In my last post about showrooms I discussed the question “Who decides what the customer wants to see in a showroom?” We will wrap up this series of showroom questions today, with the last question I proposed, “How can the manufacturer showroom dollars be better spent?”
It’s no secret that manufacturers partner with wholesalers for their showroom space. It’s the details of the incentive programs offered for that space that are written on the backs of napkins, a give and take relationship that is entrenched in the plumbing industry’s brick and mortar traditions.
So how can those incentive program dollars be better spent to reach a national, nay international, market with a complete breadth and depth of product? If you have read my previous posts you may have guessed that I would answer this question with the statement: “partnering with smart eCommerce retailers”. Smart eCommerce retailers have the ability to showcase an entire product line to a robust demographic.
Search Engine Optimization
Organic search engine results may not cost marketing dollars in a traditional sense, but the cost of a successful SEO campaign isn’t cheap. A successful SEO campaign at minimum will take manpower, research, link building, and analysis. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked by potential suppliers why they shouldn’t just throw up a web site on their own. There are certainly plenty of examples of that.
It takes a lot of smart people working 40+ hours a week before you turn the heads of Google, Yahoo, AOL, or MSN. Semoz.org’s Rand Fishkin comments on What Makes SEO & SEM So Damn Hard.
Ranking well organically on Google, as well as all of the major search engines, can make a significant impact on an advertising campaign, Google specifically commands the most market share of any search engine and therefore can make a huge difference. Google continues to grow and so do the dollars spent on keyword marketing campaigns. Competition gets nasty when you’re talking about less than 11 advertised spots on the first result page of any given Google search. Actual cost of advertising dollars aside, which is a significant cost, keyword management takes time and resources as well. Just look at the number of blogs on the subject.
But the payoff of smart SEO & SEM is priceless; consider the following screenshot for instance…
Kudos to our SEO team; 10 of 15 results in the above search direct the customer to PlumberSurplus.com.
For this search on Google, we are the top sponsored link, and the top three Google Product search results, and the top organic result. The same search returns results for our product on Amazon, AOL Shopping, and multiple comparison shopping engines.
Some comparison engines are built around a customers desire to get right to the bottom line: the product they are searching for at the best possible price. Aggressive incentive programs, like offering free shipping, rebates, gift rewards, the entire product offering, etc. assure successful results in the retailer’s ability to provide the product at a reasonable market price. Further, this drives out those competing exclusively on slashing price, in that they may not have all of the items the consumer is looking for or the ability to ship in a fair amount of time with proper packaging, or qualified customer service representatives; allowing those of us with a complete compliment of core competencies to better build the products branding.
Who doesn’t like a great deal? From our experience we know that our customers do. The cost to the manufacturer to run a traditional promotion goes beyond lower product margins; it can be some of the items that I listed above such as rebates, gift rewards and more. Getting the promotion to the wholesaler with supportive promotional materials is significant. This is not the case for eCommerce, we don’t need physical banners to hang or flyers or handouts, all of our ads can be done electronically, without additional printing or shipping costs. PlumberSurplus.com recently ran a President’s Day Free Shipping co-operative promotion on our Belle Foret offering for one week. This simple promotion saw an increase of 44% in sales over the prior week with no upfront cost.
Incentives go beyond simple dollars in a co-operative business relationship. Simple gestures like providing authorized retailer links from the manufacturer’s web site are invaluable. Jennifer Laycock explains that these links convey a stronger message than “here’s where you can buy our product”. Rather, it’s a recommendation of the services that follow the click.
The use of the internet is a daily reality for an estimated 301,139,947 end users. Manufacturers across our country spend their day turning out products that are identifiable as A’s, B’s, C’s, and D’s. In lemans terms their most popular product offering is referred to as their A’s and B’s and so on. In one Supply Chain Manager’s opinion it’s time for those same manufacturers to look beyond the traditional distribution to market and consider a few select eCommerce napkins.