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Creating a buzz around a new locationCreating a buzz

by Jason Bader

I recently facilitated a discussion among marketing professionals trying to help one of their colleagues provide marketing support for a new location opening. As always, I am dazzled by the brilliance of this group and how they make me wish I had this kind of talent around me when I was a distribution executive.

In this scenario, brought forth by one of the cohorts, the company had decided to open a new location a few hours away from the headquarters. The thought was to create a larger facility in relatively close proximity and try to dominate the market by sheer presence and product availability. This member was charged with creating a buzz prior to opening and to identify potential market segments to assist the sales direction.

Over my years, I have seen many distributors take the opposite approach. They do a stealthy incursion into the market and snipe from an undisclosed location. This approach feels like there is some doubt in the mind of the organization. Do I really want to be here? Boy, those competitors look pretty tough. Do I want to ruffle their feathers and have them gunning for me? If this is the case, we really need to check our motivations for slamming down a brick-and-mortar facility in a particular area. Those places are expensive and can be a cash bleed until we either succeed or pull out.

A distribution president once told me that our egos allow bleeding for way too long before we finally pull the plug. If we aren’t fully committed, it is much cheaper to send a delivery vehicle and salesperson into the territory to test the waters.

In this case, the organization was all in. The location was chosen, and the resources committed. In true, unbridled distributor fashion, the approach was, “Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.” One of the most impressive parts about this marketing cohort is their ability to dissect a problem and offer different areas to think about. Here is a sample of some of the questions posed:

  • When the location was selected, was there any prospect analysis using market data?
  • Are you known to the potential customers in the area?
  • Was the strategy to locate close to the customer offices or to locate in growth areas?
  • Do your key suppliers know and are they supportive of this new location?
  • What is the availability of experienced associates in the area?

These questions gave the team an opportunity to craft different solutions and provide tips from their experience. I told you they were smart.

The solutions provided broke down in to four major categories: Location identification, prospect targeting, digital marketing, and traditional advertising. An argument could be made for combining the digital marketing and prospecting areas, but there are distinct suggestions for each.

In this scenario, the location had been identified and locked down. During the discussion, one member shared how they use a combination of prospect gathering techniques and mapping software to identify potentially attractive locations, using the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes of the ideal customers prospects. If you’re unfamiliar with SIC codes, these are 4-digit codes assigned by the government to identify industries. To further break down the classification, some data reference sites add a fifth or sixth digit. Once a list of potential customers is created or obtained, this member marries that data to mapping software like Maptive or Google Maps. This allows him to look at prospects for clusters or patterns that might influence where he should locate a branch. Once the prospects are in place, he will layer in competitors and local suppliers. If they are considering a new building in an existing market, he will layer in the addresses of employees to make sure that they consider potential commute times for their associates. For someone catering to commercial construction, you could also layer in current and future large projects. All of this data provides valuable insight in a visual format.

One traditional way to prime the new market is through old school smiling and dialing. One group member suggested that her company created dialing campaigns into a territory months before an opening. They first started to work any existing customers with a presence in the region. Some of this focused on promotion, but there was information gathering going on as well. What do you like about the existing supplier in the area? Are there any service holes that you would like to see filled? They have also invested in new prospect lists from reference companies such as Zoom Info and Dun & Bradstreet. Although it is usually not the most comfortable selling scenario, these folks would make cold calls to prospects and introduce the organization. There are more efficient ways to reach prospects, but not nearly as personal.

The team also discussed using billboard advertising and vehicle-mounted billboards to announce the coming of a new store. Depending on the pricing in the market, and the size of your wallet, these can be relatively effective. In one market explored, traditional billboard advertising cost around $3,000 per month. Mobile billboards, on flatbed trucks, cost about 10 times this for a 30-day period. If I was considering this type of advertising, I would use my heat map from the previous suggestion to pinpoint where I want my message to be seen.

Stepping a bit outside the traditional comfort zone, the group spent a lot of time discussing digital marketing solutions and mobile technologies. As you might have experienced in your own social media platforms, marketers have become fairly adept at pushing you advertising based on your preferences, demographics and physical location. Geo-targeting is a type of advertising that uses location data to reach consumers with messaging appropriate to their locality and behavior. This seems tailor-made to our challenge: How do we spread the word about our new store opening? Many distributors have used this technology to specifically target customers in an area that they frequent. For example, let’s say that your city is building a new stadium. This is a big project, and you want to make sure that the contractors on the site know that you are ready to serve. Using targeting technology, usually deployed by an agency partner, you can make sure that messages are pushed directly to the social feed of your intended customers. In a more granular example, you could draw your “geo-fence” around a competitor’s location and push messaging to anyone entering the perimeter. I know, it seems like a sketchy tactic. But consider this: How fair will it be when this competitor targets your employees the minute you start making headway? You are deploying a cutting-edge tactic. They just wish they thought of it first.

I am not a marketing expert, nor do I claim to be. I just happen to be a good listener and am humble enough to always remain teachable. After losing my backside on a couple of ill-fated branching decisions in the past, I can see the wisdom of taking a deliberate approach. The old Field of Dreams sentiment, “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t fly anymore. In this day and age, if we build it, we better learn how to best promote it. Good luck and if you want to learn a little bit more about the world of mobile marketing, I would be happy to steer you in the right direction.

Jason BaderJason Bader is principal of The Distribution Team, a holistic distribution advisor helping business owners solve challenges, generate wealth and achieve personal goals. He speaks at industry events and provides executive coaching services. His podcast, Distribution Talk, can be found at and most podcast applications. Reach him at (503) 282-2333, at or at

This article originally appeared in the Nov./Dec. 2022 issue of Industrial Supply magazine. Copyright 2022, Direct Business Media.


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