Change is inevitable. Sometimes we fight it, but history has taught us that businesses that can adapt to change will be in the best position to thrive. I’m sure this isn’t a newsflash for anyone.
Our industry is no different. Changes are discussed at tradeshows, around the office, and in online forums. Some are pessimistic, whereas others are optimistic. More positive thinking folks are looking forward, and as the changing future comes at them, they are facing it head on and looking for opportunities.
Mergers and acquisitions are commonplace. Are these good are bad for the industry? Where does this leave small distributors and small suppliers? How does technology impact you? What excites you the most about our industry? What frustrates you the most in our industry? As a distributor who is also a publisher of the PPAI Award Winning FreePromoTips program, my perspective on the industry is a bit different from most. And personally, I think many great things are happening. Paul Bellantone and I talk about some of that our PPAI Expo interview.
One thing is still true…there is still no one size fits all for everyone. For some folks, being affiliated with a “national distributor” may be the best advantage in today’s marketplace. There are all kinds of special things suppliers do for these distributors that go beyond the obvious “special” pricing. That makes sense for suppliers because of the sales these companies generate.
But some folks prefer the flexibility of being a small independent distributor. Large independent distributors have an advantage because they have buying power and resources to secure larger accounts. Small distributors have an opportunity to show their value through creativity and a personal touch. Distributors big and small benefit from nurturing quality relationships based on trust, their company culture, and business values.
No matter what size distributor or supplier you are, everyone needs to have a robust, useful web and online presence. I’m stunned at some industry websites. I just saw one with a © 2014 and apparently hadn’t been updated since then. Suppliers, consider what a distributor is looking for in a website and what your online presence looks like to a distributor. Sites that work on a mobile phone ARE necessary!
Both suppliers and distributors need to evaluate what strategies are best to reach buyers. Most traditional marketing/advertising tools come with a higher price. Social media is much less expensive but building an active online presence takes time and effort. And most would agree that it this should move beyond a flow of product promos. The long-term reward is that it offers a way to build a community and have relationships with clients and prospects.
If you are JUST getting started in social media (and amazingly, many are), you are WAY behind. With changes to Facebook algorithms that affect everyone, how to reach the marketplace needs to be rethought, regularly. Social media is very relevant and changing RAPIDLY.
There is much talk about ROI. We all want a “Return on Investment” with our advertising/marketing dollars. Historically, ROI has been measured by sales. Running an ad could lead to people buying. ROI can often be harder to measure these days. In today’s marketplace what drives sales? If there were an easy answer, we all would do it. Many suppliers and distributors want business to drop from the sky when we do one thing. We all know that typically doesn’t happen.
You might need to take a longer view of what gives you a return on your investment. Start by asking what ROI means to you. Is it scans at a trade show? Views of an e-blast? Views of a print ad that you can’t track? Trending on Twitter? Facebook likes? Is one way of outreach in the marketplace enough to stimulate sales? Probably not.
An evolving trend is creating business relationships with a community. We see this happening in various online groups where distributors and suppliers help each other with product ideas. There is a unique bond that occurs between suppliers and distributors at skucon produced by commonsku. Their business platform and community are attractive to forward-thinking businesses.
Community…in person, or online, where trust and can be built and communication happen, will foster relationships that generate business.
In an industry that is driven by product and price, why would someone choose to do business with you over a company that is selling the same stuff? We think what makes a good supplier great is their company culture and values. This is why we created the Character Counts feature of FreePromoTips.
Our PPAI Award Winning FreePromoTips program has been building community through our large industry database and significant social media audience since 2005. In addition to sharing content, industry news and supplier’s products, we’ve raised money for worthy causes, supported various things in our industry,
and created the innovative SuccessFit4Life! Wellness Program. Qualified distributors have access to this at no cost. This program is raising awareness for a healthy lifestyle. It also has a component enabling suppliers and distributors to sell into this hot market. If that’s of interest, you can learn more here.
Research indicates that “Community” and a positive buying experience is what’s driving the next generation of how business is done. It’s what FreePromoTips is doing with a group of forward-thinking suppliers. To thrive today, I believe THIS is what distributors and suppliers need to do.
Where do you stand in today’s marketplace?
How would you define your competitive advantage? What do you think about the state of the industry and how do changes impact you? Will you be a casualty, or success story in today’s marketplace?
© 2018 Jeff Solomon, MAS