Digital Transformation Best Practices: 3 Tips on Where to Start from Industry Expert Mike Marks

Distributors undergoing digital transformation are starting to realize some best practices and some common missteps.

Distributors can – and are – closing the digital automation gap at their organizations. Along the way, they’re discovering which steps and best practices are essential and which may lead to pitfalls and dead ends. They’re driven toward digital transformation by factors like difficulty hiring, supply chain disruptions, operational costs and shifts in how customers buy. 

With the right processes and technology, distributors can more readily overcome such challenges and remain competitive. For instance, you can use technology to gain visibility into your supply chains, knowing when items are expected at each point so you can narrow your margin for error. 

To find success in your digital journey, however, you must start with a focus on driving personal relationships, enhancing customer service and removing friction with technology. Distributors are approaching these goals in three ways:

  • Upgrading ERP and/or CRM systems
  • Moving to the cloud
  • Adding more channels for connecting with customers

In the recent Lunch & Learn with Mike Marks from Indian River Consulting Group and Mike Toffoli of Conexiom, we discussed these 3 digital transformation best practices.


1  Set Your North Star 

Distributors should always set their ideal customers’ North Star as their own. Work to understand who those customers are, what their challenges are and how to effectively meet them where they are, even as their preferences change. Any transformation should aim to make the customer experience and relationship frictionless, thus raising the true cost of switching suppliers and making those customers stickier.

“Your customers are going through major changes. They have rising pressures. COVID added a lot of spice and color to their lives, and made everything harder. And they’re trying to compete. They’re going through digital transformation as their customers are going through digital transformation. How do you help your customers in terms of where they’re going? We call that a North Star. Do I have a North Star in terms of what it is I’m trying to build that should be built to help you compete with customers?” 

Mike Marks, Indian River Consulting Group 


2  Embrace Innovation 

In your transformation, though you want to follow best practices and learn from those who have gone before you, you shouldn’t shy away from mistakes. Otherwise, you won’t be able to innovate to the extent you’re truly capable. The key here is to follow up on your actions and review what did and didn’t work so you can continue to grow.

“When you change at that level, you need to have permission to make mistakes. Where’s the innovation if you’re looking to not make a mistake? Unless you have board and executive sponsorship to go take this kind of change on in the business, people will be scared. It will be perceived as too risky. We need to have leaders actually provide the leadership we can dock under and operate inside.”

Mark Toffoli, VP Sales & Business Development, Conexiom


3  Start from the Top Down

Executive buy-in is key to affect any long-term change. Executives must not only be informed and involved from the start, they must be proactive and engaged, talking to customers to understand their challenges and the other choices they have in the market. It is only from this understanding that distributors can build a technology stack that truly transforms their business. 

“The CEOs, they’re the ones that know their market. Number one, they have to get senior executives talking to the customers not to sell something, but to understand their challenges. Second, they have to start learning: What are these other choices? Then they’ll know enough about their market to say, ‘how do I pull this stuff together?’ Once they do that, building a technology stack is easy.” 

Mike Marks


Watch the on-demand Lunch & Learn to learn more about enhancing the customer experience with the right technology and process improvements, setting your distribution company apart with service that speaks to your customers’ needs and expectations so you’re the obvious choice in a digital world.