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Posts By Robert Kelley

The second annual MDM Distribution E-Commerce Survey conducted with Real Results Marketing revealed several key trends:

  • E-commerce revenue as a percent of overall revenue is rising relative to last year’s survey.
  • The primary objectives among distributors for e-commerce are acquiring new customers, growing wallet share with existing customers and improving website usability.
  • Respondents express mixed satisfaction with much of the functionality on their own e-commerce websites.
  • Nearly 30 percent of companies that responded have a mobile device-optimized e-commerce solution. An additional 20 percent are implementing such a solution in the next 12 months.
  • Grainger is still overwhelmingly considered to have the best website by its competitors.

E-commerce revenue as a portion of total revenue has grown significantly in the past year through the growth of existing e-commerce sites, as well as …

Customers segment distributors much like distributors segment customers. Because of this, customers don’t typically think beyond the products they already buy from you. This article examines how distributors can expand what they sell to existing customers by uncovering unexpected cross-selling opportunities in their transaction data.

As consumers, we routinely experience cross-selling by retailers. It can be as simple as “Do you want fries with that shake?” or in more complex e-tail environments: “Customers who bought X also bought Y.”

Companies who do this well include Amazon and Netflix. In fact, Netflix thought the problem was so important that they setup a contest with a $1 million reward for anyone in industry or academia who could create ...

Finding the correct balance with customer contact can be challenging: Too much turns them off, too little misses sales opportunities. This article examines a relatively simple method to find the right balance.

One of the biggest challenges for any sales and marketing organization is when to reach out to a customer with an offer or promotion. If it is done too frequently, it loses its impact or even turns the customer off. By contrast, if it is too infrequent, sales opportunities may be missed altogether.

A simple behavioral segmentation technique called recency-frequency-monetary (RFM) value can help optimize the …

Distribution executives’ beliefs about the best segments to go after in their markets may not be accurate. Blending internal transaction data with data that provides a more complete, demographic view of your customers is the best way to better understand your markets. This article examines how customer segmentation can highlight markets where you may be missing growth opportunities. And it provides examples of where previous assumptions about growth segments were called into question by actual data.

When we ask successful distribution company executives about the sweet spots in their markets, they readily provide a confident answer. The problem with the answer is that it is usually incorrect or at best partially correct. A detailed, analytical look at their customer base shows that some market segments are overrated, some underrated, and others are ignored or undetected altogether.

While these executives sincerely believe their answers, there are several reasons why they don’t match data about the customer base. The first is ...

When it comes to positioning and messaging, the overwhelming majority of distributors in a recent MDM survey featured in the July 25 issue say they value similar things: product selection, training and technical support capabilities, among others. But when their websites are put to the test, online messaging on those important attributes often fails.

In this article, part two of a two-part series, Jonathan Bein, Ph.D,and Rob Kelley, CFA,  of Real Results Marketing explore the gap between the value and the message and how distributors …

When it comes to positioning and messaging, the overwhelming majority of distributors in a recent MDM survey have three things in common:

About 90 percent of distributors believe that they deliver more value than their competitors for a comparable price.

More than 88 percent of distributors place a large emphasis in their messaging on a handful of features: product selection, availability, speed of delivery, pre-sales technical support and professional sales representatives. If everybody is messaging on the same items, it means that nobody is really differentiating.

Nearly 70 percent of distributors use informal methods for positioning and messaging.

This article, the first in a two-part series, explains why distributors hold this belief about their value and shows how they can develop differentiated messaging around a broader set of features.

Real Results Marketing in partnership with Modern Distribution Management conducted an online survey of more than 175 distributors to better understand their marketing practices. This article, the second in a two-part series analyzing the results, explores how distributors use different marketing vehicles such as email, the Web, catalogs and more. The first article looked at how marketing channels are used by different distributors.

Historically, distributors were limited to in-store marketing vehicles such as print flyers, catalogs, some telemarketing and tradeshows. Marketing vehicles that have become prevalent in the past five years include email, search engine marketing, increased telemarketing and social media.

Of course, the marketing vehicles are linked significantly to the marketing channels chosen by a company. As noted in Part 1 of this report, published in the May 10, 2011, issue of MDM, many companies have outside sales and inbound telephone sales channels. Fewer companies have a transactional website. Companies without e-commerce will make only token efforts in search engine ...


Editor's Note: In this article, survey results are frequently presented showing Market Leader response vs. other distributors. MDM’s Market Leaders lists are available at mdm.com/marketleaders. The lists show the largest distributors in eight sectors.


There is a wide variety of marketing practices within the wholesale distribution industry. Real Results Marketing in partnership with Modern Distribution Management conducted an online survey to better understand these practices. In general, distributor respondents that appear on MDM’s Market Leaders lists more broadly embrace marketing as evidenced by the amount of resources they apply. Not surprisingly, they obtain better marketing results than other distributors. This article, the first in a two-part series, explores approaches to sales channels. The second article, to be published May 25, examines how marketing vehicles are used in independent distribution channels.

Over the past 20 years, there has been a broad movement by distributors to make various operational improvements through the use of warehouse automation, RFID, transportation management systems, 3PL outsourcing, process …