Falling Out of the Ugly Tree and Hitting Every Distributor Branch on the Way Down

Rivet MRO is an industrial marketing agency and consultant that serves industrial MRO distributors. We build brands using tools like branch merchandising.

It’s the dirty little secret of the industrial MRO space…we’ve done an exceptional job of underestimating our target audience. Conventional wisdom often misleads us:

“After all, they just turn wrenches for a living; they’re not that sophisticated.”

Talk about an ugly point of view…

They may turn wrenches, but they keep factories running and they play a HUGE role in big buying decisions that impact your future immeasurably. And they get to experience first-class service at retailers (click and mortar) every day.

The bar for all of us has been set higher than ever. And the concept of IndustRetail marketing has never been more important to your success.

IndustRetail is the convergence of business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketing practices. The day when we can afford to think the industrial MRO space doesn’t require a thoughtful approach to marketing is long gone. The only thing is, many of us don’t realize it.

I visit MRO distributor branches more often than most. Some branches reflect vision and a passion for differentiation. But most MRO branches aren’t just plain—they’re just plain ugly. And insulting to their visitors. And dirty. And unorganized. The shelves are bare in many spots. The merchandise isn’t properly faced. (Nor has it been dusted in the last 20 years). The fixtures are a mish-mash. And signage is either non-existent or ham-fisted. (Note: Scrawling “ON SALE” with a lumber crayon on a piece of scratch paper does not constitute competent point-of-sale advertising.)

And their websites reflect that same ugly underestimation of the target audience. (But we’ll save that for another blog post—or twelve.)

Distributors: be honestif you didn’t know yourself, would you buy from you?

Yeah. I thought so.

And that leads to another uncomfortable question—how are your branch sales doing?  If they are down, are you conveniently blaming your losses there on channel migration?

And…are your web sales up disproportionately because of said channel migration?

Uh huh.

Sadly, ugly branches aren’t only found on the ugly tree. Ugly branches are also found on ugly P&Ls. Nobody reading this should be shocked.

Putting little or no effort into your branch (and other marketing) simply tells your customers that you don’t care and you don’t respect them.

Which leads them to consider, or even pursue, other options. Is your saving grace simply the fact that your competitors are guilty of the same thing?

Please understand that I’m not trying to say anyone is intentionally insulting their customers. But you know what they say—actions speak louder than a bench grinder with a loose bearing.

Rivet MRO helps industrial MRO distributors market more strategically and more effectively

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even in this age of e-commerce accounting for a growing proportion of sales, branches are still a growth engine. And clean, thoughtfully designed branches that make it easy to shop will drive growth and differentiate you from your ugly competition. Same goes for the rest of your marketing.

It’s not too late to climb a different tree—the money tree. It requires some investment, but it’s a climb with one heck of a view. Call us; we’ll give you a leg up.


Tim Rasmussen

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