DealerComms2I must confess that nothing truly prepares you for that day when your firstborn flies the nest and moves to college, even after more than 6,000 days to get used to the idea. A third-generation University of Iowa Hawkeye, the boy bleeds black and gold. As you might guess, the initial separation wasn’t easy for Mom and Dad — bringing back the familiar pangs we felt on the first day back from maternity leave, or the day he couldn’t wait to be the first one into his kindergarten classroom.

We consider ourselves lucky that on move-in day he engineered a brief, tearless farewell faster than we could ask, “When is parent’s weekend?” A couple of pictures on the Pentacrest, a few more lingering hugs and just like that, our family’s dynamic forever changed. We eased our empty vehicles away from Iowa City filled with a bittersweet mix of hope and anxiety. He clicked his heels three times and said, “There’s no place like Kinnick Stadium.”

Tailored communication

As with most new beginnings, communication helps fill the voids and soften the edges. We’ve landed in the school’s content strategy designed to educate parents who are navigating this transition. And, rightly so. It makes good dollars and sense to align parents — an education institution’s distribution network — with its campus culture, educational mission and shared conversation. Using strategic marketing tools like orientation programming, print and e-newsletters, direct mailers, websites, calendars, social media and webinars, the university is routinely speaking directly to us about our important and timely topics.

Building products and dealers

Providing content to enhance the end-user experience is the focus of an enormous amount of B2B marketing today. However, as higher education learned long ago, it doesn’t stop there. If manufacturers want their products to be fully embraced in a competitive marketplace, they should take a page from the college playbook. Developing a strong content strategy tailored to the organization’s distribution network is vital to end-user success.

Surprisingly, not many manufacturers talk directly to their dealers, who are one of their most critical links to customers. Conducting an ongoing conversation with this target audience can provide access to a company through voices and channels that deliver the information they need to know at the times when they need it. A content strategy plan for a manufacturer’s dealer network guides the company’s dealer communications team to plan, create, distribute and measure content that aligns all stakeholders for results.

The point is this: Smart manufacturers do more than build products; they develop dealers, too. Through educational and resourceful content, aligned dealers can learn to make better business decisions.

5 steps to dealer content strategy

Engaging content that’s interesting, relevant and useful can help dealers strategically grow their business and impact a manufacturer’s bottom line. Additionally, it should direct the dealer audience to the tools, training and other resources that make it easier to improve their dealerships.

Developing a content strategy for dealer networks is a process that involves positioning the manufacturer as an organization that articulates dealers’ needs, demonstrates company solutions and celebrates its successes. A good content plan should feature the following five basic components:

1. Business objectives
Determine the priorities that will be used to create key messages, and help prioritize content for the dealer audience.

2. Target audiences
Define who the company wants to target with personas, and understand their personality, goals, needs and interests to set the framework for providing customized content for priority audiences:
• Dealer principals
• General managers
• Sales managers
• Sales specialists
• Rental, parts and service staff

3. Content inventory and analysis
Existing dealer communications content should be audited and analyzed by its relevance to the manufacturer’s business objectives. This content will serve as the calls to action in dealer communications that will help the team track and measure efforts against the objectives. It also will help with planning and identifying what objectives might need more content created.

4. Tone of voice
Taking a cue from Donald Trump, how you say something is often more critical than what you say. Tone informs all written copy for every channel. Defining a tone for content helps build trust with dealers and can influence or persuade them to take action. Dealers may not always remember what was said, but they always remember how it made them feel.
• DO strive for tone and language that makes dealers feel supported, relieved, valued, at ease, more knowledgeable, included and confident.
• DON’T make dealers feel stressed out, overwhelmed, annoyed, frustrated, skeptical or bored.

5. Core content and schedule
Each business objective should have one key message that sums up what the audience needs to know about the subject and should be paired with relevant supporting messages. It should be used in content produced for all dealer communication channels to ensure consistency and influence. Creating a seasonal calendar will also help the communications team deliver the messages at the time of year when the audiences need the information most.

Developing a content strategy for dealers demonstrates a commitment to a key audience that can influence end users and positively impact their long-term business. The same is true for new college parents. The university’s tools are keeping us connected to the process. FaceTime and texts help fill the gaps. Before you know it, our student will return home for the summer — with a freshman year of academics and independence under his belt and mounds of laundry in tow. We should be old pros by then. Go Hawks!

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About Debbie McClung

Content manager and writer Debbie McClung weaves together the words of dealers and customers to tell their unique success stories through digital and print channels. And she’s become one of our client team’s most frequent fliers. When she’s not marketing content, you can find this University of Iowa alum following the Hawkeyes or planning her family’s next travel adventure. Send her a postcard at debbiem@2rm.com.