By Bridget McCrea
Justine Maglio-Wardell gets a bit sentimental when talking about the good old days when the big, lumbering Snap-on tool truck would pull up for its regular visit to Maglio Electric, LLC, in Hampton, N.J. As office manager for the family-owned contracting business, Maglio-Wardell fondly recalls the relationships that her father had formed with the Snap-on tool sales reps and looked forward to the face-to-face interactions.
Fast-forward to 2015 and a new truck is on the road and making regular stops at companies like Maglio Electric. “Yesterday I saw a Sunwire Electric truck out on the road for the first time in years,” says Maglio-Wardell. “It’s a big conversion van that’s wrapped and branded with the Sunwire name and logo; it was very noticeable and really caught my eye.” According to Maglio-Wardell, the sales rep behind the wheel of the van pulled into Maglio Electric’s parking lot and popped in for an impromptu visit. “He wanted to stop in and see if there was anything that he could do for us,” says Maglio-Wardell. “I haven’t seen anything like that take place in ages.”
And so in a business world dominated by electronic communications, e-commerce, and mobile phones, this particular electrical contracting firm was especially impressed by an age-old distributor tradition: stopping by for a short visit in a company van. “It was definitely a throw-back,” says Maglio-Wardell, “and something that left me wondering about the effectiveness of some of the more traditional means of marketing yourself to customers.”
Hitting Them Where it Counts
Knowing that not all companies enjoy “surprise” visits, today’s distributors are being challenged in their quest to market themselves the right way to each of their electrical contractor clients. While one company responds well to occasional calls from outside sales reps (to go over a batch of new products at once, for example), others may like a visit every time a new item is rolled out. Setting up those meetings is another variable: Do the customers want phone calls or email? Do they want weekly or monthly meetings? Are they tech-savvy and interested in using a mobile distributor application to get their information – or maybe even videoconferencing over face-to-face interactions?
Maglio-Wardell feels the best approach that distributors can take is to hone their customer service offerings in a way that truly speaks to their individual contractor customers. “We really value the long-standing relationships that we have with the supply houses that offer exemplary customer service,” she says. “In many cases, that quality overshadows the specific ways in which we’re actually marketed to. Put simply, your customer service is your best advertiser.”
When he thinks about the way in which most electrical distributors market themselves to his firm – and any improvements or tweaks he’d suggest to those companies – Bruce Seilhammer, electrical construction group manager at Camp Hill, Pa.-based SECCO, Inc., has a few tips to offer. Realizing that this can be a particularly challenging area for the typical distributor, he says traditional house calls (usually conducted by his firm’s three leading suppliers) tend to work the best for introducing new products and services.
“The distributors will come in and sit down with our estimators to talk about what’s new, discuss any issues, and come up with possible solutions,” says Seilhammer. “That’s still a beneficial approach, in our eyes.” He says many suppliers are also “hitting us online” to let the SECCO team know if there are any special training events, product specials, or opportunities coming up in the near term. Ultimately, Seilhammer says email tends to be the easiest form of communication to manage during his busy workday.
“It’s best when a distributor uses email to keep us informed of what’s ahead and what opportunities might be most applicable for our company,” says Seilhammer. “From there, we can go ahead and set up in-person meetings or other types of interactions as needed.”
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.
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