In 2015, MDM is recognizing distributors that are innovative in their approach to their markets. St. Louis, MO-based adhesives distributor AJ Adhesives Inc. was selected as an MDM Market Mover for its creative approach to customer service, which includes a trademarked tagline and even a theme song.
2015 MDM Market Mover
Distributor: AJ Adhesives Inc.
Headquarters: St. Louis, MO
Leadership: President Andy Schwartz
Details: Adhesives distributor takes customer service to an “insanely” high level with a branding campaign built around the tagline of “Insanely Happy Customers.”
A happy customer is unacceptable at AJ Adhesives Inc., a St. Louis, MO-based distributor of industrial adhesive products. Nothing less than an insanely happy customer is the company’s goal, so much that it created an entire branding campaign around that aim, replete with a trademarked tagline and even a theme song.
President Andy Schwartz says the “Insanely Happy Customers” concept is more than just a marketing slogan; it’s an ideal that pervades every aspect of the company culture. And it helps AJ Adhesives stand out in an industry where, as Schwartz points out, a customer can “sit on a beach in the Bahamas and buy nuts and bolts at 2 in the afternoon.”
The idea for the customer service-first mantra began in 2012 when AJ Adhesives hired a branding company to conduct a marketing brainstorm session. The employees scribbled ideas on Post-It notes and whiteboards as they tried to craft the perfect message, something that would sum up the company’s attitude toward the clients it serves and the value it strives to uphold.
“And at the end of the day, what really stuck out is we wanted happy customers,” Schwartz says. “And then for us happy isn’t good enough. You’ve got to make them insanely happy.”
Soon after coining and trademarking the phrase, the company hired Nichole Fischer as its Insanely Happy Customer branding ambassador, the longest title she’s ever heard but also the coolest – “better than the captain of a ship,” she says with a laugh.
“We started the conversation of what does this look like? How do we put this out into the world?” Fischer says. “And that’s when we started talking about a website that would be linked to our AJ website but fully dedicated to how we care for our customers and how we differentiate from people that are in our sector.”
The company measures customer happiness with a one-question survey it sends three days after an order asking if they would recommend AJ Adhesives to a colleague and leaving room for a comment on how the company is performing. Fischer tracks these responses and shares them weekly with the customer service and management teams, all of whom collaborate on addressing any issues that have emerged.
“I’ve tried to ingrain it in everybody that works with me that, at the end of the day, we take care of the customers,” Schwartz says. “If we didn’t have any customers, there wouldn’t be any need for anybody else. So they come first.”
AJ Adhesives has found creative ways to spread its message of putting the customer first. One is a theme song. Fischer and the creative team wrote the lyrics, and The Traumatics recorded the “Insanely Happy Song,” which plays on the company’s website.
Another is social media. Not all distributors are convinced channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube work for B2B, but it’s a space where AJ Adhesives believes it can drive website traffic by improving search-engine optimization while also showcasing the company’s unique approach to customer service.
“We have a core value here and it’s a commitment to embrace change,” Fischer says. “And since social media is something different for our sector, it’s important to be able to embrace that change ahead of time.”
The company also uses social media to share industry and client news, and it works to promote its brand while also engaging with customers by retweeting their updates, liking their posts or favoriting their photos.
“The distribution model has not changed a ton over the last several decades,” Schwartz says. “What is the next change? We don’t know, but we know on social media it keeps us relevant and that’s what we want to do. We want to stay relevant. And we know people buy stories. And so if we can communicate our stories, we think it will have significance.”
Remaining relevant is an increasing challenge in today's competitive marketplace, but AJ Adhesives has taken a savvy step toward that end with a simple core value proposition centered on the most important relationship in business.
"We can say we’re good," Schwartz says, "but if our customers say we’re good and our customers say we made them insanely happy, that’s what matters."