By definition, the wholesale distribution industry buys products from manufacturers or suppliers in large quantities and resells them at wholesale prices to customers, who are often commercial establishments, professionals or retail stores.
Marketers can add value by influencing all stages of the customer lifecycle, working cross-functionally between sales and e-commerce teams.
The industry’s traditional focus is primarily on the logistical and commercial aspects of the business, such as offering a wide assortment, fast delivery options, and ongoing customer relationship management. For a long time, keeping the promise of product availability and delivery has been the basis for building and maintaining an excellent reputation.
In wholesale distribution, the marketing function often had limited resources and budget, unlike sales staff who could meet buyers face-to-face to build personal relationships. Wholesale marketing tasks focused on creating promotional ads, email campaigns, landing page design, then expanded to include social media management. Their responsibility was to generate awareness and interest while the sales teams generated leads with new or existing customers. The marketing and sales team often operated in silos, leading to tension and preventing each team from fully executing their jobs, as noted Gartner.
With the growing importance of digital sales channels and the strategic imperative to place customers at the center of all activities, the role of marketing has become much more vital. Now marketers can add value by influencing all stages of the customer lifecycle, working cross-functionally between sales and e-commerce teams to contribute meaningfully to a company’s bottom line.
Marketing and Sales Alignment
Until now, lead generation has been the primary responsibility of sales teams. Sales reps were held accountable for simultaneously identifying opportunities with existing customers while recruiting new customers.
This trend has begun to reverse, as Forrester Research predicts for 2022, “instead of separate lead generation and customer marketing teams, many organizations are consolidating into a unified revenue marketing team that encompasses the entire customer lifecycle.” Forrester adds that these newly created revenue marketing teams will use “ABM [account-based marketing] and other digital marketing techniques to engage with prospects and customers at every stage of the purchase and post-purchase process. »
ATM is a strategic approach to designing and executing highly targeted and personalized marketing initiatives to drive business growth. For wholesale, an ABM approach often results in specific, high-value customers being targeted with one-to-one marketing and sales activities. ABM is seen as a long-term strategy, with the key to success being that Sales and Marketing need to be synchronized for an extended period of time, ideally throughout the customer’s lifecycle. ABM software can provide distributors with the ability to orchestrate large-scale personalized multi-touch marketing programs across a variety of tactics such as email, advertisements, events, direct mail, social media, cold calls, etc.
Impact of marketing on e-commerce business
Marketing staff can play a positive role in supporting increased traffic and growth of an e-commerce online store through a variety of tactics. For example, marketers can orchestrate paid search ads, social media campaigns, and organic search through search engine optimization (SEO). Especially for the latter, the marketing and e-commerce team must work together, because SEO in B2B is a mixture of technical know-how, analysis, buyer persona and journey information, as described by Gartner. A successful SEO strategy can be developed and executed by joining forces and leveraging knowledge from various departments.
Leveraging the marketing department’s knowledge of the customer-to-buyer journey and customer research tools can also help improve the usability of the online store. Customer surveys or real-time online store feedback requests are a great source of insight into what customers miss or dislike and can indicate which features provide a good customer experience.
Using the customer portal as a marketing vehicle
Today’s wholesalers, like other B2B companies, are extending their e-commerce platforms to customer engagement portals, where the online store is only part of the offering. Customer portals often include several self-service and engagement options for staying in touch with sales and service representatives.
Customer portal offerings often include an archive of order and invoicing documents, a knowledge base, training videos, and an online chat. Some portals include a moderated community space where customers can exchange ideas or questions on specific topics. A customer portal can be the platform for almost all communication with customers, which can open up a lot of possibilities for personalized content to better speak to customers.
Marketing could facilitate targeted customer portal promotions for specific customer groups, invitations to upcoming events, or information as a service, for example, about market developments or changes in legal rules in the segment market in which the client does business.
Marketing as a catalyst for growth
With the digitization of outdated sales processes, marketing departments in the wholesale distribution industry can now seize the opportunity to break out of their niche and drive sales with sales and e-commerce teams and support customer engagement activities throughout the customer’s life. cycle. By combining knowledge of marketing tactics with sales experience, an unbeatable advantage is created to meet the high expectations of today’s customers.
Susanne Adam is Senior Solutions Manager at SAP for wholesale distribution. She has worked with corporate clients on customer engagement strategy and various projects in the wholesale and retail industry. Follow her on Twitter @susanneadam3.