Mindful of the tendency by all companies to batten down the hatches when the economy enters a rough patch, GE Consumer & Industrial is encouraging distributors of its distribution products to avoid the temptation to cut their marketing budgets and promotional programs.

“Consider these five good reasons to maintain or increase your business focus on promotional and marketing activity in 2009,” writes Kate Johnston, marketing manager for distribution at GE C&I:

Your customers

They're facing a tough year, too, and getting a little extra attention, support and recognition from a supplier demonstrates a commitment and appreciation they will respect.

New products

There is no better way to introduce and drive acceptance of new products than to associate it with an activity or event that will link the experience to both the product and your business.

Your employees

Yeah, they deserve a little appreciation, too. Incentive promotions are a great way to keep motivation, enthusiasm and morale on the positive side of the scale.

Market share

In a declining market, the fastest path to grow short-term sales is by getting more of your existing customers' business or by getting new customers. Give your customers one more reason to choose you.

Fun

Would it kill us to have a little bit of fun? Especially in tough times a winning (versus a whining) atmosphere exudes an inclusive, confident environment and fosters the building of long-term relationships with your customers and your employees.

GE has a promotion underway — “GE On Holiday” launched last month and runs through Sept. 18 — to add some excitement to distributor marketing. The program awards customers a point for each dollar they spend on GE electrical distribution products for small projects.

“Points can be redeemed for various rewards, from a season pass to Six Flags to a weekend at Pebble Beach to a wine tour of Tuscany,” Johnston says. “Or, if traveling isn't your thing, there are plenty of top-shelf electronics and merchandise to select.” To make all promotions more effective, Johnston offers distributors the following tips:

Keep it simple and focused. It's got to be quick and easy to understand to gain traction.

Build a balanced budget Target 1 percent to 3 percent of sales and in most cases it works out to be more effective and less costly than offering a product discount.

Work with your manufacturers. Many suppliers are sponsoring incentive promotions for your employees at little or not cost to you. Beyond that, most suppliers offer funding to support local promotional activities and in some cases even have prepackaged easy to implement formats. Make sure you are fully utilizing those resources.

Promotions don't have to be costly to be successful. Many times, in conjunction with the manufacturer, you can share costs of setting up the program. It takes planning, focus and communication! So good luck and good selling for a prosperous year!

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