including our agency, Action Marketing, an industry specialist.


BONUS:  My clients are not in social media

Everyone in business is on Social Media these days. Just go and check if your clients are on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Chances are you’ll find both company pages and personal profiles in at least three of those networks. Case closed.


The Point

If you recognize any of these 10 statements as your own beliefs, is time to leave them behind. If you’re looking to stay in business for the next 5 to 10 years, or you’re a new distributor wanting to develop a solid business, you must set a plan to build an online presence. Without it, you won’t exist as a business.

If you’re looking to hire a provider make sure they are experienced and know your business. If your budget is limited, start small with the foundational aspects and grow from there.

If you need help with a plan and implementation, get in touch. We’d love to help, and if we can’t, we’ll be happy to steer you in the right direction.

Whatever you do, DO NOT ignore marketing your business online.


Editor’s Note: This article was first published in June 2019 and updated in July 2021