While consolidation, channel proliferation andpersonal protective equipment(PPE) vending trends continue to shape the industrial distribution landscape in 2013, safety distributors should also look to form partnerships with various networks and utilize social media for increased synergies. Customers want one-stop-shopping and quality products from trusted brands at competitive prices, and they want access to this information at their fingertips. As such, strategy alignment and engagement are critical to providing the opportunities and resources that help distributors meet these requirements. Moreover, distributors will benefit from a variety of additional value-added services that enhance capabilities and increase bottom line results.

Industry leadership spells expertise with end users

Distributor members of professional safety organizations continually gain insight from and access to other professionals, suppliers and technologies, as well as up-to-the-minute product information and top-notch training (often at discounted pricing). This wealth of information, combined with insider knowledge on safety news and regulations, collectively enable best-in-class service and safety solutions to customers. Such contact can also provide a valuable source of marketing information necessary to help identify new opportunities and grow business, while recognized brand-name manufacturer partners establish credibility, increase trust and resonate with end users.

Preferred supplier partners create supply chain and pricing efficiencies

Another way that safety networks can aid in distribution is by eliminating sourcing constraints. By pooling resources from preferred suppliers, distributors can service multi-plant accounts with local stock from a comprehensive list of thousands of products, creating a win-win scenario: satisfied customers will never run out of safety supplies and won’t look elsewhere to purchase them, and the manufacturer experiences exceptional sales volume growth. In turn, the preferred suppliers can extend lower prices resulting in both significant end-user cost savings and improved profit opportunities for the distributor.

Group marketing expands reach and maximizes coverage

Oftentimes, professional organizations will extend group marketing efforts to distributor members such as website page listings, flyers, catalog inclusions, social media posts and member directories as a value-add. Distributors can harness these opportunities to maximize coverage, gain brand equity and complement their business by positioning themselves with industry leaders.

Social media drives sales

According to a recent report from John Sonnhalter, founder of Sonnhalter, a business-to-business marketing agency, experts expect more than 150 million smartphone users and 90 million tablet users by 2015. To capitalize on these numbers, companies across all industries today are using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to engage current customers, reach new prospects and increase market share, and the distributor channel is no different. Not only is social media a great way to promote products and services, but it is also an inexpensive, or even free, source of marketing and advertising that aids in search engine optimization and drives users to websites for conversion.

Distributors can use these social tools to gauge their pulse in the marketplace, connect with other industry associations and add another element to their overall marketing mix thereby further increasing their exposure and rounding out the marketing plan.

In conclusion

Above all, providing products and solutions that protect workers is paramount. Safety should always be top-of-mind for manufacturers, distributors and end users. Beyond that, distributors can take their business to the next level and gain critical mass in the marketplace by applying these networking industry best practices and embracing the technologies that are setting the stage today and shaping the future for tomorrow.