Driving Distributor Growth: Establishing A Well-Crafted Marketing Plan

By Matt Serra, CEO, Mulberry Marketing Communications

A well-crafted marketing plan is crucial to the success of any organization. Whether you are a startup or longstanding jan/san distributor, having a clear roadmap for your marketing efforts can make a significant difference in achieving your business objectives.

In the cleaning industry, standing out from the competition can be challenging. Many of the products you sell are considered commodity items. Therefore, businesses often buy on price, which can be a losing proposition for any distributor.

It’s important to identify what makes your business unique and craft clear and compelling messaging that articulates why your customers should choose you over the competition. Then, develop a plan for reaching your customers and prospects at the right time, with the right message, to drive growth.

Understanding Your Target Markets

Before determining what your marketing plan will include, it’s important to identify who you want to sell to and what their buying motivations include. Consider identifying geographic markets, target industries and target titles. For example, a distributor in Chicago may target schools and universities, hospitals, BSCs and long-term care facilities throughout Illinois. Within these industries, identify who makes the jan/san product purchasing decisions. This could be owners, facility managers, procurement teams, environmental services directors, school administrators, etc. A robust market analysis that includes identifying exactly who you want to reach forms the foundation of your marketing plan.

Set Clear Goals And Objectives

Define clear marketing goals and objectives that align with your overall business goals. Goals can be higher level and more aspirational, whereas objectives should be measurable and timebound. For example, a distributor’s marketing goals may include the following:

  • Increase brand awareness within key target markets; and,
  • Drive demand and leads for core products and services.

To achieve the goals, the objectives could be:

  • Awareness building — Increase social media followers by 50% and engagement rate by 2% across all social media platforms by Jan. 1, 2025; and,
  • Drive demand and leads — Generate 20 leads per month throughout 2024.

Whether you own your business or report to an owner or CEO, establishing clearly defined goals and objectives will help you determine what strategies and tactics to employ. Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic, or boosting sales, having specific objectives will guide your marketing efforts and allow you to track progress over time.

Developing A Value Proposition

A value proposition clearly explains how you solve your customers’ problems and communicates why your services are better than your competitors. Your value proposition should be brief, to the point and articulate what makes you unique and why your customers should care.

When developing a value proposition, make sure it is easy to understand. The best value propositions are short and concise. Anyone who reads it should be able to easily understand what you offer and why it is unique. It is also important to provide clear benefits. If you have any results or figures to include that validate your value proposition, include them.

Finally, use language that your target audience understands. Keep “marketing speak” out of your value proposition. Words like “best in class” or “innovative” are better suited to a product data sheet or PowerPoint presentation. Create something that is clear, concise, and memorable‚ and most importantly — helps you stand apart.

Marketing Strategy — Consider The Buyer’s Journey

When developing your marketing strategy, it is important to consider the buyer’s journey and to reach prospcects at every stage of the sales funnel. This includes:

  1. Awareness – Get prospects into your sales funnel by making them aware of who you are and what makes your business unique.
  2. Interest – Once prospects are aware of who you are and have expressed interest in your business, educate them about what you do and why they should choose your business over another distributor.
  3. Consideration – Share content with your prospects that helps push them closer to making a purchase. For example, this could include white papers that help your prospects solve business problems and position you as an expert, infographics that clearly articulate what makes your business unique, and product sell sheets.
  4. Evaluation – Develop content specifically for the final evaluation phase. This could include customer success stories and case studies that show how you helped similar businesses achieve success, as well as videos and PowerPoint presentations.
  5. Sale – Following a purchase, don’t stop communicating with customers. Develop programs that help you build lifelong relationships to drive repeat business.

Inbound And Outbound Marketing Activity: A Two-Pronged Approach

When developing a marketing plan, it is important to include a mix of inbound and outbound marketing activities. Inbound marketing activities focus on drawing people in who have a need for your products and services. This is done by creating content and promoting it to target audiences. Common inbound marketing activities include:

  • Website forms and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy;
  • Google AdWords;
  • Social media campaigns;
  • PR campaigns; and,
  • Advertising.

Outbound marketing activities require reaching out to prospects and customers directly to promote your brand and sell your services. Common outbound marketing activities include:

  • Email campaigns to your target customer lists;
  • Direct mail campaigns;
  • Attending industry events; and,
  • Cold calling prospects.

Implementing a good mix of inbound and outbound activities will help you to reach and influence prospects at different phases of the buyer’s journey. The types of activities will be determined by your target audiences and budget.

Common Marketing Tactics

When building your plan, it is important to choose tactics that help achieve your marketing goals and objectives. Common outbound and inbound tactics include direct mail and email campaigns, Google AdWords, SEO, social media, public relations, and events.

Content marketing is also an outstanding way to reach and influence your target prospects. This includes developing content that educates your prospects and customers about your products and services and positions your business as an industry leader. Consider developing a calendar that describes every piece of content that will be developed and/or promoted each month, target audiences for that content, the distribution channel, and the goal of each activity. This will ensure that every piece of content is working to achieve your marketing goals and objectives and is reaching the right prospects.

Measuring Campaign Success

You should review the results of your campaign quarterly or bi-annually. This will help you to determine if you need to course correct to achieve your goals or if you need to reset expectations with leadership, or yourself. Three areas to focus on in terms of marketing campaign evaluation include:

  1. Activity: Did you do the work you set out to do in order to achieve the desired results? This is the easiest to track.
  2. Outputs: What were the marketing results of the work? For example, did we increase social media followers by xx%? Did we increase website visitors by xx%? Did we generate xxx leads?
  3. Business results: This is the hardest to track, but most impactful. How has your marketing campaign impacted revenue and/or profitability? Can you tie back leads generated by the marketing campaign to revenue? The more you can connect business results with marketing activity, the greater influence you will have within the business.

Bringing It All Together

A strategic marketing plan builds a solid foundation for building brand awareness, engaging your target audiences and achieving sustainable business growth. Revisit and update your plan regularly to ensure you are achieving the goals and objectives you set out to achieve. A well-thought-out marketing plan is a roadmap to success and an essential tool for growth.

Matt Serra is CEO of Mulberry Marketing Communications, a business-to-business marketing agency with 20+ years of jan/san industry experience. From content marketing to public relations to digital campaigns, Mulberry is a full-service agency focused on helping its clients grow their businesses. For more information about Mulberry, visit www.mulberrymc.com.

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