Distributor marketing strategies are evolving as they embrace advancing technology and the changing sales landscape. This isn’t an instant process though, and questions about what is effective as well as debate about what is necessary are becoming more prevalent for the HVACR distributor. Taking those challenges head on are people like Lauren Roberts, vice president of marketing for cfm Distributors Inc., Kansas City, Missouri, and Amy Watson, marketing manager for Koch Air, Evansville, Indiana.
CREATING A MARKETING PROGRAM
Marketing best practices and strategies didn’t come right away at cfm Distributors. The company’s marketing program began as more of an administrative assistant job. As the importance of marketing was further understood, the company began to grow this position into a full-time marketing role that Roberts describes as being a key part of the company that helps cfm serve the contractor customers with sales tools, business development tools, lead-generating campaigns, and training.
“Our marketing department typically is more of a marketing/communications department, so one of the biggest marketing challenges we face on the B2B side of our business is getting information about our products, services, promotions, etc., into the correct decision maker’s hands at the contractor level,” said Roberts. “We also try a lot of different promotions before we find something that truly triggers contractors to buy certain products.”
Other marketing efforts in the company include the launch of an e-storefront that Roberts said has already been quite successful on the B2B side, and the company will be expanding to the B2C level in the near future. It also plans to increase its online SEM advertising to drive e-storefront sales as well as more sales for their contractor customers’ businesses.
REACHING NEW MARKETING LEVELS
Many distributors have some level of marketing programs implemented, but as technology advances it often takes a new message level to reach customers at a meaningful level.
Watson, from Koch Air, is expecting marketing to continue its push to becoming a more personal and targeted message. She explained that it is important for the marketing message to be tailored to the needs of the end user.
“To do this, research and past purchase history will become increasingly important to collect, review, and analyze,” she explained.
Koch Air is working on the B2B side to enhance its incentive program and training its territory managers that seek opportunities to reach new customers.
“On the B2B side, it is a challenge to reach customers with promotions and not be ignored when you do reach them,” said Watson. “On the B2C side, a challenge can be guiding dealers on their marketing so they can best reach consumers. There are so many media options and the marketplace is very fragmented. It is challenging to find the appropriate media for the audience and develop a message that is heard.”
Koch Air will be pushing more B2C efforts through microsites that create good offers with a call to action, selecting dealer-partners that will move the needle, and do more content-based advertising.
“Our goal is to align ourselves with content that consumers do not tune out, walk away from, change the channel, etc.,” explained Watson. “We are seeking niches/needs to fill.”
Other efforts from the company on the B2C side include Internet marketing such as search engine optimization and social media. Koch Air is also taking its marketing to the next level with the addition of numbers that can be tracked and continued call recording/listening/reporting.
HARDI MARKETING SUPPORT
Both Roberts and Watson are members of the new HARDI Marketing Committee that began in the past few months. According to HARDI, this is the first committee designed specifically for the leading of HVAC marketing professionals in the distribution sector of the industry. There are currently a total of nine members led by Tina Hinchman, director of marketing, Aierco Supply Inc., Washington. She is the committee chair.
When discussing the new committee, Roberts explained that as a member, her goals include sharing successful ideas and best practices with other HVAC distributors.
“It is the committee’s job to provide top notch marketing education opportunities for the distributor members of HARDI,” she said.
Watson noted that many of the committee’s discussions have so far been focused on preparing for the upcoming HARDI Marketing and Sales Optimization conference.
“My hope is that future discussions will include topics to cover in webinar series, best practice sharing, and perhaps regular group emails/contact with news, suggestions, questions, etc.,” she explained.
The marketing committee is not the only effort HARDI is making towards addressing the topic of marketing. As Watson noted, the association’s upcoming Marketing and Sales Optimization Conference is June 22-24 in Delavan, Wisconsin. Taking place at the Lake Lawn Resort, the conference will cover both marketing and sales. HARDI noted that the marketing topics will focus on utilizing customer relationship management (CRM), mobile optimization, supply chain social media, marketing for revenue growth, and the relationship between sales and marketing. Sales topics will look at sales management and S.W.A.T. team selling. Special guests include Sam Richter, Jim Pancero, Mark Dancer, and more. The two tracks will diverge and combine throughout the conference.
The marketing track will feature a session called Mobile Optimization. During this session, Christian Kerley, marketing strategist and motivational speaker will take a look at B2B content marketing opportunities of the mobile technology world. According to her, B2B marketers must align their efforts with the dramatic changes occurring, so as to improve their ROI and ensure their market relevance.
Mark Dancer heads the other special marketing track session. His best practices examination of CRM software is designed to teach distributors how to avoid common mistakes and achieve more targeted benefits, as well as achieve faster business results.
Online registration is open until June 20.
Visit www.hardinet.org for more information.