As 2017 dawned, Strategic Market Alliance entered its second decade a considerably larger organization than it was at the start of the prior year. 2016 saw the group’s size increase by nearly 30 percent with the addition of members across the United States and Canada that introduced or augmented SMA presence in more than thirty metropolitan markets. Additionally, new member recruitment and expansion into new geographies by several of SMA’s long-standing members significantly extended SMA’s reach and service capacity across the continent.
Beyond member addition and expansion, SMA’s growth was helped to new highs in 2017 by double-digit customer and revenue gains made in the national account, or “Strategic Account” realm, multi-site end-users serviced by more than a single individual distributor. SMA has always focused on facilitating collaborative development of strategic account targets among group members, working to cultivate and expand pre-existing customer relationships across multiple distributors. The organization’s Business Development team collaborates with members to build multi-site programs that deliver the highest quality service to customers, at margins and service expectations that are optimal for each participating company.
This business model has proven highly effective through the group’s first ten years of existence, and now, with demand for national account programs on the rise driven by business consolidation and the arrival of non-traditional competitors, SMA has steadily built out its national account portfolio with several incremental new programs. Under the leadership of Alicia Rodriguez, SMA’s Senior Director of Business Development, SMA’s team of business development professionals actively prospect, close and implement new strategic accounts across SMA. “SMA’s business development team members are seasoned segment experts in commercial wellness or jan / san as it’s commonly known, and foodservice,” says Rodriguez. “These are the core businesses of SMA’s member companies, and our team brings a great deal of skill and acumen on their behalf to each national account engagement. We strive to align with the interests of our members throughout the selling and implementation cycles so that the programs that result are winners for everyone involved!”
Additionally, because they seek uniformity and consistency across a network of disparate facilities, national account customers demand high performance from suppliers across a broad range of service categories. Standards for factors such as timely delivery, customer service, and quality of sales force representation are high, as well as for transaction and product data, and for actionable business analytics to help the account standardize and reduce supply consumption. What’s new to traditional distributors is meeting a rapidly accelerating insistence for tools that match the on-line, self-service ways end-user customers are preferring to research, shop, and buy. Demand for services in the digital realm, a triad consisting of rich content merchandising on the web, ecommerce, and inbound marketing is redefining the role of the group as a service arm of the distributor. SMA is taking steps in 2017 to meet this challenge by investing in the creation of rich content repository services, available to members in 2018 for population of company websites and commerce platforms to create an on-line shopping and buying experience on-par with leading Business to Consumer organizations that have been creeping into traditional distributor selling turf.
“Creating top-notch website experiences for both shopping and subsequently, buying, is the key competitive imperative for SMA and its members,” according to Chris Rowe, SMA’s Director of Marketing Services. “We are moving aggressively to extend SMA’s reputation for quality and ease-of-doing business into the digital environment because we have always been about tacking the kinds of challenges collectively, on-behalf of our constituents, that are prohibitive to do independently. Our new digital marketing services are very much in-keeping with that tradition and we are very excited about the direction that our digital marketing initiatives are leading for 2018 and beyond!”
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