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Distributor Niche Marketing

Distributors can capitalize on growing end-user markets.

As everyone knows by now, the last couple years were not among the material handling industry’s finest. Many of our customers reined in costs, and, as a result, revenues of both distributors and manufacturers took a hit.

Notice I said “many of our customers” and not “all of our customers.” Even in the bad times, there were still sectors of end-users who were spending money. The trick is to find those end-users and develop a sales and marketing plan by niche market.

Develop A Plan
What do I mean by a niche marketing plan? Well, it means to target your sales efforts at those segments of the market that you know are spending money. The first step is to figure out what those “recession-proof” markets are, which can be done by looking at macroeconomic indicators from sources such as the Department of Commerce, Kiplinger reports, The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Finance, just to name a few. Take a look at the news and you’ll see which markets are struggling and which are prospering.

Become a member of a small niche trade organization for  more contacts. Cold storage is one example.

Once you’ve identified those markets, think of creative ways to reach customers in those markets. Some ways to do that include developing unique product solutions, e-mail marketing, telemarketing or even website design. For instance, I know of one distributor on the West Coast who has developed a website that only features solutions and testimonials from different end-users in the beverage industry. One integrator in Florida divides its accounts so that one rep focuses solely on wine & spirit wholesalers, regardless of geographic territory. Whether the customer is in upstate New York or South Florida, it’s still the same sales rep’s account.

Finding Niche Markets

• Target “recession-proof” industries.

•  Create industry-specific marketing materials.

•  Restructure sales territories to handle specific industries.

•  Attend vertical trade shows.

•  Join niche trade associations.

•  Host lunch-and-learn events.

Another example of niche marketing is to attend vertical trade shows. An example in the food industry is the Meat, Poultry and Seafood show that takes place every other year. (2011’s show is in April in Chicago.) There are numerous examples of those types of specific niche industry shows where customers in those markets may attend and see solutions from distributors. Another idea is to join niche trade organizations—cold storage is one that comes to mind.

Still another idea is to host “lunch-and-learn” events for different segments of the industry. Invite all the food and beverage companies within a 60-mile radius of your office to a local hotel. Rent a room, buy lunch and explain your value proposition. One successful hit will more than make up your investment.

These are only a few possible solutions. I’m sure you and your team can come up with others. The purpose is to focus on where the customers are and which customers are spending, instead of blindly promoting a new gadget or product. Become more customer-focused. There are companies willing to spend. The secret is to be creative and go find them.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Meet the Author
Kevin Risch is president of Mallard Manufacturing, located in Sterling, Illinois, and on the Web at www.mallardmfg.com.

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