Looking for ways to compete more effectively and get a bigger piece of the pie? Here are six good starting points that your distributorship can begin using today.
by Bridget McCrea
The New Year is off to a good start for most companies, with the recovering national economy and moderate winter weather working hand-in-hand to keep projects on track and distributors’ phones, email inboxes, and EDM systems buzzing with orders. With all signs pointing to a favorable business climate in 2015, now is the time to think about something that may have been on the backburner during the recession and subsequent recovery: How can we grow our market share this year?
“Businesses should be poised for growth this year,” says Rodger Roeser, CEO at The Eisen Agency in Cincinnati. “For the first time in a decade a lot of distributors – and businesses in general – have the cash to invest in equipment, locations, human resources, and other resources necessary to build out their companies from an operational and infrastructure perspective.”
And with those efforts and investments generally come more market share, wider customer bases, and/or improved geographical reach. If any or all of these goals are on your firm’s wish list for 2015, Roeser, whose marketing and advertising firm works regularly with electrical-related industrial firms, offers these six ways to start claiming more market share today:
- Start with a strategic plan. If this is the year that your distributorship is going to partner with new companies, acquire a competitor, approach new customer verticals, or expand organically with new locations, make sure these efforts start with a solid strategic plan. If there’s anything we learned from the recession and the extra “thinking” time it afforded everyone, it’s that taking the time to plan things out before jumping in actually pays off. “Come at it from a strategic planning position,” says Roeser, “with the goal of methodically getting your products, wares, services, and other offerings in front of the right decision makers.”
Create close ties between sales and marketing. This is the year that your sales and marketing staffs should become one – or, at least get more aligned on the core goal of attracting and retaining new customers while also growing business with existing clients. When these two departments work together in tandem, the results can be downright magical. On a very high level, for example, marketing needs to create the materials that get salespeople through the customer’s door, and then the sales team needs to get through that door and make the sale. The problem is that many industrial organizations lack this marketing-sales alignment. “The industry as a whole is stuck in the dark ages on this point,” says Roeser, “so distributors that understand how their marketing is opening doors for their sales teams are the ones that will kick the competition’s butt this year.”
Discern between new and existing customers. Sending your sales team out to hit the streets is one way to drum up new business, but company growth also depends on selling more to those long-time, loyal customers that may need to be nudged to place larger orders, check out new product offerings, or allocate more spend to your distributorship. To leverage both sides of your customer base, Roeser says the key is to become the “go-to entity” for those clients. “Have a separate and distinct strategy between serving and growing with existing clientele and attracting new ones,” says Roeser, who sees a lot of industrial firms making mistakes in this area. “You can’t market to current and new clients the same way. You really have to hone your strategy and give your target markets a ‘reason to believe’ that working with you (or, working more with you, in the case of existing customers) would be an advantage for them.”
Leverage the “cult effect” by getting everyone on board. One of the best ways to build a business and attract new customers is by getting all internal and external “brand ambassadors” on board with the effort. That means not only having employees and sales reps spreading the good word about your business, but also enlisting customers, suppliers, and even competitors for the task. An electrical distributor, for example, can generate leads by working with contractors that, in turn, refer them to new customer opportunities (and vice versa). “When you create brand champions and ambassadors that work together across platforms, disciplines, and markets,” says Roeser, “you’re essentially bringing people together to help promote and grow your business.”
Avoid the race to the bottom. It’s no secret that online companies like Amazon and offline retailers like Lowe’s want a slice of the contractor business, but that doesn’t mean you have to “race to the bottom” of the price heap. In fact, by offering value-added services, extreme customer service, and the kind of hands-on support that most contractors need at the job site, distributors can usually avoid the low-price war altogether. “The days of just selling someone a product are long gone,” says Roeser. “And because independents can’t generally compete on price anyway, it’s time to focus on what you do best: offering a level of expertise and customer service that an Amazon or Lowe’s can’t touch.”
- Get your website into the 21st Century. When Roeser looks around at some of his industrial/electrical clients’ websites, sometimes he can’t believe what he’s seeing. “Some of these sites that are attempting to lure in and/or serve customers look as if they were built in the 1990s,” says Roeser, “and that’s if the companies even have a working website at all.” For best results, distributors should at very least hire an experienced web designer and data expert to create a competent and professional website that looks like it was made for 2015 – not 1995. “At the very least, set up a decent-looking website that’s optimized (for best search engine results) and relevant for your clients,” says Roeser. “Make sure customers can get through it quickly to find what they need – knowing that the next competitor is literally one mouse click away.”
McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at email@example.com or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.Tagged with tED