A Deep Dive into Nationwide’s Region Realignment

Written by Rob Stott

May 31, 2023

In early May, Nationwide Marketing Group rolled out a realignment of the group’s two regions. The East and West divisions — which were born out of the group’s 2017 merger with MEGA — were reshuffled into smaller regions. The move was designed to streamline the efforts of the Nationwide field team while also providing an even larger support system to Members.

Independent Thinking sat down with Patrick Maloney, executive vice president of membership, to explore many different aspects of the realignment including what benefits Members have already begun to realize. Give the full interview a listen on the Independent Thinking Podcast. Here is an excerpt of that interview.

IT: This theme of “Customer Obsession” played out in a very unique way recently from the Nationwide Marketing Group point of view. We’ve talked so much about what our Members are doing to make the shopping experience about the customer, but tell us about this recent change within our region structure and how that’s a reflection of Nationwide being Member Obsessed.

Patrick Maloney: From the very outset, everything we do as an organization is about our members. We’re member obsessed, and we are focused on the needs of those Members. What’s become clear to us from doing all of these customer obsession panels and the increase in peer-to-peer interactions during PrimeTime is how important those conversations and opportunities are to our Members. It’s one thing for us to get up and say, “Hey, this is what we think you should do.” And it’s completely different when two members go, “Hey, you know what? I’m doing this. You should try it.”

And so, with the success of all this peer-to-peer stuff, we’ve said, “How do we get better connected? How do we get them more focused? How do we become more customer obsessed?”

Earlier this year, we looked at reshaping our field organization to help accomplish just that. And as such, we determined that dividing our two regions into six smaller regions was that best path forward.

Because the scale of Nationwide is very important. What we do at scale, negotiating programs, financing programs, all of that is important. But when we get to the member level, it’s important to be nimble enough to react, and react by region, and to create these smaller groups that can have true peer-to-peer interaction. And so, the spirit of this change is that is lets ideas and action and change all generate at the local level.

Aside from being part of a new region, what will change for our Members as a result of this realignment?

Our Members will see better communication, quicker communication. And I want to make sure that we’re listening first. We’re not saying, “Hey, this is the greatest thing in the world.” We know we have amazing business services. We know that every single one of our members should be using our digital platform, and should be doing marketing, and should be using our websites. But if they’re not at that point in their journey, if they’re not ready to make that leap, we need to make whatever they have today, whatever their go-to-market strategy is, the easiest to work with, the most efficient. And then once we have that, let’s figure out the next step. Let’s figure out what’s next for you. But let’s solve your problems first.

What’s your message to Members to encourage them to get the most out of their experience within their new region?

I’d simply challenge them to engage. We understand that every single Member is busy. There’s so many things coming through that door every single day that they need to deal with. But we’re working hard to make it easier for them to engage with Nationwide, and to align those regions so that there is a whole support system all around them.

NMG’s New Regions

Our field team — they are the tip of the spear in this organization. So while our Members and independent retailers might be talking to that one person, they should know there is a whole team behind them, from the digital team to our merchants, business services to marketing, the list goes on. Whatever your team needs, we’re going to continue to invest in and put our time and efforts into ensuring you have the support you need to thrive as an independent business owner.

What can retailers expect to see at the local level? We’ve seen a few slates of regional events in the past few years. Could those move within these regions?

We have great PrimeTimes, but business happens every day. And we can’t hold our breath for twice a year to get together to solve problems. We need to be solving them at retail speed in the local market. And I think these smaller regions will allow us the opportunity to get smaller peer groups together, smaller councils together. And whether it’s focusing on a problem within that market or a global problem, we’re going to hopefully be able to react quicker and solve the issue faster.

Another area of this realignment that you’ve talked a lot about is the focus on training and education. Expand on that for us.

As we built this out, we said, “This is great. We’ve got these six regions and our partners in Southwest and United.” Training has been paramount to just about everything we do here at Nationwide, and our Nationwide Learning Academy is second to none.

But we weren’t solving the problems at ground level first locally. So, as we put this together, one of the most important pieces of this move was to move training into the field organization. So, where the problem arises, or where the friction is, or where this challenge is, we’re kind of curating the solution at the ground level locally and then building it into our training portal.

We brought two amazing people in, and they both have specific roles. So Karen Honeycutt came in, and she’s focused on training in the field organization. It can be overwhelming and complicated for, again, a member that is doing all of these things, the chief cook and bottle washer, and they’ve got to make sure there’s fuel in the truck, and the insurance is paid, and the lights come on. And by the way, they have to be on the cutting edge of digital and the cutting edge of this. Our MSMs have the same type of challenge, because you have to be a little expert in everything that we do. And you think about bit consumer finance, inventory finance, digital, website. It’s overwhelming.

And so, it was important for us to bring Karen in to help quiet the noise in what we do and make sure that we’re not trying to just learn big words, that we truly understand what each piece of what we’re putting together for our members really represents.

And then also, training our manufacturers on what we do. They need to know what we’re doing and what we’re delivering to our membership, and how they can utilize it to explode their brand. So, we brought Shawn Ashby in to run training on that side of the business. So, we’ve got training for our internal team and training for our members, internal teams as well. And both of those live in the field organization.

It’s an important part of the Member journey, and our field team’s out talking to Members, making sure they’re well-educated and able to point our retailers in the right direction too, to the services that they need. And then obviously on the other side, ur members can get the education their sales teams need so that they can talk to their customers. It all goes hand-in-hand.

And it’s about talking to everybody in just layman’s terms. In the real world, what does it mean? What’s the point? What’s after the equal? We find that there are two types of members. Some are experts in what they do, and we learn from them. And then there’s others that just want to know that this is the right thing to do and just, “Hey, you guys do that. I’m going to take care of my operations.” And we can manage both of those. And I think by putting this training team together and realigning our regions, we can be that much quicker, that much more efficient for our Members.

As we gather in Nasvhille for the first in-person opportunity to see these new regions in action, what are you most excited about?

I love the idea of this rapid communication and things happening a lot quicker at, like we said earlier, at the speed of retail. We can’t sit in these windowless conference rooms and come up with what we think is the next great play. The game is going on right now, and we need to be involved.

I’m excited to get more preliminary information coming into the show so our merchants can better negotiate programs and CashBacks over and above programs on the buy side. And then also, our marketing teams can really lean into the local markets to get a sense of what’s going on in the over the next two, three, four, six, months from a promotional aspect.

So, it’s not just the buy, right? That’s important, but how do we sell this through? What’s the latest and greatest technology? Is it chat? Is it this? Is it that? I think getting that information as soon and as quick as we can, that will allow us to better serve and prepare our Members for what’s ahead.

Something else unique is the potential for customized programs and offerings at the local level. We’ve touched on it a little, but what could we see over the coming months?

Yeah, and it’s both products, and it’s what trips the customers’ buttons to get them to come to the store or make that purchase online. It might be a specific product program, could be long-term financing, it could be just a cash rebate. Those are opportunities that are open to us. It just keeps ringing in my head, but how do we become more efficient, faster to market?

And let’s not forget about what we’re doing with data and PriMetrix, that’s going to build up from the region level. And our point-of-sale information coming in is going to help us make smart decisions. Not just because they feel right or our gut is telling us to do something. But we’ll have the hard facts behind it. And so, that’s always feeding some of the decisions and some of the processes that we put in play. I just think being able to regionalize it as it expands is going to make us that much more powerful.


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