How Industrial Distributors Can Set Themselves Apart

Talking about product selection, availability, speed and service? So is everyone else. Time to be different.

Many industrial distributors are dealing with the reality that digital is becoming the dominant sales channel. So while the core distribution functions of product selection, availability and delivery have not changed, how customers vet their distributors has. 

In the latest episode of the Industrial Marketer podcast, co-hosts Joey and Nels discuss how an industrial distributor will be at a disadvantage if its marketing focuses on the table stakes of product selection, availability and delivery. Yet 88 percent of distributors that respond­ed to a Real Results Marketing survey placed a large emphasis in their value-proposition messaging on: product selection, availability, speed of delivery, pre-sales technical support and professional sales representatives. Where’s the differentiation?

It’s important to know which customers, personas and customer segments value one service vs. another. Yes, you will need to adjust your messaging to what customers care about. But don’t view that as a burden; this is an opportunity to get your company aligned on developing messages that resonate with what your customers really care about. 

What Differentiates Your Industrial Distribution Story?

A clear and actionable value proposition is critical for industrial distributors, and the good news is that many distributors have a great story to tell.

Successful industrial distributors have figured out how to leverage their prowess to help customers, often as an end-to-end trusted advisor from system installation through maintenance and parts. That might look like: 

  • Expertise and knowledge – Many distributors add value through a consultative process, helping customers find the right equipment and showing them how to use it most efficiently.
  • Networks – Relationships with OEMs and suppliers gives them access to solve the most difficult and urgent problems.
  • Knowledge – In many cases, distributors are a local or niche sales force for global companies. They provide added value upstream and downstream. It’s important to convey that in your messaging.
  • Service – It’s not just answering the phone to help your customers, though that is a fundamental way a distributor shows that they have their customers’ backs. Service amounts to any way you make it easier for the customer to do business, which could be building an app that facilitates easier ordering or standing up a customer portal to automate reporting on transactions and invoices. 

Marketing Tactics for Industrial Distributors

We can’t say enough about crafting a value proposition that focuses on how you help customers and then embedding that message into your workplace and marketing. You can start by articulating the sweet spot in your Venn diagram of where you distinguish yourself from your competitors in the eyes of your customers.

Do you know your sweet spot when it comes to differentiating your company from the competition?

Other tactics that will make a difference in your industrial distribution marketing are:

  • Detailed product info in your online catalog
  • SEO
  • Content marketing that includes:
    • CAD files and images
    • Spec sheets
    • Case studies
    • Videos
    • Reviews and testimonials
  • Listings on industrial directories and in trade organizations
  • Paid campaigns for intent-based searches
  • Conversational marketing automation

Don’t Get Left Behind with a Focus on Products and Delivery

Just prior to the pandemic, finance powerhouse McKinsey & Company predicted that  slower-moving distributors would struggle and get squeezed from both ends of the spectrum — on pricing by fast-moving, best-in-class digital players that master the logistics and on relationships with increased OEM consolidation. But McKinsey’s report did offer a roadmap for distributors to find sustainable success: “We believe that distributors who move quickly can create deeper customer relationships and sustainable competitive advantages to outperform consistently in the years ahead.”

Don’t use your precious messaging resources to tell prospects that you do the same things as your competitors. Move the conversation away from pricing and toward capabilities. Don’t miss out on a chance to talk about the value you can provide them.

Listen to the Podcast for More on How Industrial Distributors Can Differentiate Themselves

For more insights into how industrial distributors can position themselves as necessary partners vs. equivalent vendors, tune into Episode 19 of the Industrial Marketer podcast.

Subscribe to the Industrial Marketer Podcast

The Industrial Marketer podcast comes out twice a month. To subscribe, visit our Buzzsprout show page and select your podcast platform of choice.

And if you have any ideas for topics you’d like us to cover on the podcast — or here on the Industrial Marketer website — send us a message on Facebook or Twitter and let us know!


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