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6 Ways to Communicate Your Distributorship’s Value in the Marketplace

By Bridget McCrea

Large, global corporations like Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Nike funnel massive amounts of money and energy into building and maintaining their brands. But good branding isn’t limited to those 800-pound gorillas. In fact, even the 2-location, 20-employee electrical distributorship can benefit from solid branding tactics and a commitment to stand out in today’s crowded marketplace.

And while distributors tend to be good at selling products, Faust says most need to get better at packaging their solutions, services, and products in a way that differentiates their companies from the competition. That’s where good branding comes into play. “People tend to think that branding is about mass marketing and expensive promotions,” say Mark Faust, principal at Echelon Management in Cincinnati, “but in reality, even a small company should be using solid branding tactics to differentiate itself.” Here are six ways that distributorships of any size can communicate their value in the marketplace:

  1. Develop a marketing calendar. Open an Excel spreadsheet, label a few columns (by month or quarter, for example), and start filling in some of the creative and innovative ways that you can reach out to your current, past, and prospective customers over the coming 12 months. “This will help bring top of mind awareness of your target prospect and your customer base,” says Faust. Use a combination of marketing and sales touches that are spaced and regularly alternated. Email newsletters, direct mail, in-person visits, and regular social networking updates on sites like Facebook and Twitter can also serve as effective marketing touch points. “When you get your ideas down on a calendar and organize them by distribution dates,” says Faust, “the efforts go a long way in supporting your firm’s overall brand.”
  2. Dust off your fax machine. Here’s an interesting strategy that Faust has seen work effectively in several different industries. Even though email and mobile communications have displaced faxes, most companies still have at least one fax machine in the office (if not several). “Fax something of value to your customers on a regular basis,” Faust says, “and people will remember it.” A safety tip sheet for the jobsite, a copy of a recent magazine article, or an announcement about a new product will help keep your company in front of customers and give them something non-digital to read. Personalize the faxes by writing, “Hey Mike, I thought you’d be interested in this,” on a cover sheet. “The recipients will come to look forward to your faxes,” says Faust, “primarily because they just don’t get very many of them any more.”
  3. Identify your key customer targets. Deciding exactly whom you want to brand to sounds simple enough in theory, but Faust says this is one area that companies tend to overlook in their quest to stand out in the marketplace. Instead of shooting numerous arrows at a large target, take the time to profile your “ideal customer” and then shape your firm’s branding around that client. “Refine your customer targets and then regularly prioritize those targets to get the most out of your branding efforts,” says Faust. “By doing this, you’ll wind up with a much more focused and balance marketing and sales effort.”
  4. Get all team members involved in the effort. Branding isn’t just a sales and marketing thing. Good branding involves the entire company and incorporates all employees and locations. Make it part of your corporate culture, says Faust, and make sure all team members understand the value of conveying a consistent branding approach across the entire company. A good starting point, Faust says, is to simply get all of your firm’s sales reps, marketing professionals, managers, and executives together for an initial brainstorming session. Discuss sales and marketing touches, overall branding strategies, and other ideas to help fill out the marketing calendar mentioned in tip #1 above. “Map things out together,” says Faust, “and plan to meet on an ongoing basis to assess, review, and adjust as needed.”
  5. Drill down on your company’s positioning points. If you can’t answer the question, “What are we doing differently than any other competition, in a way that delivers a unique value to the customer?” then it’s definitely time for a branding overhaul. “If the answer to that question isn’t understood by everyone in your organization and your customers, then you’re going to run into problems,” says Faust. To avoid this trap, distributors can start by asking customers what they think your firm’s differentiation and positioning points are. Why are they buying from you? Why do they come back for more? What value do you deliver to them on a regular basis? “Drilling down on these points is particularly important when you’re selling commodity products,” Faust says. “The idea is to ferret out the differentiation – whether it’s more locations, a long-standing reputation in the industry, a service professional who is on call 24/7, or all of the above.”

Be the problem solver, not the product seller. When companies sell products, they are prone to getting beat up on price. But when they solve their customers’ pain points, companies can position themselves as “go to” providers. If this point isn’t getting across clearly to customers, Faust says distributors should examine how much money the problem is costing the client. “Qualify the negative dollars and the positive dollars – the cost of the problem itself and then the upside of solving it,” says Faust. “That conveys a message that you aren’t just selling a specific product at a set price; you’re giving them options.” If customers are reluctant to reveal their critical pain points, Faust says reps can turn their attention to the value of solving the problem. Ask questions like:  What value would this type of solution provide you? What can we do to help you solve the problem? Then, dollarize those value points. “Sometimes you just have to point blank list those points out,” says Faust, “and show the customers where your brand will add value and help them operate more efficiently.”

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 bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

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