How to Make Your Small-Distributor Status a Competitive Advantage
With an economy in recovery mode and despite the challenges we’re all facing, distributors are busy again. With that comes competition to win clients, and one of the recurring topics on various forums is having clients/ prospects asking for price matching from online sellers, which they are unable to do without taking a loss.
Many share views that are typically variations of these: “Don’t waste your time with price shoppers,” “I’ve lost clients to XYZ online seller,” “Industry organizations need to do something” and “My clients don’t go online to shop.”
Whether you are afraid you can’t compete or you think you have nothing to worry about, the fact is that the market has changed. You must have your eyes open to make sure you make the right moves so your business evolves accordingly. Especially if you are rebuilding your business.
If you’re afraid you can’t compete and will go out of business because you're too small, this can actually be your superpower.
Being a Small Business Is Your Competitive Advantage
From my experience in working with distributors, the buyer that goes online with the intention to order online and be done is not the same as the one you want as a client. In fact, the online seller's average order is $500, so their type of customer is not the one you want. The good news is, the one you want would love to work with a small distributor like yourself, for the personalized attention you can provide.
The promotional products business is fundamentally an account-based, relationship business. Clients have yearly budgets allocated to promotional merchandise purchases and often have more than one department ordering products.
Additionally, because clients are more educated, they have higher expectations from sales reps as far as their expertise. As a small business, you can provide a much higher level of personalized service the bigger distributors simply cannot.
Studies back this up. According to Harvard Business Review, 72% of decision-makers say a sales rep’s ability to help solve their business objectives is a major influence on their buying decision.
This is where your opportunity lies. In order to attract your ideal buyers, these seven things will take you on the right path:
1. Know What Your Competitors Are Up To
This is one of the questions on our client onboarding questionnaire. Most distributors don’t know who their competitors are. You must know who else your prospects or clients might consider working with. How do you compare? This information is key for you to make improvements. So do your research. Consider that there have been major changes in your competition, with some having closed or sold out. Never take your competition lightly.
2. Know Your Ideal Clients Well
Your clients have also experienced major changes in the last two years. Your contacts might have retired, companies have been sold, employees are working remotely, changed product lines, you name it. So you need to get reacquainted with your clients and their new reality. Get to know the new buyers. Find out who they are, what their jobs are like, what they care about, and what they need to do to succeed. In order to gain deeper insights, you can use surveys, take them to lunch, visit to “show new product ideas" or interview them, among other things. This will give you the deep understanding you need to make your interactions relevant and meaningful.
3. Know What Your Ideal Clients Value in Working With You
Why do your clients choose to work with you? Chances are, your clients value your insights and guidance through the buying process, and the product ideas or creative use of products you bring to the table. You want to know, in the greatest detail possible, what they value in working with you. By knowing what they care about, you’ll build the certainty they need to be confident that part of their job is taken care of.
4. Target Those Clients Where You Deliver the Most Value
Focus on the client types where you deliver the most value. Those where you’ve had the most success with the least amount of effort. Walk away from the rest.
5. Go the Extra Mile
Streamline your processes so you deliver a consistent experience that sets you apart from the rest of your client’s vendors. Make it easy for your clients to do business with you. Build a culture of continuous improvement to help your team grow strong.
6. Become Their Trusted Partner
Ask yourself, what else is there? Consider that just like every other business, your clients’ businesses are also evolving. By becoming more involved at a higher level you will uncover opportunities to add both value to them and sales to your portfolio.
7. Market Your Business Online
We live in an age where your potential clients go online to search for solutions. There are studies that show that when buyers contact a company, they have pretty much made the decision to work with them. That’s because they have already done their research ahead of time.
When your ideal clients turn to Google, they explore the promo sites they find. If you’re not there, you're not even a contender, and you're missing out in a big way.
Online giants invest in marketing and advertising. Just like any business on earth, you need to do the same. No one will find you when they’re searching on Google if you’re not there. Set a reasonable budget to market your business online so you develop a presence where your ideal clients are hanging out.
There are many great potential clients looking for providers just like you. Your challenge is to be found by them. This won’t happen by chance. Make it a point to be where they are spending time online and offline and get their attention.
Be proactive in building your business culture, online presence, and operating procedures. Very few distributors are doing it.
This article was first published in Action Marketing blog. For more marketing articles, free webinars and guides specific to the promo business, visit the Resources section of ActionMarketingCo.com.
Gloria Lafont is a mother, grandmother and business owner. Throughout her business career she has started, bought and sold a dozen businesses in the branding and marketing field, including a distributor company. She’s currently president of Action Marketing Co., founded in 2007. Her company focuses on helping distributors increase visibility, generate awareness and drive traffic so they can connect with more of their ideal clients and generate more leads and sales.
Gloria is a big fan and supporter of education and the cultural arts, volunteering her time and donating marketing support over the years to help various organizations grow in membership and revenue. She also enjoys the South Florida lifestyle mix of business, beaches and arts.