It’s probably fair to say most companies during the pandemic and subsequent economic challenges have had to make tough decisions about where to invest their precious time and money. Some have decided to rein in marketing, resulting in a drop-off in direct communication on products and promotions to resellers and even less to end consumers.
However, as we are settling into the changes around us, it is time for manufacturers and resellers to turn the dial back up and for the industry to concentrate on growth.
For all businesses, ROI for any expenditure is key to success and marketing ROI over the past few years has likely taken a step backwards. But it is really important to ensure that your brand (manufacturer or reseller) is front of mind for the end user because, if not, your competitor’s will be.
Marketing is complex and shiny new objects seem to appear all the time, so it’s worth redefining the two basic types to focus on and how they differ in building up campaign content to support growth.
1. Trade marketing: a shout-out to the manufacturer base
The product assortment in the workplace supplies industry is vast, and many resellers diversified during the pandemic and presently offer a considerably broader range. They also understand what’s driving the most growth for them or where to go next. Some, however, still need assistance and encouragement in terms of expanding into the right, profitable categories for their customer base.
Being able to provide content that educates, raises awareness and problem-solves really does add value. It allows a dealer to broaden what may be a simple product enquiry into a full-scale solution sell across many categories. I would encourage a wider approach and partnerships for campaign marketing if we all want to see results.
2. End user marketing: a shout-out to both manufacturers and resellers
As previously stated, if you’re not talking to your end users then your competitors unquestionably are. The theory of “hit them once, hit them again and, in fact, hit them at least seven times before they take note of a product/range” still rings true! Brand building and going after upselling and cross-selling opportunities is about frequency and consistency, so ad hoc campaigns simply won’t make the cut.
Players in the market such as monolithic e-tailers have departments, agencies and sophisticated software that automate, track and analyse campaigns. We should also be continually asking what can be done better to achieve our goals.
Whether you’re a manufacturer or a reseller, my advice is that marketing to the end user database is critical to success. Campaigns must be factored into plans from both a product and brand point of view.
Barriers to making marketing a priority
The new lean business model means resources and budgets dedicated to marketing are unlikely to return in the same guise. On top of this, the wholesalers don’t sell products and brands the same way they used to and their marketing functions have shrunk too. This means the variety and quantity of content isn’t as available as it once was. As a consequence of this decision, it’s time for the rest of us to step forward, pull together and take control of our destiny.
Ensuring the correct systems are in place across your business will help. For instance, the right back office for product data, processing orders and managing contact information supported by a web store will ultimately facilitate the point of purchase.
Or an appropriate channel-specific marketing platform that offers a continual stream of on-demand content with the ability to create your own, along with campaigns as and when required. A whole ecosystem sits behind the reseller community waiting to provide collaborative support and expert advice. It’s readily available – just ask.
Review what you have today. Is there room for improvement? Can you afford not to invest if you truly want to grow?
Turn communication back on
It’s worth noting that although it is vital to have an overall digital marketing strategy, email marketing is still the number one form of communication within our sector, for both resellers and end users. The available stats prove this over and over again. But before anyone starts to shoot off emails, it’s important for resellers to reaffirm the following:
- Clarify what your USP is for your particular end users. Why should they buy from you and not competitors? Yes, people still buy from people, but it is equally correct that out of sight is out of mind. Ensure communications are regular and informative and use email and social media to drive web traffic and enquiries.
- What products and solutions you should be promoting and to whom? This will depend on the database. Holding key end user information that will subsequently aid with customer segmentation will make this simpler and ensure your marketing provides a return on the time taken.
It’s not all about adding extra work to already stretched teams; it should be seen as working smarter and getting more bang for your buck – think about automated triggered emails coming on stream, for example.
There are increasingly better ways of capturing prospect details, creating mailing lists and segmenting customers. You could have conversations with manufacturers about support with lead generation initiatives and lead nurturing plans, or investigate new variants of managed campaigns and what they look like.
In addition, video is much easier to use nowadays, and everything is becoming integrated with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, Google Business and Google Referral. The data being generated is helping everyone to do their job better, so the quality of what is available should just keep going up and up.
What should the outcome look like?
Marketing keeps you at the front of people’s minds when they’re considering a particular purchase. If you’re widening the portfolio, then broaden your communications. Start prospecting and generating leads to capture contact details and then nurture those contacts to create a loyal customer that hangs around for years.
The lines may get a little blurred at times, especially in periods of economic stress, but we’re all channel specific and together form an interconnected group, each with a role to play. If we each gather up our resources, focus, and ask the right people for support and advice on the way, then the future is bright and growth should be the outcome for everyone.
Helen Colton is Head of Business Development at InControl Marketing