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The pull of good marketing26th of September 2013
The cleaning products distribution sector often suffers from a lack of good marketing, with many businesses investing little or nothing. We take a look at the importance of proactively marketing your distribution business and offer some advice on how to start.
Writing for ECJ Distributor Focus is Gary Fage, managing director of Janitorial Express and Jangro member. Jangro is a network of independent cleaning products distributors covering the UK
The cleaning supplies business comprises a small number of large janitorial, safety and catering product businesses like Jangro, providing a national service, combined with hundreds of smaller or sub distributors - largely servicing a specific regional or generic market sector like healthcare or education. That mix hopefully provides all customers with a supply service to meet their needs.
My research indicated that from the hundreds of distribution organisations most customers can only name two or three. The reason for this lack of awareness is poor marketing – not
sales, which is often confused with poor marketing.
I cannot comment on the promotional activities of mainland European distributors but the average small UK regional distributor, frequently a family run organisation, does not even spend one per cent of turnover on any form of marketing activity.
Distributors wanting to expand their business can adopt one or both of the following strategies. The first is to go for organic growth.
The second strategy is to gain new business from new customers and possibly those in new market sectors where you can see growth potential. Maybe there is a new hygiene regulation for kitchens so you get up to speed on that and the products it involves and off you go. But don’t expect instant sales.
There are three ways of achieving new sales leads – the first is responding reactively to leads generated from third party recommendation from your existing clients. The second is from people calling you because they are already aware of you. The third, the hardest and most beneficial, is by proactively getting your business name and your team in front of those who you want to sell to.
No business today has the luxury of being able to wait for the phone to ring with an order or new customer enquiry. To survive you have to be proactively marketing your business and here are a few tips that helped me revive my business, Janitorial Express, after the recession hit my business and for a few months I lost 35 per cent of my turnover.
Your website is the most important marketing tool you have and must be the first area you revisit because it is your silent salesman working for you 24 hours a day. If it is difficult to navigate or unattractive, boring or old fashioned you are doing your business no good. Websites have to be ‘hand held device friendly’ because if on your BlackBerry or iPhone, you cannot read the words easily you have just lost the fastest growing sector of your new customer base.
Key to success is to minimise words, selected photographs that illustrate the point you are making (not just smiley library photos of people at keyboards) and to employ an internet seo ratings specialist who can raise your rankings and get your company name high up the list - so when someone searches under the term ‘janitorial supplies Edinburgh’, your name is in the first three.
Spend as much as you can afford and 20 per cent more on your website as it is your unmanned showroom and 24/7 salesman. You can however, make your site stand out from the others with a personal video on the home page so that customers can identify who they will be doing business with and see the stock and premises.
One tip here - nobody watches more than a couple of minutes so keep your script tight. A good example of using video clips is www.vezeyconsultants.com which uses the owner as the presenter, both visual and sound effects with an overlay of text so that viewers gain visual, sound and text messages in a short time frame.
Short product training videos on how to carry out a task or how to use a product are always very useful to the site visitor. You must make it very easy to communicate with your organisation – with phone, fax and email details highly visible. It is always a good move to have your catalogue online too with a credit card order facility.
So assuming you now have your website in tiptop condition with someone updating it with company news and product promotions, let’s move on to getting more hits to the site.
Reaching the customer
New customers collect their information from a wide range of marketing activities so you have to hit them with your key messages from every direction and then repeat the process which is how Jangro now has more member supply companies than any other UK group.
Where do you start? There are hundreds of ways of spending your hard earned profits and even top brands cannot afford to adopt half of the opportunities. You should try a few of the following options, do them well, make their source traceable, and then you can analyse which part of your campaign worked best. Make sure that whoever answers the phone to new callers has
an enquiry form which includes the question, ‘How did you select our business?’
Other organisations’ websites, generic subject websites, trade organisations and those set up by the trade media are worth connecting to. Advertising deals can be arranged to fit all budgets and you can often pay by the number of ‘clicks’ if you are nervous.
Inbound or content marketing
For the last 50 years large corporations such as Proctor & Gamble, IBM and Coca Cola have spent millions of dollars on what has since become known as outbound marketing, in order to interrupt their way in to our lives and ultimately our wallets.
TV ads, direct mail, billboards and telemarketing are all examples of outbound marketing that are in decline. Returns are falling from many traditional forms of advertising, so much so that many companies are turning their back on this kind of activity completely.
The concept of inbound marketing states that if you create great content on the internet then customers will find you and this will ultimately lead to sales. Why? Because anyone searching for information has a real interest in that subject matter. There is no selling involved, people will buy because they want or need the product.
Companies are looking to target customers in new and exciting ways, made possible by advances in technology. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn all have a big part to play in the way we will promote our businesses in the future. My own way of embracing the new concept is via my blog: visit www.garyfage.wordpress.com
There are several good trade cleaning exhibitions across mainland Europe and these are featured well in advance in European Cleaning Journal. If you are going to take a stand it should be regarded as part of a promotional package which includes marketing activities to get new customers to your stand. This involves pre-show, during show and after show publicity.
Whilst there are more trade magazines per sector than we will ever need, you can sort out the best from the rest by looking at their circulation and always ask if they have an ABC – Audit Bureau of Circulation (or similar organisations outside the UK) – this confirms the number of people receiving the magazine. There are too many magazines with somewhat suspect circulation figures. Never believe what are called ‘readership figures’ as this is the number of people who the publishers guess read their magazines, which is totally unsubstantiated imagination.
Pick the best media in each sector and work with them. Don’t expect them to run your editorial on their news pages if they are not receiving some advertising or other support from you.
Media advertising is bought space – you pay your money for a quarter, half or whole page and depending on your message being legal, decent and honest it is published exactly as supplied.
Editorial is unpaid space which you have to earn by providing good copy that is not full of your branding and it needs good photos. Journalists do not have to publish copy as supplied. The only cost of editorial can be the ‘colour reproduction’ scam in which many magazines, who cannot sell enough advertising space to survive and charge to print your pictures with your editorial. This is less prevalent in mainland Europe. Journalists here prefer to write the majority of articles themselves with the assistance of PR agencies whereas in the UK it is frequently the reverse.
With the development of the internet, direct mail which we used to refer to as ‘junk mail’ has very much moved from the slow and expensive postal system to the fast and furious ‘spam’ emails which frequently get filtered out. This is why traditional postal direct mail is now achieving better results than it was five years ago, because there is less of it and it has a greater chance of being read.
Email lists can be rented from brokers but like trade magazines there are some bad lists so always check that none of the addresses you are renting are received by ‘info @....’ or ‘sales@....’ addresses.
Postal direct mail lists can be rented for single or multiple use but again, make sure as with email lists, that they go to named individuals with the job title or specification you want.
Magazine newsletters like the ECJ monthly email newsletter are powerful as they carry short news items which you can click onto for the full story and they come with the credibility of a magazine that you trust!
Other marketing tools
There are many other marketing tools you could consider depending on your geographic location, type of customer and budget. These include sponsorship, poster advertising, transport advertising, linked advertising to other organisations, radio and television advertising and editorial news, open days, road shows, local events and much more.
Whatever you do, make sure you do it thoroughly and effectively and don’t forget that you should promote when things are going well to create awareness for the rainy day – it is not advisable to only use marketing as a quick fix in bad times.