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 >

Are you ready for the true digital natives?

The Millennial generation has been a hot topic for managers and marketers for many years now; in fact you used to call us Generation Y. Not everyone agrees on the exact years for each generation, but it’s generally accepted that Millennials are those born between 1980 and sometime between 1998 and 2000. read more >

Why Content Marketing Can Work for You

Guest post by Amanda Subler, Public Relations & Media Manager for Content Marketing Institute (CMI) Last year I traveled the U.S and Europe producing a documentary about content marketing for my company Content Marketing Institute. We visited Moline, Illinois the home of John Deere. We traveled to Washington D.C., to visit Marriott’s Global Headquarters. We went to Salt Lake City to visit Blendtec, the home of one of the largest blender manufacturers in the world. (Ever heard of Will it Blend? YouTube videos?) We even flew all the way to Denmark, to see how one of the country’s largest banks is transforming financial television. But one of my favorite trips was to Warsaw, Virginia, where a little fiberglass pool seller used content marketing to not only save their business, but gain international fame and even go from selling to manufacturing their own pools. Marcus Sheridan and his partners at River Pools and Spas were in big trouble when the recession hit in 2008. Suddenly, (no big surprise) no one wanted to buy pools anymore. For three straight months, they were overdrawn on their bank account. As Marcus says, he didn’t know what they were going to do. “Every consultant I talked to told me to close our business.” That’s when Marcus discovered “content marketing.” The first thing he did was write down every single question he and his partners had ever gotten from a prospect or customer. Then they committed to answering every single question in blog format consistently on their website. He even answered the one question every single pool sales person is afraid to answer until they are sitting face-to-face in your living room: How much does a fiberglass pool actually cost? That single blog post has received well over 2 million views. By consistently answering every single…read more >

Banner Ads: Less is More

By Scott Bessell, Idea Builder, Sonnhalter It must have been a “data jockey” who allocated the minimal, odd-ball spaces on websites for what are known as banner ads. Message purveyors have the challenge then to effectively communicate messaging within the confines of 320x50 pixels or the endearing long and thin 120 x 600. It’s as if they (the space allocators) didn’t want ads on the site to begin with! Clearly a necessary evil. Well, hail capitalism! Banner ads are what make the web (afford) to go around! So, the challenge is what do you say and show in such cramped spaces? Looking keenly at what is being done lately, I’ve taken some cues from the retail side of the creative craft. I’ve noticed that, for the most part, when consumer product is being presented they usually offer up only ONE saleable feature. This soap gets you cleaner, this car is faster, this food makes you healthier, this candidate will solve this problem. You get the picture. Serve me up your best. If I’m interested I’ll follow through and get the details. Those examples offer ONE thing they want you to digest and act upon. I am asked too many times to try and get as much information into these tiny limited spaces as possible—even when it’s not possible. If I may, how many times are you drawn to the blabber mouth at a party? Tune them out right? Same thing! As with all other mediums, banner ads must be created with their limits in mind. Whether the ad is static or animated, it’s crucial to minimize content since you’re dealing with minimal space. You may have heard the saying about fitting so many pounds of something into a much smaller capacity container. Gallery images via moat.comread more >

How to Get the Most Accurate Estimate

By Robin Heike, Production Foreman, Sonnhalter Estimates are crucial in planning your budget, they are a statement of the approximate charge for work to be done, submitted by a business firm ready to undertake the work. In order to get a more accurate approximate estimate, you’ll need to provide the following: A detailed list of what the end “product” is expected to be or what you want to accomplish. This lets us know what you want and helps us stay on the same page. Any and all support info at the time of the estimate. It can be difficult to build changes into an estimate, so providing everything you can when the estimate is requested helps you get the most accurate estimate. A timeline that provides for adequate time to complete the work. Estimates are calculations of what time/monies will be needed to fill a blank page. Just like filling this blank page it is not always that easy!read more >

Go Hands-On for Quality Trade Show Interactions

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect, Sonnhalter One of the most underutilized components implemented by exhibitors at trade shows is the “hands-on” demonstration of their product/solution. Professional tradespeople make their living working with their hands, so it should not be a surprise “hands-on” product demonstrations are a favorite for this audience. Typically trade shows like to talk about the quantitative stats…number of attendees, number of exhibitors and number of speakers. But instead of focusing on the number of people walking up and down the aisles and attending these shows, maybe we should be focusing more on the quality of the interactions between trade show attendees and the exhibitors. One of the more effective quality interactions would be the “hands-on” product demonstrations and skills competitions at trade shows. In general, booths that have some sort of demonstration or activity for their product tend to have more traffic and activity. The first quarter of the year tends to be a busy time for trade shows targeting the professional tradesperson. I recently attended the World of Concrete Show and was amazed at the number of hands-on areas. The parking lots of the Las Vegas Convention Center were packed with manufacturer tents highlighting “hands-on” demos with everything from cutting and drilling, to polishing and breaking up concrete. In another parking lot across from the convention center, there were as many as 4,000 spectators in attendance to watch a number of masonry skills contests, including the SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500, SPEC MIX TOUGHEST TENDER, MCAA Masonry Skills Challenge and the MCAA Fastest Trowel on the Block. It was amazing to see the passion, enthusiasm and support shown by the attendees watching these tradespeople showcase their skills. All of these areas outside the convention center consistently had more active traffic compared to the normal booths inside the exhibition hall.…read more >

Wanted: A Harvard for Skilled Jobs

Today, we have a guest post from Jeff Selingo, author of "There Is Life After College," which comes out on April 12th. Nearly 40 percent of American workers hold a bachelor’s degree. College graduates are found in virtually every profession. Some 15 percent of mail carriers have a four-year credential, as do one in five clerical and sales workers, as well as, 83,000 bartenders. Getting a bachelor’s degree is what going to college means to most Americans and is so ingrained in our culture that students who don’t march along are often admonished, questioned  and considered failures. The decades-long march to college-for-everyone at 18 has actually closed off rather than opened up options for teenagers and twentysomethings. As recently as the 1970s, a teenager had a number of options after graduating from high school: get a good-paying job right away, enlist in the military, find an apprenticeship in a trade or go to college. A teenager today really has only two of those options still available: the military or college. Less than 1 percent of Americans serve in the military, so most go to college right after high school. In the early 1970s, less than half of high school graduates in the United States went on to college the following fall. Today, nearly 66 percent do. The goal of universal college has actually done more harm than good because it banished anything that smacks of job training to second-class status. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not encouraging 18-year-olds to skip out on further education after high school. But not everyone is ready for a traditional American college experience at 18, nor does it align with the interests, skills, and mindsets of some teenagers. We need more than just one pathway to good jobs in the U.S. What we need is…read more >

Learn My Name!

There’s a woman that I know from a local professional organization. We’ve been “formally” introduced multiple times. After the first time we met, I knew her name, her face, we traded cards and connected on LinkedIn.read more >

Manufacturers – What is your Biggest Concern?

I guess it would be getting new customers and keeping existing ones. An effective customer experience starts with understanding your customer and then delivering good, meaningful content to them. The more positive the experience, the better the sales or so it would seem. This could be a challenge in today's market where sales have turned from relationship-based to transactional-type sales.read more >

What’s the Future of the Independent Distributor?

I've addressed this issue in the past and as time goes on but I'm afraid the independent distributor may be following the way of the corner hardware store. Distributors need to step it up a notch!Long before Grainger, Fastenal, Home Depot and the thing they call the Internet, the local industrial distributor was the backbone to local manufacturers and businessesread more >

How to Help Your Sales Team Quote with Clear Guidelines

This post originally appeared on INSIGHT2PROFIT.com Does this sound familiar? A new customer promised they would place a $30,000 order, but only at an average price per unit of $0.16. The sales rep ran the requested price through their internal process, and because $0.16 was above the required 20 percent margin, the sales rep approved the discount. End of consideration. But here’s where the story gets interesting. After looking at the average price points for the top 20 customers of this product, the pricing manager determined that significantly bigger customers – with purchase volumes in excess of $100,000 – were paying $0.18 to $0.22 per unit on average. In fact, the third largest customer, at $468,000 in volume, was paying a $0.22 average sale price. What was the justification for the lower price for the smaller customer – other than the fact that the customer simply asked for it? For many companies, pricing decisions are largely made in a vacuum, without regard to pricing data, market circumstances, product value or customer differentiation. The situation is usually exacerbated by a compensation structure that rewards revenue and volume over margins and profitability. The solution, therefore, typically requires a completely new mindset for the sales team and organization—one focused on margins over top-line revenue. It All Begins with Pricing Data Visibility The beauty of the role of data in pricing decisions is that it lends an important clarity to difficult choices. A sales rep is naturally inclined to want to make the customer happy. But if you are armed with the right data, you can not only rationalize why a price discount might be a poor decision, you can also provide informed alternatives the sales rep can present to the customer – providing an opportunity for the sales rep to save face, the…read more >

Over 21,000 Industry Recognized Skill Credentials Issued by NIMS in 2015

By Miles Free of PMPA. This post originally appeared on pmpaspeakingofprecision.com and is reposted with permission. 21,420 to be exact. This is a 20% increase in the number of credentials issued in the United States from 2014. It is a great start toward the 100,000 skilled jobs that industry will need to fill over the next decade… PMPA is an original founding partner of NIMS, and continues to support its mission to develop and certify industry recognized credentials for our workforce through consensus skill standards. NIMS has developed skills standards ranging from entry-level to master-level that cover the breadth of metalworking operations and industrial technology maintenance. NIMS certifies individuals’ skills against these national standards via credentials that companies can use to recruit, hire, place, and promote individual workers. Schools and employer training programs incorporate the credentials as performance and completion measures to deliver high quality training to industry standards. NIMS will soon add credentials in Industrial Technology Maintenance and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) to its portfolio of offerings in 2016-2017. NIMS works to ensure all individuals entering the workforce are equipped with the skills needed to be successful on the job from day one. “Executives from PMPA member shops all tell us that they would hire people with skills -even if they did not have an immediate opening,”  says Bernie Nagle, Executive Director of PMPA. “Our support of NIMS, and the RIGHT SKILLS NOW program is one way that PMPA and our members are addressing the issue of lack of skilled workforce. We congratulate NIMS, and their entire team, on the growth in credentials issued in 2015.” PMPA congratulates NIMS, all of its partner and sponsoring organizations, and the professionals doing the work that made 2015 a record year for credentials issued. This record is evidence of both the commitment  and achievement of developing a competitive workforce through…read more >

Passion Isn’t the Problem

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter I recently listened to a report on NPR about how big companies are analyzing their social media followers to make sure they’re “passionate” enough. It’s not enough for these brands anymore to just rack up followers; they need to re-tweet, blog and be engaged enough to matter. In manufacturing, the opposite could very easily be said. There’s no shortage of passion, but social media numbers and avenues continue to be a struggle. Passion side of the argument, the case is easy to make. There simply aren’t people more passionate about their work than skilled craftsmen. It’s part of what makes that jump from simply doing a job, to doing a job right so distinct. And look at the time and effort the average tradesman puts into sharing knowledge with others and the next generation, it’s unmatched in any other field. Lastly, look at the brand loyalty and rivalries that do exist in our industry. The passion generated by Ford/Chevy, Lincoln/Miller, Deere/Case IH, Snap-On/Mac/Matco and a hundred other make Coke/Pepsi look like a kindergarten sandbox dispute. So how can you use that passion to improve your social media numbers? Be on the Right Channel – Facebook can allow for a more direct line of access, but it can also be demographically wrong. Twitter allows for quick hits of info, but requires more monitoring. LinkedIn is great for professional development, but has a structure that takes some getting used to. You don’t need to have all your eggs in one basket, but you should prioritize your message and messaging. It’s Not All Rah Rah – If you’re only going on social media to talk about the latest products and re-post press releases, stop now. Be a source for more than just self-promotion. Know What Your Audience…read more >

Doing the Right Thing, and Not Patting Ourselves on the Back

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter As human beings, and companies made up of human beings, sometimes it’s important to do the right thing and not talk about it. This may be a little strange coming from a PR person, but there’s a point where the “R” in “PR” (remember PR= Performance then Recognition) goes away and we simply need to perform like human beings. A good communicator recognizes that point and smart companies rely on the counsel of good communicators. In the wake of crisis situations such as natural disasters or community safety crisis like what we’re seeing with Flint Michigan, we simply need to do the right thing and not seek praise for being human and helpful. By stepping up but not shouting out, we do the right thing, no one questions our motives and the real heroes get the credit. For example in Flint, the plumbers who spent a weekend installing new faucets and water filters for residences for free deserve the credit. The organizations who donated the supplies and food for their efforts aren’t pounding their own drum and saying, “look at us, we did something good.” No, they’re working together with their competitors to directly help people who need it. If your organization’s values are in the right place and your actions align with them, there’s no need to pat yourself on the back.read more >

Communicating Price Increases to Your Customers Without Losing Business

This post originally appeared on INSIGHT2PROFIT.com Recently, INSIGHT2PROFIT worked with a manufacturer that had not executed a price increase in nearly three years. There had been individual negotiations, but overall, pricing had remained relatively flat. While the company was a market leader, it was ignoring the pricing lever for profitability. Our team worked with theirs to determine a plan for strategic price increases, as well as a process for conditioning customers to expect those increases. Here are the steps we took, which you can utilize to ensure your own success in communicating price increases to your customers without losing business. Step 1: Start Addressing the Issue Informally First You know sales is all about building relationships, so leverage yours. Instead of waiting for a letter to be sent to everybody, which does not make anyone feel like a priority, start reaching out. Whether it is over the phone or over lunch, start the conversation: “I wanted to let you know we are looking at a pricing initiative to better reflect the value our organization is providing.” The more you can do to ensure your customers are not surprised with a price increase, the more successful you will be. Taking that a step further, developing a cadence for price increases can help guarantee pricing excellence: Communicating with your customers to an extent that they expect a price increase every year or six months (or whatever period fits your business model), the conversation shifts from “why are you raising prices?” to “what is the price increase?” Step 2: Create Supporting Documentation Given that it had been several years before the organization’s sales team had gone before a customer and said, "We’re going to raise our prices," INSIGHT2PROFIT helped to build an extensive communication package. It covered a draft of the letter that would…read more >

Don’t Miss the Marketing Summit for Building Material Manufacturers

I'll be one of the guest speakers at the Whizard Summit in Boulder, Colorado in April. Mark Mitchell, CEO of Wizard Strategy, has put together a jam-packed 2-day conference for manufacturers of building materials on ways they can address issues with architects, builders and contractors. Here is a taste of what you’ll learn step-by-step in this two-day event packed with insights and strategies you can use immediately to generate sales.read more >

Seven Things to Do with a Database of U.S. Vocational Education Programs

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter We did the legwork to identify more than 20,000 vocational programs at schools all across the United States, so that you don’t have to. All you have to do is download it. But once you’ve downloaded the Excel spreadsheet, what can you do with it? Here are seven different ways you can use our database: Build your network. Locate the programs in your area, and connect with the folks that run them. You never know when having a connection in those training programs could be beneficial. Become a resource for them. Whether it’s offering to send someone from your organization to speak to a class or volunteering to host a facility tour, the next generation of tradespeople won’t be able to be trained properly without support from the industry. Hire their students. Use the programs in your area as places to recruit skilled employees, co-ops, interns or apprentices. Supply them. If you offer a product or service that’s of use in a training program, supply these programs either through donations of your products or heavily discounted equipment, students will be more likely to use the equipment they're familiar with from school once they get into the workforce. This grassroots strategy has long-term benefits; an ongoing relationship with a vo-ed program will provide exposure for you for each new class. Learn them. Get to know the next generation better. Millennials as a generation seem to frighten marketers and managers, but there’s no reason to be scared. Millennials are bright, technologically inclined and learn quickly; the sooner you engage with this young talent, the better. Get your distributors involved. Your distribution network can amplify your efforts to combat the skills gap. They can reach into areas far from your headquarters and help train the next generation.…read more >

What is the State of the Manufacturing Economy?

By Miles Free of PMPA. This post originally appears on pmpaspeakingofprecision.com and is reposted with permission. Today our growth is limited by our inability to acquire skilled workers. In the last recession, we were held back by lack of demand for our customer’s end products. Today, we cannot find the skilled people that we require to operate new high tech equipment that is needed to make the high precision parts we produce.  Our shops are tackling this issue in a number of ways. Some are setting up internal training programs, some apprenticeships.  Several of our member companies are creating on-site schools to teach skills needed. As an industry we helped to create, and are supporting initiatives like Right Skills Now. Right Skills Now uses National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) credentials to create the skilled workforce that manufacturers require to remain competitive in today’s global markets. Claim: The President had this to say about employment and manufacturing: “More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the ’90s; an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years. And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters. We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.” Response: We haven’t won this one yet. “…there has been a gain of 878,000 jobs since February 2010. But Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that the number of manufacturing jobs is still 230,000 fewer than…in the depths of the recession — and 1.4 million fewer than when the recession began in December 2007. Indeed, the United States only gained 30,000 manufacturing jobs in…read more >

Professional Tradesman Email Contacts: The Holy Grail of B-to-B Marketing

As manufacturers we all know how important keeping in contact with our customers is. Email is one of the easiest and most effective way to do that and unfortunately for those of you who sell through a distribution process it's hard to get the ultimate end users name no less try to start a relationship with themread more >

Don’t Get Lazy

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter Sonnhalter has used several services for a very long time… as in decades. I’m not sure how we started working with these services, but  I had to assume there was a reason. However when I took over the contracts with these services, no one seemed eager to provide the most important service of all… customer service. Coming into my new role, I wanted to understand our various contracts so I reached out to the most recent person assigned to us. No answer. I reached out to the company referencing our account number. No answer. I attended a conference and visited the service provider’s table, and immediately got attention because they thought I was a new customer. The sales person apologized up and down and said our rep would be in contact with me. He was able to look up answers to some of my questions. More than a week after the conference, I had no contact. When it comes to your customers, it’s crucial not to become lazy. Don’t expect your relationship to maintain itself just because you’ve been with them for years. Don’t focus all of your time and attention trying to win new business that you forget your current business. As I learned in Marketing 101 in college, it’s cheaper to maintain an existing customer relationship than to build a new one. When you ignore, forget or don’t serve your current customers the way that you should, you are in danger of losing them. At the conference I met with several competing service providers who would be happy to have me as a customer, what makes our current providers think we’ll stick with them if there’s someone else who isn’t lazy? In your personal life, if you were to call your mechanic…read more >

Social Media As a Profit Center

Today, we have guest post from Jeff Guritza, a marketing professional in the power tools accessories industry, on the incorporation of social media in a company's business plan. We’ve all heard the term “social media,” and you may have even been afraid to ask, “What the heck is that?!” Regardless of your awareness level, you shouldn’t be asking yourself if your business should be engaged in social media. You should be asking yourself how. Practically overnight, social media has become a cultural phenomenon. Simply stated, social media is defined as people going online to find, read or share content that interests them. Commonly used platforms are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just a personal platform that millennials use during their free time. Increasingly, people of all ages and nationalities jump online 24/7 for practically everything: researching gift ideas, sharing photos, reviewing products or getting directions Social media is not a fad that will fade in time. Like your morning cup of coffee, it’s here to stay. Social media transcends personal opinions, pastimes and hobbies. Its vast influence is felt in industries both large and small, near and far. Baby Boomers are embracing social media in droves, looking to communicate with grandkids and reconnect with friends. Whether you like it, people right now are vetting your business based upon content they find about you online. To help guide you, here’s three smart steps to follow when looking to jumpstart your company’s social media engagement. 1. Social Media Lite: First, realize in this day and age you absolutely must have a social media presence. At a bare minimum, your company should set up accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. To do so, find your most tech- savvy associate and have him or her get online with…read more >

Managing Pricing Exceptions in Sales: Employing the 80/20 Rule

This post originally appeared on INSIGHT2PROFIT.com It’s a common knee-jerk reaction for salespeople to focus on increasing volume by offering discounts on every sale – even if it means sacrificing margins. One way to mitigate the risk of excessive discounting is to establish a pricing system that balances volume incentives with well-defined boundaries that sales staff must operate within. Ideally, in an effective pricing system, the framework should provide guidance for as many as 80 percent of sales. This guidance should consider a comprehensive range of factors, including the type and size of the customer, the market and the nature of the opportunity. The direction should be clear and unequivocal, providing sales staff with “guardrails” that establish minimum and maximum prices or margins. Sales staff can bounce between these guardrails as appropriate, but they should not be allowed to go above or below the established boundaries. For the other 20 percent of sales, be prepared to manage the pricing exceptions. For these outliers, the framework allows pricing managers to enter the conversation and work with the sales staff and perhaps even the financial team to develop a strategic price appropriate for a specific situation. By limiting exceptions to no more than 20 percent of the time, you’ll be able to equalize the competing interests of volume versus margin far better than a one-size-fits-all pricing system. Sales staff will still have the flexibility to manage the majority of sales on their own, allowing them to meet the needs of specific customers as well as their own particular quota goals. But the boundaries you set will prevent those individual goals from overriding your company’s high-level goals. Every business is different, so the 80/20 framework that’s right for your organization will depend on the type of selling you do. If your business is list-price driven, your…read more >

Top Posts of 2015

We've closed the books on 2015 and 2016 is already off to a great start. If you haven't already, now is a great time to evaluate what worked well and what didn't work for you in 2015 to calibrate your 2016 efforts.read more >

How to Define “PR” in 2016

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter Sometimes I get scared that others in the industry don’t know what PR actually is or stands for. The textbook definition of PR is simply put as Public Relations, the way that you communicate (relate) with your audiences (publics). For 2016, I challenge you to think of PR differently than ever before. Banish words like “spin” or “promote” and instead think about PR as Performance, then Recognition. Meaning, your organization needs to perform, do something, before seeking recognition or media coverage. The articles that practitioners like myself get for your company is called earned media, the “earned” part is very important. PR Pros can help you identify recognition-worthy aspects of your company, but we can’t create it for you out of thin air. As you go about your business this year think about the cool things your company does, such as launching a product, breaking a world record or being the first to provide a service that adds value, and recognize that these are opportunities to communicate with your audiences. PR is more than just getting headlines, it’s telling the stories of your company. Make 2016 a year of action stories for your public relations team to tell. Doing this will help you build your organization’s credibility in 2016.read more >

4 Ways manufacturers Can Gain Better Pricing Data Visualization

This post originally appeared on INSIGHT2PROFIT.com Pricing data can be dense. If no one is reviewing it, managing it, comparing it or scrutinizing it, it’s likely your organization is missing price leaks you could otherwise put a stop to. From volume discounts to price overrides, profits are lost and margins are cut, but do you know by how much? Can you identify your true pocket price for your top selling products? If not, you may have a data visualization problem. But like any problem, a solution exists, you just have to seek it out. Here are four ways to gain better visualization into your organization’s pricing data. 1. Establish Pricing Ownership: In most manufacturing businesses, pricing is a responsibility divided amongst marketing, sales, finance, product teams and other executives. But whose job is it to see the big picture? If you can’t validate hiring a pricing manager, you can develop a Pricing Ownership Matrix. In a decentralized customer environment where no pricing leader is appointed, you can define pricing area ownership. Consider catalog and list pricing, discounting, key accounts, geography and business divisions. Then ensure these “area owners” meet often to talk about the big picture of pricing. 2. Search Out Discounting Visibility: Do you know how many discounts your sales team is offering? How about your customer service team? From freight and volume discounts to rebates and “long-time customer” pricing, the hits to your margins add up. Obtaining clear visibility to your discounting structure through a Pricing Waterfall is a powerful way to determine pricing leaks and non-value added discounts. Discover how to determine your true pocket price in the this 1-minute video. 3. Determine Product Value: Your organization deserves to be paid for the value it creates. But do you know which products create the most value for your company? Most…read more >

Industrial Reinvention

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter Fabtech Expo wrapped up another great show last month in Chicago. Presented by AWS, CCAI, FMA, SME and PMA, it truly lives up to its billing as the largest metal-forming, welding and finishing event in North America. There are many great wrap ups of this show, including Fabtech’s own, but I want to share a few personal observations: Chicago is a great host city for any show, but especially this one, given its rich history of amazing architecture, manufacturing and Midwest hospitality There was an HUGE number of students and educators there, great news for the future of our industry In the North Hall, the “Big 3” welding companies each had impressive and expansive booths, each playing to their strengths, and full of new products In fact, new products ruled the day in both halls. We truly are on the verge of a 4th industrial revolution. Every booth seemed to burst with new, and most importantly, integrated products, system and solutions. The buzz on the floor and in the seminars was that to survive and thrive, manufacturing needs to embrace new technology. The common perception used to be that manufacturing wasn’t an “early adopter” and that the old ways were best. But the smart companies are now realizing that the two are not mutually exclusive. Look at products like WeldRevolution, where a little-out-of-the-box thinking has led to significant gains in productivity and quality. There are a hundred more examples from any given aisle, but the message was clear: the manufacturing floor of the future will put productivity first, and results will be seen in real-time, in the palm of your hand. Make plans to attend the 2016 Fabtech in Las Vegas, it’s sure to dazzle.read more >

Happy Thanksgiving!

As the Thanksgiving weekend approaches, we’d like to say thanks to the many friends and clients we’ve had the good fortune to come in contact with over the years. We’re all running in several different directions all the time, and this time of year we need to slow down a bit to appreciate the things around us. So this weekend, don’t take your briefcase home, and your emails will still be there Monday morning when you get back in the office. Recharge your batteries this weekend. Play with your kids or grandkids, visit an old friend or watch some football. We take a lot of things for granted sometimes – our Families and Friends. Enjoy the weekend. We can get back to the rat race next week.read more >

3 Pricing Adjustments Manufacturers & Distributors Should Make Now

This post originally appeared on INSIGHT2PROFIT.com Years ago, an Ohio-based specialty metal business made the decision not to charge for freight costs, even though their products were extremely heavy. The rationale? None of their competitors were charging, so they couldn’t either. In reality, this company was  No. 1 in the industry, so all those competitors were actually just following their lead. When the company realized what was going on, it had the opportunity to change the policy for its entire industry. And so it did—collecting more than $1 million in additional revenues. Smart companies know pricing strategy isn’t just about the price on the invoice. To have an immediate impact on your bottom line without formally raising prices, here are three areas to tackle first. 1. Freight Costs If you’ve been operating for decades, your freight policies have probably been in place just as long. Maybe you don’t charge for freight at all, or fees are the same across all territories—or you charge the same as you did 50 years ago even though shipping rates have risen dramatically. To start, ask yourself: When was the last time our freight terms were updated? What is our justification for our freight policy? What are our competitors doing in this space? This line of questioning can help internal stakeholders determine if there’s opportunity for improvement without much effort, as the aforementioned specialty metal business discovered. 2. Rush Orders When you place an order on Amazon.com and you want 2-day shipping, you understand you’ll have to pay premium pricing—in this case, $99 for a year of Amazon Prime. Your customers realize this, too. Yet many manufacturers and distributors don’t charge extra for rush orders. If your lead time is two weeks, but your buyer needs his order in three days, are you charging extra? In order to get that order…read more >

2016 Budgets: How Much are you Going to Spend on Social and Mobile Marketing?

Now that it's time for budgeting for next year the question is where are you going to allocate your dollars? There's always more opportunities than there is money to fund them.Social media- have you tried some efforts in it this past year? What were the results? What were managements expectations? Mobile marketing- Has this been on your radar screen? do you have plans to be mobile friendly in 2016? read more >

Eliminate the Silo and Become a Change Agent

Today we have a guest blog post from Jeff Naymik, Marketing Director at Nook Industries. This post originally appeared on Nook's blog Making Motion Work and is reposted with permission. Read the original blog here. We live in a world of instant communication and yet, we are sometimes not good communicators. Poor communication is usually the root problem for creating silos in many technology-driven companies. Development secrets are usually held tightly and limited to only those in the organization who “need to know.” When you start limiting the flow of information in your organization, divides begin among associates, departments and divisions. Many mature brands struggle with the problem of departmental silos, while some start-ups introduce products at lightning speed. How can this happen? The reason is communication is their lifeline to survival and success. Look around your organization for signs of silos. You’ll find: Special projects in every department no one has heard of. Too few meetings to inform senior staff of progress. Poor communication from the top illustrating how your efforts fit into the big plan. Many companies recognize this problem but most don’t know how to address it. The senior staff needs to appoint a cross-functional team of people committed to change, “Change Agents” if you will. With the backing of the senior staff, this team has the authority to break down barriers of communication throughout the organization. A process needs to be put in place and everyone needs to take ownership. Change will come through the commitment of proven leaders in the organization as they drive the change process.read more >

5 Ways to Boost Audience Engagement in the Digital Age

In 2015, it’s anything but a surprise that social media has completely revolutionized how companies, agencies and organizations connect with their audiences. Many companies utilize these services to build transparency, inform customers of new products and to keep their audiences in the loop on any day-to-day updates and promotions. While we’ve all seen organizations curate pages on Facebook and Twitter, here’s a look at some newer ways companies are maximizing visibility and profitability through social media.read more >

Seven Mistakes to Avoid in your Content Strategy

Every construction company with an online presence feels the pressure to create consistent, high-quality content. When done properly, it represents a great way to generate site traffic, build brand awareness and demonstrate your expertise to the world. Every blog post, article and other piece of content you generate is an opportunity to plant seeds that could eventually blossom into a steady stream of viable leads. Are you doing it right? Here are the seven mistakes to avoid in your content strategy.read more >

Think Outside (Your) Box

Ask yourself and a few other people in your organization to name your top-selling product. If anyone answers with a product number, you’re doing it wrong. Don’t think like your catalog or even your current customers. Think like the customer you don’t have yet.read more >

Reaching Professional Tradesman: Why Content Marketing Works When Advertising Might Not

Contractors and professional tradesman often don't have time to read the latest trade publication or look at the magazines' website on a regular basis and might miss your message. Chances are, unless you only make one product, their interest at any given time may be on another product.read more >

Online News and the Press Release

I’ve been reading the book, “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator,” by Ryan Holiday at the recommendation of a colleague. It’s full of interesting, and damning, tidbits of information about today’s online publishing world.read more >

Be the Resource

“Content Marketing” has been a buzzword for a few years now, and quite frankly, it can be a confusing term to translate to your everyday marketing strategy. But for manufacturers, it all boils down to one simple sentence: Be a resource.read more >

What is a QR Code?

Quick Response (QR) codes seem to be everywhere. They can be a great tool in mobile marketing if you use them correctly. In the latest video in Sonnhalter's Marketing Minute series, Matt shares some ways to use QR codes effectively to reach a mobile audience.read more >

B-to-B Marketers: Why it takes more than three calls to make a sale

We’re all focused on generating more leads these days, but I find it ironic that most companies don’t do much with them once they get them. Simply fulfilling a request is not the answer, but yet many companies do just that. According to a survey of people who have requested info suggests that 80% of all sales are made on or after the third contact.read more >

4 Tips for B2B Social Media Success

It’s no secret that social media has become the major player in marketing, but with all the hype, there are still companies not ready to step up to the plate. In the beginning, business-to-consumer companies were reaping all the benefits of social media. Consumers were attracted to the informality of engaging with their favorite brands one on one. However, recently business-to-business companies have started to pay attention to the benefits of using social media.read more >

Interview with Habitat for Humanity ReStore Manager, Kevin Kelly

Right now we’re in the middle of our annual Tool Drive supporting the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity. Since our efforts started in 2010, we’ve found amazing support from our clients, partners, friends and community members. We talked with Kevin Kelly with the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity's new ReStore location to find out more about him, Habitat for Humanity and their Restores. Here’s the conversation: Q. What is your position at Habitat for Humanity? A. Store Manager at our new Eastside location (4601 Northfield Rd, North Randall). Q. What is the Habitat for Humanity Restore? A. Habitat for Humanity Restores are non-profit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used appliances, furniture, building materials and house ware items. We sell to the public at a lower cost than retail. Q. How long have you been with Habitat for Humanity? A. More than three years. I first started as a volunteer for Habitat. Q. What are your responsibilities at the Eastside Restore? A. I manage all aspects of the store including personnel, donations, pricing and sales. Q. Most memorable moment working for Habitat for Humanity? A. The most memorable moment was  a home dedication. Actually seeing a family get their home for the first time that I helped build. Also working with the many volunteers and companies. Q. What's the most unusual donation you've receives? A. The most unusual donation was an X-ray of someone’s broken leg. Q. Most common donations? A. The most common donations are household items, appliances, furniture, knickknacks and  building materials. Q. What’s on the Restore donation wish list? A. Anything and everything. Q. What’s best about working for Habitat for Humanity? A. Being able to affect the community in a positive manner. Q. The Sonnhalter tagline is “Not Afraid to Get Our Hands Dirty." What is your favorite…read more >

Save the Date! Oct 2 is National Manufacturing Day

Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect at Sonnhalter National Manufacturing Day, or MFG Day, is October 2nd, which may feel like a long way off from right now, but you should start planning today. If you’re a manufacturer, you should plan an event. Not sure what type of an event to plan? There are a variety of options for hosting an event, ranging from full day tours and sessions to half day learning seminars, or even 1-hour presentations. If you’re not a manufacturer, you should attend an event. You can find Manufacturing Day events in your area using this interactive map. If you’re planning to host an event for MFG Day in October, here are a few tips to make it successful: Set goals for your event. Do you want to improve your company’s image in the community? Do you need to recruit new talent? Do you want to contribute to changing the image of manufacturing? Figure out what you want to accomplish with your event and then create your plan. Identify your target audience(s). Based on the needs of your organization, some potential audiences to invite include local technical school and high school administration, faculty and students; local and regional politicians; local and trade media; family and friends of your employees and/or the local community as a whole. Put together a simple agenda. Include time to introduce your company and tailor your event to the audience that you’re inviting. Plan informative and interactive activities. Facility tours, brief presentations on different roles and Q&A sessions are easy to arrange and are effective. Promote your event. Be sure to list your event with mfgday.com, use your network to promote, and personally invite your target audience and promote your event through your existing channels including on your website and social media. Not available on…read more >

5 Ways Construction Design Will Change Within the Next 50 Years

Today, we have a guest blog from Jessica Kane of Federal Steel Supply, Inc., discussing some of the new innovations expected to shape the future of the construction industry. New angles are being used for the advancement of construction design that will most likely be widespread within the next 50 years. Designers and architects are implementing new trends that could very well be profitable in building spaces for new offices and living establishments. Here are just a few: One Stop Design One trend that is already in play is the single design model. A common practice in planning is having an architect create construction documents. They are then handed over to the contractors to be edited and executed. This entire process is now shifting to be done all in one place to save time and money. So, all the outlining, engineering and construction plans are set and submitted to be built directly afterward. Sustainable and Efficient Solutions Being energy efficient is a constant concern in construction. So when new buildings are going up, construction around the world has established new ideas on how to conserve. New facades have been used to produce energy through a solar collection and to provide a natural cooling system. For instance, a designer in Melbourne, Australia, has developed a system which includes an outer layer of a side of a building that contains solar panels that shift to collect energy from the sun and provides optimal shading. Another useful technique that has become a sustainable solution in providing energy is the innovation of utilizing the shade of building faces,  as seen in Hamburg, Germany. A residential establishment has microalgae installed within glass panels that collects solar energy and creates heat through the process of photosynthesis. The panels can also be shifted in order to provide natural…read more >

5 Tips for Ordering Promotional Items

By Robin Heike, Production Foreman at Sonnhalter Promotional items can serve a variety of purposes such as adding the “rattle factor” to a direct mail marketing campaign or being a keepsake to commemorate an award. From sourcing small items such as logoed sunglasses, to larger items like commemorative beer steins, here are a few tips to keep in mind next time you need to order a promotional item: Get quotes from 3-4 sources. Not only does this help you find the best price, but it gives you extra options if the first supplier or product falls through. Get a sample, even if you have to pay for it, prior to ordering. This will ensure you found the right source for the right item. No one wants to trash an order of 100, 1,000 or 10,000 promo items that arrive and are not what you expected. Get custom packaging if you’re shipping out a promotional mailing with breakables. No one wants to receive a broken item. Build in time for damaged or lost shipments. If possible, order extras. This is very important if you’re ordering from an overseas location. Probably the most important tip: Give yourself as much extra time as possible to account for any delays.read more >

What is a creative brief?

Do you use a creative brief to guide your marketing plan? In the most recent Marketing Minute video from Sonnhalter, Matt explains what this useful marketing tool is and the 11 elements that Sonnhalter's creative briefs include. To view other videos from Sonnhalter, visit our YouTube channel here.read more >

Do you Participate in LinkedIn Groups? Why not?

LinkedIn certainly is the most popular social site for professionals with over 347 million people participating. Certainly there must be someone in that mix you'd like to talk to. It's a great resource for product and industry knowledge, especially if you identify, join and participate in groups that share your same interests.read more >