Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Marketing the Last Frontier

Marketing the Last Frontier

Marketing plays an important role in business. By definition, marketing works to
inform customers of the value created by an organization. Extending further, marketing also complements the sales department by acting as the mechanism for collecting customer data, determining why customers buy, developing a comprehensive value message and matching a company’s product/services to various customer groups.

In years gone by, Distributors sorely lacked marketing knowhow. When a marketing person was on staff, they were most generally described as event coordinators and keepers of the trinkets. I’m not saying they didn’t work hard. Nor, am I implying these early marketing folks weren’t an asset. But they certainly did little to actively direct the Distributor to higher sales or greater gross margin.

Happily, those days are gone.

Last week, I attended the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) AdVenture Marketing Conference in Chicago. The event was a gathering of 200 plus professionals from the marketing departments of both Distributors and Manufacturers. And, these folks had a purpose: generate growth in the industry.

Top speakers covered topics ranging from Social Media to Amazon to going digital. My own presentation covered building a killer loyalty program. Without taking away from the speakers, the most exciting part of the whole gathering came via networking. I couldn’t help but notice the sharing of best practices. And, I noticed supplier marketing teams and their Distributor counterparts sharing ideas for future efforts.

Distributor Marketing is Accelerating
Failure to get your marketing effort off dead center will be harmful to your financial health. Just like the medical field of the 1800s, snake oil toting experts are beating the drum and passing themselves off as “Dr. Marketing.” There is no elixir of life or ancient cure-all remedy. Despite the bark of these later day charlatans, social media, search engine optimization, email marketing and CRM systems won’t magically heal your bottom line and cause your warts to vanish. It takes commitment, hard work and some planning for the future.

Here is a short marketing checklist:
• Customer segmentation – A lot of distributors break their customers down into a few categories for pricing, but put little thought into the basic differences in business operation. Thought must go into customer values, motivations and what the customer looks for in a supplier.
• Contact segmentation – Engineers think differently than maintenance people. Business owners respond to different messages than project managers. Provide the wrong information to a person and they are likely to tune you out.
• Branding message – Distributors used to rely solely on their supply partners for brand recognition. What do you want to be known for?
• Consistency of message – We just spoke to a Distributor who found themselves with 4 different versions of their logo. Another, Distributor has a different tag line on their line card than their website.
• Plan your programs – What happens when programs overlap? Customers are confused. Even your sales team has a hard time understanding which program carries the priority.
• Coordinate your programs with supply partners – When the distributor and their key suppliers work together it’s a thing of beauty. There should be ongoing meetings to understand how you can build synergy.
• Website – We used to be able to build a website and then say we had one. But that’s not good enough anymore. If you website hasn’t been updated, overhauled or added to in the past 3-4 years you may be in trouble.

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