Like a pit crew working together, Emerson Climate Technologies has created a new strategy to help contractors grow their businesses. By providing communication, education, and the tools to be a success, these strategies are putting contractors in the driver’s seat and setting them on the fast track.
START YOUR ENGINESAs Emerson changes the way it interacts with contractors, traditional marketing vehicles are being replaced with more direct, personal, one-to-one contractor marketing strategies. The company’s contractor program centers around three primary strategies:
1.Increasing contractor hands-on experience and exposure with Emerson products.
2.Educating contractors on services, solutions, and industry trends.
3.Helping to align Emerson’s distribution channel with contractor needs.
The company’s contractor sales force is tasked with implementing these strategies. This team was put together in 2004, and is now a dedicated sales organization with the sole responsibility of working with contractors.
“We now have a concerted effort to reach these contractors,” said Bob Labbett, vice president of marketing for Emerson Climate Technologies Distribution Services. “We have been steadily building and continuing to expand our current sales team. We are planning to double the number of contractor sales managers in the near future.”
Addressing the first strategy, the sales force spends time giving contractors the chance to interact with products and possibly find new solutions they may not have thought of otherwise. This interaction with new products helps the contractors realize new opportunities to support their customers.
The second strategy, education, allows the sales team to personally interact with contractors and educate them on new Emerson products and/or programs. This type of communication provides contractors with effective, usable information concerning not just the products, but also the benefits of using the products.
The third strategy works to help contractors communicate their needs directly to the manufacturer. This acts as a catalyst that pushes information and communication all the way through the channel. By hearing from the contractors what products and services they need, Emerson works with wholesalers to ensure those needs are met by stocking the right mixes of products and offering the right services.
“For our wholesalers to be successful, we have to help influence contractors’ buying habits and help them understand changes in the marketplace,” explained Labbett.
BETTING ON THE TRACKTo achieve these strategies, the manufacturer is counting on contractors’ love of NASCAR. The company has conducted multiple contractor roundtables with an official NASCAR race event at its center. After separating the group of participating contractors into refrigeration, mechanical, and a/c subgroups, Emerson takes them to a qualifying race event. The next morning is spent in meetings, conducting business, and interacting with each other to build relationships and determine contractor hot buttons.
Later that day, the entire group heads to the racetrack for the main event. They also spend some time in the pits with Emerson-sponsored drivers such as #29 Kevin Harvick and #2 Clint Bowyer. The following day is usually devoted to meetings and finalizing the roundtable’s business.
The business meetings consist of multiple question-and-answer sessions, allowing open communication. Contractors are able to give their input, but they are also able to hear the other side of the story directly from the manufacturer.
Roundtable question-and-answer sessions help the company determine the best way to train contractors, learn what it is that contractors need to know, and discover where knowledge gaps might be. According to Emerson, this is as much about the company’s own education into what contractors are looking for as it is about educating the contractors. The information from contractors feeds right into product design and program development.
“One thing that came up at these roundtables was an opportunity to enhance our filter driers,” noted Julie Suddarth, marketing communications manager for Emerson Climate Technologies Distribution Services.
“After the meeting, we went back to Emerson’s Flow Controls Division with the information and they were able to improve the serviceability of some of their filter drier models.”
Another result of this contractor feedback is the potential development of mobile training programs. Emerson is currently investigating a mobile classroom training environment for future implementation.
AND THE WINNER IS ...In 2006, the company conducted 1,500 face-to-face sales calls with contractors, 250 training sessions touching more than 3,000 contractors, and six regional roundtables. However, the program is more than worth the effort due to the overarching benefits for contractors, wholesalers, and Emerson itself, said Labbett.
“At the end of the day, we are here to help contractors grow their business,” he said; “that benefits the whole industry.”