Want to win big in 2017? You are going to need to use social media

We are heading into an uncertain period in the UK economy. According to Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement (see page 4), growth will be 1.4% next year, which is a drop from 2.1% this year.

Slower growth and uncertainty means one thing: sticking to good commercial decisions for your business. When it comes to social media, this could be the year to really test and learn the tools of the trade more quickly than your competitors.

Your retail customers will certainly be needing your help more than ever, so maybe this is the moment to reach out to them at the speed of a Tweet and start talking to them. Get to know their business targets and share the effort in helping them to achieve them.

Social media is much more than a marketing broadcast tool. Used effectively, you can connect to your trade customers using a direct message on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Beyond that, you may even want to set up a closed group on social media or WhatsApp to have a platform for communication with multiple stakeholders, or crowdsource feedback on your product ranges and let your customers know what new ranges you are looking to stock in the weeks ahead.

When you use social media like this, everyone wins.

I guess a smart wholesaler would buy stock to order, safe in the knowledge that your retail customers are expecting and have asked for that particular stock. But using social media will enable you to have time-efficient business conversations with your whole community of retail customers.

I would go as far as to say that if you use it wisely, social media will start to replace email and telephone, empowering you to manage your relationships with your retail clients effortlessly.

Take LinkedIn. Here, you can very quickly set up a private group and invite all your retail customers into the group to start getting real-time feedback about stock and ranges. If you take an interest in their challenges, then it is highly likely that they will stay loyal and keep re-ordering products from you.

Of course, do not make the relationship all about stock – try to build a rapport and share in the success of their businesses. Train them in marketing techniques. Support them with notice of new promotions. Make sure you work with their trading hours, not yours.

If you use social media to get closer to your retail customers, you will win big in 2017. Building a digital community takes time, but you will feel much more connected to your customers’ challenges, and be able to more efficiently advise them on replenishment.

It is a two-way partnership between the wholesaler and the retailer.

Social media in 2017

Which social media networks should you be looking at and testing in 2017?
Snapchat is the rising star for consumers and has around 10m daily active users in the UK – take a look at it and see how it can help you connect with your retail customers. Instagram now has more than 500m active users worldwide, while Twitter has around 317m users. Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube continue to be popular, and are used by consumers and retailers alike.

What will be the biggest threat in 2017?
Amazon is probably going to heavily disrupt your business in some way in 2017. It has the power to disrupt any business and when it further expands its grocery deliveries to consumers, it could be game over for your business. My advice is to not wait for that to happen – get on the front foot and start to connect much more closely with your retail customers using social media, to build or further cement the relationships with them that Amazon is unable to.


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