The industrial supplies market is determining new programs and strategies aimed at driving sales and customer retention. Chief marketing officer Klaus Werner discusses how the billion-dollar distributor of industrial and office products is connecting to customers.

In the B2B world, distributors must be creative to stand out in a competitive industry. Global Industrial Co., an ecommerce-focused distributor of more than 1 million products, rebranded itself in January 2021 with a new logo and a new voice “with very cheeky language,” says chief marketing officer Klaus Werner.

“The injection of humor—as appropriate—is for people to kind of get a warm and fuzzy feeling whenever they’re interacting with us, so they’ll think of us as not only a provider of goods to help them run their business, but as likeable and memorable people.”

The company’s marketing strategy has helped it to surpass $1 billion in sales, reaching $1.03 billion in 2020. More than half of its customer orders are transacted through ecommerce, and executives say Global Industrial’s multichannel sales and marketing strategy is key to its ongoing growth.

Brand awareness is less about us and more about building a relationship between the customer and Global Industrial.
Klaus Werner, chief marketing officer
Global Industrial Co.

Global Industrial has yet to break out its full 2021 sales, which the company typically does in the third week of February. But for the nine months ended Sept. 30, sales for Global Industrial totaled $801.1 million, an increase of about 6.1% from sales of $755.1 million in the prior year. Net income was $49.8 million compared with $47.7 million for the first nine months of 2020.

Global Industrial is increasing its investment in driving brand awareness, a move that will strengthen ties with customers and grow sales. “It’s less about us and more about building a relationship between the customer and Global Industrial,” Werner says.


NASCAR fits with customer demographic

Klaus Werner, Global Industrial

Klaus Werner, chief marketing officer, Global Industrial Co.

Sports marketing is another opportunity to spread brand awareness, he says. After looking into a variety of sports, NASCAR proved to be a good fit. Global Industrial sponsored a NASCAR race car for the Xfinity Series race at the Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, in November.

Exposure on a national level and the opportunity to interact with customers and vendors proved invaluable to Global Industrial, Werner says. Businesses have asked Global Industrial about co-sponsoring the NASCAR vehicle.

“We were very pleased with our sponsorship of Sheldon Creed (race car driver) and the No. 78 Global Industrial Chevrolet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Phoenix Raceway,” Werner says. “The partnership provided numerous digital and in person marketing opportunities both before, during and after the race that allow us to highlight the Global Industrial brand and the value we provide our customers.”


Global Industrial announced Feb. 1 that it will be one of the sponsors for RCR’s No. 21 car in the upcoming season and will be the main sponsor for several races.

Each race brings a different set of businesses together, he says. “And they collaborate with each other—we’ve had businesses use the event as an opportunity to discuss private label deals with us.”

Global Industrial is actively exploring other sports, including baseball, hockey and football. “But right now, NASCAR is one of the sports that fit our customer demographic the most,” he says.

Knowledge Center as a tool to build customer relationships

Customers expect an extensive variety of industrial products from Global Industrial, Werner says. But as a brand, the company wants to go beyond being a supplier and become a go-to resource. “We want to be a destination for information that goes beyond price items,” he says.


The Knowledge Center, an educational content section on, contains online articles that appeal to the distributor’s customers. Subject matter experts and vendors write articles to educate and inform customers in search of solutions. For example, during the beginning of the pandemic, customers searched for such topics as sanitation and maintenance. Other articles address such subjects as trucking industry challenges or offer takeaways on digital innovation from Walmart’s chief technology officer Suresh Kumar.

Global Industrial also ran a marketing campaign toward the beginning of the pandemic called: Restore, Return, Rebound.

“We have a lot of thought leadership about how to restore your environment so that your customers and employees can return in person, and you can rebound along with the economy,” Werner says.

Topic interest shifts with the seasons. When the weather turns cold, people want to learn about heating, and when the summer arrives, customers begin searching for refrigeration and cooling fans. Storms prompt disaster recovery searches, and as the holiday season approached, customers searched for content about how to increase warehouse capacity and ways to double or triple inventory volume.


As COVID-19 vaccinations rolled out, Global Industrial evolved its campaign to: Ready, Set, Ready, Perfect. Each campaign reflected the changing economic landscape as customers moved from damage control measures to growth.

In early 2021, Global Industrial planned for COVID-19 vaccine approval. “We knew vaccines were on the shelf just waiting to be approved,” Werner says. “So, we made sure that once they were approved, we had all the collateral and marketing materials ready to go.”

The ready-to-go materials included information about how to set up a mobile clinic at a facility as well as information on products like sharps containers, which store needles, and low temperature freezers needed to keep vaccines viable.

“We had all that product assortment ready to go,” Werner says. “We need to anticipate what’s going to happen.”


Sometimes that anticipation leads to products sitting on the shelf indefinitely. “But it’s about being relevant and quick in case what we anticipated does happen,” he says.

QR codes give easy access to product assortment

Global Industrial customers expect traditional paper catalogs, which offer an extensive library of products and ordering information. Werner says that the physical catalog is valuable to customers.

“The end users of our catalog are often maintenance people who refer to our paper catalogs as they go up and down the aisles of their facility,” he says. “They place post-it notes for products they purchase most frequently for easy access.”

But there are benefits to coupling the traditional paper product catalog with an easy-to-use digital accompaniment, Werner says. Customers can still flip through a physical catalog but also scan a QR code with their smartphone camera and be directed to the product’s webpage to view more details.


As a result, Global Industrial has condensed its 600-page product catalog to a more manageable 200 pages, he says.

The QR code comes into play when a customer wants to see a full product range or search for a recommendation or alternative option.

Global Industrial can make adjustments in the back end of the software. The URL links to the QR codes so customers are directed to the product they’re looking for.

“As our ecommerce technology evolves, we’re spending a lot of time learning about QR codes and the different tracking capabilities that are emerging,” he says.


Global Industrial continues to test different paper and digital catalog variations to offer customers a convenient way to access what they need. “We’re going to do a handful of catalogs of different products next year. We plan on running experiments every quarter,” Werner says.

Going viral

In 2022, Werner says he wants to “double down” on Global Industrial’s content strategy, which it calls Prime the Pump. “Social is a platform for businesses that, if you want to play, you’ve got to pay,” he says. “So, I’m looking to respond with more investment.”

Social media is yet another venue to introduce people to Global Industrial’s brand. Global Industrial is active on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn and plans to explore Twitter and TikTok in the coming year.

In 2021, Global Industrial collaborated for six months with Terrill Haigler, known on Instagram as “your favorite trash man,” a Philadelphia-based former sanitation worker who organizes community clean-up efforts.


With Haigler having about 29,000 Instagram followers and a growing following on TikTok, Werner says, the popularity of the “trash man” videos were a pleasant surprise.

“These fun and serious videos can turn into new outreach opportunities,” Werner says, without specifying web traffic statistics or conversion rates.

“Sanitation is a big category of ours,” he adds. “We’re exploring more influencers and brand ambassadors and are in current negotiations with them for 2022.”

Navigating social media is a test-and-learn scenario, Werner says, but it is worth the effort. “Learn fast, fail fast, fail forward,” he says. “Some things work, and some things don’t. When something works, we double down on them and when it doesn’t, we learn from them and make it better.”


Werner will speak on Global Industrial’ B2B marketing strategy on June 10 at EnvisionB2B, a conference that will be hosted by Digital Commerce 360.

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