Friday, November 25, 2016

Why Educating Your Customers Is So Important

Related imageDistributors typically look at training as a necessary evil so it is something they do reluctantly for their customers, or push it off on a manufacturer representative. The training that is provided is uninspired, and the class will likely not be well attended, which goes to confirm the distributors believe that very few customers are really interested in training.

This of course is simply not true, and many distributors are likely unaware of the powerful opportunity this is to build a strong and long lasting relationship with their customers. Often at the expense of the manufacturer.
The key to a successful training program is to design training that is irresistible to your customers. If you provide a class hitting on an important topic to your local product community, your class will sell out and the folks who attended will be impressed with what your supply chain can do for them.

How to develop training

The best way to develop interesting training is to listen to your customers. They will tell you where they need help as long as you ask the right questions. You'll want to ask your customers they are struggling? When are they routinely confused about which product to buy, what the right product for the specific situation is?

Image result for education is the key
If you ask enough of the right questions you'll find that the same topic keeps coming up and everyone in your area is probably struggling with the same problems.
The key is to zero in on the problems your customer base is experiencing so that when you go see your next customer, you can ask them if they would benefit from a training class.

Using the MDS-Nx system you can bring new insights into the issues they are facing by using data analytics and business analysis tools to tell them what products they are not buying enough or learn when they are dispensing a drug with a better generic. Or a syringe that can sourced at a better price with higher quality from alternate vendor.

Not Surprisingly... Training brings new business

If you help train your customers they will surely come to you to purchase the products that supports the training that you provided for them. You can make it easy for your customers to purchase from you by making up a specials deal or a flyer discounting the test instruments or parts that you are discussing in your class.
You will gain mind share and will be respected in your marketplace as a distributor who can provide value and knowledge. You will find that regardless of the size of market that you are in, customers will talk to other customers. The more training you provide the more your business will be mentioned in a positive light. This will likely lead you to pick up a lot of repeat business, assuming your organization can provide a steady flow of outstanding training.
If you pass out an evaluation sheet at the end of every class along with additional training topics asking the students which class they would prefer to see next you will get a solid consensus on what should be your next topic. Success breed’s success and you will soon be the leader in your marketplace for training.

Train and sell your local technical college students

Why the local technical college?
Med techs, nurses, therapists, these are the people who will be buying from you. Often it's not a professional purchasing agent, its someone who has four other jobs at your client. By reaching out and helping out during the education cycle, where ever they land you will have a loyal customer and a voice to get in the door if they are not a client.

Image result for technical collegeThe students are anxious to continue with their education even after they have graduated and entered into the workforce. Today's students are tomorrow's technicians so you would be wise to donate your time and to help educate these youngsters. People will come back years later and tell you how much they appreciated the time you spent to come out and speak to their class.
These former students will also likely be doing business with your company. You never know where customers come from.

It's typically a lot easier to offer free classes at a technical college, and you don't to worry about your accreditation. If possible look to try and get a seat on the advisory board for your local technical college. The board typically will consist of a few industry veterans. You want to make sure that you are one of those representatives so you can help to develop the curriculum, Understand what the are teaching and design your supply offering around those goals. The more you can help your community the better off you will be.

Create loyal customers

The last and probably most important benefit that you will receive from training your customers is that they will become loyal to you and your supply house. If you have helped a customer grow his business he will reward you with his loyalty. If you can teach someone how to increase their business and make it more profitable you will have a friend and a customer for life but don't think that that can be accomplished with just a class or two. You will need to consistently deliver classes that will assist contractors with their businesses.

The type of classes that will be of value really depends on your client base, but in the health care space, many former doctors and pharmacists have entered the supply chain to become distributors. Classes don't always have to be a product pitch, although those are clearly the easiest to put together. But instead, think about sharing your industry knowledge , or even your business skills, many will appreciate any kind of training.  All these classes will are designed to help your customers grow their business while making them more profitable and who wouldn’t love that.

Ready to build a relationship?

For more information on TSH or MDS call The Systems House, Inc. at 1-800- MDS-5556. Or send a message to
Click here and tell us how we can help you with your business solutions.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Being first matters more than being better.

Image resultToday the Internet is filled to the brim with white papers and e-books on how to create an setup your website, social media  and sales automation tools to maximize your results.
However as is very often the case , everything old is sometimes new again.  No matter what the latest tools are,  it’s good bet that the basic rules of marketing will never change because they are firmly grounded in consumer psychology.

So today is a little refresher on some basic marketing and sales tactics that we likely all know, but we may not remember.

Of course with an eye towards how technology can help you hit the high points.

1. Being first matters more than being better.
Whenever a company is “first” in a new category, as Coke was with carbonated soft drinks, the impression it makes lasts for generations.
Image result for coke vs pepsiCoca-Cola was founded in 1892. In the 124 years since, countless rival brands have come and gone. Only Pepsi (founded in 1898, only six years after Coke) remains a real competitor. Yet, in 2015, Coke owned 42.7 percent of the U.S. market for soft drinks, while Pepsi owned only 31.1 percent. In other words, that six-year difference in being “first” in a market still amounts to an 11.6 percent advantage 124 years later. This is true despite the fact that Pepsi actually wins in taste tests.
Key takeaway here Apparently, first impressions last much longer than you think. When you present your company and capabilities , who is your first point of contact? How do they conduct them selves , and how can you make sure your salespeople are following the plan?.
Well a good sales force automation tool and eCommerce site might be a good place to start.
Feel free to see the latest and greatest available in our Remotenet Sales Portal and eCommerce site. 

2. If you can’t be first in a category, create a new one.

Image result for new thinkingIn just about every new category that’s ever been invented, there’s a company that’s first, and there are countless imitators. But, as with Coke and Pepsi, decades-long competitions eventually normalize into a two-company race.  That happened in the personal computing category, with Hewlett-Packard and Dell (28.1 percent U.S. market share versus. 23.9 percent). And it happened in the automobile industry, with GM and Ford (17.4 percent vs. 15.3 percent). If you’re third, fourth or fifth in any of these categories -- good luck.
But is it possible to not be first or second in a category and still win? Yes, if you create a new category entirely. You can do that either by specializing in the existing category or opening a new geographic market.
For example, Apple knew that it wouldn’t be able to significantly penetrate the worldwide notebook category dominated by HP and Lenovo (20.7 percent versus 20 percent) because it entered too late. So, in 2012, it created a new, specialized notebook category: tablets. Today, Apple is first worldwide in tablets, with 29.6 percent of the market.
Utilizing the MDS-Nx Software suite you can analyze and understand your product mix and what is selling. Being a profitable niche player is sometimes better then being marginal mid level player .  Check out our blog post to help you find your niche. 

3. Perceptions matter more than products.

It’s human nature to believe that we can improve on something that’s already on the market by creating a better product in an existing category. That’s why so many new startups tout a specific feature that distinguishes them from the trendsetters. These startups usually disappear.
Consumers probably don't care that you’ve made a better product. They won’t notice, and you can’t convince them. That’s why Pepsi beats Coke in taste tests and it doesn’t matter. Quite frankly, if you’re not first, you’re probably worse in the consumer’s mind.
But, as long as you understand the law of perceptions, you can work it in your favor even if you aren’t first.
For example, Apple wasn’t first in personal computers, digital music players or even touch-screen smartphones. Yet it’s revolutionized each one of those categories because the perception of value is more important than the facts.

Image and perception play a large role, but not knowing what will stand out in a customers  mind sometimes works to your advantage. By offering a comprehensive suite of tools and options our MDS-Nx System gives you the ability to give them what they want. If you think emailing and invoice at the end of the day in a batch vs emailing them one at a time is not a big deal, you are likely correct. But to a customer who now is able to save time and find what they need you just came off as the best distributor in the game. 

Image result for hooked on a feeling 4. When you own a word, you own a feeling.

Remember all those TV and radio jingles you heard in the '80s and '90s? McDonald’s has more jingles and slogans than just about any company on the planet, which is why you don’t remember most of them. But Folger’s has kept the same slogan (and jingle) since 1908.
Yup, it’s the one you’re thinking of right now. Why does this matter? Because when you own a word, a phrase, or a jingle, you effectively own real estate in your consumer’s mind. You own an invoked feeling, which is priceless. 
Nike’s “Just do it” slogan is a great example of a brand owning a feeling. Nike’s been running “Just do it” commercials and ads since 1988. Today, when people think of the brand, they think of lacing up their sneakers and just doing it -- whether that means playing pickup basketball or buying an expensive pair of sneakers.
It’s no surprise, then, that Nike has managed to surge past former sneaker market leader Adidas. Today, Nike owns 27.2 percent of the global footwear market while Adidas owns just 8.7 percent of the U.S. market.
What’s the Adidas slogan, again?

When your company answers the phone, delivers a package or product or sends and invoice , what is the slogan or name. If you don't have one, get one it's not just about marketing it's also about educating customers, and employees.  Need help click here? 

5. Competing at everything often means winning at nothing.

Following the first four rules of marketing can help you become successful. But the fifth rule will help you stay on top.
What happens whenever a company reaches a certain size? It goes public. And what happens then? Shareholders want it to keep increasing profits (often unrealistically). Inevitably, the company’s executives arrive at the same conclusion: The only way to satisfy shareholders is to extend the brand and create a new line of products.
While this may work in the short run and skyrocket profits, it almost always leads to the company’s long term decline. That happened when IBM decided to extend its line beyond mainframe computers. It also happened when GM decided to make all its cars look the same. Foreign automakers like Toyota swooped in for the kill. They are still market leaders in certain segments but they are not growing like they used to. 
Which brings up another observation: Plenty of successful companies are still successful because of their “first” product or service, yet they continue to brand everything else under the same name.
Microsoft has a huge software brand but is only a significant market leader in its first offering: operating systems. As a brand name, Kraft isn’t the market leader of anything anymore despite everything it sells. Yet it leads the cream cheese market because it sells that product under a different label: Philadelphia.
Whenever you try to bucket too many products, services or ideas under the same brand name, consumers just get confused and the brand name loses value. People will always associate the name with the product, perception or feeling that first made it famous. That’s why you’d be better off branding each new product under a different name, instead.

Since many of you are distributors and don't really have control over the brand , think of this as a repeat of the Niche Concept. Niche should not be a bad word. Health care Supply Chain is a multi billion dollar marketplace, and many "Niche" or Specialty Pharmaceutical players are well over a billion in sales. But they don't do everything, they focus in a market and make themselves the best in that space. That is the message here. 

Can these marketing laws ever be broken?

Of course they can! As in science, laws are true only until someone finds a significant exception. But they still matter to businesses large and small because they’re the best we’ve come up with, given our present observations. For over 100 years, these laws of marketing have held true.
So ask yourself:
    Image result for breaking the law
  • Are you “first” in your category, or should you create a new category?
  • Do you own a word, feeling or perception in your consumer’s mind?
  • Are you overextending your brand or staying focused on your niche
These are questions all business owners should be asking themselves far more often. Knowing the answers will save you a lot of energy, time and money.  

Ready to build a relationship with your technology providers?

For more information on TSH or MDS call The Systems House, Inc. at 1-800- MDS-5556. Or send a message to
Click here and tell us how we can help you with your business solutions.