Podcasting: Another Effective Tool to Reach Contractors

by Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect Podcasts are a very popular medium today and rightfully so. Podcasts can add another dimension to your audience as they can hear the voice behind the words. Alisa Meredith wrote a piece on HubSpot on why marketers should be using podcasting and shows you that getting started is relatively painless. Jay Baer, in an episode on Social Media Examiner, said, “There’s something about bringing somebody inside your head through your ear holes that ties you to that person in a way that reading a blog post or reading a book or anything else just doesn’t.”   Using podcasts is a way of building brand awareness as well as loyalty. Podcasting gives busy contractors another way to get information (let’s face it, we all only have so much time to read), and with the auto industry’s smart dashboards, it is making it easier to listen to. You can also upload your podcasts onto iTunes, which can give you access to more potential customers who are searching for info on key subjects by key words or phrases. Don’t be obsessed with the number of people who listen to your podcast, but instead, be more concerned on the quality of them.     There are several ways that you can use podcasts to get to the professional tradesmen. Here are a few to consider: You initiate them. You can talk about issues affecting the tradesmen and possible solutions they could consider. You can interview industry experts or association leaders that can talk about everything from legislative issues that might relate to your business in the future, or talk about things you can do now to improve your business. Be a guest on someone else’s podcast. There are bloggers out there that target the same types of audiences you do. Follow them for a while, and…read more >

New Study Finds What You Already Knew

by Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent As members of the manufacturing community, we all have abundant anecdotal evidence of the Skills Gap. But as people involved in precision and “measure twice, cut once” careers, we also understand that when you measure something, you can work on it. That’s why this new study from Deloitte is so welcome. They have taken a good, long, hard look at the industry in general, and applied solid numbers and reasoning to the looming crisis. Additionally, they have partnered with The Manufacturing Institute to work on filling the gap. For the Executive Summary and links to the complete study, click here: https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/industry/manufacturing/manufacturing-skills-gap-study.html  read more >

The Scary Side of Public Relations

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, Public Relations Foreman It's that spooky time of the year -- so it seems like a good time to rehash some of the aspects of public relations that can be the scariest to clients. We find the realm of public relations to be fun, exciting and consistently fresh, but some areas of our field can be scary to our clients. Here are the top five fears people have about public relations, and why you shouldn’t be spooked by them. 1. You can’t control what the media does with a story once you’ve given it to them. “Earned media” is highly credible because readers know that you didn’t purchase the space to promote your company. Public relations and media relations professionals cultivate positive relationships with media, we work with these folks on behalf of multiple clients most of the time so we’ve built the foundation for positive coverage before they even get your story. In B2T public relations, we’re working with trade publications primarily and their goal is to be a source of helpful information for their readers. It can be scary not to see the actual article before it’s published, but with long lead times of trade media, it can be a sweet surprise to see your words in print.   2. Negative comments on blogs and social media.  Your responses to negative comments offer an excellent opportunity to show off your wonderful customer service. Negative comments happen, and if they happen on your social media, you can control the outcome with your response and the community response from your other fans. It’s actually scarier to hide your head in the sand or cover your ears when it comes to social media. 14043read more >

Are You Attending STAFDA In Phoenix This Week?

Are you in Phoenix attending this month's STAFDA trade show? If so, check out our exclusive Insider’s Guide to Phoenix and use this guide to help you get around the Valley of the Sun during your free time. – Want to know where the locals like to eat and drink? We have the insider information from our friends in Phoenix. – Need tips on nightlife and sightseeing? We made a list of shouldn’t-miss recommendations. – Have you ever driven in Phoenix? We have you covered with taxi and limo services. See you at the Phoenix Convention Center…or at one of the great places in the guide!read more >

Manufacturing Day: Open Doors, Open Minds

by Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent Inspiring the next generation of manufacturers. We were going to do a big wrap-up of all the Manufacturing Day 2018 events our clients, partners and friends hosted, but this video from the National Association of Manufacturers does a better job than we could.     Please make sure you share. And start prepping now for Manufacturing Day 2019!  read more >

Why You Use Relationship Marketing When Trying to Reach Contractors

by Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect   I’ve always been a big believer in relationship selling. After all, we usually buy stuff from people we know, like and trust. Agree? So why not take that to another step in the selling process by using the same principles to your marketing efforts? This is especially true now that content and content marketing is such a big part of everyone’s overall strategy. We all have heard the saying that "Content is King and Community is its Kingdom," but what brings them together? It’s building solid relationships with contractors and tradesmen using relationship marketing.  I read a post by Wade Harman, Why relationship marketing is the key to your content, where he outlines a strong case for using this type of tactic. He points out that we need to know and understand what our target wants and needs. Contractors want solutions, not necessarily a sales pitch. You need to make yourself available in conversations with them... He also points out that we should collaborate with others that share the same passion. For an example, say your target is professional plumbers. You want to focus on products that will help them do their install better. You’re not interested (nor capable) in helping them market their plumbing business locally. Why not team up with someone who’s focus is just that, like Plumbers SEO.net or Darren Slaughter who specializes in contractor marketing. This blog focuses on helping manufacturers better communicate with contractors and professional tradesmen. We have three challenges: 1) identify our audience, 2) give them meaningful content, and 3) keep them coming back. One of the most important things I try to communicate is that to be successful, you must be able to engage and have a genuine relationship with your reader. Here are some steps to build those relationships: 13995read more >

An Idea Worth Stealing

by Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent   Lowbrow Customs is a Cleveland-based maker of custom motorcycles and parts. They’ve made some innovative accessories and amazing builds, garnering a reputation that’s worldwide. But it’s what they’re doing in our hometown of Cleveland that has us stoked.   On their website and YouTube channel, they’ve recently announced a scholarship program through the Tri-C Advanced Technology Training Center (which Sonnhalter is also proud to support). The two $2,500 scholarships will help at-need students pursue careers in manufacturing. The goal? To show people that there’s more to higher education than a four-year degree. That they can find an exciting and rewarding career, and that they can join a long tradition of high-quality, American manufacturing. And that by doing this, as my Grandfather always said, “A rising tide will lift all boats.” We couldn’t agree more.read more >

Ninth Annual Sonnhalter Tool Drive Raises $31,000 Worth of Donations for Habitat for Humanity

CLEVELAND – September 2018 – Sonnhalter, a communications firm marketing to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, partnered with Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity for a ninth year during its annual Sonnhalter Tool Drive, which ran the entire month of August and collected $31,000 worth of tools and building materials. Since Sonnhalter began its efforts in 2010, it has collected more than $250,000 in donations. Organizations, businesses and residents were encouraged to donate new and gently used tools, as well as building materials, furniture and appliances, to Sonnhalter to help benefit Habitat for Humanity’s cause of eliminating substandard housing and homelessness. “Cleveland Habitat for Humanity eagerly awaits Sonnhalter’s annual Tool Drive,” said John Habat, executive director of the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity. “It replenishes our inventory and generates revenues to support our affordable homeownership program. Sonnhalter has been doing this for several years, demonstrating again and again its commitment to affordable housing in Cleveland. Sonnhalter is a treasured partner.” 14005read more >

Today is National Tradesmen Day!

Where would we be without them? The unsung heroes of American Industry. At Sonnhalter, we know tradesmen well. They are the customers of the clients we serve. They’re construction workers and maintenance professionals. Electricians and plumbers. On the third Friday in September, National Tradesmen Day honors the men and women whose skills and hard work build America and keep it running strong. National Tradesmen Day is dedicated to the professionals who maintain the complex infrastructure of our roads, cities, water systems and power grids. While these professionals work day in and out maintaining skills unique to their trade, our nation continues to operate smoothly without pause. The skills and knowledge of those in the trades keep business, homes and entire nations running. Whether walls go up or come down, roads cross rivers or the water flows, electricians, plumbers, masons, mechanics, carpenters and everyone in between ensures the job gets done. With their hands, their skills and their tools, they keep America running smoothly.   Please join us by thanking the men and women in the trades. It’s truly a day to celebrate.read more >

I Rode My Motorcycle Across the United States to Visit America’s Manufacturers. Here’s What I Learned.

by Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent As anyone concerned with problem-solving can attest, sometimes a different perspective can make a world of difference. That’s what makes this project from David Bohrer so amazing. A former White House photographer, he set out from Washington to Milwaukee on behalf of National Association of Manufacturers to document the state of manufacturing in advance of Manufacturing Day. What he found was opportunity, innovation and dedication. Read more, and see some great photography in his post.    read more >

Attending IMTS in Chicago this week?

Are you in Chicago attending this month's IMTS trade show? If so, check out our exclusive Insider’s Guide to Chicago and use this guide to help you get around town during your free time. – Want to know where the locals like to eat and drink? We have the insider information from our friends in Chicago. – Need tips on nightlife and sightseeing? We made a list of shouldn’t-miss recommendations. – Have you ever driven in Chicago? We have you covered with taxi and limo services. See you at McCormick Place…or at one of the great places in the guide!read more >

Is Selling to Professional Tradesmen Getting Easier?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman   I don’t know if it’s getting easier, but it sure is different from years ago. Twenty to 30 years ago, salesmen needed to make cold calls, and the only way to communicate was through land lines, faxes, letters and direct mail. The selling cycle certainly took longer back then! Now, with the internet, cell phones, email and social media, much of the upfront work is already done for sales. YouTube videos, application data sheets and competitive comparisons are just a few of the resources available. The key is not to try to sell something; instead, your main objective is to help solve a problem or issue. Here are a few key takeaways when selling to professional tradesmen: - If possible, actually show you have a solution by demoing your product on an actual job site. - Sell your value proposition on why using your product will be the reason to choose you over the competition. - Give them names of other contractors who have similar problems/issues that you helped solve. - Respect their time; show them your solution and ask when you should follow up. Here are some tips: Deliver outstanding quality – from a great quality product to courteous customer service and user-friendly info – and then let them have the option on how they want to receive it. Understand what your customers want – don’t assume to know what they want – ask them. Connect with them – direct relationships are the most important and the most challenging. Always think WIIFT (What’s In It For Them). Be sincere and upfront with them. When communicating with them, don’t always be selling. Try to help solve a problem even though it might not, in the short term, result in a sale. Under promise and over deliver – exceed your customers’…read more >

Old or New: School is Back in Session

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent There are still some hot days to get through, but Labor Day is fast approaching and most schools are back in session. So make sure you stop for busses, keep an eye out for kids and stop worrying about chasing the latest marketing craze. Wait, what? This is the perfect time of year to reassess what school your marketing efforts are going to. Are you “Old School,” still utilizing print, convinced social media is just a craze and missing printed catalogs? Or are you “New School,” only marketing to mobile, boiling your message down to 140 characters and laughing at the dinosaurs amongst you? Guess what: it doesn’t matter. Because in the end, what will make any and all of those marketing tactics succeed or fail is what you bring to it – a personal touch. Old School Personal Touches Print Ads – Make sure your advertising isn’t just a product catalog and includes a call to action, such as a dedicated phone number or website. This will be your best way to gauge ROI and allow you to make a personal connection with people who respond to your ad. Catalogs – Be smart with distribution. Don’t just dump them in a distributor's office or on a table at a trade show. Offer them on your website and free upon request. Just make sure you have a plan to follow up and utilize the customer info you get in return. 13934read more >

Making the Most of a Trade Show Visit

The Precision Machined Products Association has a growing membership of machine shops, technical members and others involved in the precision manufacturing sector. One of the more innovative ways they communicate with current and potential members is through a regular insert in the trade publication Production Machining. The insert is a win-win for both the PMPA and the magazine. PMPA gains an additional way to communicate to their membership, and Production Machining gets valuable content. A perfect example? This recent article on the upcoming IMTS show in Chicago. If you’re heading to this show, or any trade show in the near future, this is a great read. The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) 2018 is set to take over Chicago’s McCormick Place from Sept. 10-15. The pure numbers of the show are pretty staggering, with more than 115,000 people expected to attend from more than 110 countries and more than 2,000 exhibitors with 1.37 million square feet of exhibit space divided into 10 pavilions, four co-located shows and more than 60 conference sessions. So, like any big task, the secret to success at IMTS, or at any trade show, is to create a number of smaller goals and plan, plan, plan, all while leaving enough wiggle room for last-minute opportunities or challenges. Here are some basic guidelines for planning to make the most of any trade show visit. Pre-Show Book Early – Make sure to take advantage of any early bird specials for registration, not only to save money, but also so vendors have an idea of how many people are attending. It’s also best to book travel, transport and hotel as soon as possible. Stay in the Show Hotel – Sure, it may be more expensive, but it will be close to the show, probably have free transportation opportunities and offer lots of…read more >

8 Tips for Making Customer Service a Priority in your Marketing

Think customer service isn’t an integral part of your marketing? Ask yourself the following questions: What part of your company do existing customers deal with the most? Have you ever avoided a business because of a negative remark a friend made? If the answer to both is yes, you’ve just seen how an effective customer service program is also your best marketing strategy.     Need more proof? In our latest Tip Sheet, we’ve laid out eight tips for making customer service a priority in your marketing efforts, and as always, it’s geared toward manufacturers, distributors and others in the B2T marketplace. You can sign up to download it for free here. Let us know what challenges you’ve had with customer service and check out our other tip sheets here.read more >

Manufacturers May Be the New Nerds? (In a GREAT Way)

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter Remember about 10 years ago? The Lord of the Ring movies had raked in awards (and millions of dollars), San Diego ComicCon became something you heard about, E3 became the trade show you wished you got to go to and The Big Bang Theory debuted, soon to become TV’s #1 show. Suddenly “nerd culture” was all the rage. Writers were penning think pieces about how this was the ultimate victory for the kid that got picked on in high school. TV commentators discussed at length how this was a “cultural shift” and heralded a new age.  Add to that the continued dominance of the Marvel superhero movies, and the last decade has definitely belonged to the kid that read comic books at lunch. Well, I predict that the next decade will be the “Age of the Maker and Manufacturer.”   13871read more >

Updated Electrical Market Overview Now Available

Information on electrical market trends, key trade shows, industry associations, buying groups, training providers, top distributors, industry publications, blogs, online forums and more.   At Sonnhalter we pride ourselves on working only in the B2T, or Business-to-Tradesmen industry. And that means not only being up to date on what our clients are doing, but with their industries as well. To that end, we have developed comprehensive Market Overviews for relevant industries, and continually update them. Our latest update is for the Electrical Market. Please feel free to download, review and share, and if you have any questions, contact us.      Sign up for our updated Sonnhalter Electrical Market Overview here: http://www.sonnhalter.com/tradesman-insights/market-overviews/electrical/read more >

Sonnhalter Partners with Habitat for Humanity for the Ninth Annual Sonnhalter Tool Drive

Help eliminate substandard housing during the month of August by donating extra inventory, demo models, tools and building materials that are no longer needed. CLEVELAND – July 2018 – Sonnhalter, a communications firm marketing to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, is partnering with Habitat for Humanity again for the ninth annual Sonnhalter Tool Drive, during the entire month of August. Organizations, businesses and manufacturers are encouraged to donate new and gently used tools, as well as cabinets, sinks, building materials and appliances, to the Sonnhalter Tool Drive between Wednesday, August 1 and Friday, August 31, to benefit Habitat for Humanity’s cause of eliminating substandard housing. 13815read more >

Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard Rejoins Sonnhalter as Public Relations Foreman

CLEVELAND – June 2018 – Sonnhalter, a communications firm marketing to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, recently announced Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard is rejoining the firm as public relations foreman. In the role of public relations foreman, Ascherl-Lenhard will oversee developing clients’ public relations strategies, as well as planning and implementing B2T (business-to-tradesmen) public relations programs and initiatives for the Sonnhalter client base. Prior to rejoining Sonnhalter, Ascherl-Lenhard was senior communications strategist at NMV Strategies. Ascherl-Lenhard previously held the position of public relations foreman from 1998 to 2015 at Sonnhalter. In the past she also held public relations positions at Magic American Corporation and Saifman Richards Communications. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio. “We are excited to have Rosemarie rejoin our team. Her background and experience in our niche of marketing to the professional tradesmen will be an asset to our clients,” said Matt Sonnhalter, vision architect at Sonnhalter. “I am extremely thrilled to be back at Sonnhalter, serving clients in an industry segment I’m especially passionate and knowledgeable about,” added Ascherl-Lenhard. About Sonnhalter Established in 1976, Sonnhalter is the leading B2T marketing communications firm to companies that target professional tradesmen in construction, industrial and MRO markets. Sonnhalter is located in the historic Brownell Building in the heart of downtown Cleveland. Sonnhalter’s brand identity highlights its expertise in marketing to the professional tradesmen. Its tagline, “Not Afraid To Get Our Hands Dirty,” promotes the employees’ willingness to roll up their sleeves and dig deep into clients’ businesses, also, it refers to the market it targets: the tradesmen who work with – and dirty – their hands every day. Sonnhalter developed the acronym “B2T,” which stands for “business-to-tradesmen” to capture the essence of its specialty. For more information, visit the company website…read more >

Getting the Most out of Your Company’s Instagram Account

By Andrew Poulsen, PR Technician In less than 10 years, social media has evolved from a fun distraction to keep in touch with college friends and distant relatives, to an essential tool needed by any brand looking to engage with its customers or maintain relevance amongst its competitors. Regardless of how millennials feel about the Baconator® or Moons Over My Hammy®, brands like Wendy’s and Denny’s are winning over young people more and more every day with their funny and relatable social media presence. While not every company needs to adopt to the latest meme or pop culture phenomenon to have a healthy online presence, social media has opened the door for brands to be transparent and relatable in new and exciting ways. By now, companies from international brands to local muffler shops are utilizing Facebook and Twitter to engage and share company news, updates, sales, etc. But over the past few years, we’ve seen more brands incorporating Instagram into their social media plan. What was once considered a platform exclusive to tech-savvy young people with smartphones, Instagram is now just ubiquitous across all demographics as Facebook and Twitter. And businesses across all industries are starting to take notice. That’s because, if used correctly, the app’s photo and video features allow a new way for brands to give their audience a peek behind the curtain. Here are five ways your company can take advantage of the unique features Instagram has to offer. Give Your Audience Something Different Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all bring something different to table, otherwise we wouldn’t need to be on so many different social media platforms. While this seems obvious, companies often make the mistake of letting their social media content be too similar across all platforms. Instead, companies should reward their audience for following all…read more >

Making the Most of YouTube

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent YouTube has become the prime research tool on the web. With a staggering breadth of content and connected communities for almost every niche, it’s definitely earned a place in your marketing efforts. If you don’t have a video program yet, check out articles here, here and here  on how to incorporate video. In the meantime, if video is already a part of your efforts, here are a few simple guidelines to making the most of the content you post: No Channel is an Island You can’t make your channel a one-sided affair. Make sure you get into as many “networks” as possible by subscribing to other channels, i.e. trade organizations, publications, online reviewers, people already using your products, etc. Engage Frequently Don’t be a passive subscriber. Like videos and comment, even if it’s just “great video.”  The more you put your channel out there, the more likely people are to find it. Forget Who You Are When it comes to video tags and descriptions, think like a potential customer, rather than as a salesperson. Don’t use product numbers or use common terms, instead, put yourself in the shoes of someone just starting a search, with no prior brand loyalty or knowledge of the industry, and then tag accordingly. 13777read more >

PMPA Addresses Skills Gap With Member Outreach

The precision machining industry is facing one of the largest skills gap with large numbers of experienced workers retiring, and few younger workers even knowing that the careers exist. The trade organization, Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA), is facing this crisis for its members head on with outreach, online certification curriculum and a Next Gen group dedicated to peer-to-peer outreach. Watch, like and share the video below to help their mission.read more >

6 Ways to Make Sure You’re Using Multimedia Effectively

Multimedia can seem like another of those “marketing buzzwords.” But when it comes right down to it, the key is to effectively use images to tell your product’s or brand’s story, and it can be incredibly successful and easy. In our latest Tip Sheet, we’ve laid out 6 tips for integrating multimedia into your marketing efforts, and as always, it’s geared toward manufacturers, distributors and others in the B2T marketplace. You can sign up to download it for free here. Let us know what challenges you’ve had with integrating multimedia and check out our other tip sheets here.   SaveSaveread more >

Using the Gender Gap to Close the Skills Gap

As the focus on the skills gap has grown, so have efforts to draw women into these well-paying, career-path jobs. Along with technology and training advancements, so are the opportunities and accessibility to these previously “men only” careers. It’s taken root in elementary schools, where “Girls in STEM” efforts have seen expanded class offerings. No longer is it “Girls in Home Ec, Boys in Shop” as even local media have noted. (https://www.wkyc.com/article/tech/science/girls-in-stem/girls-in-stem-betsy-kling-explores-welding-so-much-more-than-heat-and-metal/95-550149660 ). Manufacturers have taken note too, with Lincoln Electric launching a line of women’s welding gear with Jessie Combs. Increasingly, training centers themselves are targeting women, as this recently developed infographic called "Breaking the Status Quo," from RSI, The Refrigeration School shows: https://www.refrigerationschool.com/wp-content/uploads/women-in-hvac-career-guide.jpg (click image to enlarge)    read more >

Updated HVAC Market Overview Now Available

Information on HVAC market trends, key trade shows, industry associations, buying groups, training providers, top distributors, industry publications, blogs, online forums and more.    At Sonnhalter we pride ourselves on working only in the B2T, or Business-to-Tradesmen industry. And that means not only being up to date on what our clients are doing, but with their industries as well. To that end, we have developed comprehensive Market Overviews for relevant industries, and continually update them. Our latest update is for the HVAC Market. Please feel free to download, review and share, and if you have any questions, contact us. Sign up for our updated Sonnhalter HVAC Market Overview here: http://www.sonnhalter.com/tradesman-insights/market-overviews/hvac/ SaveSave SaveSaveread more >

3 Ways PR Can Contribute to Your SEO Strategy

By Andrew Poulsen, PR Technician, Sonnhalter You can have the most beautiful website to ever exist, or have a smooth e-commerce system that buyers will love, but if they don’t find you, is it worth it? First and foremost, make sure you’ve got your site setup with SEO in mind. Create the appropriate tags and optimize your other settings... especially make sure your site is turned ON for search engine indexing. After that, strengthen your SEO with content and PR. At Sonnhalter, PR encompasses traditional public relations and media relations, as well as social media and content strategy and development. Generally speaking, PR elevates your brand. When your brand is elevated, your search engine rankings benefit. Here are just three ways that PR can contribute to your SEO strategy: 13728read more >

9 Tips for Using Public Relations to Further Your Message and Marketing

Public relations should be a part of any size company’s marketing plan. Effective communication with your current and prospective customers, industry trade publications, electronic media and the general public is not only essential to your company’s success, but a cost effective way to get your brand and products exposure. In our latest Tip Sheet, we’ve laid out 9 strategies for making sure you’re integrating PR into your marketing efforts and how to re-use the content you produce. You can sign up to download it here. Interested in setting up a PR program? Give us a call or email. And check out our other Tip Sheets here. SaveSaveSaveSaveread more >

Updated Plumbing Market Overview Available

Information on plumbing market trends, key trade shows, industry associations, buying groups, training providers, top distributors, industry publications, blogs, online forums and more.  At Sonnhalter we pride ourselves on working only in the B2T, or Business-to-Tradesmen industry. And that means not only being up to date on what our clients are doing, but with their industries as well. To that end, we have developed comprehensive Market Overviews for relevant industries, and continually update them. Our latest update is for the Plumbing Market. Please feel free to download, review and share, and if you have any questions, contact us. Sign up for our updated Sonnhalter Plumbing Market Overview here: http://www.sonnhalter.com/tradesman-insights/market-overviews/plumbing/ SaveSave SaveSaveread more >

Industry Trade Association Addresses the Skills Gap Issue

Today’s guest blog post comes from Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA). More and more industry trade groups are organizing to address the skills gap, and PMPA has certainly been in the lead of that effort. Just last year they launched MFG, an online one-year certification and job training course for its members that allows companies big and small to have a consistent, accredited training program. Here is the post, which also appeared in Production Machining. Training the Next Generation: The Need for Professional Development Establish a training program that identifies the necessary requirements to be fulfilled. Professional development and staff training are important to the success of every shop. Professional development ensures employees maintain appropriate certifications, knowledge, safety and ethics in the professional environment. The goal of professional development is to have a qualified staff. Qualified employees have the skills needed to deliver the highest quality of service to our customers. This can be accomplished by establishing training programs, workshops and ongoing educational opportunities. This benefits the company as a whole by improving productivity, culture and customer loyalty while helping employees achieve their highest and best performance. Establish a Training Program Establish a training program that identifies the necessary requirements to be fulfilled. Safety training, technical competency and performance techniques are all possible deliverables. By providing this kind of training, the company can feel comfortable knowing they have improved staff knowledge leading to improved performance from their employees. Better performance means improved safety, quality and customer satisfaction. Training improves competency, so it improves performance and trust. Improved trust improves teamwork. Everybody wins. Why would you choose not to establish a training program? Administer the Training Program Identifying training needs is the first step. Administering a program to provide the training, testing that it has been effectively learned, and tracking training…read more >

It’s as Much a Goal as a Game — The Annual “Big Game” Ad Review

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter Hi Sports Blog Fans, time for the annual Sonnhalter Super Bowl, er I mean “Big Game” ad review. As with past years, it’s not on time or really about the ads, but rather the marketing lessons manufacturers can take from all the hoopla. This year, let’s look at the three main types of ads, and the pros and cons of each. 1) The Big Build Up This is the type of ad campaign where there’s a buildup, or teasers dropped across different channels that all build up to a big “event” ad during the game. This year’s best example is the Crocodile Dundee movie campaign that wasn’t. Instead it was all just a build up to a new campaign for Australian Tourism. Pros – Gives your entire message a framework and direction. Sets the tone and content for everything to come for a good long while. Cons – It works if you’re a country or a well-defined brand. If you don’t have a clear, concise message (or lots of beaches that aren’t going anywhere) and the intestinal fortitude to stick with it past the fourth quarter, you’re throwing away money. 2) The Big Splash This is the type of ad that seeks to surprise, jar your expectations, or thumb its nose at traditions. It also only typically works during the game. It’s there to cause a splash and get attention right then and there. For this example, let’s look at what I think was the worst example. For me that would be the Chris Pratt Michelob Ultra commercial. Sure, the setup is kind of funny, the famous actor thinks he’s landed the role of a lifetime in a beer commercial, only to find out he’s an extra. That part is fine, but the second…read more >

Content is All About Repurposing

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter Everyone (and especially marketing communications firms) creates an aura that content marketing is some huge, time consuming mystery. But the real secret is that it’s all about having a clear, consistent message and then placing the right part of that message into the right format. To demonstrate that, we’ve created the following infographic that shows how we repurposed the content from a single, 45-minute interview with our client’s product engineer, into numerous pieces of content across multiple platforms, where the messaging received thousands of views. Check out our infographic, “A White Paper Life Cycle.”     How are you repurposing content?   SaveSave SaveSaveSaveSaveread more >

Manufacturers: Focus Content on Contractors, Not Your Brand

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter I think we all can agree that content marketing is playing a vital role in everyone’s overall marketing plans. Everyone wants lead generation and engagement, and to get both, you have to provide good content! Many manufacturers focus more on their brand than trying to help solve their customers' problems. Don't focus on selling. Focus on solving. And more is not better. Give them good content not a lot of content. According to recent article in Content marketing institute: 12218read more >

Contractors: How do you deal with Millennials and Boomers?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter Contractors (HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical) have some serious challenges moving forward. The Average contractor is 50+, most aren't tech savvy, and they've been doing things the same way forever (chasing paper work orders). As Boomers leave the workforce at a rate of 1 every 8 seconds, a shortage of middle management will become apparent. Boomers dominate technical jobs, with the exception of IT. I learned a long time ago if you got into business, among your priorities were: grow your business, make a profit and have an exit strategy. To grow your business, you need to hire and train good people. And who's going to train the millennials? The boomers! The boomers have the intellectual capital (work experience) that needs to be transferred to the younger generations. Your pool of talent will come from the 18-34 age group and they look at things a bit differently than their older counterparts. 12161read more >

Marketing to Tradesmen: How do you measure effectiveness?

By John Sonnhalter, Vision Architect, Sonnhalter B-to-B marketers are always facing the challenges from the C suite and CFO to measure ROI. According to an article by Debbie Pierce, B2B marketing ROI calculations your CFO will love, 93% of CMOs are under more pressure to deliver measurable results, and only 5% feel they are doing a good job. Ironically, the C suite and CFOs use the same measuring tools that the marketing departments are using. They're not concerned about follows or leads, what they want to know is for dollars spent what are the incremental sales resulting from each marketing activity. They are obviously looking for the best bang for the buck(a novel approach). Ideally they want to come up with some formula like this one from Nitromojo. Accurate ROI Calculation – Simple Version 12155read more >

Why is the human aspect of selling making a comeback with tradesmen?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter No matter what you're selling, it's a relatively simple process. You have something that I want, we get together and make a deal. I've been in business for over 40 years and the selling process/cycle has apparently changed, or has it? We used to call on contractors, see what they needed, and hopefully was able to help them out by selling them something. All of this was done on a Human Level. We interacted with them, got to know their families and what they liked to do when they weren't working. Instead of trying to sell them something, we listened. I called it belly button to belly button selling. 12090read more >

Has your sales process evolved toward contractors?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter Buyers have taken more control over the sales process. According to Hubspot, 57% of salesmen acknowledge a shift in buyer behavior in becoming less dependent on sales from a year ago. This is true when speaking to contractors and tradesmen. 12095read more >

Why customer service is so important to manufacturers serving the tradesman

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter I've talked a lot about customer service and how important it is to resolve issues. But we've also addressed the issue that customer service is everyone's responsibility, from sales through tech support. Customer service is really all about your customers' total experience. This is true in our relationships with distributors as well as contractors. Manufacturers need to be careful, especially when business is on the uptick and attention to detail may come in second to short-term sales increase. Don't take your distributor and tradesman for granted. There's always someone out there that can identify the contractor's needs and deliver and it won't necessarily be based on price or delivery but the total customer experience. 11991read more >

11 Tips on How to Market to Contractors

Marketing to contractors is different than general marketing. Instead of pitching products, talk about solving problems. Contractors are busy and looking for solutions on how they can do their jobs better and make more money. Our new tip sheet gives you 11 ways to help you get in front of contractors, promote your value proposition and become a trusted authority in the contractor's mind. Sign up to receive 11 Tips on How to Market to Contractors here.  read more >

Important Steps in the Sales Cycle

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter Sales are always trying to short circuit the system and take the low hanging fruit. Trouble is, there's only so much low hanging fruit. This graphic from Anna Vital should be a constant reminder to all of us that sales are a long term commitment. Interesting infographic compliments of Brendan P. Farell, Executive VP of FIS .read more >

What Affect Will Donald Trump Have on You and Your Business in 2017?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter Now that the election is over and Donald Trump will become our new leader, I'm curious to see if you're as optimistic as I am on where the country is headed, or could be headed, if the world crosses don't get in the way. Trump's business-friendly attitude and the mantra of "there will be no business as usual" is somewhat refreshing. The rollback of regulations alone should be a game changer for manufacturing. The cutting of corporate taxes wouldn't hurt either. 11802read more >

3 Insights to Make Your Manufacturing CRM More Effective

This is a guest post from Russ Hill, Founder of Ultimate Lead Systems. CRM programs come with big promise. The value proposition reminds me of the film the “Wizard of Oz.” Dorothy sets out with her allies to meet “the Great and Powerful” Wizard, who will surely deliver fulfillment of their greatest wishes. They approach the Wizard with fear and trepidation. When they finally see him behind the curtain, they discover their wizard furiously spinning wheels and pulling switches to bring the Great and Powerful wizard image to life. It is a good metaphor for what companies encounter when implementing CRM and sales lead management programs. Like the Wizard, the promise is great, but have no illusions. Understanding what is required behind the curtain is critical to CRM success. 11168read more >

Podcast: Tips on How to be a More Effective Salesperson

Today we’re talking with Alan Sipe to get some insights about selling in the Industrial/Commercial fields, especially to distributors and the big box chains. Alan is President of Toolbox Sales and Consulting and has over 40 years of experience including Sr. VP of Sales and Marketing for Klein Tools and President of KNIPEX Tools. His insights in selling through various distribution channels and professional contractors are invaluable. Visit, Toolbox Sales and Consulting for more information and to contact Alan. Enjoy.read more >

Tips on Developing Effective Marketing Programs to Reach Contractors

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter When trying to gain new contractors, "the ready, fire, aim" mentality doesn't work. Neither does "a wing and prayer" method. Developing new customers is entirely different from trying to sell more stuff to your existing ones. Marketing needs to work closely with sales in not only developing a message, but a plan on delivering it. You also need to take into consideration that a lot of new contractors won't identify themselves until they've done some homework on your company. 10847read more >

Podcast: “What Makes a Qualified Lead a Qualified Lead?”

Today we’re talking with Russ Hill, Founder and CEO of Ultimate Lead Systems. Russ has 3 decades of experience helping companies with their B2B sales lead management and CRM programs. Sales leads are the lifeblood of new business development. As important as leads are, it is still common to hear reps complain that “the leads I get are unqualified.” People have different views on the subject of lead handling, qualification and follow-up. Listen to what Russ has to say.read more >

Are You Maximizing Your B-to-B Blog?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter If you're a manufacturer and you don't have a blog, you should. Why? Because 4 out of 5 B-to-B marketers use blogs. B-to-B blogs aren't new, but manufacturers are finding out that they are a good way of setting themselves apart from the competition, and according to the Content Marketing Institute, over 50% of marketers expect blogs to be critical in 2017. Challenges of B-to-B Blogs Even though marketers expect blogs to be critical in the coming year, most B-to-B bloggers have some challenges ... here are 3 of them: 10890read more >

How to Repurpose Content for Contractors

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter For those of you who might be looking for ways to generate more awareness and conversations, generating new content may not be your only option. It makes sense to use other social media outlets as a way to get your existing messages out. To achieve higher reader engagement you need to know your audience, their habits and pain points. Different social media outlets reach people differently. So whether you're looking to repurpose existing data or convert outdated info, consider delivering them in smaller bite size pieces using alternative avenues. 10852read more >

Do you have Relevant Content to Support Your Sales Team?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter Sales and marketing need to work closer together make the selling process better. Marketing departments that create great content but don't share it with the sales force are missing opportunities. Yes, it's important to get it out on the blog and other social media avenues but your sales force doesn't always have access to or are aware of what's up there. Sales is looking for support in the selling cycle no matter how simple or complicated the sales funnel is. This chart from emarketer.com illustrates that point. Well-produced and -managed marketing content sets up awareness, creates demand and enables sales. Here are some key takeaways on how marketing departments can use content for sales support: 10571read more >

Brand – maybe even more important than you think

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter I’m addicted to TEDTalks. If you don’t know what they are, here’s a primer from their website. “TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.” Part of this initiative is a weekly radio program that takes a look at a theme through insights from several TEDTalks, called the TED Radio Hour. They recently had an episode dedicated to Value, Brand and how our brains process the “worth” of something. Turns out, it’s all way more subjective that you may think. Every day you assign value to a thousand things without ever thinking about it. How? What biases come into play, and what can nudge those biases so much that you notice that you’re being manipulated? And can you even use that realization to your benefit? And that’s the line great content marketing should straddle. Yes, at the end of the day you are trying to push the customer towards your product, and a consumer should realize that as well. But if the content itself still provides useful information, or is packaged in a way that acknowledges that transaction, it can still be beneficial. 10315read more >

Why You Should Have a Trade/Vocational School Marketing Plan

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter With the shortage of skilled workers today, the trade/vocational schools are making a comeback and there's a great opportunity for you to do some grass-roots marketing to future tradesmen. Many leading brands come to mind (Ridgid and Klein Tools) that have been built by using these schools as a starting point to get their tools in the hands of future users. 10410read more >

Managing Price Overrides: 4-Step Process

While common, overrides can be dangerous. They train your sales team and customers that price is negotiable and interferes with one of your primary goals: sticking to your pricing strategy. If that doesn’t worry you, consider this: companies that grant high numbers of ad hoc price exceptions are more likely to experience price erosion across all customers.read more >

Email Delivers Strong ROI to B-to-B Marketers

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter Recent studies have shown that email audiences are growing, are more engaged and are increasingly mobile. I recently read an article in eMarketer saying that not only is email the preferred method of communicating with potentials, but the ROI is 122%, more than four times higher than other marketing formats.   10412read more >

Turn Email Prospects Into Loyal Customers

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter We've talked a lot in this blog on how important a good email list is and how to develop one. By nurturing the email subscribers, you take them through your sales funnel. You need to start building a good trustworthy relationship and it should start soon after the contact comes into your database. It’s not only what you have to say, but how you say it. Beyond being potential customers, these contractors can be your best friend by sharing it with their peer group. Remember, contractors need to know, like and trust you before any meaningful dialog will start. Here are some tips to building a better list of contractors and tradesmen: 10414read more >

How the Manufacturing Sales Process Changed Over 40 Years

I think we all can agree that the manufacturing sales function has had its challenges and has changed over the past several decades. Today we have a guest post from Alan Sipe, President of Toolbox Sales and Consulting. Alan has over 40 years of experience including Sr. VP of Sales and Marketing for Klein Tools and President of KNIPEX Tools. His insights in selling through various distribution channels and professional contractors are invaluable. Alan can be reached at alansipe@gmail.com. I am possibly the oldest living American who in 40+ years of manufacturing selling has pretty much sold just pliers for 35 of those years! Twenty four with Klein Tools, eleven with KNIPEX plus the four with Stanley and one with Waterloo fill in the rest of the 40. This successful career longevity gives me a pretty long view of what it takes to have sales success. 10421read more >

Get Your Message Across in an Ad-Blocked World

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter A recent report shared that 32% of global page views are impacted by the use of ad block and mobile sees three times the rate of ad block use than desktop. Did you know that even some people who work in advertising block ads? Let’s face it, website ads are mostly annoying. If you’ve ever opened a webpage and had an ad start talking to you that you couldn’t turn off, you know what I mean. Although digital advertising has a solid place in integrated marketing programs, accompanying it with other tactics can get your message to audiences that wouldn’t be reached otherwise – those who use ad blockers. How do you get your marketing messages past ad blockers? 10247read more >

Time (and Advertising) Stops for No One

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter That’s one of my favorite quotes. Not because I’m in marketing and advertising, but because it dispels one of the biggest myths about manufacturers. That is: All manufacturers are engineering and sales driven, and advertising is an afterthought, or a “necessary evil.” Henry Ford wasn’t just any old manufacturer. He transformed not only American manufacturing, but revolutionized manufacturing processes. He changed the way we live. His streamlined assembly line could churn out a Model T every 24 seconds. As summer winds down, it’s worth noting that he’s partially responsible for all the grilling you did as well. 10313read more >

3 Tips for Improving New Product Rollouts

Today we have a guest post from Alan Sipe, President of Toolbox sales and consulting. Alan has over 40 years of experience including Sr. VP of Sales and Marketing for Klein Tools and President of Knipex Tools. His insights in selling through various distribution channels and professional contractors are invaluable. Alan can be reached at alansipe@gmail.com. So, why isn’t your new Super-Duper Widget selling? Your Research Department talked to your users and found a need. Product Development and Design took that information and developed the world’s best Super-Duper Widget. Marketing put together literature and an excellent introduction display and sales package. Sales developed a forecast and Production has plenty of Super-Duper Widgets in stock. Literature, samples, promotional material and quotas went out to your Manufacturer’s Representatives ... right on time. Now you only have one little problem … your fabulous new Super-Duper Widgets are not selling into distribution at anywhere near projections. You did everything right … Right? There is a mistaken opinion that as soon as you give someone the title salesperson they immediately are professional Super-Duper Widget salespeople … you couldn’t be more wrong! Whether your sales staff is your own or if you use independent reps. Here are some things to consider: The first thing to consider (no matter what they tell you)is that as a Manufacturer’s Representative they represent many lines and no one can intuitively be an expert in all things. Mary may be an excellent salesperson and has great relationships with all her customers and gets good repeat orders but doesn’t do well with new products. 10312read more >

Are You Ready to Talk to the Media?

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter We're officially in trade show season, which means planning booths, putting together promotions, connecting with customers and preparing your staff for the show. One often overlooked aspect of trade show participation is the media. When you exhibit at a trade show, you can trust in the quality and relevancy of the attendees as potential customers. You can also trust that the media that is most important to your ideal customer will be at the show, so make sure you prepare to talk with them as well. I once supported a company at their biggest industry show. I'd set up meetings with media at the show and spent a lot of time in their booth. During a lull when I didn't have anything scheduled, I decided to go eat lunch. When I returned, the sales rep in the booth handed me an editor's card and told me he'd stopped to see you. I asked about the interaction with the editors, what had been shown to him and so on, just to find out that they had given him my card and sent him on his way. Throughout the show, the booth staff was so laser focused on getting leads that every time they encountered the media, they said two words, "See her" and pointed them to me. It's important to treat the media personnel at a show as if they are just as important as a customer ... if not more. Trade media have a huge audience of hundreds or thousands of the people who you want to reach. 10317read more >

Contractors are the Most Important Customer in Building Materials

Today we have a guest post from Mark Mitchel of Whizard Strategy. Building materials companies frequently only see the customer who is directly in front of their nose. They are laser focused on selling a builder, an architect, a facilities manager or even a homeowner. In every one of these cases there is someone standing right behind them that you may not see. That person is the contractor. More specifically, it is the installing contractor. Time and time again, I see building materials companies, with a great product, think they have a made a sale to their primary customer, only to lose the sale because of a contractor. It’s easy to assume that contractors are working for your primary customer so they will do what the customer wants. That is frequently not the case. Here’s Why Contractors Resist Change There is a shortage of labor so any good contractor is in demand and may turn work down or charge more, if it involves something new or different. Contractors see new ideas and products as change and change represents risk. It usually does not represent opportunity to them. Contractors can be very stubborn in their resistance to change. They and maybe even their Daddy has always used the same product and installed it the same way for years. Many of them also believe that buildings and homes are not built as well as they were in the past. To them, modern day construction practices and products are not necessarily better. New products mean the contractor will lose money. The contractor looks at a new product as having many places where they are going to lose money, for example: They aren’t sure how to estimate the project so they can underestimate it and lose money or they can over estimate it and…read more >

Call Reports & Sales People…the Reality!

OK, let’s get real about sales people for a minute. Sales people want to make sales calls. They want to make calls on qualified leads and on profitable customers who can generate sales and compensation. They are like gunslingers interested in the “quick kill.” You hire them to sell and that’s where you want them to spend their time.read more >

6 CRM Best Practices

Today we have a guest post from Russ Hill, Founder and CEO of Ultimate Lead Systems. With a couple of decades of experience helping companies with their B2B sales lead management and CRM programs, 6 Best Practices have revealed themselves that I would like to share. I’ve witnessed companies succeed and increase sales by diligently applying these practices. I’ve also seen organizations waste thousands of marketing dollars and lose thousands of dollars in sales opportunities by ignoring these practices. If you are serious about improving your sales and marketing ROI, these practices will lead you to some big wins. 1. Get your sales and marketing teams on the same page First of all, Sales and Marketing need to re-think how they fundamentally interact. They frequently operate in their own “silos.” They need to learn how to support each other to release their inherent synergy to increase sales. Customers are rarely ready to sign a purchase order when reps first call. And reps are usually not present when the purchasing decision is made. Thus, today’s marketing programs need to nurture buyers throughout their buying process and notify the rep when a buyer is ready to engage. Marketers must send the right messages out at the right time that appeal to all of the buying influences. And the sales person must make multiple calls on the right people to further cultivate the relationship. It is a team selling approach. Everyone has a role and responsibility. Industry research shows that buyers are 60% into their buying process before they engage your company or sales person, so it’s crucial to have sales and marketing working together. 10106read more >

Anyone Can Write a Press Release

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter Given the appropriate details, anyone can write a press release, however, not everyone should write a press release. Too often when companies try to DIY their press releases rather than have a public relations professional write it, their message gets lost. Here are the most common mistakes that we see with DIY press releases: It isn’t actually news. If you’re going to ask for the media’s attention, you need to actually give them something, that something is news. If you inundate an editor with press releases that don’t contain news, you’ll do more to damage the relationship than build it. It isn’t written in a useable format. Press releases need to be written in AP Style; it makes them incredibly simple for the media to use. It’s a sales pitch. Sales pitches are not press releases. It puts the important information last. When was the last time you actually read to the end of an article? It assumes the reader knows anything about you upfront. A press release came across my desk once that was announcing a new tool and relied so heavily on the tool’s brand name, it never actually told me what the tool is used for. Press releases are a valuable public relations program basic that when done well can earn you media coverage and help build relationships. Don’t assume that just anyone can write a release well. Press releases have changed over time, here's a quick look at the Modern Press Release. https://youtu.be/rW9rISgnt5Uread more >

What’s your Unique Selling Proposition to the Professional Tradesman?

I recently read an article by Mark Buckshon from Construction Marketing Ideas where he was talking about how contractors need to identify what makes them different from all the rest .It got me to thinking about farther up the food chain ( manufacturers) and how they all have hard time differentiating themselves.How many times have you heard the following:read more >

Why Interactive Content Matters when Reaching the Professional Tradesman

Interactive content will help you accomplish these goals. Contractors love to watch videos (both instructional and entertaining), they are always available to give you their opinions (polls) and they want to show you how smart they are (quizzes). Now not all your content has to be interactive, but I think you'll find that the content that will get the best play (read and shared) will revolve around interactive content.read more >

Manufacturers: Have you Considered a Contractor Council?

May I suggest a contractor council? You all have brand advocates out there, why not get them together a few times a year and get a better sense of what’s happening in their world and what keeps them up at night. You could even pass by new product ideas before putting them into production. If you make the meetings about them and not you, the outcome will be more positive.read more >

Stats on U.S. Manufacturing

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect The Fourth of July is more than fireworks, parades, cookouts and a day off. It’s a day that we recognize our country’s independence. All of the red, white and blue that comes out for Independence Day brings the topic of "Made in the USA" to mind. Did you know... Every $1 spent in manufacturing contributes $1.40 to the economy? This is the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector. The majority of manufacturing companies in the U.S. are small? Only 1.4% of firms in the manufacturing sector have more than 500 employees. Manufacturing supports 18.4 million U.S. jobs? That's about 1 in 6 private-sector jobs. In 2014, the average manufacturing employee made $79,533? That's more than $15,000 above the national average for all industries. Over the past 25 years, U.S.-manufactured goods exports more than quadrupled? Taken alone, manufacturing in the U.S. would be the 9th largest world economy? These stats came from NAM (the National Association of Manufacturers). You can find these and other facts about U.S. manufacturing on their website. If you're also thinking about U.S. Manufacturing today, check out these other posts on the topic: What does “Made in America” mean to you? Made in America: It Still Matters! Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!read more >

Creativity is the Key

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter It took creativity to start your business, and it takes creativity to keep it running every day. So why not apply that same creativity to the greatest challenge facing the manufacturing industry: the lack of skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen? The time to act is now. Waiting for someone else to plug the hole simply won’t work. Schools’ budgets are squeezed too tight. Government agencies are interested in quick fixes, not long-term solutions. You need to find the next generation of workers. You have two huge advantages: as a manufacturer you’re used to seeing a problem from all angles and creating a solution. And your jobs are actually cool. They allow people looking for a challenge to use their minds and hands together to build something. So how do you reach future workers? Show off what you do! Take this example from Birmingham Georgia. A normal company would just see this as another contract. Another job. But BL Harbert saw an opportunity. The Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum is one of the most innovative museums in the world. Why not use it as a draw to show how their skills and abilities help make it that way? Partnering with Go Build Alabama, they arranged for 120 students to get an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of its museum expansion. Now, we can’t all be working on projects at cool museums, but believe me, much of what you do looks really cool to an outsider, especially when placed into the larger context of what it’s helping to create. I wish I could have seen a CNC machine in action when I was 16 or even a welder or PEX pipe. When you see what a little creativity can do to make the world a better place, or just to improve on…read more >

Are You Using Brand Advocacy in Reaching Contractors ?

Let’s face it, in an ideal world we’d all want our customers to love us! We all know that’s not going to happen, but I’ll bet you might have more advocates for your brand than you think. Why are brand advocates important? Studies show that people rely on peer recommendations and reviews before purchasing goods. Contractors are no different, especially if you’re introducing a new product or application they haven’t used or seen before. They certainly don’t want to be the first to try something.read more >

Challenges Facing the Industrial Distributor Today

While the economy is their biggest concern,it's one they have little control over it. Truth be know I don't believe the industrial segment of the market ever got back to levels pre-2008. Sales and margins are down(Show me a business that doesn't have similar issues) and that's a natural reaction when sales drop you try to protect existing business and the easiest way of doing that is lowering prices.Distributors can sometimes be their own worst enemies, Sell value not price.read more >

Contractor Email List – Do You Have One?

Let’s face it, we’re all in this for the same reason. To talk with people who share the same interest. We must always be tweaking and improving what we deliver. So in order to get them to give up their email, we better come up with some interesting and helpful stuff that will make them want to read our emails for future gems. It’s not only what you have to say, but how you say it.read more >

How Many Calls Does it Take to Make a Sale?

Why do many businesses have a problem following up with their prospective customers? Mr. Frey explained, “The problem is not that small businesses don’t have the capacity to follow up with prospects, it’s that they don’t have the systems in place to do it well.” In his recent newsletter, “Follow-Up Marketing: How To Win More Sales With Less Effort,” Mr. Frey advised, “A good follow-up marketing system should have three attributes:read more >

Climbing the Steel Ladder: It’s Never Been a Better Time for Women to Enter the Trades

Today we have a guest post from Kathy Jackson on behalf of the Tulsa Welding School. It’s never been a better time to crash that glass ceiling. Increasing numbers of women are climbing the steel ladder to a successful career in the skilled trades. While many of these jobs have traditionally been viewed as mostly male oriented, employers seeking welders, construction workers, and electrical technicians have been reaching out to women. Industry Growth Jobs in many skilled trades will likely be plentiful in the coming years thanks to growth in these industries. For example, jobs for electricians are expected to increase by 14 percent through 2024. The HVAC field is also expected to expand by 14 percent, notes the below data from Tulsa Welding School. Higher Earning Potential Women who wish to switch from female-dominated fields may find their earnings significantly higher: the average annual wage in childcare is $21,710 versus an average of $40,040 for welders. Or administrative assistants average $34,500 versus HVAC technicians, who average $46,880. Faster, Less Expensive Training Women looking to enter these fields won’t need a four-year university degree either. Most jobs only require a high school diploma and training at an accredited trade school, many of which can have graduates up and running in less than a year. Additionally, the savings in tuition will add up. The difference between a trade school and a four-year degree can be as much as $94,000, and university tuition will likely not be getting any more affordable in the near future. Plus, the Department of Labor announced $1.9 million total in grants as a part of the Women in Apprenticeships and Nontraditional Occupations program. If you’re a woman looking to climb that steel ladder even further, you can work towards positions in management and engineering in the HVAC…read more >

8 Tips on How to Connect with Contractors

Building relationships with contractors is no different. It can't be a one-way street when everything you talk about is trying to sell them something. You'd get a lot farther if you were looking out for their best interest and helping them solve problems or do things better so they can make more money.read more >

7 Key Findings from Plant Engineering’s 2016 Maintenance Study

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect, Sonnhalter Every year Plant Engineering conducts their Maintenance Study. The objective of this research is to better understand maintenance practices and strategies currently in place in North American manufacturing facilities and the effects of maintenance on productivity and profitability. The 2016 study identified seven important high-level findings impacting the manufacturing industry: Maintenance Strategies – facilities utilize multiple maintenance strategies on the plant floor, with preventive maintenance (76%), “run-to-failure” (61%) and computerized maintenance management system (60%) being the top three Shutdown Schedule – on average, all systems are shutdown three times each year Maintenance Support – 6 in 10 facilities dedicate a significant amount of maintenance support to their rotating equipment Unscheduled Downtime – aging equipment (50%) and operator errors (15%) remain the leading causes Training – more than half of respondents’ maintenance personnel receives training in safety; basic mechanical skills; basic electrical skills; motors, gearboxes, bearings; and lubrication Technologies – 62% of respondents’ facilities use a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) Outsourcing – the average facility outsources 22% of their maintenance operations, up from 17% in 2015 Diving deeper into the research findings, I was surprised at some of antiquated and simplistic practices still used for maintenance, especially given this age of technology and the Industrial-Internet-of-Things (IIoT). For example the second highest maintenance strategy was Reactive Maintenance also known as “run-to-failure.” And the leading cause for unscheduled downtime is Aging Equipment at 50%, while Lack of Time to Perform Maintenance or Lack of Maintenance make up 25%. And even though 83% of maintenance personnel receive training in safety, only 3 in 5 respondents indicate that their maintenance teams receive basic mechanical and electrical skills. How can we expect these people to maintain equipment if they are not properly trained? And the ultimate technology dichotomy, “clipboards…read more >

Emails are in for 2016

A recent study by email on acid reported that email marketing is going to remain a top priority for companies in 2016. Though we could have predicted this was the case, nearly three out of four companies (71.8 percent) say they are planning to spend more time on email production and more than four out of five (86.7 percent) report that they will increase email marketing budgets this year.read more >

Contractors: Do You Know How to Connect With Them and Stay Connected?

Manufacturers who focus on contractors and professional tradesmen need to understand who they are and what makes them tick. They need to spend less time selling and more time solving the contractors problems .Contractors buy stories before they buy stuff. If you're trying to establish a long-term relationship, the contractor needs to know, like and trust you first. It's like any friendship; it develops over time and the relationship is mutually beneficial to both sides.read more >