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Sweeping Changes Dictate a New Blueprint

Marketers in the WPMA states continue to experience sweeping changes.  As both the refiner and marketer competitive landscape evolves, marketers need forward-thinking strategies to keep their bottom lines growing.

One of the most common questions I’m asked is about the viability of smaller marketers.  My answer is yes, I do believe they can stay viable, but with seven conditions which concurrently serve as a blueprint for success for any size marketer. To not only survive, but thrive as a marketer in WPMA territory over the coming decade, a company must:

1.  Revitalize.   Vitality is the positive energy that fuels great companies.  Vitality stems from a creative, committed workforce bursting with high impact ideas plus enthusiasm for the hard work it takes to bring exciting new projects to fruition.   These projects can run the gamut — from new products and services to efficiency, cost-saving, technology or marketing.

As someone beyond the half-century mark, I must also point out that youth on your team will get the energy momentum moving!  Temper youthful enthusiasm with your senior management’s sage wisdom and you have a powerful weapon for waging war on competitors without youth in their ranks.

2.  Strategize.  One of the most critical decisions to make is whether to grow through geographic expansion versus existing market penetration.   Choosing market penetration where you concentrate on providing more and more and more in diversified products and services within a specific geographic radius can be an extremely wise choice.

Providing additional products and services (even totally outside petroleum or your current offerings) to terrific, loyal customers can exponentially increase profit without the burden of investment in additional facilities.  Choosing this strategy requires company management to redefine their purpose and mission, a very healthy exercise.

Be mindful of industry concentrations and sectors in your strategy.  Even though your goal is wallet and market share in your territory, risky concentrations can easily backfire.  For instance, highly profitable oil and gas drilling accounts are great until the drilling stops from a price change.  Keep healthy diversification in your customer base for long term viability.

3.  Fanaticize.   Treat your precious customers with fanatical service!  Throughout your organization, customer service must be top of mind and executed flawlessly.  The sad truth is that as companies grow, customer service usually plummets.

So, the only way to know if you are continuing to make good grades is to ask.   Customer satisfaction measurement needs to become part of your culture, but not the onerous, hated long surveys that we all despise.  Yours should be quick and painless.  And whatever method you choose, do not have employees whining or even bribing for good ratings.  “I’d appreciate you marking me a 5” doesn’t get you what you need which is honest feedback.

One of your best signs of fanatical service is unsolicited thank yous from happy customers!  When those start happening frequently, you’ll know you are on the right track!

4.  Personalize.   In our world of systems and technologies, the personal touch is lacking.  While I’m a huge believer in systemization, it’s personalization that wins and keeps loyal accounts.  Don’t fake personalization (don’t you just gag when you get a perfunctory birthday card or email from some vendor you don’t ever see or know?)

Real personalization means actually knowing and caring about each customer as a special human being and treating them like that.

5.  Socialize.   In the old days, guys did business on the golf course or at the country club bar or both.  That’s changing.  So you need to find out where your customers hang out.  Nothing beats face to face, eyeball to eyeball conversation, so just go hang out where your customers do.

And to connect with the younger generation, emerging decision-makers, you will need to hang out on social media and internet connections.  While you may have been able to successfully avoid this mode of marketing the past few years and not missed much, that’s all going to change quickly.  Smart marketers are already diving into social media and you should too.

6.  Authorize.   Building a super strong company means decentralizing spending and decision-making authority.  Of course, you spread the power with training, under direct supervision and with clear boundaries.  Pushing authority lower and lower in your organization gives you the ability to delight customers through more rapid response to their needs than your more corporate, slower competitors.

If you want an interesting case study in empowering customer-level staff, read about Zappos, a fledgling internet shoe business started by Silicon Valley superstar Tony Heisch (who sold his first company at age 24 to Microsoft for $265 million).  After turning down a $300 million offer in 2005, Tony sold Zappos to Amazon for a cool $1.2 Billion.  (Yes that is billion!)  Having personally met Tony, and knowing his results, I completely agree with pushing authority down the line.

7. Incentivize.  Since the success of your company rests on your people, and how your people treat people (like your best customers), giving them a stake in the game is smart.  By using self-funding bonus pools, you’ll always have great ROI.  Done well, these pools can create performance peer pressure too.  While money isn’t the end-all, be-all, great, productive employees want to feel appreciated!

Incentives directly linked to an individual or team’s actual productivity are the most powerful for producing sustained positive results which in turn catapults your bottom line.

So to summarize, marketers in the West can win by doing these seven:   revitalize, strategize, fanaticize, personalize, socialize, authorize and incentivize.

If you want additional proof, look at the banking industry, my former profession.  At the time I started Meridian in 1991, mergers in banking were running rampant.  The power players had clout and technology that made them superior.  But as they grew, they lost touch with the customer and personalized service became a thing of the past.  Until…

…Community banks.  All of sudden smaller home town banks began to grow much to the shock of the regional and national banks.  “How could this be” they thought.  “We are bigger and better with lower rates.”   And the answer from the customer was “they know my name” and “they give me great service.”
I see that same trend happening in petroleum and it’s been a joy to me to help marketers decide and execute their strategy.  Just today I had an email from a marketer that touched me.  He said “the mistakes I avoided and the extra revenue I generated due to Meridian are immeasurable.”   Wow.  That felt great because it’s exactly our goal.  Call me at 800-728-9005 if you’d like to talk about the future of your business.

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