Most industries (not distribution) have been taking significant strides toward integrating their sales and marketing departments into what is now known as the Sales and Marketing Team — two separate departments working as one team.

This shift is a smart move, given that online information contributes so much to purchase decisions. With this change, we’re seeing marketing teams taking on new and more important roles and responsibilities.

It’s a fact that decisions to purchase are made all day long with ZERO input from a salesperson. Customers make their buying decisions based on information they find online about the product(s) they want and the companies that sell them.

Further to this point, when it comes to purchasing services or solutions, we’re finding that a buyer will research as much as possible, coming very close to a final decision, before picking up a phone. This places a lot of ‘buyer influence’ in the hands of your marketing team

Why This Matters in Distribution

The distribution industry is one of the last areas to embrace the idea that their marketing teams can take on a substantial role in their lead acquisition and sales process.

While other industries rely heavily on providing content online to help guide a purchase, I’m not seeing this happen in the distribution industry, save a few outliers.

Instead, here’s what I do see in Distribution:

Marketing teams are tasked with ensuring that buyers see information that will compel them to learn more about a company, its services, and its products. This part is okay and expected.

What’s not okay (and pretty much a pipe-dream) is the expectation that a buyer will 1) get in touch with a salesperson or 2) be receptive to a call from a salesperson. Neither scenario is realistic!

The reality is that 1) buyers don’t want to ‘get in touch’ until and unless it’s absolutely necessary, and 2) they certainly do not want to receive a call either unless it’s necessary.

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Role and Responsibilities of Marketing

Rather than trying to get buyers to take actions they’re uncomfortable with, what the marketing team can do is something much more sensible. They can take part in actively capturing and nurturing leads from the internet. They can also measure the quality of the leads their marketing campaigns will attract.

This process is commonly called the lead acquisition process or the lead generation strategy.

How to Get Started

The best way we’ve seen these efforts kicked off is by having one person lead both the sales and marketing teams. This person will usually be the VP or Director of Marketing and Sales — a role commonly found in distribution.

We also see that, in many cases, the VP or Director of Marketing and Sales is often an ace in the sales arena, but not very well-versed in digital marketing. As such, they don’t know the full capabilities of the marketing function or what to expect from the marketing team. So, in a lot of situations (maybe your own!), while the departments are trying to be more progressive, things don’t change. If this is what happened in your company, don’t give up!

Strong results (i.e., better leads and effective marketing collateral) and a positive, measurable marketing ROI will appear when the individual who leads your Sales and Marketing Team familiarizes themselves with the skillsets and technology available to create marketing campaigns that generate leads.

Worth Mentioning: Enlist Your IT Department for Advice

A recent HBR article points out: “… marketing itself has changed. Customers now spend an increasing percentage of their income on software-based services that are created, priced, and distributed over the internet. They also get more information about products and services from online sources — bloggers, online reviews, influencers — than from watching advertisements….” Source: HBR, Is Technology Subsuming Marketing? 2/25/20

HBR points to a significant shift in traditional marketing tools and methods that have taken place over the past few years. They go on to write: “Perhaps it’s time to stop considering marketing and technology as two isolated departments and encourage closer collaborations between them.”

That’s not to suggest that marketing team members become experts in IT, but rather it illustrates the fact that the technology involved in creating winning marketing campaigns today is “tech-heavy” and will require that you consult your IT department during implementation.

This is good news. Other industries have already paved the way and shown us what working in the digital marketing arena. Those companies who now leverage that knowledge and embrace the new role of marketing and how it can contribute to increased sales are the companies who will soon out-market their competition.

To learn more about technology and the new role of marketing, I would encourage you to read the entire HBR article and judge for yourself or give me a call to discuss.

Let’s do this … Together!  

Right now, you can have an entire marketing agency available to fulfill all of your marketing needs – for a fraction of what it would cost to hire and manage your own team. Next Level iMedia is available to execute and manage a unique marketing plan tailored to your distribution company.

If you want to improve your company’s marketing efforts – or even start from scratch – and you don’t know which way to turn, Next Level iMedia can help.  Give us a call at your convenience for a complimentary, no-cost consultation.