Choosing Your Distributor: A How-To

One of the biggest issues many green, small business faces is “how do I get my products to the people who buy them, and how can I remain green doing it?” If you are an independent contractor, selling things that you make yourself, the answer is easy: you simply mail them to the people who order them.

But what if your business is bigger than that? What if you have procedures and green behaviors that you want to maintain? Using recycled and reusable material in your packaging is great way to provide customers with value. It’s good for the environment and saves the customer time and money on their returns. One of the best and most important ways to help yourself make sure that you are servicing your customers to the best of your ability is to work with a distributor (see Barrett Distribution Centers for some ideas).

Distribution centers are often set up to handle volumes of orders that you are unlikely to be able to handle on your own—even if you have your own warehouse and team of stockers and shippers. They can also, often, help you increase your overall sales volume. Fortunately, there are a lot of options to choose from, especially if you’re looking for an eco-friendly and green distributor to match your company’s eco-friendly business behaviors. Of course, not all distributors are equally reliable. Here is how to make sure you’re working with a good one.

1. Find out which other clients your potential distribution company serves, and whether the environment is a priority for them as well. There are a couple of reasons that you are going to want to do this. The first is that you want to make sure that you are working with someone reliable, as well as someone compatible for with business vision. For example, look to do business with a company that complies mainly with communication via digital documents and files.

Any company worth working with is going to have a list of clients they are proud to serve. The second reason is because this gives you a list of people you can contact for more information on your potential distributor. Think of it as a reference check.

2. It’s good to work with a distributor that has experience with the type of product you are making and selling, and experience with working in green, eco-friendly environments. You don’t want, for example, to try to sell your food product through a distributor that has only dealt with auto parts so far (or vice versa), or a distributor that simply wants your business, putting on a fake air of care for the earth.

3. You probably don’t want to work with a distributor who also deals with your major competitors. Many distributors use information from one company to help them boost the sales of another company they are working with, and this is especially true for small businesses as well. When it comes to competing companies though, this is the last thing you want. It also puts the distributor into an awkward position.

4. It is important to choose a distributor that will allow you to control the pricing of your products, and this is very important for a green business with more organic, natural, and eco-friendly services and products – these things tend to be more expensive than non-natural products, and you need to make sure you’re getting your desired earnings despite this.

A lot of distributors out there will attempt to hike up your product’s prices in an attempt to earn more money for themselves. This can be very damaging to your brand. Steer clear of any distributor who won’t allow you to set your own price points (or one who won’t stick to them).

The primary point is that working with a distributor can help you expand your market and brand and can help you grow your business in ways that you might not be able to do yourself. Using eco-friendly material in your packaging is an effective way to show clients what type of company your are. Taking a more minimalist approach in terms of distribution materials saves money and makes a positive statement. In the end, isn’t that the goal you’re trying to reach?