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7 Steps for Embracing Change in an Increasingly Digital World

Reflect what makes you different across all your platforms.

The author of this guest blog, Harry Dochelli, is vice president of sales for United Stationers Supply, a master distributor of office products that is part of United Stationers Inc. (NASDAQ: USTR).

Given today’s accelerating changes in the marketplace, executives must think in new ways about the relationship between business and digital worlds. Our business environment continually experiences challenge with each new, powerful trend that reshapes traditional markets.

Trends such as the digitization of the office, commoditization of the industry’s products, consolidation among dealers and manufacturers, and a massive shift to online shopping and ordering are forcing dealers to change. But within change, can come growth.

It’s time to take what has traditionally been the hallmark of the independent dealer – high-touch service model, married with the wholesaler’s logistics, marketing and now e-business scale and expertise—and collectively transfer that differentiation into the digital world.

Here are seven moves to win to help make that transition.

1.Become end-user obsessed. Businesses need to cultivate a culture that is obsessed with end-user engagement. Dealers should know all they can about their customers, and more importantly, they should capture this information systematically. Understand your end-consumers, to best support their needs and priorities. Most consumer-obsessed companies have embraced social media and customer relationship management (CRM) as ways to engage, converse and listen in an ongoing effort to understand and meet customer needs.

2. Be a brand-first culture. A strong brand is not just your logo; it’s truly the foundation of your success moving forward. In today’s digital age, marketers need a strong, bold brand with a differentiated value proposition and unique personality. Establish a strong brand platform and infuse your company culture with it.

3. Transform your online experience. Research conducted by United Stationers reveals consumers view a user-friendly, feature-rich website as their top priority above all other factors. By 2014, 53 percent of all sales are expected to be impacted by the Web. If a website needs to be revamped, do it now. A website is just the beginning of an online experience that extends to email, text, social media and beyond. If your online experience is not a good one, it tarnishes your entire brand experience.

4. Build a winning sales culture. Take an honest look at your sales force. There are three generations in the workforce today. Do you have the right sales force to connect to all three? Cultivate educational programs and resources to drive dealer sales and profitability. Become invested in the growth and success of your sales team. A strong sales culture leads to expanded category business and new accounts.

5. Expand your market. We can’t hide from the momentum of digitization, but we can control how we engage it. Dealers should expand to address a broader product market and address new growth verticals, such as government and healthcare.

6. Target your campaigns. Relevancy is key. Use all the insight and information you gather on your end-users to effectively target your market campaigns in ways most relevant to customers’ needs and priorities. Conducting market segmentation via CRM will target your campaigns much more effectively and make them more relevant.

7. Be capital smart. Recognize all the “Moves to Win” will require investments in technology, people, time and money. Dealers should leverage their own existing infrastructure and available resources to make the changes needed to win for the future. Above all, take prompt action. Don’t put off those investments, because many times, we simply can’t afford to wait.

Would you like to contribute to MDM’s Industry Insiders blog? We welcome contributions from distributors and manufacturers that focus on trends and challenges facing our readers. Please email Editor Lindsay Konzak or Associate Editor Jenel Stelton-Holtmeier with any questions or to submit a guest blog.

MDM reserves the right to refuse publication of any submitted piece for any reason. MDM’s focus is proving quality content readers can use; MDM will not accept articles that market a product or service.

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