When a company the size of Cooper Industries launches a distributor program for a broad product offering that can cover 20 percent of all products an electrical distributor sells, that's big news. When it pulls out of the industry's two largest buying/marketing groups shortly after the launch because it wants to work more directly with electrical distributors, it attracts even more attention.

Launched in December 2000 by the Houston-based Cooper Industries, Cooper Connection links a wide array of sales, promotional and marketing activities for Cooper's stable of electrical products: Cooper Lighting, Cooper Crouse-Hinds, Cooper Bussmann, Cooper Wiring Devices, Cooper B-Line and Cooper Power Systems. Since that time, Cooper Industries has made several enhancements to Cooper Connection.

The company appointed 14 regional vice presidents to work with distributors and end users in local markets, and named Tom Briggs, vice president, sales and marketing, Cooper Connection. (See regional vice president appointments in sidebar on adjacent page.) Briggs joined Cooper in 2000, when Cooper acquired B-Line from Sigma-Aldrich, becoming division president of Cooper B-Line.

In an exclusive interview with Electrical Marketing, Briggs and Kirk Hachigian, executive vice president and chief operating officer, electrical products, spoke about some of the changes at Cooper Connection and the direction of the program.

According to information on www.thecooperconnection.com, the regional vice presidents “act as a single point of control for customers and coordinate the sales of the broad package of products and services from all of Cooper's electrical products divisions to both distributors and end users, and promote all the incentives — both financial and non-financial — available to Cooper's customers.”

Tom Briggs said a key element of their jobs will be calling on end users and then working with key distributor partners and local independent reps to maximize these efforts.

“While these guys are concentrating their efforts on a specific geographic area, we have asked them to spend in excess of 50 percent of their time calling on contractors, industrial accounts and OEM-type of accounts to enhance the specification of the Cooper brands, and take those specifications when they get them back to our key distributor partners.”

The regional vice presidents share information on different market segments and customer interest in the various brands, said Briggs.

“We run across a lot of sales leads, whether it's in the commercial, industrial, utility markets, or the vast array of other markets that we deal with, so we obviously have the ability to share project leads,” he said. “By forming the Cooper Connection, we enhance the communication both internally and to our direct and then field sales force, which includes our lighting reps and our NEMRA reps. It gave us a real good communication package and a means of concentrating the efforts of all the divisions. We have very top brands that are highly specified. The customer reception has been very good.”

Cooper Connection was modeled after several of Cooper's other distributor incentive programs, including BussPlus, one of the first distributor programs in the electrical industry. Like most distributor programs, Cooper Connection offers financial incentives to distributors for meeting specific targets. But at the core of the programs is a package of market planning, training, co-op advertising opportunities, direct mail-campaigns and other marketing tools that were developed previously at several of the Cooper divisions and are similar in concept to the market activities distributors must perform to earn rebates from marketing/buying groups.

The executive team leading Cooper Connection doesn't like to get hung up on the company's decision to leave A-D and IMARK because they made the move to get more face-to-face time with customers. Cooper still works through Equity Electrical Associates, East Walpole, Mass., and EDN, Concord, Ohio.

Said Briggs, “It seemed to us if we were really going to partner and grow the businesses of each of these brands, we didn't want an intermediary going directly to that membership.”

Some key executive-level changes at Cooper Industries also have had their impact on Cooper Connection. Kirk Hachigian said it's an “eclectic” group, with broad experience from inside and outside the electrical industry and in the domestic and international markets.

“Tom Briggs has 25 years in electrical distribution,” he said. “Steve Sisney, president, Crouse-Hinds, has been with Cooper for about 16 years. Dave Feldman, president, Cooper Lighting had electrical distribution experience for about 25 years, mostly with General Electric, both on the manufacturing side at GE Lighting and on the GE Supply side. Mike Stoessl, president, Bussmann, is new to the electrical distribution side, but he has a wealth of experience on power distribution and power management.

“Our division presidents have a long history of organic product development. That's one area of focus going forward for Cooper Industries. We have been heavily focused on acquisitions in the last five or six years. Going forward, when you have the brand strength that we have and the infrastructure that we have, we have a big tremendous focus on new product innovation.”

KEY COOPER EXECS

Thomas Briggs
Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Cooper Connection

Kirk Hachigian
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Electrical Products

KEY COOPER EXECS

Thomas Briggs
Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Cooper Connection

Kirk Hachigian
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Electrical Products

Steven Sisney
President, Cooper Crouse-Hinds

David Feldman
President, Cooper Lighting

Michael Stoessl
President, Cooper Bussmann

COOPER CONNECTION REGIONAL VPS

Dean Erickson, Northwest region

Joseph Fox, Western region

Michael Hren, Mountain region

Robert Fields, Gulf Coast region

Wayne Anthony, Mississippi Valley region

Mark Reinders, Central Midwest region

Larry Woolums, Northern Midwest region

Christopher Klinker, Southeast region

David Behrens, Mid Atlantic region

Scott Ottenberg, Ohio Valley region

Thomas McCarron, Northern Atlantic region

Glenn Allen, Empire region

Rodney Jenkins, Northeast region

Roger Shea, Canadian region

Tim Rooney remains in his position as vice president, national accounts