What B-2-B Can Learn From Wal-Mart Marketing

by TedV

Notice, I will talk about what B-2-B can learn from Mal-Mart Marketing, not just from the company Wal-Mart. There is a difference in this case.

Earlier this week I attended the NARMS Conference in Tampa. NARMS stands for the National Association for Retail Marketing Services, and they are to be congratulated for stating what their acronym stands for several prominent places on their website. It amazes me how many associations fail to do that.

NARMS members sell merchandising related services to retail companies both large and small. They are B-2-B companies who sell to B-2-C companies.

Carol Spieckerman from New Market Builders (Twitter @retailxpert) spoke on overall marketing trends for major retailers. You might think such a recognized industry pundit might hang her shingle in New York, Los Angeles, or perhaps Chicago. But no, she’s based in Bentonville Arkansas.

Half of the population will scratch their heads at this and wonder why she chooses to live and work in this small town in this small state. The rest of you know Bentonville is the worldwide headquarters for Wal-Mart. Now you all know why Bentonville is a brilliant place for Carol to be.

Getting to Wal-Mart Marketing’s Lesson for B-2-B

Carol quoted the Chief Marketing Officer of Wal-Mart, John Fleming, and his ten words stick with me to this day:

“Everyone thinks what they have is the most important thing.”

If you sell or market you MUST be convinced your products and/or services are essential to your clients’ and prospects’ future. Sales, and marketing to a lesser degree, meets with tremendous negative responses on a percentage basis, so your bulletproofing has to come from belief in your wares.

HOWEVER, you must understand that your prospects and clients have other priorities.

Relevance Marketing seeks to align itself to what’s important to your prospects. “Alignment” was the big buzzword for this conference. They could use it interchangeably with the word “relevance.”

Wal-Mart tops the Fortune 500 with over $378B in sales. They are globally the 900-pound gorilla of retail. What they think is the most important thing to them and should be to any who hope to sell to them.

Yet, why would Fleming say such a thing if most of those who approach him and his company don’t think and act like they have the most important thing for Wal-Mart to listen to?

Whoever is the number one vendor in the world to Wal-Mart, it can still be said that what they have isn’t most important to the huge retailer.

Whoever you sell or market to, they individually have their own agendas for their companies. If you don’t know what that agenda is for each prospect, then you miss the boat.

You might think you know Wal-Mart’s agenda – Low Everyday Prices. Wrong. That’s their advertising position, and it has paid off nicely for decades – never better than in these hard economic times. But those who shop Wal-Mart and competing stores know they are not the low price provider in all products.

Wal-Mart’s agenda includes efforts in going green and being technologically the most advanced logistics company in the world. Surprisingly, by design Wal-Mart’s product mix encompasses products that win the market, those that place in the top three, and products that just show they are in the game without being big winners.

Relevance Marketing insists you sell and market to your prospects’ agendas.

Or, you can continue to cut your prices until you go under. Then your prospects will buy from whoever is the next lowest bidder.

But they will partner with companies whose relevant sales and marketing aligns with their agenda.