Subscribe to our newsletters & stay updated
A few weeks ago, I facilitated a discussion of marketing professionals trying to help one of their colleagues provide marketing support for a new location opening. As always, I am dazzled by the brilliance of this group and how they absolutely make me wish I had this kind of talent around me when I was a distribution executive.
In this column, I will focus on the marketing side, but there is certainly a whole discussion that needs to be had around the inventory and logistical side. Perhaps that would be a good follow-up for next month.
In this scenario, brought forth by one of the cohorts, the company decided to open a new location a few hours away from its headquarters. The thought was to create a much larger facility in relative proximity to dominate the market by sheer presence and product availability. This member was charged with creating a buzz before opening and identifying potential market segments to assist the sales direction.
By the way, the client didn’t have an established budget and no president for promotion. “Good luck and make us proud!” I can see why she was throwing a lifeline out to the group. By any measure, this is a daunting task.
Over my years in the industry, I have seen many distributors take quite the opposite approach. They do a stealthy incursion into the market and snipe from an undisclosed location.
Colorful words aside, this approach feels as if there is some doubt in the mind of the organization: Do we really want to be here? Boy, those competitors look pretty tough. Do we want to ruffle their feathers and have them gunning for us? If this is the case, we need to check our motivations for slamming down a brick-and-mortar facility in this particular area. It goes without saying that those places are expensive and can be a real cash bleed until we either succeed or pull out.
I had a discussion years ago with a distribution president; we talked about how our egos allow bleeding for way too long before we finally pull the plug. If we aren’t fully committed, it is a whole lot cheaper to send a delivery vehicle and salesperson into the territory to test the waters.
In this case, the organization was all in. The location was chosen and the resources committed. In true unbridled distributor fashion, “Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.”
One of the most impressive parts of this marketing cohort is its ability to dissect a problem and offer different areas to think about. Here is a sample of some of the questions posed:
When the location was selected, was there any prospect analysis using market data?
Are you known to the potential customers in the area?
Was the strategy to locate close to the customer offices or in growth areas?
Do your key suppliers know and support this new location?
What is the availability of experienced associates in the area?
These questions allowed the team to craft different solutions and provide tips from their experience. I told you they were smart.
The solutions broke down into four major categories: location identification, prospect targeting, digital marketing and traditional advertising. An argument could be made for combining the digital marketing and prospecting areas, but there are distinct suggestions for each.
In this scenario, the location was already identified and locked down. However, one member shared how he uses a combination of prospect-gathering techniques and mapping software to identify potentially attractive locations, using the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes of the ideal customer prospects.
For those who are not familiar with SIC codes, these are officially four-digit codes assigned by the government to identify industries. Some data reference sites add a fifth or sixth digit to break down the classification further. Once a list of potential customers is created or obtained through a service, this member marries that data to mapping software such as Maptive or Google Maps.
This allows him to look at the prospects for clusters or patterns that might influence where he should locate. Once the prospects are in place, he will layer in competitors and local suppliers. If they are considering a new building in an existing market, he will layer in the addresses of employees to make sure they consider potential commute times for the associates. For someone catering to commercial construction, you could also layer in current and future large projects.
All this data provides valuable insight in a visual format.
One of the more traditional ways to prime the new market is to get back to some old-school smiling and dialing. One group member noted that her company created dialing campaigns into a territory months before an opening. They first started to work any existing customers with a presence in the region. Some of this was promotion but included a fair amount of information-gathering. What do you like about the existing supplier in the area? Are there any service holes you would like to see filled?
They also would invest in new prospect lists from reference companies such as Zoom Info and Dun and Bradstreet. Although it is usually not the most comfortable of all selling scenarios, these folks would make cold calls to the prospects and introduce the organization. There are many more efficient ways to reach prospects, but not nearly as personal. Remember, we are still in the relationship business.
Staying in the realm of traditional reach, the team discussed billboard advertising and vehicle-mounted billboards to announce the coming of a new store. Depending on the pricing in the market, and the size of your wallet, these can be relatively effective. Traditional billboard advertising costs around $3,000 a month in one market explored. Mobile billboards, on flatbed trucks, cost about 10 times this for 30 days.
Again, if I were considering this type of advertising, I would use my heat map from the previous suggestion to pinpoint where I want my message to be seen.
Stepping a bit outside the traditional comfort zone, the group spent a lot of time discussing digital marketing solutions and mobile technologies. As you might have experienced in your social media platforms, marketers have become fairly adept at pushing advertising at you based on your preferences, demographics and physical location.
Geo-targeting is a type of advertising using location data to reach consumers with messaging appropriate to their locality and behavior. Doesn’t this seem tailormade to our challenge: How do we spread the word about our new store opening?
After speaking with a few distributors, many used this technology to target customers in an area they frequent. For example, let’s say your city is building a new stadium. This is a big project, and we want to make sure the contractors on the site know we are ready to serve. Using targeting technology, usually deployed by an agency partner, we can ensure that messages are pushed directly to the social feed of our intended customers.
In a more granular example, we could draw our geofence around a competitor location and push messaging to anyone entering the perimeter. I know — it seems like a sketchy tactic, but I want you to consider the opposite situation. How fair will it be when this competitor targets your employees the minute you start making headway? You are deploying a cutting-edge tactic. They only wish they thought of it first.
There are many methods to give that location a fighting chance at success. Since I only have a bit more than a thousand words before I get the figurative hook from my editors, I had to limit my thoughts. I am not a marketing expert, nor do I claim to be. I happen to be a good listener and am humble enough to always remain teachable.
After losing my backside on a couple of ill-fated branching decisions in the past, I can see the wisdom of taking a deliberate approach. The old “Field of Dreams” sentiment — “If you build it, they will come” — doesn’t fly anymore. In this day and age, if we build it, we better learn how to best promote it.
Good luck, and if you want to learn a little more about the creepy world of mobile marketing, I would be happy to steer you in the right direction.