The Evolving Role Of CRM: Why Distributors Are Shifting Focus To Marketing

Recent statistics demonstrate that CRM is growing as a priority for technology investment for the rest of 2015 as B2B players expect deeper and more varied information on orders and accounts. Here's why a CRM application makes sense for everyone.

Faced with rapidly changing buyer behavior and rising costs, many businesses are turning to technology to help amplify success as business models continue to shift. One major change seen across multiple industries is that today’s consumers and business-to-business players expect deeper and more varied information on orders and accounts. They also anticipate access to this information in more unconventional ways. This is prompting more distributors to evaluate investments in integrated customer relationship management (CRM), mobility, and e-commerce applications to better serve their customers.

According to a recent study by the National Association of Wholesale Distributors (NAW) Institute for Distribution Excellence, distributors are implementing CRM applications because “today’s competitive markets and difficult economy demand that every aspect of their business, including sales, operate as productively and efficiently as possible.” Out of the 158 wholesale distributors polled, more than 40 percent were actively seeking a CRM solution and more than 20 percent were in the process of an implementation, out of those that had not yet adopted CRM technology. These statistics demonstrate that CRM is growing as a priority for technology investment in the upcoming year.

Making the Right Choice

Marketing has become increasingly complex as new channels have facilitated a power shift from company to consumer. Customers can command how, when, and if ever, they will engage with a brand. This makes it even more critical that distributors select and implement the right combination of solutions to better segment, target and serve their audience and to promote an exceptional experience.

Companies should look for an application that is mobile, flexible and has the ability to integrate with existing and future systems in order to capture all relevant data on the customer base. Seeking out a vendor that provides industry-specific capabilities for distributors will also help businesses to avoid costly customizations. At minimum, the system should provide the ability to monitor the full customer lifecycle in real-time across multiple channels simultaneously.

Realizing Benefits

Once fully deployed, a CRM application allows distributors to create and execute intelligent marketing campaigns that will positively impact their business. In addition to expanded customer communications, companies will be equipped to deliver personalized, timely and relevant offers via multiple channels that are most likely to result in closed business.

Consider this illustration. A wholesale distributor of heating and air conditioning components is running two promotions simultaneously: one on single packaged units for commercial use, and the other on extended warranties for residential units. If the company utilizes an intelligent CRM system, they can easily determine which customers should be targeted for each offer, when the offer would be most timely and if there are any customers that should be left off the distribution list altogether, such as those who already purchased an extended warranty. By sending offers that are applicable and targeted, the distributor is increasing the likelihood of a customer response, and therefore enhancing the effectiveness of both promotions.


Exploring how CRM can provide deeper insight into customers’ needs and behaviors and better enable sales teams to serve through mobile access will help distributors keep pace with consumer expectations and shifting business models. Companies are allocating more dollars to marketing, and CRM is the key to create an accurate picture of the customer and engage them with content that is both targeted and compelling. As distributors seek to improve profitability in 2015 and outpace the competition, they should consider the potential impact of CRM on relationships with consumers and their bottom line. 

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