July 31/Aug. 7: Volume 31, Issue 4
By Steve McKenna
In this modern technology age, no one can dispute the importance of developing and maintaining a viable online marketing strategy. Problem is, many of us are not utilizing our websites to their full potential. As I look around the industry, I’m noticing our websites are vastly different from our day-to-day customer interactions.
In the flooring distribution world, many distributors choose a strategy that attempts to set themselves apart by being experts in their industry and providing a higher level of service than our clients can receive elsewhere. As distributors, we pride ourselves on being problem solvers for our clients. We offer them a level of expertise they cannot obtain from our competitors.
So why do most of our websites look like, at best, a product marketing flyer? Most of the time we barely communicate who we are, what we really do and how we do it on any level.
Here is the difference between how we market online and how we market in person: In face-to-face interactions, we have a conversation with a client we probably already know. We analyze the situations they are working on. We have an active dialogue together about potential solutions, and we strive to offer solutions that will fulfill their needs, including budgets, time frames and expected performance. We don’t have to tell the clients we are experts; they already know because we have taught them something they needed to know.
Online, however, we might tell someone about everything we sell using a list. We may even have some links to the manufacturer sites, which give the clients the information they are looking for. The more advanced distributors likely have product videos and maybe even a bit of history about where some of our products have been used in the past. Some of us also use online portals that tell customers packaging information, pricing and availability of inventory. But this only serves to easily fill the order. It does not utilize any of the expertise we exercise every day in person.
If we are using our websites to let our customers know we have a pulse and they can place an order with us, then we have missed the point of the Internet. People generally aren’t going online to see who you are and where you’re located. They may do this once, but more commonly they are looking for information. The web is a great learning tool, and if we don’t take the opportunity to educate our customers then someone else will.
The most powerful service we can provide our clients is information that is easy to access, relevant to our specific needs and entertaining so they stay engaged. If we sell hardwood, for example, we know our customers may have several specific questions related to that particular product segment. (For instance: What is the best hardwood to use for my studio apartment? Should I buy oak or maple for this project?)
Odds are your sales and customer service staff are already answering these questions. Imagine if you could provide your clients and staff with a tool that answered all of these questions quickly and efficiently.
Steve McKenna is president of McKenna Distribution, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. He has experience across various positions, including shipping and receiving, inbound and outbound sales, purchasing and management.