In the B2B world, distributors must be creative to stand out in a competitive industry. Global Industrial Co., a distributor of more than a million products focused on e-commerce, rebranded itself in January 2021 with a new logo and voice “with very cheeky language,” says marketing director Klaus Werner .
“The injection of humor – where appropriate – allows people to have a kind of warm and fuzzy feeling whenever they interact with us, so that they see us not only as a supplier of goods to help them to run their business, but as likeable, memorable people.
The company’s marketing strategy has helped it surpass $1 billion in sales, reaching $1.03 billion in 2020. More than half of its customer orders are fulfilled through e-commerce, and executives say Global Industrial’s multi-channel sales and marketing strategy is key to its continued growth.
Brand awareness is less about us than building a relationship between the customer and Global Industrial.
Klaus Werner, Marketing Manager
Global Industrial Society.
Global Industrial has yet to release its full sales for 2021, which the company typically does in the third week of February. But for the nine months ended Sept. 30, Global Industrial’s sales totaled $801.1 million, up about 6.1% from sales of $755.1 million a year earlier. . Net income was $49.8 million, compared to $47.7 million for the first nine months of 2020.
Global Industrial is increasing its investment in promoting brand awareness, a move that will strengthen customer connections and increase sales. “It’s less about us and more about building a relationship between the customer and Global Industrial,” says Werner.
NASCAR matches customer demographics
Sports marketing is another opportunity to build brand awareness, he says. After looking at a variety of sports, NASCAR turned out to be a good choice. Global Industrial sponsored a NASCAR race car for the Xfinity Series race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona in November.
National-level exposure and the ability to interact with customers and suppliers has proven invaluable to Global Industrial, says Werner. The companies asked Global Industrial to co-sponsor the NASCAR vehicle.
“We were very pleased with our sponsorship of Sheldon Creed (race car driver) and the #78 Global Industrial Chevrolet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Phoenix Raceway,” Werner said. “The partnership has provided numerous digital and in-person marketing opportunities before, during and after the race that allow us to showcase the Global Industrial brand and the value we provide to our customers.” (Werner declined to disclose whether Global Industrial plans to sponsor future vehicles or how the marketing campaign affects sales/web traffic.)
Each race brings together a different set of companies, he says. “And they are collaborating with each other – we had companies using the event to discuss private label deals with us.”
Global Industrial is actively exploring other sports including baseball, hockey and football. “But right now, NASCAR is one of the sports that best fits our customer base,” he says.
The knowledge center as a tool for building relationships with customers
Customers expect a wide variety of industrial products from Global Industrial, Werner says. But as a brand, the company wants to go beyond being a supplier and become a go-to resource. “We want to be a destination for information that goes beyond price points,” he says.
The Knowledge Center, a section of educational content on GlobalIndustrial.com, contains online items that appeal to the distributor’s customers. Subject matter experts and vendors write articles to educate and inform customers looking for solutions. For example, at the start of the pandemic, customers searched for topics such as sanitation and maintenance. Other articles cover topics like challenges in the trucking industry or offer takeaways on digital innovation from Walmart chief technology officer Suresh Kumar.
Global Industrial also ran a marketing campaign early in the pandemic titled: Restore, Return, Rebound.
“We have a lot of thought leadership on how to restore your environment so your customers and employees can come back in person and you can bounce back with the economy,” Werner says.
Interest in the subject changes with the seasons. When the weather gets cold, people want to know more about heating, and when summer comes, customers start looking for refrigeration and cooling fans. Storms are triggering disaster recovery searches, and with the holiday season approaching, customers have been seeking content on how to increase warehouse capacity and ways to double or triple the inventory volume.
As COVID-19 vaccinations have been rolled out, Global Industrial has evolved its campaign to: Ready, Set, Ready, Perfect. Each campaign reflected the changing economic landscape as customers moved from damage control measures to growth.
In early 2021, Global Industrial expected the approval of the COVID-19 vaccine. “We knew the vaccines were on the shelves waiting to be approved,” says Werner. “So we made sure that once they were approved, we had all the collateral and marketing materials ready to go.”
The ready-to-use materials included information on how to set up a mobile clinic in a facility as well as information on products such as sharps containers, which store needles, and low-temperature freezers needed to maintain vaccine viability.
“We had this whole assortment of products ready to go,” says Werner. “We have to anticipate what is going to happen.”
Sometimes this anticipation leads to products that sit on the shelves indefinitely. “But it’s about being relevant and quick in case what we had planned happens,” he says.
QR codes provide easy access to product assortment
Global industrial customers expect traditional paper catalogs, which offer an extensive library of product and ordering information. Werner says the physical catalog is valuable to customers.
“The end users of our catalog are often maintenance workers who refer to our paper catalogs as they walk the aisles of their facility,” he says. “They put post-its on the products they buy most often for easy access.”
But there are benefits to pairing the traditional paper product catalog with an easy-to-use digital companion, Werner says. Customers can still browse a physical catalog, but also scan a QR code with their smartphone camera and be taken to the product webpage to view more details.
As a result, Global Industrial condensed its 600-page product catalog into 200 more manageable pages, he says.
The QR code comes into play when a customer wants to see a full range of products or search for a recommendation or an alternative option.
Global Industrial may make adjustments in the back-end of the software. The URL links to QR codes so that customers are directed to the product they are looking for.
“As our e-commerce technology evolves, we spend a lot of time learning about QR codes and the different tracking capabilities that are emerging,” he says.
Global Industrial continues to test different variations of the print and digital catalog to provide customers with a convenient way to access what they need. “We’re going to do a handful of different product catalogs next year. We plan to run experiments quarterly,” says Werner.
In 2022, Werner says he wants to “double down” on the content strategy of Global Industrial, which he calls Prime the Pump. “Social is a platform for businesses that if you want to play, you have to pay,” he says. “So I’m looking to respond with more investment.”
Social media is yet another way to introduce people to the Global Industrial brand. Global Industrial is active on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn and plans to explore Twitter and TikTok in the coming year.
In 2021, Global Industrial collaborated for six months with Terrill Haigler, known on Instagram as “your favorite garbage collector”, a Philadelphia-based former sanitation worker who organizes community cleanup efforts.
With Haigler having around 29,000 Instagram followers and a growing number of TikTok followers, Werner says, the popularity of “trash man” videos has come as a pleasant surprise.
“These fun, serious videos can turn into new outreach opportunities,” Werner says, without specifying web traffic stats or conversion rates.
“Sanitation is a big category for us,” he adds. “We are exploring more influencers and brand ambassadors and are in negotiations with them for 2022.”
Navigating social media is a test-and-learn scenario, Werner says, but it’s worth it. “Learn fast, fail fast, fail forward,” he says. “Some things work and some don’t. When something works, we redouble our efforts and when it doesn’t, we learn from them and improve it.
Werner will speak about Global Industrial’s B2B marketing strategy on June 10 at EnvisionB2B, a conference that will be hosted by Digital Commerce 360.
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