Can there be a golden rule for such a broad discipline as distributor marketing, which includes everything from public relations to direct mail, advertising and SEO? The answer is yes, and the golden rule is:
The more frequently you put relevant offers in front of targeted customers, the more frequently customers will buy from you.
We had a great discussion about this recently on our weekly live show, Wholesale Change.
Why is this the golden rule?
Companies like to segment their customers, but customers also segment their suppliers. They develop paradigms and assumptions about what kinds of products they buy from each supplier and it’s hard to change that perspective once it’s established.
Here’s our experience:
You think your customers know what you sell – but they don’t.
Have you ever walked through a branch or distribution center with a customer and had a conversatioin like this:
Customer: “Oh, I see you have Square D in stock. When did you start carrying Square D?”
Even your best customers have relatively little understanding of your product and service offering. Sure, you told them, but the problem is that lots of companies are competing to plant images of products in your customers’ heads, so the ones you planted years ago were subsequently replaced. You absolutely must, on a permanent basis, remind customers of your value proposition – otherwise, they associate your products and services with a competitor.
Customers don’t think of you when they need something.
When we think of a product, an image of it pops into our heads. It’s involuntary; you can’t control it. As you read the words, “Honda generator,” “USB drive,” baby carriage,” “Snickers bar,” “Cubs hat,” images of these items appeared in your mind.
When customers want to buy something, they think of the product, they see the product image and then they begin thinking of where they know those products are for sale. If you’re not one of the top three “evoked suppliers,” you lose. But remember – those images decay; you have to replace them.
Think about the best-performing distributors over the last few decades. They flooded customers with images of their products and brands: branch displays, email marketing, websites, print catalogs and flyers. They did this because they had to fight for mindshare to link their products to their companies in the minds of customers.
How hard do you work to ensure customers understand your value proposition – not at a point in time, but forever?
Marketing must craft and communicate a clear value proposition.
It’s not easy to compete for customer mindshare but you have no chance if your value proposition isn’t clear, compelling and differentiated. Instead, distributors tend to have similar, boring value propositions that brag about SKU counts, how customer service or how long the company has been in business.
Proven outcomes of targeted marketing in B2B
When you frequently send relevant messages to targeted customers, you’ll see:
- More frequent purchases
- More first-time buyers
- Better customer retention
- Improved customer lifetime value
Your customers want to hear from you more than you know, especially if you’ve positioned yourself as a helpful, problem-solving resource. It’s all about relevance. If you understand your customers and send them things they’re interested in, they’ll like hearing from you regularly.
Frequent, targeted, messages capture more first-time buyers. And broadening your identity with current customers will encourage them to buy from more categories, which makes the relationship stickier. You’ll see better retention and improved customer lifetime value.
How to segment customers for relevant messaging
For targeted marketing, get beyond the one-size-fits-all approach and segment your customers to deliver relevant content at the right times. This means gathering data about your customers and prospects and grouping them based on their behaviors, needs, preferences, or characteristics.
Do this for all customers, whether they’re a small account or a large national one. Regular communication is essential to keep your company top-of-mind and maintain or create those product associations.
Targeted marketing channels to consider
The best channels for your targeted marketing depend on what your customers prefer and what achieves your marketing objectives. Flyers and catalogs still generate revenue for distributors certain sectors, but most marketing communications are transitioning to digital, with a focus on email and web marketing.
- Retargeting campaigns
- Google Maps Local Inventory Ads
- Branch displays
- Open houses
- Counter/will call
- Customer service
How often should you reach out?
Your customers want to hear from you, and you shouldn’t be timid if you’re giving them relevant content. Though the best frequency varies depending on your customer base, we’ve determined a good cadence of communication based on our voice of customer research across segments:
Remember: It’s all about relevance. To run a successful targeted marketing campaign, you must understand your customers and put the right products and services in front of them. Spray and pray email campaigns are a good way to get blacklisted.
Watch our recent episode of Wholesale Change, The Golden Rule of Marketing now:
Ian Heller is the Founder and Chief Strategist for Distribution Strategy Group. He has more than 30 years of experience executing marketing and e-business strategy in the wholesale distribution industry, starting as a truck unloader at a Grainger branch while in college. He’s since held executive roles at GE Capital, Corporate Express, Newark Electronics and HD Supply. Ian has written and spoken extensively on the impact of digital disruption on distributors, and would love to start that conversation with you, your team or group. Reach out today at email@example.com.