Distributors Build Company Brands

Oct. 11, 2002
If your company were a box of cereal, how would you market it? That may sound like a bizarre question, but the battle you fight with your cross-town rival

If your company were a box of cereal, how would you market it?

That may sound like a bizarre question, but the battle you fight with your cross-town rival for dominance in your local market isn't much different than the battle the marketers of Wheaties and Cheerios fight for shelf space at your local supermarket. According to an article in the upcoming issue of Electrical Wholesaling magazine, whether companies are trying to create demand for electrical supplies or for a breakfast cereal, the marketing strategies that you use are more alike than one would think. It comes down to the same three words: Build your brand.

Sound familiar? It's why masters of the retail marketing game like General Mills and Kellogg's spend millions of dollars to position themselves in the marketplace.

Said Christine Moeller, marketing manager for Edson Electric Supply, Phoenix, Ariz. “We're moving away from this industry where a widget is a widget, toward needing to brand ourselves and who we are and what we can offer. Electrical wholesalers have known that marketing is a good thing, but they have not really understood how to use it and how they can make it work.”

Once you buy into the philosophy that your real marketing objective and the key to your survival is to build your brand, everything else should flow from there — all the marketing research, promotions, merchandising, customized publications, counter days, Web sites, direct mail, strategic marketing plans, Web sites, and marketing campaign analysis.

Building a brand isn't easy. But you can learn from the masters of the marketing game — no matter how big or small you are. Today's distributors have some real advantages that were not available in the past. The tools necessary to build your brand are now much more accessible and affordable.

For instance, not all that long ago, if your company wanted to develop a customized flyer, newsletter or other promotional material, you had no choice but to got to public relations company or ad agency. Today, you can invest in a desktop publishing system to do that work in-house.

One rep in the Kansas City area did just that to help distributors plug into the many marketing programs now offered by manufacturers and through the industry's buying/marketing groups. C&O Sales, Lenexa, Kan., took one of its top inside salespeople and moved her into a marketing role. Mary Coldiron now manages the development of flyers, brochures and promotions. To build up the company's marketing capabilities, the company had to invest in a top-of-the-line laser printer and upgrade software for desktop publishing, contact management and Web-page development.

Coldiron recently produced a 140-slide presentation for the C&O booth at a trade show earlier this year sponsored by the Electric League of Missouri and Kansas. The customized marketing materials that Coldiron creates for C&O's customers and vendors position the company as a professional provider of electrical supplies and services in its Midwestern market.

“She is the hub, and all of that flows into her,” said Doug Carlson, C&O president. “It helps us tremendously for her to manage that for us.”

In the EW article readers will learn about several companies who have mastered different aspects of the marketing game.