COVID-19’s Effects on B2T (Business-to-Trades) Industry Distributors

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect As all aspects of the B2T (business-to-trades) industry are challenged with navigating their businesses through the realities of COVID-19, we had the opportunity to gain some insights on this “New Normal” as it relates to the distributor sector of our industry. We gained insights by speaking to a couple of industry experts and learned how they saw the distributor sector adapting to this new environment. Open for Business When the pandemic first occurred, several major industrial distributors outlined COVID-19 safety precautions that they soon enacted in their facilities, including closing branches to the public except for curbside pickup, temperature screenings for all employees upon entry, staggered shifts and frequent deep cleanings. Smaller, local distributors followed suit, issuing statements on their protocols and not wanting their customers to wonder if they were still open.  “The distributors that we work with were open, but the vast majority of them locked their doors,” said Beck Oberholtzer, regional and marketing manager, at CSV Marketing, Inc., a manufacturers’ representative agency offering a diverse array of high-quality, industrial products. “If the distributor had a showroom, there was no walk-in business and they were doing touchless delivery.” “Most of the smaller distributors were not able to send their employees home,” added Oberholtzer.  “They still had employees working the phones and pulling orders, which were delivered or set outside. Some of these smaller, older-style businesses’ systems just aren’t set up to operate through the cloud. They have servers onsite and need people in the building to conduct business.” According to Natalie Forster, editor of Supply House Times, a BNP Media brand reaching wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers’ representatives of plumbing, bath and kitchen, industrial PVF, radiant and hydronics, and HVAC products, as well as the official publication of the American Supply Association, “The biggest impact…read more >

Manufacturers: How Are You Getting Closer to Professional Tradesmen?

By John Sonnhalter, Founder, Sonnhalter Beyond the normal marketing tactics you do, what are you doing to get closer to your contractors and LISTEN to what their issues are? May I suggest a tradesmen council? You all have brand advocates out there, why not get them together a few times a year? By doing so, you can get a better sense of what’s happening in their world and what keeps them up at night. It's also an opportunity to run new product ideas by them before putting them into production. If you make the meetings about them and not you, the outcome will be more positive. You know these guys talk to each other either through social media and forums or at trade events. Meetings can be planned around major trade shows or association meetings. You’d simply invite them to come in a day ahead of time for a half-day meeting. I’d also suggest that some of the meetings be held at your location (at your expense) so they get to meet other members of your team. Keep these meetings on track with an agenda that includes issues they want to talk about as well. There also should be action items coming out of each meeting where they can see that you actually did listen and are taking some action. Note that all action items don’t have to have a positive resolution, but the council needs to know that you at least took it under consideration. Other than the ultimate end user, do you sell through independent reps and or distributors? These should be on your radar screen to get closer to as well. Rep and distributor councils can also reap great results. Reps are in the trenches daily and can give you valuable insights not only on the end…read more >

Are Independent Industrial Distributors Helping Amazon to Succeed?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman I read a recent survey in Industrial Distribution magazine that stated distributors’ biggest concern now is dealing with Amazon. Distributors and wholesalers overwhelmingly regard Amazon Business as their biggest threat, dwarfing other concerns. That’s one of the findings Unilog released recently, after surveying 244 manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers. Surprisingly, 52 percent of those same survey respondents admit they don’t have a strategy for competing with Amazon Business. And, 43 percent of manufacturers surveyed said they sell direct on Amazon Business, often bypassing their traditional distribution channel. I wrote a post in 2015 regarding this subject on another survey from Industrial Distribution magazine. Back then, Amazon was convincing distributors to join their third party selling agreement and many jumped on board. Today it’s hard to compete toe-to-toe with Amazon on product purchases. But distributors sell themselves short. Distributors have the brick-and-mortar stores right in their customers’ backyards. They have the relationships with the customers. Distributors have the technical knowledge to help their customers work through application issues. Here’s a link to the 2015 post: http://www.sonnhalter.com/2015/02/24/are-independent-industrial-distributors-helping-amazon-to-succeed/  read more >

Distributors Gain from Streamlining

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter For their January/February issue, Industrial Supply Magazine asked Spencer Maheu, Director at Osborn Industries what advice he had for industrial distributors in the New Year. His answer? Streamline your product selection to reward end users, your organization and your bottom line. Here’s the article: Streamlining is the Word of 2017 12012read more >

3 Pricing Adjustments Manufacturers & Distributors Should Make Now

This post originally appeared on INSIGHT2PROFIT.com Years ago, an Ohio-based specialty metal business made the decision not to charge for freight costs, even though their products were extremely heavy. The rationale? None of their competitors were charging, so they couldn’t either. In reality, this company was  No. 1 in the industry, so all those competitors were actually just following their lead. When the company realized what was going on, it had the opportunity to change the policy for its entire industry. And so it did—collecting more than $1 million in additional revenues. Smart companies know pricing strategy isn’t just about the price on the invoice. To have an immediate impact on your bottom line without formally raising prices, here are three areas to tackle first. 1. Freight Costs If you’ve been operating for decades, your freight policies have probably been in place just as long. Maybe you don’t charge for freight at all, or fees are the same across all territories—or you charge the same as you did 50 years ago even though shipping rates have risen dramatically. To start, ask yourself: When was the last time our freight terms were updated? What is our justification for our freight policy? What are our competitors doing in this space? This line of questioning can help internal stakeholders determine if there’s opportunity for improvement without much effort, as the aforementioned specialty metal business discovered. 2. Rush Orders When you place an order on Amazon.com and you want 2-day shipping, you understand you’ll have to pay premium pricing—in this case, $99 for a year of Amazon Prime. Your customers realize this, too. Yet many manufacturers and distributors don’t charge extra for rush orders. If your lead time is two weeks, but your buyer needs his order in three days, are you charging extra? In order to get that order…read more >

Sonnhalter Releases Three New Podcasts with Topics Related to Distributor-Supplier Relationships

BEREA, Ohio – December 2011 – Sonnhalter, a communications firm marketing to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, released three new podcasts in its Marketing Insights podcast series. The new podcasts offer interviews about trends in distributor-supplier relationships, breakthroughs in supply chain planning and execution as well as a review of the 2011 STAFDA Convention. The first podcast titled, “Trends in Distribution and What it Means to the Distributor-Supplier Relationship,” is an interview with Lindsay Konzak, editor of Modern Distribution Management (MDM) newsletter. Konzak discusses the trends in distribution and what they mean for the supplier-distributor relationship. The second podcast titled, “Breakthrough in Inventory and Supply Chain Planning and Execution,” is an interview with Howard Coleman, principal of MCA Associates. Coleman explains the new “pull” inventory management system. The third podcast titled, “Review of STAFDA 2011 Meeting and Trade Show” is a compilation of interviews with several manufacturers and representatives in attendance at the 2011 STAFDA convention in San Antonio. The manufacturers and representatives interviewed discuss the STADA convention and their outlooks for 2012. “These podcasts provide interesting insights into how things are changing for manufacturers and distributors, especially since the downturn in the economy,” said John Sonnhalter, rainmaker journeyman at Sonnhalter. The new podcasts, along with the rest of the Marketing Insights series, are available here. (sonnhalter.com/tradesman-insights/podcasts/) About Sonnhalter Established in 1976, Sonnhalter is the leading B2T marketing communications firm to companies that target professional tradesmen in construction, industrial and MRO markets. Sonnhalter’s brand identity highlights its expertise in marketing to the professional tradesmen. Its tagline, “Not Afraid To Get Our Hands Dirty,” promotes the employees’ willingness to roll up their sleeves and dig deep into clients’ businesses, also, it refers to the market it targets: the tradesmen who work with – and dirty –…read more >

How Manufacturers Can Help Distributors Ramp Up Their Cash Flow

A friend of mine Abe WalkingBear, developer of a copyrighted profit system that focuses on improving cash flow, has agreed to share some of his insights (some are truly unique) on how manufacturers can help ditributors. He's written books, is an international speaker and co-authored STAFDA's Foundations of Business 2007. Old military funny money finds new life in business. During this time of slow sales and extended delays in business credit customers' payments, an old idea is reborn. read more >

New Product Launches: Don’t Overlook Your Distributor Partners

Many manufacturers are so focused on the features and benefits of their new product that they sometimes forget about educating and motivating their distributors to insure a successful launch. Distribution is a key link in the launch, and if your distribution isn't on board or even understands what or where this product fits into your overall strategy, it's going to be hard for them to sell.read more >