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Overinvested in Sales, Underinvested in Marketing

Written by Mike Marks on Tuesday, 01 August 2017. Posted in Distribution

Today’s buyer takes a much more active role in the buying process. These customers – who would much rather do their own research than be interrupted by a salesperson – are turning to company websites and other sources for product and application information before they buy. Some buyers want very little to do with a sales rep in the traditional sense. Companies willing to adapt to these changes have begun to shift resources away from outside sales to inside sales and/or other specialized roles. But this only solves part of the problem.

If a customer visits your website for product, pricing and application information, will that information be easy for them to find? Is there enough awareness in your industry of your brand and offerings to drive potential customers to look for your site? Have you optimized your website and its content so that the customers who are looking for you can find you? Do you know what your potential customers look like, and do you have technology to communicate in a personalized way with each of them, regardless of their market segment, buying preferences or place in your sales pipeline?

If you’re answering no to many of these questions, you’re not alone. Many of the distributors I’ve worked with over the years are spending a ton of money on sales but almost nothing on marketing. In the rare cases companies do invest in marketing, it's usually done by the owner's daughter on her Macintosh, sporadically and on a part-time basis.

Before you dismiss marketing as being tangential to your business, consider this: Many potential customers are nearly two-thirds of the way toward making a decision before they even talk to a salesperson. So it would make sense for most distributors to invest a lot more than they currently are on the pre-sales touchpoints – including advertisements, webpages and emails – that determine whether prospects will even be willing to move to the next stage.

The good news is that when you invest enough in marketing, selling becomes more efficient, saving you time and money in the long run. While it costs a lot to make sales reps available for every customer, it costs relatively little to create a decent-looking website or to set up an automated email marketing or advertising campaign. The bad news is that many distributors are dramatically overinvested in sales and underinvested in marketing, and they’ll need to step up their game if they want to make a good digital first impression on potential customers.

For more on how to tailor your capabilities to fit the needs of your customers, check out our Five Keys to Unlocking Profitable Growth whitepaper.

About the Author

Mike Marks

Mike Marks

Mike Marks co-founded IRCG in April 1987. He began his consulting practice after working in distribution management for more than 20 years. Over the years, his narrow focus in B2B channel-driven markets has created an extensive number of deep executive relationships within virtually every business vertical in construction, industrial, OEM, agricultural, and healthcare.

Mike has led project teams that improve market access by aligning resources to growth opportunities serving manufacturers, dealers, and distributors. Clients have ranged from small privately owned firms to many of the industry’s market share leaders. Ownership structures have included owner-operators, private equity, ESOPs, and publically traded firms. Mike is proud of the teams work and the confidence clients have shown with additional project work.

He has written extensively, and is frequently quoted on many industry issues. He has substantial board experience on both public and private distribution firms. His contributions to the field include serving multiple terms as a Research Fellow with the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, permanent faculty at Purdue University’s University of Industrial Distribution, eight years as Graduate Adjunct Faculty in the Industrial Distribution Program at Texas A & M University, and rendering several precedent-setting expert opinions in contract disputes between manufacturers and distributors.

Prior to forming IRCG, Mike held the position of Executive Vice President at Lex Electronics, an $800 million vertically integrated electronics distributor in Stamford, CT. Mike’s path to management in his early career was through increasing responsibilities in sales and sales management. He also completed a tour of duty as a manufacturer’s representative.

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