The July/August 2020 issue of Industrial Supply Magazine features an article contributed by Rivet|MRO founder Tim Rasmussen. Click on the image above to see the story in the magazine. The text of the article also appears below:
By Tim Rasmussen
Social media is playing a vital role in people’s daily lives. Many start their day by checking their social accounts; this includes people like your customers. Social media is so much more than finding out what your friends and old classmates are up to. It can also serve as an important tool to help business leaders and sales professionals develop their networks and increase sales.
As social media continues to grow in popularity—and not only among the Millennials and Gen-Zers but also among the older generations (we’re looking at you, Boomers and GenXers!)—it becomes increasingly important for industrial distributors to have a stronger social presence. Improving your social profile helps improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and creates positive brand impressions among your customers. It’s also a great way to showcase new products and services or introduce sales and promotions. All of these activities contribute to increased sales. Therefore, social media has gradually become a new tool to develop business opportunities—even in the B2B market.
It’s probably fair to say social media has not exactly been widely embraced as a marketing tool among independent industrial distributors. According to The Journal of Technology Studies, the industrial B2B sector has been using different marketing strategies than other B2B sectors. Industrial distributors tend to use promotional items and personal selling to keep current buyers happy and attract new buyers. Moreover, industrial distributors have a relatively weak social presence when
compared to other B2B sectors.
Their study of the top 40 U.S. distributors found that 25 percent of these distributors did not have any social presence, and 55 percent did not actively update their social media accounts. Only one-third of the distributors are active on at least one social media platform—Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Many of them don’t even have a link to their websites on their company pages on social media. Does this result indicate that industrial distributors do not need social media at all? The short answer is no.
HOW CAN INDUSTRIAL DISTRIBUTORS BENEFIT FROM AN IMPROVED SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE?
Among other marketing strategies—emails, promotional items, digital advertising, flyers, direct mail, etc.—social media is very cost-effective. It is completely free and owned by the company itself. It has a large reach potential and it is not limited by geography. Unlike promotional items or flyers, social media doesn’t require additional delivery fees to reach the target audience.
Besides the cost benefits, here are some other reasons why you should leverage social media as an industrial distributor:
To increase brand awareness—a consistent presence on social media increases the chance for potential buyers to see your posts and remember your company’s name.
To maintain good relationships with current buyers—by posting relevant, insightful content on social media sites, current buyers will feel like your distributorship is there to help them solve the problems. And thus, current buyers are more likely to become loyal buyers.
To gain trust from buyers— presenting valuable content on social sites shows that your distributorship is knowledgeable, helpful and able to fulfill buyers’ requirements.
To direct traffic to website or promotional events—with links to your website and event invitations, social media can increase both online and offline traffic at a very low cost.
To communicate directly with buyers—people like to post very good or very bad experiences on social media. If a distributorship never presents on social media, it may never know how some of its buyers think of it. By using social media, your company has the chance to find out about some of the problems their buyers have and address them with the buyers directly, which not only helps the buyers solve the problems, but also give other buyers a reason to trust your company.
To improve search engine results—recent studies show an enhanced and regular social media presence across multiple platforms improves search engine rankings.
HOW CAN DISTRIBUTORS GET STARTED WITH SOCIAL SELLING?
Maybe now you’re convinced you need to engage on social media. But the question remains, how do you get started with social marketing? Different social sites have different targets and functions. The most-used social media sites in the B2B market are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Let’s take a look at each:
LinkedIn is created for professional and business networking, and is probably the most important social media channel for your distributorship. According to a recent study, 50 percent of B2B buyers use LinkedIn sources to help them make decisions. LinkedIn also has the largest number of professionals and most of its content is focused on business connections and development. To get started with LinkedIn, you should first build a credible profile—adding photos and videos explaining your business and products, and adding a detailed description of your company. Then, you can either invite buyers to follow the company page or share the company page with your own personal LinkedIn connections to get more followers.
Expanding a company’s network is a long-term process. It is unlikely to grow rapidly when you first begin to communicate via social media. But once used properly—that means consistently posting relevant, useful, engaging content—you will generate more and more followers and connections on LinkedIn. Furthermore, distributors should participate in LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your industry. This helps you keep up with the latest news and keep in touch with potential buyers.
Here are a few LinkedIn groups industrial distributors should consider joining:
Industrial Supply Association
Industrial & Janitorial Supply
Distributor Sales Executives
Manufacturing, Wholesale & Distribution Forum
Industrial Marketing Mavens
MRO Best Practices
Besides LinkedIn, Twitter is another social media platform more and more industrial distributors have chosen to leverage. It is a real-time micro-blogging platform that connects you to the people and companies that interest you. Replying to someone else’s post is the most direct way to engage with your audience on Twitter. Some of the more passive ways to stay active include retweeting relevant content and liking other people’s posts.
Additionally, the hashtag (#) is a very important feature of Twitter. By creating your company’s own hashtags or using popular hashtags, you can easily track topics of interest and analyze trending subjects. Moreover, Twitter allows users to monitor followers using lists. You can create lists for prospects, customers and competitors in order to catch opportunities to increase sales and compete wisely with competitors. Start by searching for your customers and prospects on Twitter and follow those companies.
Last but not least, Facebook is one of the largest social media sites leveraged by both businesses and individuals. Zephoria research showed that in 2019, 1.56 billion people log on to Facebook daily. And a whopping 20 percent of all website views in the U.S. occur on Facebook!
Although buyers may not want you to follow their personal accounts, they still like to talk about their purchase experience with their friends on Facebook. By creating a Facebook business page, you can expand your company’s network through encouraging buyers to like and share your company page. Since Facebook is a personal network, industrial brands can benefit from it by crafting a more personal message and providing valuable information to buyers.
But be careful to avoid sales-focused approach with your company’s Facebook content, keeping promotional language to a minimum. Otherwise, you’re sure to scare off people who may otherwise be interested in your posts. However, sharing interesting and insightful articles, infographics, videos and imagery is a great way to keep your audience engaged with your brand. When industrial distributors leverage Facebook successfully, they not only listen to what their buyers have to say about their experience, but they also increase the potential to build trust among customers and prospects.
After opening company accounts on these sites, you can then move on to posting and listening. As mentioned above, it is important to post consistently on social sites. Sharing information that buyers find helpful or interesting should be the main purpose of social media.
To leverage social media in a way that improves sales, you should pay close attention to the needs and interests of your buyers. Thus, besides posting good content, you should also listen to what your buyers say on social media and respond appropriately to their questions, frustrations and confusions. By participating in these discussions, buyers are more likely to see you as a helpful solution source for their problems and remember your company’s name. Gradually, your company will have the possibility to gain more followers and loyal buyers. Consequently, buyers will learn about the industrial distributor from its social media sites, and then, hopefully, sales will increase through social media.
IS THERE A SHORTCUT?
If finding the right content to post sounds difficult to you, or you just don’t have the time and effort to do this extra work, Rivet|MRO has a shortcut for your business. Distributor Social is a social media content solution designed exclusively for industrial distributors.
We find relevant content on credible industrial sites and then we select the latest, most-interesting news stories and survey summaries to post on your social media sites. For example, we will post content on safety tips, automation, industrial distribution trends, hiring trends, manufacturing reports and much more content written exclusively for industrial buyers.
Furthermore, we don’t just repost articles on your sites. We will create a short paragraph pulling the most insightful information from the article and post it along with the link. We post every Tuesday and Thursday. On Thursday, we will create an infographic for the post with your company’s logo on it. Posts with images get many more impressions and clicks than posts without images. Besides these two posts every week, when there is a holiday, like Independence Day or Christmas—or even Groundhog Day—we will create an industrial-style holiday graphic with your logo on it, so you can celebrate with your customers. Moreover, all the content is customized for your social sites.
According to one of our Distributor Social clients, their LinkedIn page views jumped from 17 to more than 50 overnight. Another went from an average of 19 to 64 monthly page views in just one month.
By subscribing to Distributor Social, you will reinforce your position as an industrial expert, generate more engagement on social media, attract more followers to your social media and direct them to your website.
What’s more, you don’t need to lift a finger. Simply subscribe to our service and we do all the work for you. All you need to do is contact our marketing experts here, and we will handle everything from then on. Hurry—Distributor Social is syndicated on a regional-exclusive basis. If another distributor in your geography is already using the service, we
won’t be able to provide you with a subscription. That way no end-user sees duplicate posts among competing distributors.
Here’s wishing you the best with your social media efforts. See you online.
Tim Rasmussen is the founder of Rivet|MRO, a marketing consulting
firm that focuses exclusively on independent industrial distributors. Rivet|MRO provides strategic marketing consulting, marketing analytics, distributor-specific syndicated social media management and traditional resources of a full-service agency. For more information, visit www.rivetMRO.com.
This article originally appeared in the July/Aug. 2020 issue of Industrial Supply magazine. Copyright 2020, Direct Business Media.