We've been blogging content targeted at Office Products and Business Equipment Resellers for more than two years. Besides providing educational content relating to the industry, we have been focused on the path to digital business transformations, publishing material on email marketing, on the role of social media, on the importance of websites, and on the importance of blogging itself.
Everything we've published has been laser (no pun intended) focused on the digital steps that resellers must take to increase market share and grow the top line once again.
Despite the mature industry and the start of a slow decline in overall market size, the office products and business equipment vertical is not going to collapse. It remains a very large market with around $200 billion in retail dollars transacted annually in the United States alone. In other words there is still plenty of opportunity for astute resellers to do very well.
Although the sky is not falling for those who accept they must change and who start to adapt, that will not be the case for those that fail to do so. Adapters will be part of a minority but, as they progress, they will develop significant competitive advantages over those that don't, thereby making it easier to win business away from the analog laggards!
We truly understand how tough it is to know where to start with a digital transformation. We know because we've been through all the steps and we understand as well as anyone the process and the hard work that's involved. However, we also recognize that, what's clear, logical, and orderly for us, is not likely to be so for others that haven't been through the same experience.
Analog resellers may view digital strategies as a bunch of "smoke and mirrors" with a sprinkling of pixie dust added for good mix!
Our mission has been to break the steps down into a series of smaller, logical components and to provide tools to help our audience develop a better understanding of how these individual elements combine to complete the complex puzzle.
Let's start with a simple set of goals and then work backwards on the logical steps for achieving them. Fast forward three or four years from now:
- Web traffic: 10,000 UDVs per month which translate to 400 top-of-the-funnel leads per month
- Engaged social audience: 15,000 (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, & Google+)
- Clean, organized, opted-in email contact database: 7,500 contacts
- Library of 100+ blogs published: engaged audience of 1,500+
I can't imagine there is anyone that would not find it anything but a positive accomplishment, as well as a desirable outcome, to achieve these kinds of performance metrics. There's simply nothing bad that could possibly come out of them!
The trouble for resellers is getting from point A to point B as the majority have such a weak starting point. Today, they have no web traffic, no social audience to speak of, poorly utilized email contact database, and no blog! Where do they start to get to where they need to be and achieve these digital goals?
First and foremost, it's going to take teamwork and the most important members of the team are those on the front line - the sales team.
For a digital transformation to be successful, the very first step is to accept that the sales compensation plan must be changed. Traditional analog plans are obsolete and fail to compensate and motivate the sales team to achieve any of the vital "digital" goals.
Why does an "Analog" Compensation Plan fail?
Because it fails to compensate the sales team members for any of the digital objectives:
- Web traffic development
- Social audience development
- Email contact development
- Blog Audience development
Traditional analog plans are focused on developing the top line. But, unfortunately, the "global" top line is actually decreasing as the market starts to shrink. Without capturing market share (new customers) there's no chance of increasing the top line. So, as the top line shrinks, sales targets become less attainable and the best members of the sales team start to look elsewhere.
What's the real cost of salesperson turnover? Don't forget to take into account the cost of hiring, training, and the subsequent risk of increased customer churn. Remember, the best always leave first!
Properly motivated, properly directed, and properly compensated, there is absolutely no reason why a salesperson cannot become the catalyst for a successful digital business transformation. In setting a quota for web traffic, social audience, email contacts, and blog audience, and then compensating for performance against that quota, the foundation for a digital transformation will be established.
See an example here for how to pay a salesperson twice as much in a digital comp plan versus an analog plan, without increasing the percentage paid in sales compensation as measured against the top line!
Not only will the development of relevant web traffic, a social audience, a blog audience, and an engaged "opted-in" email contact database enable a business to increase its top line, it will also facilitate retention of the best members of the team, it will reduce rehire costs and associated training costs, and it will reduce the subsequent risk of customer churn.
However, there's no point in realigning sales compensation if there isn't also a plan to leverage the audience asset as it's being developed. This means:
- Deploying a state-of-the-art website
- Publishing high-quality content
- Conducting intelligent email marketing
- Understanding how to leverage social media to develop traffic
In order to do so, it requires the use of information technology to ensure key metrics can be measured such as;
- Open and click rates on email campaigns
- Blog engagement (opens and clicks)
- Website visits and conversions (leads)
- Traffic sources (direct, referrals, email, social)
- Time on site, pages visited, etc.
- Contact (lead) activity and timelines
Unfortunately, this is usually the point where heads start to spin, where it all starts to sound too complicated, where it sounds like it's going to cost too much, where the business owner fears losing control and where there's a perceived opening for a sinkhole of uncontrolled expense!
This need not be so!
One of the biggest advantages of our new digital world is that everything is measurable. This means the return on investment (ROI) can be accurately calculated. It means digital performance goals can be set for every relevant metric, progress measured (and managed) and the ROI for every dollar calculated.
So, once the concept for changing the sales compensation plan from analog to digital has been accepted, the next step is to create a financial plan. This doesn't just mean a sales revenue and profit target. It means establishing goals for all the critical components of a digital transformation as the sales revenue, customer acquisition, and profitability will all follow as the digital elements are successfully executed.
An integrated Information Technology Platform:
An integrated technology platform is vital for managing a business through a digital transformation. One of the key benefits is the improvement in efficiency it makes possible. We made a powerful statement about doubling the average salespersons compensation over a four-year time frame compared to where it would most likely deteriorate to in an analog environment.
In using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software systems, office products resellers will not only be able to operate more efficiently, they will be empowered to look after their customers more efficiently, thereby reducing customer churn!
Then, as the top line starts to increase, the rate of new sales person hire will increase more slowly than revenue. In other words, each salesperson will be able to handle more customers and more sales revenue, a benefit that not only helps increase his or her income, but also helps the company control increases to its sales and marketing expense.
Attempting to execute a digital transformation without first implementing a digital compensation plan is more likely to result in failure. Developing an audience for the sake of owning bragging rights about the numbers has no value. Instead, aligning the sales team and training them in techniques for audience development and prospect engagement, will be far more likely to result in a relevant and engaged audience than would otherwise be achieved.
Without compensating the sales team and financially motivating them to build the audience, they will simply not do so. For anyone besides the front line to build the audience, while it may mean the numerical targets could still be achieved, the level of engagement would be far lower than it needed to be to achieve the traffic and conversion goals. This, in turn, would fundamentally negate the efforts to develop an office products growth opportunity that could otherwise be realized.
As an office products & equipment reseller, are you still operating in the analog world or are you transitioning to digital with the use of sophisticated digital marketing tactics? You can't survive unless you do, so please check out our SlideShare "executive" summary to help you determine where you are in the process!
To improve the future for office supplies dealerships, their websites must become the foundation for digital transformation. As office product resellers or OE resellers, why not check out our free, no obligation, offer for a comprehensive evaluation of your site? Just click the button below.