How Johnstone Supply Drives Growth Through Digital Transformation

Industry

Whole Distribution

Company Size

425 store locations

Nobody wants to look bad on social media. Dynamic Signal is one way that we can promise that they never will. In fact, Dynamic Signal makes your employees look really smart. Dynamic Signal’s platform is never going to let me down. That’s the faith I have in Dynamic Signal. The platform provides a trusted solution to my members.”

Hank Lea, eCommerce and Marketing Communications Manager

 

In March of 2017, Hank Lea stood before members of the Johnstone Supply cooperative at the company’s annual meeting and delivered a presentation on how social media could be an essential marketing channel for them. 

At first, it was a tough crowd.  

“They were like, ‘What?’” Lea recalled. “They thought social media was kittens playing pianos. Most of my audience didn’t know what I was talking about. I had to explain how you can tie a social media strategy to your business goals.” 

Johnstone Supply is a wholesaler that serves as a one-stop shop for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) contractors across the U.S. and Canada. There are 105 members in the Johnstone Supply cooperative, operating 425 locations. The business, founded in 1953, is immensely successful – reaching $2 billion in annual sales in 2017. 

But members in this “old-school” industry also had been slow to adopt modern digital marketing efforts. The Johnstone Supply corporate office saw a golden opportunity to increase revenue by improving the online presence of members to highlight both their expertise and products. 

That’s why Lea, who previously directed digital media and communication strategies at Intel, was explaining to members why social media could be a game-changer. He asked them to think about specific business objectives. 

  • Identify new customers? 
  • Increase the spend of existing customers? 
  • Create more product awareness? 
  • Demonstrate your knowledge? 

Johnstone Supply“When they saw that using social media is a way to convey a message to your audience that achieves those goals, the attitude in the room started to turn, and people began taking notes as fast as they could,” Lea said. 

At the time, Johnstone Supply members had more than 100 different Facebook pages that lacked consistent branding and clear strategy. Some hadn’t been updated in months. Lea explained how Johnstone Supply was implementing the Dynamic Signal Communication and Engagement (ECE) Platform to provide members with a steady stream of approved content that could be used in their digital channels. 

Having access to “safe” content was important because some members clearly were uneasy about social media and the reaction they might get from customersSome were worried about negative reviews online or posting something that would put their businesses in a bad light. 

Lea told them: “Everyone has a review about them online that they don’t know about it. It’s a good thing that people are talking about you, even if they’re complaining. But if you’re not on social media, it’s like the phone is ringing and you’re not answering. You have to answer the phone and talk to your customer. This channel is a way to show that we’re real people and we care. I will create fool-proof content that’s not going to damage your reputation.” 

He uses the Dynamic Signal platform to publish 15 to 20 pieces of customized, entertaining content for members each month that can be used on their digital channelsIt’s well-designed with consistent Johnstone Supply branding and has clear Calls to Action – creating greater engagement and driving customer action. 

The impact has been significant. Starting with 50 users on the platform 18 months ago, members are generating an average of 2.5 million social media impressions each quarter. Lea notes that is a far greater reach than the traditional Johnstone Supply monthly printed flyer, which is mailed to 215,000 contractors. 

He also uses robust metrics in the Dynamic Signal platform as part of his comprehensive tracking strategy to demonstrate how online activity leads to actual purchases. 

“Imagine you’re a business owner and you have 100 things to worry about,” Lea explained. “Social media is way down on the list. But they’re starting to realize that the way they communicate with their audience is part of sales, inventory, warranty, and everything else that’s important. It’s coupled with everything in your business, and that’s the way you create trust. At Johnstone Supply, trust and loyalty is everything.” 

In his role as teacher, Lea creates a monthly newsletter and hosts a digital media user group to discuss strategies. He explains that, on average, members make twice what they spend on social media. That’s why members now are considerably less skeptical 

Johnstone SupplyIn the process, a Main Street business where community owners provide products that have a direct impact on the daily lives of millions of people across North America is taking full advantage of a modern digital strategy. 

I couldn’t do it without Dynamic Signal,” Lea said. “Dynamic Signal enables me to provide content across the whole business. By having a central platform where I can create content and provide that to employees, I’m able to keep track of everything. A decentralized approach would create chaos. I can have a more consistent brand and help each member be more successful with Dynamic Signal. 

Key Takeaways

Challenges

  • Modernize digital marketing efforts
  • Increase website traffic that results in sales
  • Boost brand visibility and reach
  • Create brand consistency among members
  • Overcome fear of making mistakes on social media

Dynamic Signal Impact

  • Enabling members to share company-approved content confidently
  • Creating greater customer engagement
  • Highlighting expertise of members
  • Providing accurate metrics to show the impact on the business

Benefits

  • More than 13 million social media impressions
  • Average of 2.5 million impressions a quarter
  • More than 42,000 clicks, 30,000 shares, and 20,000 reactions
  • Generated $95,000 in earned media value