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It's Time to Take another Look at Industrial Distributors

By Mike Strand, StrandVision Digital Signage

Now that the economy is starting to show glimmers of life, it’s time to take another look at the digital signage market for wholesale and industrial distributors. These distributors are ramping up their operations and looking for better ways to reach customers utilizing coop advertising funds from their vendors and differentiate themselves from the competition. They're becoming more sophisticated every year with their use of the Web, newsletters, events and service counter promotions to inform and cross-sell/up-sell customers.

These distributors sell wholesale building products, cleaning equipment and supplies, electrical, plumbing, construction, trucking and farm equipment and supplies, auto parts, and products and supplies for other industries. All of these industrial distributors can increase product sales and help their customers with profitable coop advertising that introduces them to innovative new products and approaches that are paid for by vendors. Luckily, most of their suppliers provide electronic advertising, graphics and even videos that can easily be incorporated into digital signage content mixes.

Making the Wait Worthwhile

The challenge is for distributors to create an entertaining, non-intrusive communications medium that reaches waiting customers who visit their parts counters and other selling areas without having to make major investments in technology or administrative staff time. Today, cloud-based digital signage networks offer mature Content Management Systems (CMS) that make it easy to create attractive displays via digital media players that include third-party videos and other source materials. Their cloud approach also makes it easy to centrally manage and distribute the corporate business marketing messages to multiple sites around the country while mixing in location-specific information and promotions shown on one or a small group of screens.

Digital signs hold several advantages for industrial distributors. They demonstrate that the distributor is technology savvy and future oriented. Suppliers love to pay to be on digital media players, which can become a new way to promote sales and profits - something that visiting manufacturer reps immediately understand. They are less expensive and more entertaining and responsive than traditional advertising and reach the target audience at the perfect time - when customers are in the showroom or at the parts counter ready to buy. They also shorten customers’ perceived wait time, which can be important for busy times at the sales counter.

Distributors can feature promotions from selected vendors, and highlight specials, slow moving inventory and high margin items. They can also announce customer events, business hours, delivery schedules, training classes, and highlight employees, etc. We’ve found that local news, weather and traffic, community involvement and industry-specific news or RSS feeds, such as agricultural news or commodities prices, are extremely popular. In most cases distributors can sell advertising to their suppliers to turn their digital media displays into profit centers.

Cross-Sell Digital Signage

There are some sectors (retail comes to mind) where the electronic signage market penetration is pretty high. Industrial distributors are less likely to have digital signage systems installed and they’re more likely to have tried to do something, such as a PowerPoint loop, on their own. As it turns out, they’re also a natural market for systems integrators and resellers, and you may already have several industrial distributors as customers for their computers and networks. So, digital signage can be a cross-sell opportunity, which is easier than cold calling a prospect.

In addition, if you’re already in there for network support, you know that they already have the infrastructure for a cloud-hosted digital signage service. If you see a PowerPoint system, or even just a customer-facing TV, computer, tablet or digital photo frame in the showroom or parts counter areas, you know they’re ready for a profitable digital signage opportunity. They may not go with all the bells and whistles right at the start, but if you can get them on a basic system, they’ll often want more (streaming video, etc.) and will be willing to upgrade their licenses soon after installation.

We’ve found that a customized sales presentation with a personalized digital signage demo presentation using graphics, information and videos gleaned from the distributors’ websites and their suppliers really let them see the potential. This way you can show the distributor’s own sales and service information, hours and other information that is included on its website. It takes only a few minutes to prepare and is worth the effort.

During your presentation, you can focus on some key concepts. The most important is that digital signage is a tool to increase sales and generate a direct ROI; that you can also increase customer loyalty and brand recognition by promoting training classes, contractor sales days, open houses, or other events; and that digital signage differentiates you from the competition.

Resellers profit by selling the hardware, networking, setup services and sometimes ongoing design services, as well getting a nice piece of the recurring license subscription. Some resellers charge to do the preliminary design and handholding at startup until the customer feels comfortable doing the periodic signage updates.

Industrial distributors are an untapped market and offer tremendous potential for digital sales - it’s time to take another look.

Mike Strand is founder and CEO of StrandVision LLC, an Internet-based subscription digital signage service that is distributed through resellers. Previously, Mike founded StrandWare, a leading bar code software and AIDC company. Prospective resellers may contact Mike at mjstrand@StrandVision.com.