Brands that sell primarily through specialty retail stores have two important main goals:
1. To support retailers in selling brand products
2. To inform end-customers about brand offerings
Barry Smith, Director of Marketing for Profile Design, knows all about this. “Our true customer is the retailer,” Smith says. “But they [retailers] want us to find ways to engage the end-user of the product. So to do that we use a multi-channel strategy.” Profile Design’s Brand-to-Retailer approach includes print, direct sales and electronic media. “We’re trying to position ourselves as a thought leader in our industry.”
It’s a highly specialized market. California-based Profile Design targets triathletes with products such as carbon fiber aerobars, triathlon-specific wetsuits and a variety of multi-sport equipment. It’s sister company Bellwether produces cycling apparel. Both brands are sold through specialty retail outlets in the U.S. and abroad.
One of the issues that arises when selling through specialty retail outlets is the complexity of working with a wide range of specialty retailers, some of whom market themselves and their products better than others.
Profile Design has to not only make retailers more effective, but also guide end-users to its products. “I feel like we don’t make it easy for the end-user to buy the stuff,” Smith says. “It is tricky when you try to figure out how to give the customer better access to our product.”
Adding to the challenge is that specialty retailers frown upon carrying products from companies who sell their products directly to the consumer, or through channels such as Amazon.com.
Rather than fighting e-commerce, Smith says retailers like independently owned bike shops, can fight back by playing up their outstanding customer service and knowledge base. Incentives, such as proper equipment installation and professional fitting, provide the kind of value to end-users that can make them lifetime customers. But in order to capitalize on those incentives, stores have to start beefing up their online presence, especially in the realm of social media.
“Content is the biggest thing for me – to make sure we have fresh, engaging content each day,” said Smith. He added that Profile Design’s programs offer value by communicating that value in multiple ways. “Dealers can access our content through RSS, social media, or on their own websites.”
Profile Design uses social media to promote athletes and good causes, and Smith is hoping to create more opportunities for customers to interact with the company. That’s one of the main reasons why he decided to launch Promoboxx to all his dealers in April 2012. “Industry wide, I’d like to see dealers start to realize how much they have to gain from web-based marketing,” he says.