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Outshine Larger Competitors: Strategies for Smaller Distributors

Using the right digital strategies, smaller distributors can use their strengths to win and retain customers.

In today's rapidly changing digital world, smaller distributors face tough competition from larger distributors with more resources and more established reputations. However, with the right digital strategies, smaller distributors can still stand out and succeed against their bigger rivals. In this blog post, we will explore some ways that smaller distributors can differentiate themselves online and attract and retain customers long term.

Provide a Modern and Easy-to-use B2B ECommerce Website

It’s important to differentiate your business from bigger players in the industry. A great way to do this is by offering an engaging and elegant B2B eCommerce website. Unlike larger competitors, you can create a website with minimal distractions, intuitive navigation, and content-rich product pages that offer a customer-focused experience.

Providing an exceptional online customer experience for modern B2B customers involves several factors:

  • Intuitive User Interface: A clear and intuitive website design that is easy to navigate and find products is essential for a modern easy-to-use B2B eCommerce website. The website interface design must be well-organized, have clear navigation, product categories, shopping filters, search functionality, and is optimized for desktop, tablet and mobile phones.
  • A Personalized Experience: Providing personalized content, recommendations, and promotions based on a customer's purchase history and preferences can enhance the overall customer experience and increase engagement.
  • Accurate and Detailed Product Information: Today’s B2B buyers are looking to find detailed product descriptions, specifications, and images help them make informed purchasing decisions. Additional information such as product videos, manuals, quickstart guides (QSG) and industry certifications are also helpful to reassure a customer that the product meets their unique requirements.
  • A Streamlined Checkout Process: An efficient and easy-to-navigate checkout process is essential for reducing cart abandonment rates. The checkout process should minimize the number of steps required to complete a purchase, provide multiple payment options, and deliver a secure checkout process.
  • Easy Reordering: B2B customers often need to reorder products on a consistent basis, so providing easy reordering functionality saves time and improves customer satisfaction.

By offering a well-designed B2B eCommerce website, you can improve your customers' shopping experience and ultimately drive more sales for your business.

Leverage Your Company's Size for Personalized Customer Service

Small- to mid-sized distribution companies can gain a competitive edge by providing personalized customer service that sets them apart from larger competitors. In fact, a survey by Salesforce found that 84% of customers consider being treated like a person, rather than a number, to be crucial for earning their business. This is especially true in the industrial distribution sector, where agreements have traditionally been sealed with a handshake.

As a smaller distributor, your size allows you to be more agile and adaptable in your eCommerce approach, enabling you to respond quickly and better serve your customers. Accenture found that 83% of customers are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience, and 91% of customers are more likely to shop with companies that provide relevant offers and recommendations. This kind of personalization is key in today's competitive distribution market.

Prioritizing personalized service and customer care can help smaller distributors build stronger long-term relationships with their prospective B2B buyers or customers. This can help increase customer loyalty, which is strong advantage over larger distribution companies that tend to focus only on big sales numbers, often overlooking micro-interaction opportunities.

According to Bain & Company, increasing customer retention rates by 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%. So, make it a priority to personally contact your customers often, listen to their feedback, and respond to their questions and comments with attentiveness and insight.

By providing personalized service and customer care, you can build a loyal customer base and increase revenue, setting your business apart from larger competitors that may not provide the same level of personalized service. Don't miss out on the opportunity to gain a competitive edge in a crowded space. Emphasizing personalized customer service is a real key to to long-term success.

Share Your Knowledge with Educational Content

As a small distributor, it's crucial to understand that customers don't choose to do business with you just because you offer the right products at the right price. They want to work with a knowledgeable and experienced team that can provide valuable insights and specialized knowledge about the use and applications of your products. Big eCommerce players often overlook the importance of educating customers, which is where you can differentiate yourself from them.

To attract and retain customers, your eCommerce website needs to provide more than just product listings. You can showcase your specialized knowledge and expertise by creating an educational resource center that offers a valuable content. Here are some examples content that you can create:

  • A well-written and insightful blog that provides industry news, insights, and updates. It should address common pain points and provide solutions to your customers' problems.
  • Best practice articles that offer practical advice on how to use your products, optimize their performance, and extend their lifespan.
  • Downloadable educational guides that offer in-depth information on your products, their features, and their applications. These guides should be well-designed, easy to read, and provide actionable insights.
  • ‘How to’ videos that demonstrate how to install, maintain, and troubleshoot your products. These videos should be easy to understand, concise, and visually appealing.
  • Webinars that offer interactive learning experiences and provide a platform for your team to showcase their knowledge and expertise. These webinars can be live or pre-recorded and should be engaging and informative.
  • Podcasts that offer an audio version of your blog content or industry interviews that offer insights into industry trends, updates, and new technologies.

By marketing your knowledge instead of just marketing your products, you will establish your team as experts in the industry and create a valuable differentiation that will get noticed by your customers. Your content will help your website become a go-to resource for your prospects and customers, increasing your brand recognition, and ultimately driving sales.

Strong Customer Relationships = More Business & Loyalty

Building a strong customer relationship is key to the success of any distribution company. Here are some effective tactics to create an ongoing dialogue with your customers:

  • Personalized Messages: Start by personalizing your messages based on the customer you are communicating with. This means using their name, purchasing history and other relevant information to make your messages more engaging and relevant. Customers are more likely to respond to messages that are tailored to their specific interests. A study by Epsilon found that personalized emails had an open rate of 29.9%, compared to 18.3% for emails that were not personalized.
  • Feedback Surveys: Asking your customers for feedback on your products and services is a great way to show them that you care about their opinions. You can collect feedback through phone or email surveys and use the feedback to improve your products and services. This will increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. According to a study by SurveyMonkey, 89% of customers say that feedback surveys help companies understand their needs and improve their customer experience.
  • Promotional Email Marketing: Sending promotional emails is a great way to promote new products and encourage repeat purchases. According to a study by Campaign Monitor, promotional emails have a higher open rate (22.86%) and click-through rate (3.71%) compared to non-promotional emails. Additionally, promotional emails have a higher conversion rate (0.94%) compared to non-promotional emails (0.10%).
  • Educational Email Newsletters: Offering educational content through email newsletters can provide value to your customers and keep your company top of mind. These newsletters can include tips, best practices, and other valuable information that your customers will find useful.
  • Social Media Marketing: Social media can be used to nurture relationships with customers and attract new ones. By creating a branded presence on major social networks, you can maintain strong relationships with customers, increase brand awareness, direct traffic to your website, and communicate directly with customers. According to the 2021 B2B Social Media Report by Hootsuite, 60% of B2B marketers say that social media marketing has increased their brand awareness, while 45% of B2B marketers say that it has helped them increase their revenue.

Boost Your Customer Base with Improved Search Engine Visibility

There are various tactics to help your distribution business get found by new customers online. Here are six ways:

  • Optimize Your Website for Search Engines (SEO): SEO is a crucial component of any digital marketing strategy. It helps your website to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant keywords and phrases. According to a study by BrightEdge, organic search accounts for 53.3% of website traffic. Therefore, it's important to monitor and optimize your website's content, meta tags, headers, and images to make it more attractive to search engines. This will increase your visibility and help you get found by potential customers.
  • Understand what your customers are searching for: One of the best ways to find out what your customers are searching for when they enter a search engine query is to use a keyword research tool. There are several free and paid keyword research tools available that can help you identify the most popular keywords and phrases related to your business or industry. Google Keyword Planner is a popular free tool that allows you to see the search volume and competition level for specific keywords. Another free tool is Ubersuggest, which provides keyword suggestions and data on search volume, competition, and cost-per-click (CPC) for each keyword. There are also paid tools such as Ahrefs and SEMrush that offer more in-depth keyword research and analysis, including competitor research, keyword difficulty scores, and keyword trends over time. In addition to using keyword research tools, you can also gather insights from your website analytics to see which search terms are driving traffic to your site. This can help you identify which keywords and phrases to target in your content and SEO strategy.
  • Use content marketing: Once you have a solid understanding of what your customers are searching for, you can focus on content marketing.  Content marketing is the practice of creating valuable content that attracts, engages, and educates your target audience. By creating helpful and useful blog posts, videos, infographics, and other types of content, you can establish or reaffirm your business as a thought leader in your industry and attract potential new customers to your website. According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute, 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing to reach customers, and 86% of B2B marketers consider it a key strategy. To get started with content marketing, you’ll need to understand your audience's needs, pain points, and preferences. Then you can identify topics that address these topics and create high-quality content that provides real value and addresses their specific questions, needs and pain points.
  • Use Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising: PPC advertising is a paid form of advertising where you bid on keywords and phrases relevant to your business to get your ads displayed in front of your target audience. PPC advertising is a results-oriented advertising vehicle, and you only pay when a user clicks on your ad. According to Google, businesses make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on AdWords. This means that PPC advertising can be an effective way to attract new customers to your distributon business.
  • Utilize Google Merchant Center: Google Merchant Center is a tool that allows you to upload your product data to make it available to potential customers when they search on any Google property. By creating a product feed, you can list your products with their prices, descriptions, and images. Depending on your distribution model, this not only drives traffic, but can boost your bottom line. According to a study by Google, businesses who listed their products on Google Shopping saw a 30% increase in conversion rates and a 20% decrease in cost per acquisition.
  • Leverage Social Media: Social media platforms can be an effective tool to attract new customers to your distribution website. By creating a strong presence on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, you can attract new customers and build brand awareness. Share high-quality content, engage with your followers, and participate in industry-related conversations to attract new customers and build brand awareness.
  • Publish Customer Ratings and Reviews: Customer ratings and reviews are important social proof that can help your B2B business attract new customers. According to a study by Spiegel Research Center, products with reviews have a 270% higher likelihood of being purchased compared to those without. Therefore, you should make it easy for your B2B customers to leave reviews on your eCommerce website and other online platforms.
  • Optimize Your Website for Mobile Devices: According to Statista, mobile devices accounted for 53.9% of website traffic worldwide in the second quarter of 2021. If your distribution website isn't optimized for mobile devices, you could be missing out on a significant portion of potential customers. Ensure that your website is responsive and user-friendly on mobile devices to make it easy for customers to find and purchase products from your business. Additionally, optimizing your website for mobile devices can help improve your search engine rankings, as Google uses mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in its search algorithm.

Like a tiny plant growing in the shadow of tall trees, smaller distributors can feel overshadowed by B2B eCommerce giants. However, with the right strategies, technologies and tools, smaller distributors can use their advantages and strengths to thrive and maximize their full potential.

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