More than 80 marketing executives invested three days in the Electrical Industry Marketing Conference (EIMC), held Aug. 7-9 in Chicago. Co-sponsored by Channel Marketing Group, Raleigh, N.C., and Electrical Wholesaling, the conference's seminars offered what one attendee described as a “university-level immersion” into solutions for the key marketing challenges facing electrical manufacturers, electrical distributors and independent reps.

More than a dozen speakers at the first-ever EIMC offered insight into an array of marketing topics that included product launches, customer-retention strategies, developing innovative ideas, strategic market planning and online marketing.

While speaking with electrical manufacturers, distributors and reps in preparation for her seminar, “From Channel Dissonance to Channel Harmony,” Ann Coughlan, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, said she was surprised to learn they all perceive their companies as the “channel captains” in the electrical market as the most important links to the market. She said this perception may contribute to some of the conflicts those manufacturers, distributors and independent reps experience in the electrical industry. Coughlan added that one of the toughest — and most expensive — challenges for any marketing executive is changing the perception a customer or business partner has of their company, product or service.

Other EIMC seminars explored management of sales and marketing resources. John Monoky, president, Monoky Associates, Toledo, Ohio, offered EIMC attendees ideas on account management. One of the basics tenets of his philosophy is to manage all sales accounts according to the amount of profit they produce. He believes all customers can be classified as key, target, maintenance or “why bother accounts.”

“You don't have enough time to treat everyone equally,” he said.

EW used the EIMC as the public launch of www.ewhotspots.com, a subscription-based online database for electrical industry marketing executives. The database offers sales forecasts, contact information, and economic and demographic data at the local market level.

Included in the EW HotSpots database are sales forecasts for the local markets that account for 85 percent of all electrical product sales, contact data for more than 145,000 of the largest buyers of electrical equipment, more than 4,000 electrical distributors and the key independent manufacturers' reps. Users can also access economic and demographic data at the local and state level — such as residential building permits, employment data and population forecasts.

Launching New Products

In the EIMC seminar “Get Inspired! Techniques for Developing New Products and Services,” Steven Ungvari, director of lean innovation, Institute for Lean Design, Mackinac Island, Mich., urged attendees to consider how they would answer these customer questions:

  • Will the product perform how I expect?
  • Will it be within my cost expectation?
  • Will it have the features that enhance its functions for added benefits?
  • Will it be ready for me when I want it?
  • Can I quickly and easily install it or learn how to use it?
  • How easy will it be for me to keep in service?
  • Is it robust enough to withstand the abuse myself and others give it?