Marketing for Wholesalers

Feb. 1, 2012
It's February, and by now you're halfway through your winter season. It's a good time to evaluate your marketing plans, and it's not too late to make

It's February, and by now you're halfway through your winter season. It's a good time to evaluate your marketing plans, and it's not too late to make changes.

Here are 11 things you can do to improve your marketing and bottom line:

1. Testimonials.

Make it a point to ask for feedback from your customers, via surveys or asking a satisfied customer for a testimonial. Customer feedback means a lot, especially to prospective contractors. Why? Because these glowing words are coming from a third-party source, not you. They are credible and more convincing than anything you could say about yourself. They offer proof that your solution has worked for others — it represents real people talking about real things, showing true emotions. The best testimonial? According to Dan Rieck, author and blogger, it's the one that's nearest to your audience. Lawyers listen to lawyers. Contractors listen to other contractors. According to marketer and author Seth Godin, “When people who are respected in a professional circle clearly and loudly proclaim that they've changed their minds, a ripple effect starts.”

2. Explore Social Media.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. These are the newest tools in word-of-mouth marketing. Find the ones that are the best match for your business (i.e.: LinkedIn is most suitable for B2B) and make sure that your site is optimized for it. If they are all a mystery to you, make a commitment to explore and learn more about at least one of them this year — sign up for a webinar, take a class or hire a consultant.

3. Your Company Website.

Take a look at your website with fresh eyes. Is your site easy to navigate? Is your phone number easy to find? Make sure to include press releases and updates about your company. Also, be sure that your site includes keywords, which are huge for optimizing, which will take you to the top of the search engine charts.

4. One Question.

Ask your staff to name one thing that they would change to save the company money. Ask this of every member of your staff — not just the managers. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the answers.

5. Check Out the Competition.

A colleague of mine who's in the restaurant business orders a full-course meal for his family once a month from each one of his competitors, delivered to his home, so he knows what they're doing. Know what your competitors are up to. Visit their website, place orders, make phone calls. If you get just one new idea out of it, it's worth it.

Page 2 of 3

6. Direct Mail.

It's cost-effective and a simple way to stay in touch with your customers throughout the year. While social media is the latest marketing tool, direct mail is definitely not dead. Of the 1,000-plus B2B marketing professionals surveyed by Marketing Sherpa, 79 percent found direct mail to be either effective or very effective. There are lots of tricks of the trade that help to improve results, such as variable data, a process which allows you to customize your message to each recipient on your mailing list. For example, you can imprint a custom message onto a postcard so it reads, “Charlie, it's been more than a year since you had a furnace tune-up.” You can also generate interest with contests, a one-week sale or coupons. You can time the mailings for quick response to your contractors when you know bad weather is approaching. After all, consumers will soon be making demands of your dealers when bad weather hits your region.

7. Email Marketing.

Make it a priority to collect an email address from each of your customers this year and put together a database of customers and prospects (make sure that prospects give their permission to be included on your email list). Use email blasts to promote a sale, holiday hours, new products and more. Programs like Constant Contact and Vertical Response are relatively easy to use, with lots of templates to choose from. You add your own content, upload your database lists and send. It provides you with valuable feedback, such as how many recipients opened your email, who opened it, which links they clicked on and more.

8. Make it Memorable.

Whatever method you choose, remember that you are fighting for your customer's attention, whether it's an in box or a mail slot. Keep your message clear, concise and memorable. Have a clear call to action — what do you want your customer to do? Call now? Mention this promo code with their next order? Visit your website? Again, make it clear AND make it easy.

9. Follow Through.

“Act as you mean to go on” is a phrase I've heard often, and it's a good one. If you're going to start a direct mail campaign, then commit to it — don't send out one mailing and then be surprised because your results weren't stellar. Campaigns take time, involving multiple “touches” to get the success you're looking for. And if the results are not what you had hoped, don't be afraid to tweak your campaign. Here's what you can expect from a direct mail campaign: If mailing to prospects, expect a one percent return; that can double to two percent for current customers. Of course, results will vary, depending on the quality of the mailing and the offer.

Page 3 of 3

10. Tracking.

How do you know if it worked? Unless you are the only one answering the phone at your company, you need a measurable way to track success. It's one of the most important parts of a campaign. Promotional codes on postcards or emails, a phone number designated for a specific campaign or landing pages on your website all help to track results. Train your CSRs to ask “how did you hear about us?” and give options — did you see us on television? A postcard? Prompts or reminders help to improve recall. If you have an online campaign, Google Analytics is an excellent tracking tool. If you don't track the results, you won't know where to invest your marketing dollars next year.

11. Evaluate.

Mark your calendar 90 days from today so that you can evaluate your marketing efforts. What's working? What's not working? It's a good way to keep up-to-date with the progression of a campaign, make adjustments, decide to end a campaign that's not doing so well or step up a budget on one that's doing well. Then mark your calendar again 90 days from today and re-evaluate.

By utilizing some of these tips, you'll be on your way to improved sales in 2013.

Nancy Sipera is president of Cherry Hill, NJ-based, First Impressions Advertising Inc. Her firm provides marketing strategies and consulting for contractors, the HVAC industry and other niche industries. She will provide a complimentary, brief audit of the marketing plan submitted by HVACR wholesalers or contractors who reference HVACR Distribution Business magazine. Contact her at 856/667-4882, [email protected] or visit


Educate Them. Give your customers the valuable knowledge they need about your products via webinars, classes, fact sheets, PowerPoint programs, etc. List the pros/cons that they need to close more sales with their customers. More business for them is more business for you.

Incentives. Give your customers another reason to buy from you — whether it's with trips, lower discount levels, cell phones, iPads, gas cards — whatever motivates your customers to reach higher.

Co-Op Dollars. Now more than ever, co-op dollars have real added value. For those customers of yours who place ads in the media, contributing to their campaign can keep them loyal to you. Many times manufacturers will contribute a certain dollar amount per year or reimburse a percentage of media buys per customer. In exchange, a customer must meet a certain quota of sales, and agree to include certain verbiage or your logo in their ads.

Product Information. Give them tools to help them sell to their customers, such as fliers, sell sheets and email templates that discuss “10 Signs Your Furnace Is Dying,” and then offer to customize it with the customer's name and contact info. Now you're really contributing to their bottom line.

Sources: The Ballantine Corporation,; Seth Godin,