November 19, 2014
Progressive contractors, I believe, are changing the way they are interacting with their manufacturers. When I ran across this research recently, it verified in my mind that it holds true. I only wish the Electrical and Plumbing markets would do similar research.
HVACRBusiness recently released a new research study, “HVACR Contractors: Trends in the Adoption of Products/Systems & Management Approaches,” (for a free copy of executive summary click here), that highlights new trends on their involvement with manufacturers. I did a podcast interview with Terry Tanker, the publisher, to talk about the results of the research.
Bottom line – 70% are more likely to evaluate additional manufacturers and their products. You can’t depend on your sales rep going to see them personally to introduce a new product. By the time they get there, the contractor may be well down the selection process. Contractors, no matter what kind, are looking for good information, not a sales pitch, but information that can help them do their jobs. If you can do that, it will help keep you in the game.
Here are some highlights.
They define a “High Yield” contractor as being more active in managing their business, have substantial revenues and are experiencing significant growth. In other words, The “A” players in the field.
- 93% get involved in the early stages of the selection process of new products.
- Contractors have even greater expectations for products/systems than 5 years ago.
- Contractors are expecting manufacturers to do more to help them compete and operate efficiently.
- The selling environment has become more businesslike and competitive.
The bottom line is that these “High Yield” contractors have made significant changes in their relationships with their manufacturers and expect more out of them. Among them the top three are:
- Making manufacturers more accountable for their products/systems.
- Offer more support.
- Make more objective decisions about products/systems/brands.
November 11, 2014
I know we all know “CONTENT IS KING” and we focus on putting out good stuff. But we should be just as focused on building the list to whom we’ll be sending all this valuable info. There are so many sources for gathering data from trade shows, PR and leads from advertising. We need to formulate a plan to separate them by market, industry or other criteria so specific targeted messages can be sent with a strong call to action.
It’s a fact that if you have an engaged database of subscribers, you have a captive audience, not only for them to read, but to share. I recently read a post on problogger.net by James Penn entitled, 10 Ways to Get More Email Subscribers For Your Blog that I thought brought home some key points.
Among them are:
- Use multiple opt-in forms – have 3-4 in your newsletter template. The more you have, the better the chances of them signing up.
- Offer a freebie for signing up – Give them a report, industry trends or white paper for signing up.
- Use your most popular posts – They will continue to bring in traffic.
- Create special reports on industry issues – Use already existing content to create.
- Ask readers to join your email list – What better way to get people on board.
These are some great tips. What are you doing to increase your email lists?
October 28, 2014
For all of us in sales, it’s all about now. Making this month’s/quarter’s numbers. While there’s nothing wrong with this, we all need to step back and look at the total value of a customer. We need to realize, that even though we got this sale, it doesn’t guarantee the next one.
I know most manufacturers sell through distribution networks and often you don’t know who the actual end users are. But for those of you who offer something other than consumables, there are ways, e.g., warranty cards, that will give you access to the user and related products.
So what are you doing about keeping that lifetime customer? First of all, we need to not take advantage of or assume that all future orders are a lock for you. Remember, they do have other choices.
We need to have the mindset to earn every piece of future business. What can you do to foster and nurture those customer relationships so when the next purchase opportunity comes up, we have the advantage?
Here are some post sale things to think about:
- Follow-up with them to see how they liked the product (first-time buyers) and did it perform like they expected? If not, resolve the problem or take back the product. Ask them to rate the product online.
- Keep in contact with them via email. Touching base on industry issues or giving them a sneak peek at a new product coming out.
- Help them find solutions to make their job easier, even if it doesn’t include your product for that application.
By engaging with the customer, you’re building the three key factors of know, like and trust that will give you the edge next time.
October 21, 2014
We all want to capture more business, and the best source of that is from existing customers. If you were a retailer, it would be much simpler to develop a program. But if you’re a manufacturer who sells through distribution channels, your challenge is where do you put your efforts … at the distributor or end user? You’re between a rock and a hard place.
From a distributor’s perspective, all manufacturers are trying to get more time and attention. If you’re an A or B line item, chances are you’ll get some time. Here are some challenges to consider:
- When you do, what kind of plan are you presenting?
- Is just like everybody else, or does yours stand out from the crowd?
- And what about the cost? You know it’s coming out of your margins, not the distributors.
- Do you incentivize for total sales or for incremental sales once they’ve met last year’s numbers?
- How do you get their sales force excited?
- Do you incentivize the distributor or the salesmen?
- Tracking program – make it simple so you’re not spending all your time figuring out who gets what.
End users aren’t as loyal as they once were. Most will change brands at the drop of a hat or for 5 cents.
There are some iconic brands out there that have worked very hard to build that trust and loyalty over many years, and for the rest of us, we are envious. But even these brands have to fight for incremental sales outside their core “loyalists.”
The younger tradesmen, for the most part, have little brand loyalty unless they were brought up through an apprenticeship program or trade school where your products were used.
So if you’re considering doing an end-user promo, here are some things to think about:
- What’s your objective? Is it brand building or product related?
- Are you developing an end-user database? If so, what do you plan on doing with it?
- What’s the offer? Is it memorable? Can you tie it into other branding activities?
- Are you involving distribution to help create the buzz?
Manufacturers, you do have your challenges. I’d like you to share programs you’ve seen that have been effective.
October 15, 2014
I know we all want to have customers that only call us and never quibble about price. I guess we need to wake up. Years ago you could build customer loyalty, but today I really wonder if it holds true anymore.
If you’re a manufacturer who sells through distribution, you have a double challenge—to keep both the distributor and user happy. The question is, where do you spend your time, the distributors or users? I guess the answer to that question will be different for all of us, but I think we all agree we need to spend the time building loyalty where it will make the biggest impact on sales.
My guess is for those who are looking to get to the professional tradesman, the best way to do that is to have a strong relationship with the distributors, who in turn have customer loyalty with the tradesman.
Yes, there are some iconic brands that have a great end-user preference, and hats off to those that have. But those numbers are a small percentage of the total. These folks, while we will envy them now, will, I believe, have a similar issue down the road when all the oldies (50 plus) get out of the business and the younger generation doesn’t value the loyalty card as much as the older generations.
No matter what avenue you choose to foster loyalty, there are some basic guidelines that need to be considered:
- They need to know, like and trust you - Without that, you will have an uphill battle, and it will take time.
- Make them your top priority - Back it up by having someone treat them like a key account that they are.
- Spend time with them belly button to belly button - You can build a relationship via emails.
- Not everything you’ll do results in a sale - Help them out whether it’s tech support or customer visits. Make them look like a hero.
- Under promise and over deliver - Folks remember those that go the actual extra mile.
- Show them you do care - Customers stop doing business with people because they have the perception of indifference. Send them a handwritten note or a copy of an industry article that would be relevant.
I’d be curious, for those who sell through a distribution channel, where do you focus your efforts? At distribution or the end-user?
October 14, 2014
Video is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing toolbox. Why aren’t you focusing more on them?
A recent study from eMarketer showed that even though consumers wanted more video, 75% of U.S. marketers said videos are not a priority, and nearly half said they had no plans on increased efforts this year.
According to eMarketer, consumer-branded video increased over 16% from January to June 2014 to almost 3 billion views a quarter.
We’re a visual society with a 30-second sound bite mentality. Why not use video to deliver your message in a different way? In today’s world with the use of smart phones and desktop editing suites, compiling a video isn’t hard or expensive anymore.
The more successful videos have to do with a single subject and usually run under 2 minutes in length. And, if appropriate, add a little humor (everyone likes to laugh). Manufacturers have plenty of options for using video. Instructional how-to videos, training sales/reps, new product intros and testimonials to name a few.
Next to Google, YouTube is the second biggest search engine. Let potentials find you. Obviously the demand is there. Don’t be left on the sidelines.
If you like this, you may want to read:
Have Your Videos Gone Viral?
Why Videos are Such an Important Way to Reach the Professional Tradesman.
B-to-B Marketers: Are you Taking Advantage of Online Videos?