By Peter Cabrey
As contractors continue to expand and innovate to capture a larger share of the markets they serve, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to be all things to all people as changes in technology increase at a rate not seen since the industrial revolution.
For example, in the residential market, it wasn’t all that long ago that “smart home” products required large investment. Today, relatively inexpensive products allow homeowners online, remote control of lighting, security, heating, and cooling—and contractors serving this market need to make sure that they are trained and certified and/or partnered up with suppliers of such products.
In the commercial market, energy saving legislation is driving change. Laws such as Title 24 in California have created standards where there were none previously. This in turn has manufacturers making products to those standards, and those new products are proliferating nationwide.
In the industrial sector, the Internet of Things (IoT) is driving the technology wave for things to be more and more connected and could drive the next Industrial Revolution as machines and equipment are connected to take advantage of real time data to make production decisions.
So, what can distributors do to ensure that their contractor customers have the right products and programs in place to capture additional available business in each of these growing market segments? Here are just a few suggestions:
In the residential contractor market: Align yourself with a smart home vendor. Hold product trainings and seminars to educate contractors in this market. Extend that relationship to make sure you have three of four contractors that you can refer customers to when asked.
For commercial contractors: Develop and maintain lighting and lighting control departments that can assist contractors and the rest of the organization in areas of lighting design, control design, and LED fixture and lamp selection. Ideally this will be centrally located but shared throughout the company to make this resource as economical as possible. In states where lighting and control systems need certification and acceptance testing, consider hiring someone that can make that a revenue center.
For the industrial contractors: Consider creating a control department based around control vendors and product lines. This can be an excellent resource for inside and outside sales, especially with the sophistication that products such as PLCs, adjustable frequency drives and sensors that are an integral part of the industrial market. Publish white papers or conduct webinars when possible. This group of contractors will be more technically savvy and will probably appreciate the chance to update their knowledge base with a well- timed webinar.
For each market served, conduct a complete product review and make sure all the products that are relevant are being stocked at all locations. This may be done with a survey to each of the contractor types and at the same time may identify which products they are not sourcing from your organization. Share the results with the purchasing department to make sure they are aware of the product categories that may need to be brought in or sourced.
Adjusting to changing market conditions is something that most electrical distributors have done quite well in the past, but the quantum leap that the changes that will be taking place in the residential, commercial, and industrial contractor marketplaces in the next several years may well pose a challenge that will require more of a game plan than just having products on the shelf.
Cabrey is a Baltimore- based freelance writer with more than 30 years in the electrical industry with both manufacturers and distributors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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