Co-Op Maximizing: How To Succeed At No Cost With Co-Op Funds

Most industrial distributors leave tens—even hundreds of thousands of co-op marketing dollars on the table every year. The cost of a co-op marketing campaign is reimbursed by a manufacturer or brand, making it a smart way to advertise and money! And, better yet, when you use Rivet|MRO’s Co|optimizer program, it’s easy!

Yet, approximately $14 to $35 billion dollars in manufacturer co op marketing funds are left unclaimed every year. Here's why your business can see success when you choose to optimize your company's co-op marketing opportunities.

Try this handy co-op calculator to see how much you might be leaving on the table!

There are many different opportunities available


You can expect to see some type of co-op advertising program from most major manufacturers. Talk to your sales contact with the manufacturers you use for inventory to get more information about the co-op opportunities they offer—or, even easier, contact us!

Some co-op programs will reimburse you at least 50% of what you spend on advertising and, in some cases, they may even reimburse the entire amount! It's important to note you'll need to meet specific requirements for your company to be reimbursed. This includes the content of your company's advertising.

You can increase your leads


Lead generation is one of the most critical parts of marketing, whether it's used in digital or print marketing. When you use co-op marketing programs, you're helping to generate leads by reaching out to audiences you may not have been previously reaching out to.

This is extremely valuable because it gives your business the chance to build relationships with consumers and boost customer loyalty.


You can grow your business without making a major investment


Investments are tricky whether your company is large or small. The wrong marketing move can make or break your business, which is why it's so important to think long and hard before making any major decisions.

Fortunately, you can use co-op marketing funds to grow your business without the risk of making a major investment. The manufacturer or brand reimburses your advertising, which lets you save money on your own marketing campaigns.

Why use industrial marketing services?


When you outsource an industrial marketing agency, you hand the marketing aspects of your business over to a team of professionals so you can be productive in other tasks.

An industrial marketing agency can help with social media marketing, co-op marketing, and sales strategy. To learn more about how MRO marketing services can help you with your co-op funds and distributor marketing plans, contact Rivet|MRO today.

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Is Your Website Hurting Your Industrial Distributorship's Marketing Campaigns?

Approximately 62% of marketers choose to use Facebook as their number one social media marketing platform. Although social media websites can be great to drive traffic, your number one marketing platform overall is your distributorship's website.

Unfortunately, it could be your company website that's driving away potential consumers.



Is your website out of date?

As many businesses know, it's critical to keep your company website up-to-date. But many businesses may not know when their website needs an update. This goes double for industrial MRO, metalworking, cutting tool and safety distributors.

One of the biggest signs your website needs an upgrade is if it's been two to three years since you last updated your site. Technical demands and consumers' viewing habits cause website trends to change regularly. That means, if you're not on your game, your website can quickly go from modern to out of date.


How do I know if my website is an issue?

A website that's been recently designed and has a modern aesthetic isn't necessarily great. In fact, some websites that have been recently updated may still be making a big impact on your marketing campaigns.

But how do you know if it's your website that's causing the problem? Here are telltale signs it's your company website that's having an impact on your marketing campaigns.

Your pages load too slowly. Online users will click away from a website if it doesn't load within three seconds. If your site loads slowly, consider making a few edits to get it up and going again.

Your website isn't generating new leads. Websites that don't generate sales, leads, or conversions aren't doing their jobs. Look at your competitors' websites to see what their website has that yours may not.

You have a high bounce rate. This is a major sign your website needs a boost. Analytics that scream 'help!' like a high bounce rate are never a good sign.


Who can I call for industrial consulting services?

Your brand is up to 53 times more likely to rank on the first page of Google when your business uses videos. Yet, it isn't enough to post a video on your website. Sometimes an industrial consulting service is necessary to help you find the best marketing angle.

Whether you're interested in industrial consulting or MRO marketing services, Rivet|MRO has what you need. To learn more about how to improve your distributor marketing plans and how to use your co-op marketing funds, contact Rivet|MRO today.
 

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5 Steps to Building a Strong Integrated Marketing Campaign for Your Industrial Distributorship

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In integrated marketing, you use your business' communications and promotional tools to work toward a common goal. When you're on an integrated marketing campaign, you want to approach it in a way that makes your message clear. 

Unfortunately, this is better said than done. It can take a lot of time and effort to perfect your integrated marketing campaign.

Luckily, you can make building your integrated marketing campaign that much easier with these five things:

Sensory appeal: The overall goal of your marketing campaign is to appeal to the needs of your audience. But it's also recommended that you appeal to your audience's sensory needs. Think of a way to grab your audience's attention, hold their attention, and make them think.</li>

Internal marketing: It isn't enough to appeal to your audience. You also need to appeal to your employees. It's good for your employees to feel engaged with the branding and marketing campaign before the campaign launches. When your team feels included in the process, it makes the campaign not only easier to launch but also easier to communicate the campaign to your audience.

Research: There's a reason why businesses study their competition and target audiences. This is because the more research you have under your belt, the more you'll be able to focus on your business' strengths and how they work with your target audience's buying behavior.</li>

Synchronization: Your campaign needs to do more than grab your target audience's attention. It also needs to guide your target audience through your sales process. It's recommended that your sales messaging has a similar look so your target audience is able to recognize your business and remember it.

Measurement: You need to have a measurable conversion metric for your integrated marketing campaigns. Without a measurable conversion metric, you won't be able to measure the success of your campaign. For instance, up to 97% of marketers say that video has helped their users understand their service or product. Your metrics are what influence future campaigns.

An industrial marketing agency can help you reach your business' full potential. Whether you're looking for more opportunities for your co-op marketing funds or you're having trouble with a sales strategy for distributors, Rivet|MRO can help. To learn more about our industrial marketing services and how we can better utilize your co-op marketing funds, contact Rivet|MRO today.

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Don't You Forget About Me: Tips For Improving Conversions With Older Consumers

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By 2019, millennials will be the largest generation in America. It makes sense then that 62% of marketers have chosen Facebook as their top choice for social media marketing. That said, the industrial space skews older. An, if you're like most industrial distributors, you still have plenty of Boomers and Gen X'ers making buying decisions.

So it's important not to forget about your older consumers in your industrial marketing campaigns. In fact, in manufacturing, it's especially important to appeal to decision makers of all generations. Baby boomers are still one of the largest generations in the United States, and they're just as important as millennials when it comes to your business's success...if not more so--at least for the near future.

So how can you use the internet to reach older consumers? Here are a few ways you can improve website conversions for your consumers over the age of 50.
 

Improve Legibility: Use A Larger Font

Many websites try to make their fonts larger for older consumers. But larger fonts are actually the better choice for everyone. When consumers need to strain their eyes to see your content, they're less likely to stay on your website. 

Use fonts that are larger than 16 pt font. An 18 pt font may be best for general users and a 20 point font is ideal for older users.
 

Pay Attention to Your Color Scale

Most graphic designers will tell you that you should limit your graphics, such as logos and infographcis, to three colors. The same principle applies to website color schemes. In addition, make sure that your font is easy to read against the background. White font on a black background can be hard to read, as can fonts that fall outside of the black-white-gray spectrum.
 

Get Rid Of Distractions

No one likes distracting graphics, but older consumers especially prefer minimal websites. That said, try to remove any unnecessary banners and images. You also want to avoid using pop-ups. 

It's often recommended that websites only use one pop-up modal window, and it's usually a request to add them to your email list. If you have more than one pop-up feature, you're going to frustrate your audiences no matter their age.
 

Use step-by-step instructions

In marketing, you'll often hear that millennial consumers have a short attention span. But the same is true for older consumers. Many readers will skim content rather than read it. 

Unfortunately, if the content on your website is important but difficult to get through you can end up confusing your audience. That said, it's good to include step-by-step instructions that are easily visible. 

Highlight your 'back' and 'continue' buttons as well. You don't want your consumers to be confused or stuck or else you might lose their service.

When it comes to MRO marketing, sometimes it's a good idea to seek out experienced professionals to help you get the results you want. Rivet|MRO has the industrial marketing experience and knowledge about co-op money you need to succeed. To learn more about our MRO marketing services and how to use your business' co op money, contact Rivet|MRO today.

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Transparency: The Invisible Marketing Tactic To Improve Engagement

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The top two benefits of social media marketing include increasing traffic and increasing exposure. But it isn't enough to increase web traffic and brand exposure. You also have to get your audience to engage.

If your audience isn't engaging with your social media posts, it's understandable to ask what you're doing wrong. But the truth is, you might not be doing anything wrong. You may just be missing something: transparency.

How Does Transparency Help With Industrial Marketing?

Transparency and vulnerability in your marketing help to increase audience engagement. This is because they both help to create a sense of intimacy between you and your audience.

Your audience doesn't want to connect with a faceless brand. They want to connect with another human. That means the more human your marketing feels, the more your audience will engage with it. And it's something the vast majority of industrial distributors struggle with.

So how do you make your distributorship's marketing more transparent?

3 Tips To Improve Your Business's Transparency

The first step to improving your online presence is to get personal with your viewers. This may feel strange to you, but Label Insight reports that 94% of surveyed consumers are more likely to be loyal to your brand if it's more transparent.

Here are three tips to help you become more transparent in your marketing:

  1. Tell your audience about your 'why.' Your audience may know what you do, but do they know why you do it? Your 'why' is the core value behind your business. Let your audience in the know.

  2. Talks about your wins (and your losses). Success is great and your audience likes to know they're buying from a good business. Yet failure is also a part of success. You don't need to highlight your business' failures, but make your failures a part of your story. Include them in the details of your wins. It makes your team likable.

  3. Share stories that invoke trust. Transparency is a great way to create intimacy between you and your audience. Use that transparency to create trust. Share stories that not only show vulnerability but also encourage your audience to engage with you and trust you.

  4.  

Consider Industrial Marketing Services

Sometimes your MRO marketing just isn't getting the results you want no matter what you put into your content. 

If this sounds like you, the industrial marketing services of Rivet|MRO may be what you need to succeed. To learn more about our industrial marketing, co-op marketing, and strategic services, contact Rivet|MRO today.

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Amazon used B2C lessons to build a B2B juggernaut--but you can differentiate your industrial distributorship!

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Amazon Business continues to stealthily grab market share in the industrial distribution space by pursing the tail spend and turning its competitors into partners. Amazon has taken the lesssons it has learned in the retail space, amplified them and used them to build a B2B juggernaut. This MDM article estimates Amazon Business generates $10 billion in annual revenues.

The good news for independent industrial distributors--Amazon is not focused solely on your lines. It is also competing against McKesson, Cardinal Health, Sysco and many other mega-distributors in other sectors. For now, their goal is to capture tail spend in the industrial sector.

But...that will change. (Remember when Wal-Mart was only in small towns???) The question is, what are you doing to meet this challenge? How will you differentiate? (After all, you can't out-Amazon Amazon.)

Playing the role of David vs. You-Know-Who, you have to be nimble and customer-focused. You have to sell THE ONE THING AMAZON CAN'T SELL--YOU. You have to leverage the people in your business and develop deeper, more meaningful--and more valuable--customer relationships. And you have to solve problems more than you sell product. 

Start with understanding your customers better and telling a more intimate, more interesting, more valuable story about how you can help them. Let us know how we can help.

 

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5 Simple Things an Industrial MRO Distributor Can Do To Boost Its Marketing Results

It takes time and energy to come up with successful marketing strategies. This is especially true for Industrial and MRO distributors, where you may not have a marketing director on hand.

Yet there are a few things you can do to help boost sales without pulling time away from your other projects. Here are five things your industrial MRO distributorship can do to improve sales with minimal time and effort.

  1. Produce a video. Up to 97% of marketers say that videos boost user understanding of a product or service. Videos are also great ways to show your audience your brand personality. You can show consumers what your business is like in person and how your manufacturing process works.
  2. Set up Google Alerts. Google Alerts help you stay up to date with industry information. You don't need to search for what's circulating on the web anymore. You'll receive email alerts about new developments on certain topics. Google Alerts also helps you stay updated on your competitors
  3. Update your social media. Social media marketing helps boost traffic and exposure. In fact, 62% of marketers say Facebook is their top choice for social media marketing. Yet many businesses rarely update their social media accounts after setting them up. Keep your social media accounts updated with relevant content. 
  4. Make sure your marketing and sales teams work together. Marketing and sales have an immense influence on each other. Marketing drives sales and sales provide insight into marketing. Make time for your teams to communicate face-to-face. This will boost communication and results.
  5. Outsource industrial marketing services. It can be a struggle to keep up with marketing and sales strategies. By outsourcing industrial marketing services, you're putting your strategies into experienced hands. This leaves you free to stay productive on other projects. And because you're outsourcing experienced professionals, you don't have to worry as much. You can keep your blood pressure on the lower side.

The industrial marketing services of Rivet|MRO can help take your business' marketing and sales strategies to the next level. For more information about co op marketing or industrial marketing, contact Rivet MRO today.

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MAKING SURE YOUR POINTS OF DIFFERENTIATION ARE MEANINGFUL TO YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE: The 5th Step to Mastering the Lost Art of Differentiation

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Branding, Distributor Marketing, Industrial Branding, Industrial Marketing, Industrial MRO Marketing, Marketing, MRO Branding, MRO Marketing

Part 5 of 6.5

Author’s note: IndustRetail blog is exploring the Six-and-a-half Steps to Mastering the Lost Art of Differentiation. The first article examined the first step—identifying your key targets. The second article looked at what makes you different. The third explored competitive influences. The previous post identified how to analyze your competitive differences. This is the fifth article in the series.

*****

Imagine a manufacturer’s rep visiting your distributorship and introducing a new product that is different than anything else on the market: gluten-free safety gloves.

Their excitement is uncontained. NOBODY ELSE can offer this product. They’ve done the research, and not a single glove manufacturer offers gluten-free gloves. Well…yes, that’s true. But who cares?

You pick your jaw up off the floor, astonished at this oblivious waste of your time and eagerly walk the rep out the door, vowing to convert your glove business to a manufacturer more in touch with your customers’ needs.

Admittedly, this is a ridiculous example…but is it any more ridiculous than me-too blathering that many of your peers pass off as “marketing?”

Let me illustrate my point. These are actual taglines in use by industrial distributors today. The names are omitted to protect the guilty.

  • Service is the difference.  (Like I was looking for a distributor that had crappy service.)
  • Your industrial supply source. (Oh, you mean an industrial distributor is also an industrial supply source?)
  • A supply company. (See above)
  • Since 19##. (We spent a long time working on that one, didn’t we?)
  • Partner with experience. (Nope, I’m looking for a distributor with no experience at all.)

At least the glove guy tried.

The focus of this series is about mastering the lost art of differentiation. Different, being the root of the key word. The underlying assumption beyond different, is relevant.

Some differences aren’t valuable. Let’s assume you sell blue widgets.  Your competitor sells green ones. But the widgets are buried deep inside machinery and your customer doesn’t require color coding. Then widget color is not a meaningful differentiator. Find something else to separate your brand.

In other words, you need to identify the differences your customers are willing to pay for. Remember, not every customer has the same set of priorities and preferences.

During your analysis phase, you identified the things that are different about your business. Now is the time to filter those differences with importance and value. It’s not enough to be different. Your difference has to be better…at least for your chosen market segment(s).

Customers who are focused on just-in-time delivery may be willing to pay more for it. If that’s your forte, focus on it—even at the expense of customers who don’t value just-in-time delivery. You can’t be all things to all people. Define your niche, exploit it and ignore everything outside of it.

All of this, of course, starts with your customer. During this phase of the process, you need to continue to do your research, but shift from what to why questions:

  • Why do you do business with us?
  • Why do you need that?
  • Why is that important to you?

Your best customers’ answers to those kinds of questions will reveal your unique value proposition. It may be an expertise you offer. It may be a service or delivery channel. When you hear the same feedback over and over, you’ve found the gold!

Those that truly differentiate keep their fingers on that pulse. They make sure it remains important, improve upon it and make it difficult to copy. Moreover they tell that story in engaging and impactful ways…they make it clear that’s why you should do business with them and show how they do it—whatever “it” is—better.

 

Tim Rasmussen
Principal

 
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Co-op Marketing Funds Vs. Market Development Funds: What's The Difference?

 Click  here  to see how much co-op money you are leaving on the table.

Click here to see how much co-op money you are leaving on the table.

It can be challenging as an industrial MRO company to use marketing services in an efficient and effective way in the face of advancing technology and social media. In fact, as many as 48% of marketers who were surveyed by HubSpot planned to add YouTube to their content distribution channels just this year.


Fortunately, co-op marketing funds are a great way to get an advantage in industrial marketing even when you're unsure of social media. However, before you can properly use co-op marketing funds with the assistance of other channel partners, you first need to know the difference between co-op marketing funds and market development funds.

 

What are market development funds?


Market development funds, also known as MDF, are issued through an indirect sales channel. The funds are used by a brand or manufacturer to assist affiliates, distributors, resellers, and channel partners.


The channel partners, etc., then use these funds to create local awareness of the brand's products. It's for this reason that MDF is often used as a synonym for co-op marketing funds. However, MDF funds are issued to partners based on a joint marketing plan.

 

What are co-op marketing funds?


In comparison, co-op funds are issued on what's considered an earned basis. The channel partners only receive a percentage of the co-op funds in order to create local awareness of the brand's products.


The percentage of the funds are issued to the partners based on sales revenue and previously agreed upon initiatives. The typical percentage of revenue granted to channeling partners is between 0.5% to 3%.

 

Which is considered the better option for MRO marketing?


Co-op funds and MDF can both provide various benefits for your business and for the channeling partner you decide to partner with. Whether you choose to operate with a co-op program or an MDF program depends entirely on the manufacturing partner you work with and your individual goals. Many MRO manufacturers offer both!


It can be a struggle to successfully create marketing for industrial companies and to efficiently utilize co op funds. Fortunately, Rivet|MRO can help you manage your co op funds with ease--along with market development funds (MDF). For more information, contact Rivet|MRO today.

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ANALYZING THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR COMPETITION: The 4th Step to Mastering the Lost Art of Differentiation

Part 4 of 6.5

Author’s note: IndustRetail blog is exploring the Six-and-a-half Steps to Mastering the Lost Art of Differentiation. The first article examined the first step—identifying your key targets. The second article looked at what makes you different. The third explored competitive influences. This is the fourth article in the series.

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You aren’t your competition. And vice versa.

Not exactly a news flash—so now what? If you’ve been following this blog –and if you’ve been following my advice—you’ve been doing your homework. You’ve done the whole introspective bit and looked in the mirror. You have a decent self-understanding. Ditto for your competition. Now you have to take all that hard-earned research, distill it, organize it and set it side-by-side.

I’m going give you two methods by which to analyze the information you’ve collected. I’ve used them both. The first is a simple, self-guided method that you can do yourself. The second—and the method I highly recommend—is a team-based exercise that is substantially more analytical.

METHOD 1: BEN FRANKLIN T-DIAGRAM

You can do this on your own with a tool similar to a Ben Franklin Diagram. If you’re not familiar, Franklin would suggest this method for weighing pros and cons in decision making. Likewise, you can use it to identify similarities and differences.

Before you start the process go through your research and highlight key points to make them easier to reference. Or, if you prefer, distill your notes into bullet points or an executive summary. Then, placing them side by side for easy reference, begin your comparison.

Draw a Franklin T-Diagram, listing Similarities on the left and Differences on the right. Sift through your research and candidly categorize your findings. Then weight the importance of each of those factors from 1 to 10, as all factors are not equally important. The totals of the weighted numbers on each side of the diagram will give you a rough idea of how differentiated your business is. If the left-hand column is higher, you’re not differentiated, if the right-hand column is higher, you are.

If your business is a distributorship—and if you are being completely honest with yourself*— my guess is that your comparison will be heavily weighted to the left-hand side of the sheet. Not to worry. There will be some differences. We can work with those!

*You can’t be completely honest with yourself. You just can’t. If I’m being honest with myself, I’m not even sure why I put the T-Diagram option in as an option. It’s fraught with disaster because we’re biased creatures. The T-Diagram is a great way to peek at preliminary results, but don’t rely on it. If you value your business, you’ll do the hard research I’ve prescribed in my previous posts. And, if you value that research you’ve worked so hard to gather, you’ll keep reading.

If you’re heavily invested in the process of differentiation, (pardon me while I wipe the tear from my eye) Ben’s T-Diagram is not robust enough for you. You need to involve more people from the far reaches of your organization, after all you engaged them in your competitive research. (Right?)

METHOD 2: K-J ANALYSIS

If that’s you, you may want to consider performing a variant of a K-J Analysis or Affinity Diagram Exercise. This is a group decision-making process that allows individuals to collectively review data, often much of it subjective. This process will give your team a quick way to objectively review the information you collected, organize it, prioritize it and determine the most important aspects of your competitive differences.

I would encourage you to explore how to run an effective K-J Analysis on your own*, but here’s a simple run-down on how to apply the process:

MATERIALS: Research note copies, Post-It Notes (2 different colors), pens, whiteboard or flip chart, marker.
ROOM: Schedule a minimum of 2 hours in a large conference room with lots of blank walls.

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  1. Form a cross-functional team of people throughout your organization who command respect and have meaningful insights. I’d recommend no more than 8-10 and invite them to a 3-hour meeting.
  2. Distribute all of your research notes to all meeting participants.
  3. Ask them to review all research notes in detail and write facts from the research on the Post-It Notes, one fact per note.
  4. When everyone has read through all the research notes and written their facts on Post-It Notes, ask them to them to put the Post-It Notes on the wall in random order. Leave 2 walls empty.
  5. Give the group time to review all the notes.
  6. Instruct the group to begin grouping similar items on the empty walls. “Take two items that seem like they belong together and put them next to one another on an empty wall. Then feel free to create other groups and add to them. Continue to add and rearrange until they make sense. Every item has to be in a group, but there may be a few groups with only one or two items. But please—no discussion.” (Discussion at this point can be counterproductive, as group members can sway one another…we’ll build in discussion in at a later point, when bias can be removed.)
  7. Now break out the second color of Post-It notes. Ask everyone to remain silent and review the groups with the objective of assigning names to them. Have everyone write their name idea on the Post-It Note s them to assign names to each group of Post-It Notes. “Now I want you to take a few minutes and read through each group again, then write down a name or a title for the group and post it above the group with new Post-It Notes I just gave you. As you review the groups, you may come to the conclusion that the group really has two themes. Feel free to separate the groups if you see fit. Likewise, upon further review, you may see two separate groups have the same theme. In those instances, it’s okay to combine them. Give every group a name. Again—NO TALKING!” Then, as the facilitator, based on the group’s input, assign each group a name for the next phase.
  8. Next, vote on the relative importance of the groups. Again—no talking during this exercise. First, have each participant grab some scratch paper and write down the names of the three most important groups. If they struggle, suggest they write down five and then cross off two.
  9. Once the participants have written down their top three choices, ask them to rank order them from most-important, to least-important on that same piece of scratch paper.
  10. Then, once they have rank ordered their groups individually, ask them to record their choices on the category listings on the walls. Let’s assume you used blue Post-It Notes to assign category names. Tell them to go to the blue Post-It that best represents the #1 most important category and put three Xs on it. Then go to the 2nd-most important category and place two Xs on it. And, lastly, place one X on the 3rd-most important category. Again…no discussion.
  11. Now tally the votes for each category and rank order them. If there are ties or very close scores—you may want to discuss combining categories. Now is the time for discussion. This will be your chance to probe and ask questions of the group.

If you follow this process, it’s a great way to quickly and objectively sift through lots of subjective data and organize it in an objective manner. It filters out individual bias and any political influences that may exist in the organization. And when you include a representational or cross-functional team in the process, an added benefit is the organizational buy-in the process automatically creates!

*If you want help with your K-J Analysis, from organization to facilitation, I’m happy to consult with you.

WHAT’S NEXT?

So, dust off that research you worked so hard to collect and begin your analysis. Work hard to understand what separates you from your key competitors and exploit those differences!

But what if there’s not much that differentiates you, you say?

Oh…you actually went there.

Gulp.

Actually, I wouldn’t really be all that surprised. Like I said earlier, it’s not uncommon in the industrial world, especially among distributors. Think about it. Distributors, by nature, sell pretty much the same things. Your customers ask you to do the same things logistically. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you’re not all that different…

On the surface.

The fact remains that you are different. You have different personalities and priorities. You have different processes and procedures. Different points of view and price points. There is still a unique mix of things that makes you you and different than anyone else you compete with.

The trick is understanding what those things are and identifying why your customers value them. If the processes I outlined above didn’t identify key points of differentiation, I’d ask you to consider a few possibilities:

  • Was your research really thoughtful, objective and thorough? If was rushed or contrived, it will lead to a muddled analysis.
  • Were your research notes clear and concise? If not, see above.

If your research was flawed, your analysis will be equally flawed. In fact, if your research was flawed, don’t waste your time on the analysis. (As a fresher, read this, if you’re in a hurry, skip to the section, SO…WHAT’S YOUR RIVET?)

So, let’s assume your research was thoughtful, detailed and altogether satisfactory. Your K-J Analysis was successful—and maybe even fun. You now have a thoroughly analyzed and agreed-upon list of differentiators for your business.

Chew on them. Refine them. Package them. Figure out how to best present them in a way to make them uniquely yours and test them with your best customers. Get their feedback on your ideas and tweak them further before you roll them out for public consumption.

Remember, your brand is a living, breathing thing. It evolves. As you learn more about your customers, your competition and your markets, your brand must change to meet their changing requirements. This is an iterative process. Keep your finger on the pulse to ensure a healthy heartbeat. But I digress. After all, that's the subject of our next IndustRetail blog post.

Until then, here's hoping that your differentiating efforts are putting you at the head of the pack!

 

UP NEXT: MAKE SURE IT’S VALUABLE

 

Tim Rasmussen
Principal
Rivet|MRO

 
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IDENTIFYING WHAT MAKES YOUR COMPETITION DIFFERENT: The 3rd Step to Mastering the Lost Art of Differentiation

Part 3 of 6.5

Author’s note: IndustRetail blog is exploring the Six-and-a-half Steps to Mastering the Lost Art of Differentiation. The first article examined the first step—identifying your key targets. The second article looked at what makes you different. This is the third article in the series.

 

It’s possibly the simplest, most straightforward step in the process of differentiating your business. But it’s the step most businesses tend to make the most difficult. I'm not sure why, but this seems to apply doubly to MRO businesses.

And I don't think it’s laziness. It might be false security, accepting conventional wisdom as actual wisdom. Perhaps the process is simply too intimidating for some of us. Maybe we’re afraid of the answers we’ll find when we explore what makes our competitors different and better? There’s a perverse comfort some find when their heads are buried in the sand. (Or maybe somewhere else?)

And your competitors thank you for it every day your head remains firmly entrenched there.

But now’s the time, if you haven’t already, to pull your head out. Dust the sand from your eyes and see the landscape for what it is. Your competitors are worthy. They’re good—really good.

But they’re far from perfect—and you have the ability to discern critical points of differentiation and exploit them to your benefit. It’s not too late.

Or, worse yet, they may be an absolute train wreck and you’ve been losing out on incredible opportunities to steal business and win market share because you didn’t have the discipline to pursue the answers you needed to pursue. Again, it’s not too late.

Regardless of your situation, the good news is, unless they’re a national player, your competition probably hasn’t gone through this exercise either. (And, if they’re a national player, you have a LOT to position against!)

Before you start this process, it begs the question, who is your key competition? You probably have tons of competitors. But think of it this way; if I gave you a magic wand and you could make substantial inroads against just two or three other companies (or to prevent just two or three of them from making inroads on your business), which ones would you chose?

Start there.

What is it about them that keeps you up at night? What do they do well that causes them to win business head-to-head against you?

Conversely, what is it about them that causes you to salivate when you learn they’re your key competition on a big piece of business? What do they do poorly that causes them to lose business head-to-head against you?

Having the courage to ask these questions honestly is paramount. Without a candid self-understanding and an unbiased view of your key competition, you cannot effectively differentiate your business. Rather than working from conjecture, rumor, conventional wisdom and just plain wishing it were so, work from facts. Here’s how to get them.

Clip and save this quick list of competitive research techniques and use them regularly to gain an increasingly more robust understanding of your key competitors:

  • Read their website: Yes—they may be serving up much of what you’re looking for on their website. If they know why they are good, they should be telling that story. (As should you. Don’t avoid sharing your value proposition online because you think you’re aiding and abetting your competition. If your value proposition is unique and meaningful, it should also be difficult to replicate.)
  • Social Media: Same thing goes for competitive social media. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Make a regular point of reading their posts.
  • Google Alerts: Register your competitors for Google Alerts to get updated on new search results. It may be the perfect tip off for a new product, new hire, new location, etc.
  • Online Reviews: Look at Google, Yelp, Facebook, Glassdoor and others. Online customer reviews can be golden.
  • Sales Literature: Ask your sales team to gather competitive sales literature. You may even want to put bounties out on it to give them the incentive to keep an eye out.
  • Ask Your Customers: Talk to your customers who have dealt with your competitors. Ask them about their experience. Better yet, ask them to compare their experiences.
  • Ask Your Sales Team: They have a pulse on the customer—and they’re dying to tell you what they’re hearing. Just ask them.
  • Perform Win/Loss Audits: When you win or lose business, spend some time with the customer learning the reasons why. Ask them for candid feedback.
  • Do Formal Surveys: Use online tools like SurveyMonkey to gather feedback.
  • Hire Professionals: The art of gathering unbiased feedback is tricky and complicated. If you’re truly committed to differentiating your business and see big financial rewards associated with it, make this investment. Hire professionals who understand how to gather actionable information the right way. This is an exceedingly small cost compared to the eventual reward.
  • 3rd Party Resources: Buy company reports from D&B Hoovers or a similar service.

Once you’ve gathered this data, it’s time to analyze the differences between you and the competition—and time to identify your unique strengths and prepare to exploit them!

But that’s our next blog post.

Until then, be undaunted. Be fearless in asking questions about yourselves and your competitors. Pull your heads out…of the sand. Look in the mirror, then at the horizon.

It’s the easiest hard thing you’ll ever do. And vice versa. Either way, it will be worth it.

 

UP NEXT: ANALYZING THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR COMPETITION

 

Tim Rasmussen
Principal
Rivet|MRO

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IDENTIFYING WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT: The 2nd Step to Mastering the Lost Art of Differentiation

 Rivet(s) always make(s) things better!

Rivet(s) always make(s) things better!

(part 2 of 6.5)

 

Author’s note: IndustRetail blog is exploring the Six-and-a-half Steps to Mastering the Lost Art of Differentiation. The first article examined the first step—identifying your key targets. This is the second article in the series.

***********

Most don’t realize that Levi’s® weren’t the first blue jeans. In fact, blue denim trousers were very common when the first pair of Levi’s was sold in 1873. But Levi’s were dramatically different than any other denim pants because they were reinforced by…you guessed it…rivets.

(Sadly, Rivet|MRO can take no credit here.)

According to the Levi Strauss & Co. website, Latvian immigrant Jacob Davis pioneered rivets while working as a tailor in Reno, Nevada in 1871. Davis had originally used rivets on horse blankets, and he found they worked well for re-enforcing the stress point in men’s work pants..

Since Davis did not have the money required to patent the technique of using rivets, he reached out to Levi Strauss to see if he was interested in applying with him. In 1873, the pair received a patent for “improvement in fastening pocket-openings.”

These rugged new pants immediately became popular as work pants and have been a staple of a casual fashion since the 1950s. Last year, Levi Strauss & Co. generated more than $4.5 billion in revenue…all because of rivet, I mean, rivets.

Strauss knew he had something different and valuable—and he had the luxury of a clamoring public telling him that every day with both their mouths and their wallets.

So...what’s your rivet?

If you had 60 seconds to tell a large customer why your brand is better than your biggest competitor, what would you say? And, just as important, why would you have confidence in saying it?

Let’s face it…most industrial distributors would give similar answers. “We have great service.” “We fulfill 95% of all orders within 24 hours.” Same goes for many manufacturers. (You distributors out there are painfully aware of this, aren’t you?)

In order to truly differentiate your brand, you must be intentional. Invest time in talking with your customers—your very best customers. Ask them why they buy from you. You may have a good idea why, but assume nothing—the insights are invaluable.

 They said the Titanic would never sink. It did just that on its maiden voyage. 1,503 people died because they assumed they didn't need the life boats.

They said the Titanic would never sink. It did just that on its maiden voyage. 1,503 people died because they assumed they didn't need the life boats.

And the downside of poor assumptions can be catastrophic. (See: Titanic, “Not even God himself could sink this ship.”)

I remember asking a client years ago why his customers bought from him. He was certain it was because of his staff’s expertise. To his credit, he commissioned a customer research study. His customers told him something decidedly different. They bought—overwhelmingly—because he carried everything they needed. And when they needed a part, the needed it now.

Interestingly, his marketing had focused on his staff’s expertise—and he felt like his marketing wasn’t working. When he switched his message to one that promoted his incredible inventory, his sales increased by more than 8% in just a few months.

Here are a few steps you can take to ensure you have an accurate customer pulse

  • Do one-on-one interviews (qualitative research) with your best customers. Ask them broad, open-ended questions like, “We do you do business with us?” and “How are we different and better than our competition?” Don’t bias them with questions like, “Do you buy from us because we have better service.” Then ask tons of follow-up questions like “Why?” and “Tell me more about that.” The more they talk, the more you learn. Avoid the temptation to sell—this is research. And take copious notes.
  • After you’ve completed a dozen or so interviews, look for trends. I find it helpful to write key points from all your interviews on sticky notes and place them on a wall. Cluster notes with similar themes together. Those clusters hold your answers.
  • Draft a preliminary document defining and prioritizing your key point(s) of differentiation.
  • Validate these theories with quantitative research. Use an online survey tool like Survey Monkey and send a brief, thoughtful survey to your customers. Start again with open-ended questions, but narrow the nature of your questions and get specific. Consider asking them to rank order a set of differentiating characteristics relating to your brand. You’ll want to make sure you’re able to write questions in such a way to eliminate bias as much as possible. Consider getting a professional to assist in this process. Here’s a bonus: often times, your customers will perceive this survey as a customer satisfaction survey—and give you credit for caring. (By the way…you should do customer satisfaction surveys…these are not replacements!)
  • Determine if the quantitative survey reinforces the conclusions drawn in the qualitative phase of your research. If they do, you have your answer. If they don’t, you missed something.

One last note: marketing research is a complicated craft that is difficult to perform by novices. Don’t assume (there I go again…) you can pull it off. It may seem easy, but it is often best left to experts. Either way, it’s a critical step you must take before you can effectively differentiate your business.

For manufacturers, I recommend calling Bart Schwartz at Industrial Channel Research. They have a fantastic syndicated survey that provides you with some exceptional insights. (For distributors, I have another recommendation that's equally riveting.)

Until the next time, here’s wishing you much success finding your rivet. It will help you secure your place!

 

Up next: WHAT MAKES YOUR COMPETITION DIFFERENT?

 

Regards,

Tim Rasmussen
Principal, Rivet|MRO

 
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IDENTIFYING YOUR KEY TARGETS: The First Step to Mastering The Lost Art of Differentiation

Fortunately, this might be the most straightforward of the 6.5 steps to mastering the lost art of differentiation. You already have the information you need. You may already know it intuitively--or at least think you do. But relying on hunches can be exceedingly dangerous. If you don’t believe me, Google “Donner Party Shortcut.”

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IndustRetail: Six-and-a-half Steps to Mastering The Lost Art of Differentiation

Differentiation gives your customers a mental hook to remember you by. It helps them decide to buy from you instead of your competition. It is critical to proper strategic positioning.

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Industrial MRO Brand Development Represents Huge Opportunity for Value Creation

Brand investment is second nature to our friends in the B2C world. Consumer companies know they live and die with the value of their brands. But most industrial MRO companies continue to ignore the value of a good brand.

When times get tough, when sales don’t meet expectations—what’s the first budget that gets cut? If you’re company is like most, the answer is probably marketing.

Insert Scooby Doo “Huh?!” sound clip here.

I’ll never understand this. What’s the thinking? “Sales are down, so let’s turn off our customer acquisition engine? We’re not making enough money, so let’s ignore the very activity that drives growth?”

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Falling Out of the Ugly Tree and Hitting Every Distributor Branch on the Way Down

I visit MRO distributor branches more often than most. Some branches reflect vision and a passion for differentiation. But most MRO branches aren’t just plain—they’re just plain ugly. And insulting to their visitors. And dirty. And unorganized. The shelves are bare in many spots. The merchandise isn’t properly faced. (Nor has it been dusted in the last 20 years). The fixtures are a mish-mash. And signage is either non-existent or ham-fisted. (Note: Scrawling “ON SALE” with a lumber crayon on a piece of scratch paper does not constitute competent point-of-sale advertising.)

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IndustRetail?

Industrial products had some the ugliest packaging known to mankind. There was less than no thought put into naming and design--and we liked it! (Or bought it, anyway.) Now industrial products get the same scrutiny as consumer products. And those who understand how to package and present them like retail products are winning the day.

Industrial meets retail...or IndustRetail...is a fact of life now. So how have you met this trend? What are you doing to embrace the retail-ization of industrial products? 

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