The Supply House Times Business Center: Topic of the month: Marketing, Part I
- Pay for referrals. Realtors do it. Auto dealers do it. Why not wholesalers?
Offer straight cash ($25 ought to do the trick) or a special discount to trade customers who refer other trade customers to your supply house who have never bought from you before. Make it conditional on an initial purchase of some relatively small amount of merchandise, say $100. Even if you give away your entire gross margin on that initial purchase, it's a cheap way to acquire a new customer.
Don't limit the finder's fee to customers. Make the same offer to employees who bring in new trade customers.
- Be the trade's "Welcome Wagon." Get in touch with all the contractor licensing agencies within your trade area. Target new licensees with mailings and promotions. Establish a newcomer's discount program, or perhaps an extended payment program offering 60 days of grace rather than 30, and 20 days of eligibility for the 2% discount rather than 10.
- Tout foreign language ability. Do you have people on your staff who speak a foreign language? Play this up in your advertising, promotions, business cards, etc. ("Se habla Espa¿ol," etc.). Not only will this appeal directly to trade customers who speak the foreign language, you can help them communicate with their foreign language customers. Offer your services in this regard.
- Solicit testimonials. Anytime a customer says something good about you, jot it down and ask permission to use that statement in your marketing materials. Develop a form letter with a signature line for seeking such permission. When you collect an impressive stack of testimonials, make that the centerpiece of your marketing materials. Nothing you can say about yourself is more credible than having other customers brag about your services.
- Feature your support staff. Sorry to burst your bubble, but most people who buy from you don't do so because of your executive management team. They do so because they like dealing with a particular salesperson, or counterman, or technical support staffer. Feature these people in your trade advertising.
For instance, put out a monthly marketing newsletter with columns by a salesperson, counterman, technical staffer, etc. Ask your customers to submit questions for them to answer. Give a reward to those whose questions get selected for publication, such as a restaurant certificate.
- Mail your promotions on Monday or Tuesday. Mondays are always hectic. Fridays are when people unwind for the weekend. Your mailers will get better response if people receive them midweek.
- Hand-address envelopes. They ALWAYS get a better response than preprinted envelopes. There are mailing services out there with the capability of producing pieces that look handwritten even though they aren't. Ask around.
- Have a 13-year-old proofread your promotions. If there's anything in it the youngster can't understand, rewrite it. Successful promotions get written at an 8th-grade level or below.
- Supply all marketing employees with name badges. Anyone who attends business or social functions on your company's behalf ought to have personalized name badges with your company name and logo. This presents a classier image than those handwritten lapel stickers, which event organizers often forget to bring.
Include on these name badges any professional certifications, i.e., PE, CIPE, CBD, CKD.