In my travel to events like the recent Industrial Supply Association convention and my ongoing conversations with companies in industrial markets, I still hear many distributors contemplating whether “digital” is something they need to prioritize. They’re wondering whether ecommerce is something they really need to invest in. They’re asking whether social media is really necessary for the kind of work they do. And they want to know whether a blog or some other resource center on their website is really worth the time.
These are all great questions, and it’s good to think through how digital tools fit in within your existing sales and marketing strategies. The problem: I hear too much from companies who are still wondering “Yes or no?” – as if investing in digital tools is a black or white proposition.
It’s not. The answer should actually be “Yes,” followed by “Which tools and how should I apply them in a way that makes sense for my business?”
The thing is, it’s not really about you. It’s about your customers, and there’s no doubt in my mind that your customers do think digital is a requirement. Even if you think I’m wrong about that, the next generation of employees (all digital natives) will be attracted to companies who have invested in tools that make their jobs easier both internally and externally, as they work with customers. Given how tight the talent market is right now in industrial markets, this should factor into your decision.
I think the key is to not think about digital as a separate channel, but as one of many. And digital as a term encompasses so much, from a deep and robust ecommerce platform like Amazon’s to a simple mobile app for your customer to reorder product through. It includes posting resources to your website and sharing videos of new product applications on your LinkedIn page. It’s about being where your customers are – and they are online, every day and in some cases all day, for both personal and professional reasons.
The bottom line: Stop thinking about whether to broaden your digital presence, and just do it. The longer you wait, the further you’ll fall behind. Given how quickly the market is changing, no one can afford to hesitate.
If you’re a distributor, I’d recommend you look into some invaluable and comprehensive research performed by a marketing firm we’ve worked closely with in the past, Real Results Marketing. Published by MDM, “What Customers Want” is a look into what actual customers of distributors are saying about how they want to shop and buy, and how they want suppliers to communicate with them. You can learn more about the report here.