Nick Jiannas, Stihl Inc. vice president of sales and marketing
In 2012, Stihl announced the retirement of its longtime vice president of sales and marketing, Peter Burton, and the appointment of Northeast Stihl branch manager Nick Jiannas to the vacated position. In his new role as vice president of sales and marketing at Stihl Inc., Jiannas will draw from his vast experience working in many areas of Stihl.
In his time with Stihl, Jiannas has learned the value of the independent servicing dealer, and what pairing that with effective marketing can do for the success of Stihl and their independent dealer network. He hopes to further grow market share and strengthen the company's mutually beneficial relationship with their dealer network.
Building on experience
In almost 20 years with Stihl, Jiannas' experience has touched on many areas of the outdoor power equipment business, giving him a breadth of knowledge to build off of in his time as vice president of sales and marketing. Jiannas also speaks fluent German and works well with Stihl colleagues at their worldwide headquarters in Germany.
"This is going on my 18th year with the company. I spent eight years out in the field, eight years in the head office in Virginia Beach, and a small stint in Germany as well," says Jiannas. "My experience has included almost every position you can possibly do under the umbrella of sales and marketing. I have gained a strong understanding of what makes a Stihl dealer tick, and what kinds of things resonate with our independent retailer channel."
Jiannas says he understands the challenges independent dealers face, and plans to work closely with them to find solutions. He regularly attends dealer meetings and strives to keep the dialogue going throughout the channel.
"I'm someone whose Stihl career grew up in the dealer network," says Jiannas. "These folks are down-to-earth, hard-working Americans that give honest feedback, and that’s how we have become better at our job as a manufacturer. I will continuously reach out to them."
Working with dealer partners
Stihl and Jiannas have long spoke about the power of retailing through the independent servicing dealer network. The company works with their dealers to ensure customer and brand satisfaction.
"Independent dealers help us as a manufacturer to ensure a positive ownership experience for the customer," explains Jiannas. "They qualify the customer's product needs and then provide parts and service after the sale. They also provide information and feedback to us, the manufacturer, on our products so we can always improve. The dealer provides that critical connection between the manufacturer and the end user on how we can improve our product offering."
The dealer's relationship with their customer isn’t the only thing that helps Stihl find places to improve. The passion and demands of independent dealers also push the company to make improvements to their products and overall operations.
"Stihl dealers demand the best and have really caused us to heavily invest back into our business," says Jiannas. "Whether it is research and development in Germany, or the production facility here in Virginia Beach, we want to ensure we keep providing the best product and maintain our commitment to continuous improvement. They encourage us to be a better manufacturer."
Stihl continues to invest in their technical support structure, training programs like iCademy and Stihl MasterWrench Service, their distribution network and marketing efforts. These investments, along with aggressive marketing to consumers, helps Stihl maintain their dealers' margins.
More marketing muscle
Moving forward, Jiannas hopes to help Stihl gain market share and help dealers gain the recognition of consumers. Educating the consumer on the benefits of choosing an independent servicing dealer and the Stihl brand will help grow the company's presence in the homeowner market.
"It has been a rewarding challenge for us, but it is a challenge at the end of the day because the average consumers still think of the mass channel as the place for all of their outdoor power equipment needs," says Jiannas. "We really have seen positive results when we spend the energy and money to reach out to the consumer and say, 'Hey, there is an alternative. There is a better choice with your Stihl dealer.'"
In addition to connecting with the homeowner customer base through their marketing, Jiannas plans to assess Stihl marketing efforts to be sure they are in line with the changing market and company goals. The ideal result would be continuously improving the effectiveness of the marketing efforts and maximizing the ROI of every marketing dollar.
"I hope to review and refine our advertising spending by looking at each line item and making sure we remain relevant in today's ever-changing marketplace," says Jiannas. "The marketplace is changing at an accelerated pace, so I'm challenging our team to ensure that our media mix is optimal and that our messaging continues to resonate with our target audience. Those are key questions that I will ask myself all the time."
One of the first objectives on Jiannas' list is to keep developing relationships with, and supporting, the people that he works with at Stihl. Those relationships are what give him the confidence that they have the resources and ability to get their message out there in front of dealers and consumers.
"From the inside out, we really have a unique story to tell," says Jiannas. "So my job and my challenge is educating the American consumer that we have a good product to offer, come check us out."