(Power) Tools of the Trade: 4 Effective Marketing tactics W.W. Grainger Are Doing Online

    Founded in 1927 by William W. Grainger, W.W. Grainger is an industrial supply company based in Chicago. Grainger is North America’s leading broad line supplier of MRO (maintenance, repair, and operating). Their catalogue is best known for carrying items like motors, lighting, material handling, fasteners, plumbing, tools, and safety supplies; however, Grainger carries pretty much anything tangentially-related to work (their website carries over 900,000 products), and they’ll happily send it to you ASAP. Customer satisfaction is Grainger’s number one priority, and this emphasis has led to a large and vocal fan base, especially over social media.   So, what are practices Grainger is taking online that make them so successful? In this article, we’ll take a look. 4 social media practices you can learn from Grainger: 1. Speedy and friendly customer service gets results 2. Cost effective celebrity endorsement can gain your company great exposure 3. On-brand trivia can increase fan engagement 4. Insightful webinar series can provide value to your customer   1. Speedy and Friendly Customer Service:   The lynchpin of Grainger’s operation is its excellent customer service. Their assistance via phone and email has been top-notch for years, and this tradition continues over their social media channels. Unlike many other large businesses, Grainger only has one active account for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While this may not be in their best interest if Grainger is looking to focus on different aspects of their business, it is very good for maintaining one very active community. Compliments are met with graciousness, and complaints are swiftly addressed. In fact, Michael Flowers, set decorator of the television show Breaking Bad, posted a very glowing review of Grainger’s service.     What Retailers Can Learn From This:
  • Making customer service your company’s number one priority makes a good company great.
  • There is no better promotion than high profile clients gushing over your customer service via a Facebook post. Money can’t buy praise like that.
  • Excellent customer service will lead to many return customers.
2. Cost Effective Celebrity Endorsement: Unless you live in a cave, you’re aware that the Super Bowl, the NFL’s championship game, happened a couple of weekends ago. Every year, the Super Bowl is the highest-rated broadcast in America, and attaching one’s company to the event is a highly costly endeavor. However, social media has opened up the gates for companies looking to get in on the event on a budget. Grainger makes effective use of this nouveaux area of promotion by partnering with football great/color commentator Boomer Esiason. The perks for Grainger being involved in such a union are many mentions on Esiason’s Twitter feed, and backstage access to the Super Bowl, which made for some incredible Twit Pics:           Speaking of the Super Bowl, the power went out in the second half, leading to many Grainger fans to exclaim tweeting comments like this:         What Retailers Can Learn From This:
  • Being part of a major sporting event, such as the Super Bowl, in any capacity, gains you lots of exposure.
  • Strategically partnering with a celebrity Twitter ambassador can be a cost-effective way for larger companies to be involved in major events.
  • Marketing over Twitter allows you to adjust your message on the fly. For example, Grainger was immediately able to relate the power outage at the Superdome to a need for their products.
3. On-Brand Trivia and Fan Engagement: An important rule of thumb for a company when running effective social media is to stagger self promotion and product detail with fun customer engagement, especially if this engagement is on-brand. To this effect, Grainger has managed to accomplish both with aplomb. One of the most effective regular features on Grainger’s Facebook page is their “Mystery Product Monday”, in which they pull an esoteric piece of equipment out of their vast inventory for fans to guess what it is. Needless to say, this feature is extremely popular and garners hundreds of replies:       As their Facebook profile highlights, “This page features fun information about global MRO supplier Grainger, and the general maintenance supply industry. Don’t think MRO can be “fun?!” Let this Facebook page show you how exciting the industry can really be!” One of the ways Grainger accomplishes this through their “Fun Fact Friday” series. Here, Grainger pulls out a random fact and ties it into their service, much to the delight of their audience:       What Retailers Can Learn From This:
  • Engagement that features esoteric work equipment is a great way to get the most hardcore fans involved.
  • Everyone loves learning something new about something they’re passionate about, and a feature like Fun Fact Friday does just that.
  • Try your hand at taking something many people might find boring or obscure, and make it engaging for your target market.
4. An Insightful Webinar Series: Webinars are an excellent way for a company to give value to their customers and fans. Webinars are very popular these days, are cost-effective, and give your company great exposure and PR. Grainger’s On The Job webinar series is top notch. The series deals with a variety of workplace-related topics and solutions for their customers. Some of these topics include on the job safety, health care, energy management, and air quality.       What Retailers Can Learn From This:
  • Webinars are a great and cost effective ways to give pure value to your customers.
  • Webinars are incredibly popular these days.
  • Webinars allow your company to deal directly with the issues and concerns of your most loyal customers.
Written by Steve Ramsey (steve@wishpond.com)      

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About the Author:

Nick is the Director of Marketing at Wishpond.

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