Motivating your international channel partners

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Author: Bert Rosenbloom
Date: March-April 1990
From: Business Horizons(Vol. 33, Issue 2)
Publisher: Elsevier Advanced Technology Publications
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,871 words

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Motivating Your International Channel Partners

How do we get our distributors and dealers to pay more attention to our products and promote them more aggressively? At one time or another most manufacturers have asked that question, especially those who rely on independent channel partners for much of their distribution. In highly competitive markets, with so many manufacturers competing for the same customers, distributors and dealers can afford to be choosy about which manufacturers' products they will push. Getting them to push your products is what motivation in marketing channels is all about. This is hardly a new challenge for U.S. manufacturers.

What is new, however, is the internationalization of motivation in marketing channels. With so many U.S. manufacturers interested in marketing their products overseas, and needing foreign distributors and dealers to do so, the motivation of channel partners needs to be addressed from an international perspective as well as a domestic one. Foreign distributors and dealers, just like their U.S. counterparts, can pick and choose the products they will promote to their customers. They need to be motivated to emphasize your products. But as tough as it is for U.S. manufacturers to motivate their domestic distributors or dealers, it is even tougher in the international arena. The environment, culture, and customs affecting channel relationships can be very tricky for the uninitiated. The experience of the Bose Corporation with its Japanese distributor provides a good illustration.

The Bose Corp., founded by Amar Bose in the early 1960s, is well known in the United States as a manufacturer of audio speakers of outstanding quality and technical superiority. During the mid-1970s, in an effort to build international distribution, Bose attempted to break into the Japanese market. The results were disastrous. After three years of intense effort, the company sold fewer than 100 pairs of speakers in Japan and had no choice but to pull out of the country.

Reflecting some years later on what went wrong, Amar Bose identified the key problem as the failure of his marketing people to establish close personal ties with their Japanese distributor. As Bose would eventually realize, Japan is an intensely relationship-oriented society. Personal connections are the very essence of doing business nibonsbiki (Japanese-style). Such personal relationships, if they have not already been established through old-school ties and family friendships, can often only be developed through long hours of social contact and even late-night drinking bouts. Not knowing this at the time, Bose's export sales staff did not take the necessary time, face-to-face, with its Japanese distributor to convince it of the advantages of Bose's unique direct/reflecting audio technology, which bounces sound waves off walls rather than sending them directly toward the listener.

Bose's failure to gain the support of its Japanese distributor is not, of course, unique to this company or country. Numerous other U.S. firms have failed all over the world because they did not know what it took to motivate their international channel partners.


Motivation, whether in the context of domestic...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A9034487