The Skills Gap and the Future of Manufacturing

Join Matt Sonnhalter for a Marketing Minute and learn about how the current skills gap affects the future of manufacturing and how Sonnhalter and other organizations are getting involved to help.

To view other videos from Sonnhalter, visit our YouTube channel here and let us know if there’s a B2T marketing topic you’d like us to cover.

7 Things You Should Know When you Start Email Marketing

Today we have a guest post from Vincent Hill on email marketing.

Marketing is business activities that are highly associated with the buying and selling of a product or service. This includes activities that help acquire customers and maintain a good relationship with them. To achieve the goal, use several marketing tools. The marketing tools should be effective  to easily communicate with potential customers and existing supporters.

With the fast pacing technological innovations, digital marketing was introduced to further enhance the advertising, selling and delivering the products and services to people. One of the best and easiest approaches to digital marketing is the use of emails. Email marketing greatly helps in expanding and building the network. This approach allows one to share stories and start blogging to be able to enhance promotions and increase product awareness. Using this kind of approach may be challenging at first. But with proper guidance and correct knowledge on the things involve in email marketing, this marketing tool is a whole lot easier and exciting.

1. Choose type of campaigns you want to send

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Case Studies Should Be Part of Your Content Mix

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter

The terms “case study” and “testimonial” are sometimes used interchangeably, however case studies are not exactly testimonials. Although one piece of content can pull double duty, a simple testimonial can’t provide the value for your organization that a case study can.

In marketing, a testimonial is essentially a statement by a customer providing an endorsement of a product or service. A case study is a more in-depth, valuable piece of content. Spinach content if you will. Case studies explore a user’s journey, not just with your organization, but through their entire problem and solution. Ideally, (more…)

How to Score Big This Manufacturing Day

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

It may seem like Manufacturing Day (first Friday of October) is still far off on the horizon, but the time to plan is now. With schools getting ready to take their summer breaks, you should contact them now in order to make sure your company is ready to highlight the great careers available in modern manufacturing and the trades.

And while the official Manufacturing Day site has great tools to help you plan and promote your event, a panicked phone call I got on Friday gave me another idea to share.

Image via RCB Flickr

Fortunately the panicked call wasn’t from a client, and wasn’t an actual “emergency.” Nope, it was my introduction to the latest craze sweeping schools across the country: Fidget Spinners (more…)

Are you a storyteller?

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

Brand/Content Marketing and all the other buzzwords are irrelevant.

I just finished reading a great article from the Virgin website.

But first an apology on behalf of the entire marketing industry…

We’re sorry for all the buzzwords. Really.

For years you’ve heard “content marketing” and “be your brand” and many other latest fads bandied about in meetings. In fact, at one previous employer, we had bingo sheets we’d take into the conference room to see how quickly we could achieve “product/end user integration,” “ROI” or anything else “at the end of the day.”

But really, all those words boil down to what the article highlights: Be a Storyteller (more…)

Branding or Branded?

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

Have your brand be who you arePepsi recently had a severe digital flogging for a tone-deaf ad featuring Kendall Jenner and the evidently crisis-averting powers of their soda. From late night hosts and live shows in New York to TV pundits and seemingly everyone with a social media account, the multi-national corporation has been the punchline of many a joke.

Obviously there are a lot of lessons to be learned and cautionary tales aplenty. But for me, the main lesson in all of this comes down to:

Don’t try to be your brand. Have your brand be who you are.

What’s that mean? (more…)

Reaching Contractors with Social Media

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter

You probably set up a Facebook page and a Twitter account a few years ago when social media was the new shiny object for marketers. But now, your social media is anything but new and exciting … and it doesn’t help you reach contractors. You might be wondering if you’re wasting your time on these channels or if you’re better served by switching to the newest social trend.

As a longtime leader in Business-to-Tradesman marketing, we’ve developed 12 helpful tips that will help you use social media to effectively reach contractors.

In “12 Tips for Reaching Contractors with Social Media,” you’ll learn how to evaluate the social media you’re already using and pick the right avenues for connecting with contractors. The tip sheet shares best practices for social media in this niche space using content and integrating it into your overall marketing programs.

Download 12 Tips for Reaching Contractors with Social Media by signing up here.

Have You Hugged a Plumber Today?

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter

eMail_Header_Plumber

Did you know that today is Hug a Plumber Day? (Sometimes called Plumber’s Day.) Often plumbers don’t receive the credit and fame that they deserve, unless they’re Mario and Luigi and trying to save a princess. The Super Mario Brothers are the most famous plumbers, and they live in a Nintendo game.

The reality is that without plumbers, our world would be far from sanitary or pleasant. As part of our team’s commitment to getting our hands dirty in our clients’ work, we’ve had the opportunity to see plumbers at work, we’ve used their tools and we’ve heard their stories; we know that they deserve to be honored, not just hugged, today.

Plumbers do so much more than unclog drains and fix leaky faucets. It’s plumbers who install the miles of piping that make hot, cold and process water and gas utilities possible.

Did you know…

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Mind the Gap: Making kids aware of manufacturing jobs

 

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

One of the things that always struck me about manufacturers is they generally don’t realize how cool their jobs really are. And I get why. You’ve been doing this your whole life, it pays the bills and it has its disappointments, headaches and setbacks.

But manufacturing made the modern world we live in possible. And the stuff you see as routine, through anyone else’s eyes is really, really cool.

Don’t believe me? Ask a bunch of middle school kids in Pennsylvania. (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: (more…)

Sonnhalter Named a Chief Marketer 2017 B2B Top Shop

Sonnhalter joins the ranks as one of the country’s top business-to-business marketing agencies.

CLEVELAND – April 2017 – Sonnhalter, the leading B2T (business-to-tradesmen) marketing communications firm, was selected as one of Chief Marketer’s 2017 B2B Top Shops, a listing of the top B2B marketing agencies in the United States.

The agencies in B2B Top Shops are chosen by the editors of Chief Marketer, a leading publication focused on measurable marketing tactics published by Access Intelligence. In choosing agencies for inclusion, editors consider each shop’s depth of client work, creative acumen, analytical expertise and numerous other factors.

“It is an honor for Sonnhalter to be recognized by Chief Marketer for our work in leveraging some of the top brands within our business-to-trade niche,” said Matt Sonnhalter, vision architect at Sonnhalter. ”As an agency, we strive to remain steadfast in our efforts serving companies that target the professional tradesmen while incorporating new and creative tactics to be on the industry’s cutting edge.”

B2B Top Shops is an online searchable directory highlighting each agency’s core services and contact information, offering users a behind-the-scenes look at each shop’s culture and client work. B2B brands, vendors and marketers viewed this easy-to-use resource on ChiefMarketer.com almost 73,000 times in 2016.

About Chief Marketer

Chief Marketer, published by Access Intelligence, charts the customer journey from acquisition and engagement through conversion and retention. Via ChiefMarketer.com, print products, live events, awards programs and more, Chief Marketer offers data-driven intelligence, actionable insights, inspiring case studies and the latest technology trends to help marketers improve their campaigns and increase return on investment.

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 at Sonnhalter.com.

Why aren’t sales leads followed up?

Today we have a guest post from Russ Hill, Founder of Ultimate Lead Systems.
How often have you heard sales people say leads generated by marketing are just “literature collectors, college professors, students, lookers or tire kickers?” Or, “I don’t have time for sales lead follow-up.” Or the sales manager who says, “I know my sales people are following up. They just don’t have time to provide feedback.”
Lead Follow-Up

All carrot no stick

I’ve worked with many companies over the years that made lead follow-up an imperative with their sales forces. In every case where it was required it yielded significant and profitable results reporting hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars in sales.

There is much discussion in internet groups about “aligning marketing and sales” and lead follow-up is a critical part of this discussion. (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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 1.14.56 PM

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The Needle Begins to Move on the Skilled Trades Gap

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

Wait, Did You Feel That?

The needle began to move on the skilled trades gap.

Don’t look now, but the problem you’ve known about for a generation, the lack of people coming into the skilled trades, is finally going mainstream.

It’s subtle, but change is beginning to show.

Source: This Old House

First there are the local advocates, who have been talking about the problem for years. You know them, they’re in your local Union Hall, Welding School, or in the rapidly dwindling number of High School Vo-Tech programs. Or they’re part of the increasingly aging workforce itself, all too aware that there are more of them retiring than entering the workforce, and hanging around looking for someone to step up.

And there are now countless local efforts. Here in Northeast Ohio, the Cuyahoga Community College launched a mobile workforce training center. Tri-C customizes it with virtual welders, CNC machines or other demos as the employer or school needs. Also in the Cleveland area, Lincoln Electric, whose Carl Peters is an advocate for training program development, recently capped off the framing of their new, $30 million welding technology center project.

Nationally the news is just as encouraging. Mike Rowe, who has capitalized on his TV fame to promote the trades through his foundation, is getting ready to take applications for 2017 scholarships. He’s also a great social media follow, and recently testified before congress.

Even more promising, This Old House, the venerable PBS show, launched Generation Next a partnership with MikeRoweWORKS designed to highlight the jobs available in the skilled trades and destigmatize these jobs for today’s youth.

NPR’s excellent Marketplace program recently had several in-depth features on training skilled workers, produced by senior education correspondent Amy Scott.

Plus, there are the national groups dedicated to the trades, Skills USA, Manufacturing Day and more.

So what are you doing? What plan does your company have, and how effectively is it implemented? A few places to get started/re-energized:

  • Find national and local training programs with Sonnhalter’s list
  • Approach local schools and investigate opportunities to show off the work you do by participating in Manufacturing Day
  • Don’t let everyone leave early at your next trade show’s student day. Instead, find out what schools are coming and be proactive
  • Work with your Trade Organization or Union, volunteer to be a part of their training efforts

There have never been more resources and creative thinking addressing this looming crisis. Is it enough? Probably not, but the needle has moved, and it’s in your company’s best interest to do what you can to help build momentum.

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

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The Working Man’s Holiday

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter
As any salesman, engineer or manufacturer will tell you: marketing has it rough.

Done laughing? Well, here at Sonnhalter, we added a new twist to our vacation plan. Our team members now get one extra day of vacation, no matter their time with the company.

The catch? You have to take it on a B2T (Business-to-Trade) holiday. What’s that? As you’ve probably noticed from your social media feed, almost every day has some “official” holiday designation. National Left-Hander’s Day (August 13), National Look Up at the Sky Day (April 14), Cookie Cutter Week (December 1-7).

But what you might not know is there are an abundance of days dedicated to the skilled trades, like: (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.

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Proper care and feeding of your mobile jobber

As part of my (Rachel) own training, I spent the day riding along with a MAC jobber. It was an interesting and eye-opening experience, and I learned more about sales in that one day than ever before. Mobile jobbers are a unique distribution channel that marketers in the B2T space need to better understand.

Today we have a guest post from Alan Sipe that provides insight into the world of Mobile Jobbers. Alan is President of Toolbox Sales and Consulting and has more than 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. 

via MAC Tools

Every Tuesday at about 10 a.m. or Wednesday at 3 p.m. here comes the Cornwell, MAC, Matco, Snap-on or independent mobile jobber representative into your shop.

If they are good at their job, with each visit he or she will be demonstrating the latest and greatest tools for you to purchase. They will also be taking care of your broken tools and delivering your previous orders.

But, how much do you really know about this visitor? What’s their business story? It sure looks easy, walking around showing a bunch of tool nuts (mechanics) cool tools, doesn’t it?

Well, good mobile jobbers make it look easy. But, not surprisingly, there’s more to it than meets the eye.

DAILY ROUTINE

So, what’s a typical mobile jobber’s day like? (more…)

LinkedIn Groups: Your Blog Away From Blog

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

According to a recent survey from The Content Marketing Institute 89% of B2B Marketers use LinkedIn as a way to distribute content.

But if a potential customer isn’t already following you, all you’re doing by posting it to your company page is having a closed conversation with friends. While that’s good for strengthening relationships, it’s not an effective strategy for growing business, brand or thought leadership in your industry.

So, short of requiring all employees to share everything you post, what’s a marketer to do?

Join Groups.

If you’re not familiar with them, LinkedIn Groups are smaller “communities within the larger LinkedIn community where people and companies can connect by shared interest rather than work or personal connections.”

The advantage here is that instead of waiting for people to find you or your company, you can use your industry, process or other qualities to go out and find them.

How do you find the right group, and what do you do once you’ve found them? A lot of things you’re already doing. (more…)

Sonnhalter Adds Airmaster as New Client

Cleveland – March 2017 – Sonnhalter, a communications firm marketing to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, announces Airmaster as one of its newest clients.

Located in Clarklake, Mich., Airmaster is a leading manufacturer of air circulation, ventilation and heating solutions since 1886. Airmaster exports throughout the world and offers the largest line of air moving equipment in North America. Airmaster services the end user markets in the industrial, electrical and HVAC segments. Previously referred to as Airmaster Fan, the company has a full fabrication and tool and die facility, which offers a complete engineering and technical staff.

“Airmaster began its relationship with Sonnhalter during a crucial time in which the company was in the midst of creating a new brand structure, as well as relocating to a new headquarters,” said Benjamin Braitsch, president and CEO of Airmaster. “Sonnhalter helped us develop a new brand that was fresh, streamlined and communicated that we are more than just fans.”

In 2016, with the help of Sonnhalter, Airmaster unveiled a new brand identity with the introduction of a new logo. Sonnhalter provides a full range of marketing communications services for Airmaster that will span across multiple departments which will guide Airmaster creative messaging on both print and electronic platforms, as well as managing its public relations and media relations.

“Sonnhalter is excited to have the opportunity to be a part of rebranding this new era in Airmaster’s long history,” said Matt Sonnhalter, vision architect at Sonnhalter. “As Airmaster continues to improve and streamline their processes for delivering air circulation and ventilation solutions, we look forward to building a brand that reflects their commitment to being on the industry’s cutting edge.”

About Airmaster:

Airmaster, based in Clarklake, Mich., manufactures heaters, air circulation and ventilation fan solutions for industrial and commercial use. Founded in 1886 as the Diehl Fan Company, today Airmaster manufactures the industry’s largest selection of air circulation and ventilation products to keep people, plants and processes cool. In 2013, Airmaster was purchased by the Maico group, a family business from Germany. The Maico group is a globally recognized leader in ventilation products and is known for product quality and reliability. Airmaster also maintains stocking warehouses across the U.S. For more information, visit airmasterfan.com.

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 at Sonnhalter.com.

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.

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Why Have Marketing in Manufacturing?

Today we have a guest post from Andrea Olson.

Industrial organizations rely heavily on a direct, distribution or dealer sales force for growth. Many of these companies have built themselves from the ground-up through street smarts, sweat, and hustle. With many sales build upon long-term relationships, why does a manufacturer need marketing? Aside from creating the brochures, maintaining the website and coordinating trade shows, how can marketing help grow the business? It’s a frequent misconception that many manufacturing leaders have a hard time getting their minds around.

The function of marketing has degraded in recent years, with the advent of “do-it-yourself” tools, allowing the tactical nuts-and-bolts of marketing implementation to be done by more junior staff. In addition, many mid-market manufacturers really never had the need to utilize marketing 50, 60 or 70 years ago – having built the business on a unique invention (at the time), penetrating an under-served market, or establishing a contract with a few large OEMs.

The problem today is that things have changed. Most notably: (more…)

Sonnhalter Supports Cuyahoga Community College With Annual Scholarship For School’s Construction Program

Agency’s third annual scholarship donation toward construction program adds to its longstanding relationship with trade professionals.

CLEVELAND –March 2017 – Sonnhalter, a marketing communications firm to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, continued its support of Cuyahoga Community College’s (Tri-C) “Construction Program Scholarship” with a $2,500 donation. This is the third year in a row Sonnhalter donated to the program.

With more than 5,000 students enrolled, the construction apprenticeship program at Tri-C is one of the largest of its kind and helps students learn a valuable trade within the construction industry through quality assurance, drawings, project management, scheduling, problem solving and communication.

“On behalf of Cuyahoga Community College, we are very grateful for Sonnhalter’s generous support,” said Megan O’Bryan, vice president, development and Tri-C Foundation. “This gift helps students realize a dream that otherwise may not have been possible by providing scholarships which are an essential tool in ensuring access to the education and training our students will need to work in the construction industry. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of Tri-C students.”

Students receive up to 250 hours of classroom instruction, as well as up to 8,000 hours of on-the-job training. During their apprenticeship, students have the opportunity to earn wages and learn from experienced union workers and vocational instructors. Students who complete certification in the program will have the skills to take on careers that include cost/quantity estimating, project scheduling and CAD technician work.

“Each year, Sonnhalter is pleased to further extend our support for this program and all the work it does to shape the minds of future hardworking professionals in the construction industry,” said Matt Sonnhalter, vision architect at Sonnhalter. ”It is also a unique and exciting opportunity to support a program that educates individuals in our own community who will hopefully make great strides in the Cleveland workforce.”

Last year, Sonnhalter released an extensive database of vocational education and technical programs in the United States similar to Tri-C’s construction apprenticeship program. The database, which includes more than 20,000 programs, contains useful and easy-to-read information about each program, including addresses, phone numbers, websites and more. To download Sonnhalter’s updated, comprehensive list of vocational programs in the U.S., visit sonnhalter.com/vocational.

Thousands of vocational programs, many ways to connect

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter

More than a year ago, we released an extensive database of thousands of vocational education programs across the country. We recently updated that list, adding about 1,000 new programs, separating them out by state tabs and standardizing the descriptions to make it even easier to search, sort and use.

Why would a marketing communications firm make such a resource? We hope the tool will bridge the gap between manufacturers and educational programs. The database serves as a helpful tool for companies looking to implement more grassroots campaigns to recruit the next generation of professional tradesmen.

There are a myriad of ways to take advantage of a tool like our database. I’d love to name a thousand ways to use it (given enough time and coffee I probably could too!) but I’ll leave you with a few suggestions of how to make our work, work for you.

Fill the Talent Pipeline
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They Really Are Worth a Thousand Words

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

Use images on your website to de-clutter, increase SEO and tell a better story.

One of the biggest pitfalls in manufacturers’ websites (and trade shows, and product literature and more) is the overriding desire to SAY TOO MUCH.

And it’s easy to see why. Most manufacturing companies are led by Engineering or Sales. Both of these disciplines are highly verbal. You want to talk about how great a new process or product is in order to show the leap you’ve made in innovation. You want to make sure the customer has all the information in order to close the deal.

The problem becomes that marketing, and effective electronic communications, are becoming increasingly visual. Part of it is screen size. More than half of all internet use is by devices other than computers, the vast majority of which have screens smaller than a laptop. And some of it is just the pace and speed at which web browsers now expect information to be presented to them in the instant search era we live in.

So, it’s imperative to get your value proposition across in less time than it will take someone to hit the back button and open the next search result. (more…)

Feeding the Content Beast: Types of Blog Content

By Rachel Kerstetter, Public Relations Architect, Sonnhalter

If your content marketing program includes a blog, you’ve felt the pressure to produce a lot of content. Blogs are hungry little monsters that need a steady stream of new information to be effective.

But never fear! It is possible to feed the content beast and not lose a finger in the process.

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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. (more…)

Distributors Gain from Streamlining

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

For their January/February issue, Industrial Supply Magazine asked Spencer Maheu, Director at Osborn Industries what advice he had for industrial distributors in the New Year. His answer? Streamline your product selection to reward end users, your organization and your bottom line. Here’s the article:

Streamlining is the Word of 2017 (more…)

Hands-on Marketing or Boring Booth. You Decide.

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

We’re in the thick of trade show season, and that brings up the age-old argument: Are they worth exhibiting at?

The ROI of a trade show can be the trickiest equation to manage. Very few feature direct sales, and how do you prove that a sale six months from now had anything to do with a 10′ by 20′ booth?

The short answer? You can’t. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exhibit, just that you should make the most of your customer’s experience.

I just finished reading a great article from Greg Zehe, from GES. It’s his review of a couple of standout booths at this year’s CES and how they succeeded through “hands-on marketing.” And it reminded me of some of the other key strategies to ensure your booth is a standout: (more…)

Sonnhalter Updates Comprehensive List of Nation’s Vocational Education Programs

Agency adds nearly 1,000 programs and other new features to list of more than 20,000 technical programs across the country.

CLEVELAND – February 2017 – Sonnhalter, a marketing communications firm to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, updated its extensive database of vocational education and technical programs in the United States with new features, including the addition of nearly 1,000 programs.

The database, which includes more than 20,000 programs, contains useful and easy-to-read information about each program, including addresses, phone numbers, websites and more. In addition to its new programs, each state in the database is now listed separately, and there is also an updated page for national programs and resources. Other features include more concise and easier to sort course titles.

The database serves as a tool for companies looking to implement more grassroots campaigns to recruit the next generation of professional tradesmen. The convenient and easy-to-use database is available for download and is designed to be sortable and searchable for a variety of fields, including program type, location, degree type and other important information.

“When Sonnhalter launched the database of vocational and technical programs, we wanted to provide a simple resource that would make it easy for companies to reach out to students interested in becoming professional tradesmen,” said Matt Sonnhalter, vision architect at Sonnhalter. “As we grow and improve our database, we continue to do our part in narrowing the gap between manufacturers and educational programs.”

To download Sonnhalter’s updated, comprehensive list of vocational programs in the U.S., visit sonnhalter.com/vocational.

Do Smaller Manufacturers have a chance against the Big Conglomerates?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Recently the sale of Craftsman Tools went through to a conglomerate, Stanley Black and Decker, for two billion dollars and I asked myself: Does the smaller manufacturer have a fighting chance against them? In the case of reaching the professional tradesman, indeed they do, and here’s why… (more…)

Spread the Buzz, Spoil the Game

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

Another Super Bowl, er, I mean Big Game is in the books, and like last year, we want to take a look at the ads through the lens of B2T. Are there any lessons? Probably, let’s go to the tape!

You Can Protect Your Brand Too Much

The NFL is notorious for protecting the brand name “Super Bowl.” In fact, I should probably trademark that last sentence, add a disclaimer about how it’s the property of the NFL and let you know that any rebroadcast without the express written consent of the NFL will have lawyers flying at you like DB’s at the QB.

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Not Real, But Reality

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

By now, if you have a presence on social media, and are involved in sales or marketing, you’ve seen this:

Well, bad news.

  • “Fourth” isn’t spelled that way
  • The National Sales Executive Association doesn’t exist
  • There’s no study to be found that supports any of these statistics

There’s a great blog here that goes in to more detail. But I’d rather focus on something else:

Why do we want this to be real?

(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.

 

AHR Expo Heats up Vegas (and probably cools it down)

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

The AHR Expo, the preeminent trade show for the HVAC industry is right around the corner. The show runs from January 30th to February 1st at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

AHR just released an optimistic 2017 forecast, based on interviews with more than 1,400 HVACR manufacturers. Because of that, this year’s show promises to be an exciting and educational affair.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Over 2,000 exhibitors in 764 product categories
  • More than 60,000 people expected to attend
  • 200+ education seminars and product demonstrations
  • ASHRAE Learning Institute Courses and Certification exams
  • An innovative mobile app complete with agenda maker, interactive floor plan and more features

Of course Las Vegas has no end of off-the-show-floor options. If you need help finding best in dining, nightlife and sightseeing, check out the recently updated Sonnhalter Insider’s Guide to Las Vegas.

Should you jump on the bandwagon?

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter

“It seems like a lot of companies are doing _________. Should we be doing it too?”

Fill in the blank with any new digital tool: Virtual Reality, Facebook Live, Snapchat, Augmented Reality, etc.

Marketers are asked to consult on new communication mediums and trends on a daily basis. When they aren’t asked to consult, they’re being directed to jump in.

Once upon a time marketers were asked about email, then social media and apps. We’ve come a long way in technology trends. But the basic question is: Should we jump on the bandwagon? (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 .

Making a Thought Leader

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

“Free advertising,” who doesn’t want that? One of the best side effects of the boom in content marketing is the growth of brand-neutral trade magazine articles. Pay-for-play has been relegated to the back burner as more and more publications see the benefit of offering knowledge-based problem solving articles.

That’s also an offshoot of the lack of skilled workers, as more and more knowledge retires, there’s an increased need to transfer that knowledge. With less opportunity for direct, apprentice-based, transfer, white papers, problem solving articles and general knowledge pieces gain added importance.

So, how can your company benefit? Create thought leaders. A bragging title most people would reject, it can still help you promote your business and create a knowledge warehouse.

How to Create Thought Leaders (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.

(more…)

Design and Construction Week is On in Orlando

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

After four year in Vegas, the NAHB International Builder’s Show and the HKBA’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show move to central Florida for Design & Construction Week .

A must-attend event for the industry, these co-located shows continue to be at the forefront of innovation, with more than 2,000 exhibitors and hundreds of education sessions. Here are a few highlights: (more…)

Tradesmen Insights 2016 Top Posts

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter

2016 was again a big year in the B2T space. The comments and shares on what we publish here, gives us a good indication of what’s on your mind.

Here are the top posts on our Tradesmen Insights blog from 2016: (more…)

Podcast: Issues affecting contractors

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Listen to insights from John Mesenbrink from Mechanical-Hub.com as we discuss industry issues that include:

  • Updates to their website and what contractors are looking for
  • What’s new on integrating the latest technology and products in actual installations
  • The skilled labor shortage
  • How the election might affect business

Outside-the-Box Solutions for Workforce Development

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

“Train your people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so that they don’t want to.”

-Richard Branson

A column I just read brought that quote to mind. Jack Schron, the President of Jergens recently wrote “Grey Matters Matter” for Production Machining magazine. It’s a great piece, and I highly recommend reading the full text.

Mr. Schron focuses on the fact that without a skilled workforce, all the advanced machining, Internet of Things (iOT) and new advances in precision machining are worthless. And the best way to achieve that skilled workforce is through good old experiential rather than textbook learning. And with the advances and costs, that type of training can’t be achieved by just manufacturers, or just trade schools, or any one affected segment. It requires all of them, working together to create state of the art Technical Centers. And that additionally, it required companies, vendors and partners willing to think outside the box and re-examine processes.


Find out one way Jergens has accomplished this by checking out their Fastforward™ Machining Center.

Sonnhalter’s Rachel Kerstetter Awarded “Rising Star Award” by Greater Cleveland Public Relations Society of America Chapter

CLEVELAND – December 2016 – Rachel Kerstetter, public relations architect at Sonnhalter, was honored with the inaugural “Rising Star Award” at this year’s annual Cleveland Rocks Awards, presented by the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Greater Cleveland Chapter.

This year marked the 14th year in which the PRSA Greater Cleveland Chapter honored the area’s best in marketing and communications with more than 50 awards across more than 30 categories. The first recipient of the Rising Star Award, Kerstetter was recognized as an outstanding public relations professional with seven or fewer years of experience. At the ceremony, Kerstetter was honored for her high level of professionalism, proven abilities in aligning PR strategy and execution with client goals.

“In a short amount of time, Rachel has become an invaluable asset to not only the PR objectives of our clients, but also to the many inner workings necessary to make our agency thrive in our respective niche,” said Matt Sonnhalter, vision architect at Sonnhalter. “Sonnhalter is proud to see a well-deserving candidate such as Rachel be the first to receive this award. With a long career ahead of her, we look forward to watching her grow as an accomplished young professional and seeing how it will move our public relations efforts forward.”

Kerstetter joined Sonnhalter in 2011 and served as public relations engineer prior to her promotion to public relations architect in 2015. Kerstetter is an active member of the PRSA, serving on the board of directors, and is vice president of membership of the Greater Cleveland chapter. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Mount Union, located in Alliance, Ohio.

About the PRSA Greater Cleveland Chapter
The PRSA Greater Cleveland Chapter is the professional organization that brings together public relations, communications and marketing practitioners throughout Northeast Ohio. The chapter includes professionals from the Greater Cleveland area and is an active organization in helping members address local issues and trends with local and national resources.

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.

Take the Interview

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter

It’s time when we start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. Which means we’re making plans to improve ourselves over the coming year, as well as improve our marketing efforts.

Here’s a PR resolution for your organization this year: Take Every Interview.

Every time you have an interview request from your local media or trade outlets, take it.

One of the biggest frustrations for a public relations practitioner is turning down editorial opportunities. An editor of a trade publication that we work with regularly at Sonnhalter told me this week that one of his biggest struggles is getting companies to take advantage of editorial opportunities with the magazine. (more…)

Avoiding Scams in Distribution

With 28 years of distribution industry experience, Frank Hurttle has seen more than a few fads and trends come and go. As a consultant with River Heights Consulting, he works with various distributor channels with a lot of different needs and challenges. But he’s seen one new threat that’s effecting all types of distributors: online scams. Read the blog he wrote about identifying and avoiding these here.

Scammers in DistributorLand

Internet scamming has become an industry in itself, with some estimates putting the cost at $12.7 billion in 2014. I have received some pretty bizarre scam messages. Most are pretty easy to spot. (more…)

Ohio State center will help regional manufacturing companies grow

At The Ohio State University, a coalition of Federal, State, local and private interests are investing in the future of manufacturing. The new Center for Design and Manufacturing will bring together educators, innovators and manufacturers to identify and execute growth strategies.

Find out more about this program in this excellent article from Nate Ames, the Engineering Manager for The Ohio State University.

Ohio State center will help regional manufacturing companies grow

osu-engineering

The Ohio State University’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) will receive up to $8.6 million in federal, state and industry funding over the next five years to lead a program facilitating growth of small- and mid-sized manufacturing companies in the 15 county central Ohio region. The program is funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technologies, with matching funds provided by the Ohio Development Services Agency, which administers operations through seven regional affiliates. (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.

CRM Behind the Curtain

(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.

Thankful for You

As the Thanksgiving weekend approaches, we’d like to say thanks to you. We have had the good fortune over the years to work with so many great friends and clients. You enrich our lives and make our work enjoyable.

We’re 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 and of course enjoy a great meal. We take a lot of things for granted sometimes – our Families and Friends.

Enjoy the weekend. We can get back to the grind next week.

Make Sure Your B2B Communication is Still Human

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter

481_3818326When it comes to B2B communication, sometimes we get a little too caught up in the 2 Bs (business and business) that we forget about the Hs, Humans. Your organization is made up of human beings and the businesses that make up your target audience are also made up of human beings.

When you recognize that your audience is made up of humans, you’re already one step toward more effective communications. Communicating with humans means you need to take into account emotions as well as logic and make an effort to connect on a personal level.

Be Human

Mike McDougall gave a presentation at the PRSA International Conference on using the HUMAN method to connect with B2B audiences. Here’s the model: (more…)

Sonnhalter Announces Marketing Minute Video Series

Video series offers quick, easy-to-understand marketing advice on a variety of industry topics.

CLEVELAND – November 2016 – Sonnhalter, a marketing communications firm to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, announced the release of its “Marketing Minute” video series.

Hosted by Matt Sonnhalter, vision architect at Sonnhalter, the Marketing Minute video series offers short and concise pieces of marketing and business tips for organizations trying to reach professional tradesmen. Some of the topics covered in the video series include:

  • “What is a USP?”
  • “What is a Creative Brief?”
  • “What is a QR Code?”
  • “Is Print Dead?”
  • “The Modern Press Release”

“For many of us, the daily workload doesn’t leave much time in our busy schedules to learn about new trends happening within our industry,” said Matt Sonnhalter. “With the Marketing Minute series, our goal is to educate professionals on some of the latest industry happenings in a way that is fun, informative and concise.”

To watch the Marketing Minute video series on YouTube, please visit this link.

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.

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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.

(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.

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: (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.

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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.

(more…)

Social Media: More than an Excuse to Employ a Millennial

1284_5052019By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

How to Keep and Generate Business with Social Media

So, you’ve got a social media presence. Congrats, but if you’re just looking for likes, and pushing out press releases, all you’re doing is pushing out.

How do you also use Social Media to pull in potential customers? Utilize a two prong strategy.

Part One – Tell us How We Messed Up (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: (more…)

Run Social Media The Way Your Grandfather Ran His Business

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect

social media business winHow should you run your social media? 

To answer that question, perhaps you should ask instead, “How would my grandfather have run his business?” Or at least that’s the question Mark Schaefer asked. Mark is a globally-recognized speaker, educator, business consultant, and author, he blogs at one of the top marketing blogs of the world.

One of his recent videos, “Social media marketing lessons from my grandfather, the plumber,” dug into the attributes that made his grandfather successful in the plumbing business and how they can be applied to social media. For those of us marketing to the trades, his example is even more important.

How did Mark’s grandfather, a plumber from Pittsburgh, grow a successful business? (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.

452_5472026They 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.

(more…)

Why You Should Have a Trade/Vocational School Marketing Plan

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter
vocational-schools
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.

(more…)

Managing Price Overrides: 4-Step Process

This post originally appeared on INSIGHT2PROFIT.com

managing_price_overrides

While common, price 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.

An effective and mature pricing strategy includes a policy for establishing price overrides. But what would such a policy look like?

From experience, we know that managing override activity is a multi-layered process. It requires adapting your internal systems, developing new guidelines, and transforming your culture. But at the end of the day, your goal is to establish a framework to monitor and manage potentially dangerous price overrides. When we help our clients with the same goal, we use the following four-step process.

Step 1: Grow Your Awareness: Understand what pricing overrides are happening and why

Step 2: Determine Market Relevance: Set appropriate prices for specific customer and product segments

Step 3: Set Policy: Establish guidelines and controls around pricing authority

Step 4: Encourage Training: Empower the sales organizations with the tools they need to handle pricing conversations with clients

Let’s dig deeper into each of the four steps.

Step 1: Grow Your Awareness: What is Happening and Why?

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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.

 

Median ROI for Select Channels/Formats According to US Marketers, June 2016

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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: (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.

Alan SipeToday 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. (more…)

Get Your Message Across in an Ad-Blocked World

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter

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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?

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Are you Trying to Sell or Connect Emotionally with Contractors?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

There’s a time and place to sell and you need to know when that is. Social media is one of those times when selling shouldn’t be your prime objective; connecting with your target audience should be.

This should be no surprise, but Google surveyed 3,000 B-to-B buyers and one of the main outcomes of the study was that brands that connect with buyers on a personal and emotional level are twice as likely to convert than brands that only try to sell stuff.

When trying to reach contractors you need to find out the emotions that are most important and address them accordingly on a regular basis.

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.

(more…)

Time (and Advertising) Stops for No One

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

a-man-who-stops-advertising-to-save-money-is-like-a-man-who-stops-a-clock-to-save-time

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.

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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. (more…)

Are You Ready to Talk to the Media?

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter

1218_5360518We’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.

(more…)

Contractors are the Most Important Customer in Building Materials

Today we have a guest post from Mark Mitchel of Whizard Strategy.

3Icons-Salesexecution2-120x120Building 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:
  1. They aren’t sure how to estimate the project so they can underestimate it and lose money or they can over estimate it and lose the job.
  2. Their installers will have to be trained and the cost of that training will fall on them.
  3. Installers will take a longer time on the first few jobs, reducing the contractor’s income.
  4. There is a higher likelihood of a callback on the first few jobs, once again costing the contractor.
  5. Dealing with a new supplier is also time consuming, when he probably isn’t having a problem with his current supplier. (more…)

How to Create Distributor Plans that Incent Growth [FREE TEMPLATE]

This post originally appeared on INSIGHT2PROFIT.com

distributor-plans-that-incent-growth

Many manufacturers treat their distributors equally. They offer everyone the same discounts, the same promotions, and the same training programs.

However—not all distributors work equally hard for your business.

In this article, we’ll look at how the right distributor plan can help you get the most benefit from your distributor relationships and drive the business objectives you want to achieve. (more…)

Call Reports & Sales People…the Reality!

Today we have a guest post from Russ Hill, Founder and CEO of Ultimate Lead Systems.

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.

But they are also given business plans and projections to write and update. They also have prospecting and travel to schedule.  And they are frequently required to spend time on software training…you know the CRM program, Excel, quote building software, the ERP system and the other third-party programs and resources that are pushed out to them, so they can be “more productive.”

The days of sales people making sales calls and writing up “simple” call reports (primarily for their own benefit) are long gone. Besides making calls, today’s sales people need to master and manage a variety of tasks and complex software. The need for the fundamental call report stills exists and management would be wise to keep that in mind. That means that one of the most important things management can do to help their sales people be more productive is to reduce the sales person’s administrative and non-sales related tasks.

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3 Tips on Maintaining Good Relationships with Contractors

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

The cost of acquiring a new customer can be up to five times greater than keeping an existing one.tradesmen-300x167

Unless you have a unique product that no one else has, you have to compete with someone for the business, and part of that process is building good customer relationships.

Contractors, for the most part, are loyal folks as long as your product delivers on its promises and you don’t treat them like dirt. Bottom line is, if you treat them right, they’ll be customers for life. 

Not only will they continue to be a customer, but they will become an advocate for your brand. These guys talk to each other and believe me, if your product doesn’t deliver on its promises, word will spread fast.

Here are three ways to keep relationships with professional tradesmen strong:

1. Stay in touch. E-mail is probably the best and most cost-effective way to this. Make them feel important, even a quick e-mail to say thanks for the business or a follow-up note from customer service after they have helped out with a problem will pay off long term.

  • A call from their local sales rep to say hi with no particular sales pitch may lead to opportunities if they (your sales guys) just listen.
  • Make them feel like they’re special by giving them a first look at new products as they are being developed.
  • They also could be the ideal source for field testing prior to launch. Also think about doing a webinar for customers only on a new product or application.

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Manufacturers: When’s the last time you looked at your Value Proposition?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Have you given contractors clarity and conviction as to who you are? Sometimes manufacturers focus all their efforts on products and not enough time on developing their value proposition. Others take for granted that everyone knows who we are and what we do.

I recently read an article by James O’Gara from On Message about creating clarity and conviction in the minds of your customers that got me thinking about a possible disconnect on messaging through the buying process. James points out that the message has to be consistent before, during and after the sale. Customers or potential customers can’t have one message when they are investigating a solution, only to find out once they start the buying process, the culture and messaging has changed.

Your story needs to capture not only your purpose and vision but your positioning statement, the value you deliver and what sets you apart from the competition. The bottom line is, your story can’t change from one phase to another. You need to be consistent and authentic!

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Improve Your Communication with Calls to Action

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter

When you think about a Call to Action (CTA), what comes to mind? Perhaps a print or banner ad that says “Click Here”? Or a TV commercial urging you to “Call Now”?

CTAs are often thought of only in relation to sales messages. But incorporating CTAs in each aspect of communication can significantly improve your results. This goes for all external communication, but also for internal and interpersonal communication.

For example, think about the last email you sent (to a colleague, customer, friend, whomever). Did you clearly communicate the response you hoped for or did you just send a message that might leave them wondering how to respond? Even adding a simple, “Let me know your thoughts” to a message can signal that person to act and engage with your communication.

Each piece of communication you use could benefit from a call to action; once you incorporate CTAs into your messages, you’ll likely see better results.

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Manufacturers: Is Social Media Working for you in Reaching Contractors?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

social media iconsSocial media has been around long enough that by now you should have an idea of whether or not it’s working for you. Is it? Do you really know? Do you really care?

I guess the first question we should ask ourselves is why are we doing it? Hopefully it’s not because everyone else is. The next question would be which of the many social media options out there are you focusing on?

Let’s explore the first question – Why are you doing it?

  • Are you really sold on it?
  • How much of your promotional budget is set aside for social?
  • Do you have a written strategy for social?
  • Do you have some way of defining and measuring success?

If you’re really sold on it, you’d have a written plan and a dedicated person responsible for its implementation and success.

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Sustainable Pricing Starts with Your Sales Force

This post originally appeared on INSIGHT2PROFIT.com

Confident_Sales_Force-1

Achieving significant pricing gains can feel like a long, hard-fought battle. This makes it all the more satisfying when the numbers start to roll in, validating your efforts and proving without a doubt that profitability is attainable.

The thought of losing those gains may keep you up at night. What safeguards can you put in place to protect the gains you’ve achieved and prevent your company from sliding back into past poor pricing habits?

It all starts with building a confident sales force.

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Content Marketing Helps Drive Business Results

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 plan. Everyone wants lead generation and engagement, and to get both, you have to give them good content!

In a September 2015 study by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs, 76% of B2B marketers in North America said they expect to create more content in 2016 than they did in 2015.

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.

When they do go looking for things, the first place most go to is the internet, and the chances are that they are looking for a solution just as much as they are looking for a specific product. That’s why search is so important in the big scheme of things, and what makes you go up in search – good meaningful content!

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Another Reason to Use Emails to Reach Contractors: Acquisition and Retention

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

B to B trends tend to follow retail ones and here’s one more. I’ve been a big proponent of using emails as the best way to reach the professional contractors and tradesman and here are further reasons to consider this tactic.

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.

A great email doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have a good list to send it to. That’s why building your own list is so important. You want to have an opted-in list so you can be assured your message gets by the firewalls and junk mail boxes.

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6 CRM Best Practices

Today we have a guest post from Russ Hill, Founder and CEO of Ultimate Lead Systems. BestPracticesImage-300x171

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.

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SlideShare is Probably the Most Overlooked Social Media Tool to Reach Contractors

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Close to 70 million visitors a month, five times more traffic from business owners than Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. SlideShare was purchased by LinkedIn a few years ago which allows both platforms to work seamlessly together, which is good news for you.

Why should you consider using it? Contractors like visuals and are wanting to learn more of how or why to do things a certain way.

It’s a great way to market your business, and showcase your expertise as an industry leader. Not only can you put up Power Point presentations and white papers, you can upload videos by using SlideSharepro  and have a way to repurpose your webinars or online training options.

If you’re worried about sharing your information with the world, you can upload content that you can make available to select audiences (by invitation only).

The most important reason for using SlideShare is to generate leads. Peg Fitzpatrick wrote a great post on Social Media Examiner on ways to capitalize on getting leads.

She focuses on ways to collect emails from viewers, how to use links in slides, why you should add visual calls to action and lastly, why the description. It’s a good quick read. (more…)

Are Your Sales and Marketing Teams Working Together to Reach the Professional Tradesman?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

It may be time to reflect on ways we can do better moving forward to better identify ways to reach contractors and professional tradesmen. I have found one of the biggest issues and one of the easiest ones to correct is communications between sales and marketing. As you can see in the chart below, most companies see room for improvement.

Sales and marketing must work together to define the ideal client and determine how and what to get in front of them. They need to share information and have a plan in place to hand off a lead from marketing to sales.

Social media and the internet in general have changed the way people buy. Today, research is done online long before the potential customer identifies themselves to a prospective vendor. So what can you do to ensure that when the buyer is ready, you’re on the list to talk to?

This is an issue that continues to frustrate marketers and sales across the board. Both disciplines have insights to offer and neither should be working in a vacuum. Marketing’s role is to provide qualified leads to the sales team so they can more effectively close more sales.

I read an interesting article recently by John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing that addresses this very problem.

He states: “My take is that for organizations to take full advantage of the dramatic shift in the way people and organizations buy today they must intentionally blend inbound marketing, outbound marketing and inbound selling in a way that mirrors today’s customer journey.”

He offers some suggestions on how they can work together. Here are some highlights of shared responsibilities:

  • Planning – When marketing is creating a plan, involve sales. They have insights that marketing doesn’t. Their insights are invaluable in helping define the customer journey.
  • Editorial – Even if sales people aren’t great writers, they certainly can identify pain points along the way and possible solutions for marketing to write about.
  • Social – Make sales aware of social opportunities, whether it’s LinkedIn or participating in an industry forum that social is a good networking tool.
  • Engagement – Have sales and marketing make calls together or write a proposal.
  • Measurement – Forget quantity and focus on quality of lead and how you can take them down the sales funnel. Focus on creating a profitable customer.

If you liked this post, you might like:
Are You Getting Your Sales Force Involved in Social Media?How Does Social Media Impact a B-to-B Purchase?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. It’s a sales pitch. Sales pitches are not press releases.
  4. It puts the important information last. When was the last time you actually read to the end of an article?
  5. 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.

5 tips on how to write effective email subject lines

By Sandy Bucher, Media Engineer, Sonnhalter

I receivThe number 5e many marketing tip email newsletters, and recently received The Industrial Marketer, a newsletter from ThomasNet rpm. In this newsletter, Derek Yi Yang of ThomasNet rpm discusses how having an effective subject line increases the chances of your email getting opened, and read.

Here are the 5 tips:

  1. Don’t use capital letters – may increase the chance of your email getting caught in spam filters
  2. Make lists – people seem to prefer emails in list format – probably because they know it’ll be a quick read
  3. Personalize the message – use the recipient’s name, location or current event in the subject line
  4. Time-sensitive offer – creating a sense of urgency can increase open and click rates
  5. Short and to the point – make it a quick read and enticing enough for your readers to open and read

Keep these tips in mind next time you’re composing your next marketing email. And be sure to click on the link above to read Derek’s post for examples of the 5 tips.

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

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

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 a hard time differentiating themselves. How many times have you heard the following:

  • Best in Class
  • Industry Expert
  • Leading Source
  • Industry Leader
  • World Class
  • Award Winning
  • One-of-a-Kind
  • Innovative

The point is, what do these really say about your company that sets it apart from the competition? Phrases like these are marketing hype and nothing more. You need to look hard at those things that really truly set you apart from the competition. Manufacturers typically look at products as the points of difference and in some cases, that might enough. But no manufacturer can say that across their entire product line.

Maybe you should be looking at other points of differentiation such as tech/field support, customer service or distribution policies. For example, in the plumbing fixture category, there are tons of competitors. Yes, some like Kohler and Grohe go after the high-end, but what about the regular guy who needs a new faucet or shower head? If you were a contractor, who would you recommend?

Here’s a good example. Gerber Plumbing fixtures are sold only through plumbing wholesalers and plumbing contractors. Now if you’re a contractor, that would make a difference. They offer similar styles and finishes as their competitors, but they don’t have the hassle of a customer going to Home Depot and telling them they can buy that same fixture for $50 less than what you’re quoting. That’s a competitive advantage. Gerber has the contractors’ backs because that’s their target market.

Here are 3 questions you need to answer regarding your positioning:

  • Is it True?
  • Is it Relevant?
  • Is it Provable?

So I might suggest you take a look at your positioning statement and see if it passes the test.

 

Why Interactive Content Matters when Reaching the Professional Tradesman

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

interactive content

When all is said and done, we’re trying to create all this great content in order to engage the contractors, right? Then we need to ensure that what we do will be looked at, read and watched.

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.

Not only does it give the contractors a better user experience, it also affords you better metrics to evaluate your content (shares, likes and comments). The key is to design the message with the focus on the contractor and make the subject matter very focused.

So the first step is setting your objectives:

  • What do you want the content to do – create brand awareness, educate, entertain?
  • Who is your target audience – owner or worker?
  • Where are you going to distribute it – social channels, your own site or a third-party site?

Second step is to keep the message targeted at that specific audience. People today have short attention spans (10 second sound bite).

Third, have a strong call to action. You have to make it clear what you want them to do and you don’t have to wait until the end to make the pitch.

So don’t be afraid of using interactive content and I’m sure you’ll see better results.

Manufacturers: Have you Considered a Contractor Council?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Beyond the normal marketing things you do, what are you doing to get closer to your customers and LISTEN to what their issues are?

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.

You know these guys talk to each other, either through social media like forums or at association and trade meetings. Meetings could be planned around major trade shows or meetings, and you’d ask them to come in a day ahead of time for say a half-day meeting.

I’d also suggest that some of the meetings could be held at your location (at your expense) so they get to meet other members of your team. Keep these meetings on track with an agenda that should include issues they want to talk about as well. There also should be action items coming out of each meeting where they can see that you actually did listen and are taking some action. Note that all action items don’t have to have a positive resolution, but the council needs to know that you at least took it under consideration.

Other than the ultimate end user, do you sell through independent reps and or distributors? These should be on your radar screen to get closer to as well. Rep and Distributor councils can also reap great results.

  •  Reps are in the trenches daily and can give you valuable insights not only on the end-user level, but also what’s happening at the distributor level.
  •  Distributors can give you insights on not only current avenues of business, but might be able to point out new possible areas of growth.

Bottom line is, I’ve seen firsthand what a well planned council can bring to a company. It’s a great long-term strategy that will help you set your brand apart.

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:

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Sonnhalter Continues Support With Scholarship For Cuyahoga Community College Construction Program

Agency’s donation adds to longstanding relationship with trade professionals

CLEVELAND – June 2016 – Sonnhalter, a marketing communications firm to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, continued its support of Cuyahoga Community College’s (Tri-C) “Construction Program Scholarship” with a $2,500 donation.

With more than 3,500 students enrolled, the construction apprenticeship program at Tri-C is one of the largest of its kind and helps students learn a valuable trade within the construction industry through quality assurance, drawings, project management, scheduling, problem solving and communication.

“Sonnhalter’s support for scholarships provides students with pathways to education and training required to thrive in today’s construction industry,” said Megan O’Bryan, vice president, development and Tri-C Foundation. “Their gift opens the doors of opportunity for students to complete college degrees and credentials. We are grateful for their continued partnership.”

Students receive up to 250 hours of classroom instruction, as well as up to 8,000 hours of on-the-job training. During their apprenticeship, students have the opportunity to earn wages and learn from experienced union workers and vocational instructors. Students who complete certification in the program will have the skills to take on careers that include cost/quantity estimating, project scheduling and CAD technician work.

“Sonnhalter is excited to further extend our support for this growing program as it shapes a new generation of hardworking professionals in the construction industry,” said Matt Sonnhalter, vision architect at Sonnhalter. ”It’s a unique opportunity to provide a scholarship for a program that educates a population with which we’ve worked closely for four decades and is located right in our backyard.”

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 at Sonnhalter.com or visit the company blog at TradesmenInsights.com.

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?

via Alabama News Center

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 an existing solution, you’ve captured someone’s imagination. And when you show them that they, too, can be a part of it, you’ve created a skilled tradesman.

Ready to get started?

Download Sonnhalter’s database of vocational education programs.

Are You Using Brand Advocacy in Reaching Contractors ?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

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.

Brand advocates are more than loyal customers. They are your ambassadors in the trades. I’ve seen contractors with tattoos of company logos. That to me is the ultimate.

Some brand advocates will surface on their own by commenting on your blog or website several times or talking you up on an online forum. Others might offer positive comments on a survey or warranty card. Don’t forget to ask your sales staff in the field who are calling on contractors, as well as your customer service department. They certainly should be able to identify a few. Hopefully a few will be high-profile folks within some associations that you are a part of.

One of our clients in the plumbing market was able to identify and nurture several advocates over the years. Once they brought the top 10 contributors into the main office and treated them like royalty for two days and then sent them home. They got a plant tour, a look at what was coming down the line as new products and met with customer service and technical people that they interface with on a regular basis on the phone or with emails. You wouldn’t believe the results of that effort. They became ambassadors on steroids!

Once you’ve found them, then what? You should set up a brand advocacy program that will give them ways to help you grow the brand. Here are a few ideas:

  • Ask them to write testimonials or reviews on new products. Then ask them to share them.
  • See if they would be willing to do a case history for you.
  • If timing permits and you can meet them at an association meeting or trade show, see if they would let you  interview them both for a podcast and testimonial video.
  • Ask them for referrals.
  • Have them test and evaluate new products before they are brought to market.
  • Have them identify potential new products.

This needs to be an ongoing effort so you’re always adding new advocates to keep the message current and fresh.

Don’t miss a golden opportunity for your customers to help sell your brand.

6 Ways to Make Your Marketing to Contractors More Effective

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Today we have so many options to reach our targeted audiences. While I’m a proponent of trying new things, we must not lose sight of who we’re trying to reach. More importantly, we need to identify the preferred way they like to be communicated with.

Below are six ways you can make your marketing to tradesmen more effective:

1. Focus On What You Can Control

You can’t control what’s going on in Washington, the economy or most other market factors. However, you do have control over your marketing. Recognize where the demand is and go after it. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

2. Re-Evaluate Your Marketing Goals

Based on what’s happening with the economy, are your company’s marketing goals achievable? It may be time to re-state and re-prioritize your goals.

3. You Can’t Manage What You Can’t Measure

Take a hard look at the performance of your marketing plan. I know something like ad awareness is costly and hard to measure. But things like trade show leads, direct mail and online programs are measurable. Look hard and, if needed, reallocate and optimize your budget. You can’t afford under-performing programs.

4. Fish Where The Fish Are

You know who your customers and potential customers are. Make the most of your marketing investment and increase your visibility through targeted vehicles where your prospects will see your message and take action.

5. Integrated Marketing

We’ve always been advocates of tying your messages to various touch points for your customers. This synergistic method allows you a better bang for the buck! And don’t forget to bring the sales team up-to-speed as to what you’re doing. They’re an extension of your marketing efforts.

6. Focus On Quality not Quantity

More is not necessarily better. The quality of your sales leads is far more important. If you adhere to the previous five suggestions, you will deliver better-quality leads, which will improve your bottom line and make everybody happy.

What are you doing to reach your targeted audiences?

Why Manufacturers Should Personalize Content for Professional Tradesmen

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

While there are plenty of reasons to use automated technology to manage leads through the sales funnel, there comes a point when personalized content needs to be used to reach contractors and professional tradesmen.

Contractors need answers to specific questions whether it’s product or application related. They normally are looking for this relevant info and personalized content is an excellent way of delivering it.

There are benefits to using personalized content. More than half of senior marketers worldwide polled in CMO Council’s June 2015 survey said that using enriched or personalized content and digital interactions brings higher response and engagement rates.

Leading Benefits of Using Enriched/Personalized Content and Digital Interactions According to Senior Marketers Worldwide, June 2015 (% of respondents)

So what are you doing to personalize content to the professional tradesmen? Are you addressing their concerns? Do you know what those concerns are?

Send your sales staffs out in the field and get a better read on what the tradesmen are looking for…don’t assume you know.

 

5 Key Metrics for Measuring Trade Shows

Trade show season is upon us and for those of us that are still going to them, you know that the costs to play aren’t going down. That’s why ROI and documented metrics are so important. I talked to Vince Tricomi recently to make sure his post from a year ago still was appropriate and he assured me it was, so I thought I’d remind us all of these metrics.

Vince Tricomi, VP, New Business Development at PFI Displays, explains ways you can maximize your efforts.

Most of you participate in various trade shows from time to time. If you do, you know that they can be very expensive and management is always looking for an ROI. That’s why it’s important for sales and marketing to work together to make sure they get the best bang for the buck.

Except for a lucky few who still write orders at trade shows, most exhibitors can’t tie a specific revenue-generation figure to their trade shows.

That’s OK though. Consider how marketers tie sales figures to a magazine ad:  They can’t, and that’s why they measure things like impressions, reach and awareness.

Trade shows offer plenty of measurement opportunities for the savvy event marketer. Some of these metrics are firm, others are calculated estimates, but they can be combined to create clarity into the effectiveness of any trade show program, large or small.

Here are a few of our suggestions:
1. Leads: 
a. Let’s get this easy one of out of the way
i. Don’t mess around with collecting business cards
ii. Renting a lead retrieval machine that loads your lead data on a flash drive is money well spent
b. SAVVY TIP: Break these leads down into A, B, and C categories for better insight into the show’s quality.

2. Cost Per Lead:
a. Take the total cost of your exhibit investment and divide it by the total amount of leads collected
b. Compare this to other marketing efforts to see how your show stacks up
c. SAVVY TIP: If you exhibit at multiple shows, this metric also shines light on the comparative effectiveness of each show.

3. Demonstrations:
a. If you’re launching a new product, consider giving one-on-one or group demonstrations
b. Count how many demonstrations you give and how many audience members listen or interact
c. If you’re doing multiple presentations each hour, you’re having a great show
d. SAVVY TIP: Find out from the VP of Sales an average cost of a trip for a sales person to give a demo at a prospect’s office. Compare that with the show’s average cost per demo, and suddenly trade shows look like a bargain!

4. Website Traffic:
a. Know the average visitors to your website before the show, and compare that to the visitors during and immediately after
b. Pay special attention to the pages for the products and offers you featured at the show
c. SAVVY TIP: Don’t forget that trade shows are about face-to-face interactions. Generating web traffic is a great metric, but for most exhibitors it shouldn’t be the main goal.

5. Press Mentions:
a. These hold special appeal, and therefore more “weight” as a viable metric, for all classically trained marketers
b. SAVVY TIP: With the abundance of trade magazines, writers and bloggers at every show, if you’re not getting mentioned, something is wrong; try setting up interviews and press walk-throughs well before the show.

6. Post Show Appointments:
a. In today’s hectic, time-starved business world, one of the hardest challenges faced by every salesperson is securing a face-to-face appointment
b. Commit the sales team to informing you of every show lead that generates a follow-up appointment
c. SAVVY TIP: You’ll have friends for life if your shows facilitate setting post-show meetings. Think creatively about a space in your booth dedicated solely to this endeavor.

Whoops; did that headline say “5 metrics?”  Consider the last one a bonus.  As you can tell, these suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg.  Please share some of your favorite, and most effective, metrics with us.

In closing, leading, full-service exhibit companies, like PFI Displays, offer innovative, easy-to-use software tools that will help you measure your shows—and do a lot more, too.

I’m sure you can add to the list and I’d like to hear ways your company is measuring the effectiveness of trade shows.

If you like this post you might like:

5 Ways to Improve your Trade Show ROI

New Study Shows Best Way of Reaching Manufacturing Professionals

Challenges Facing the Industrial Distributor Today

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Every year, Industrial Distribution magazine puts out their annual survey of distributor operations. Here are some highlights from the 69th version and my opinion as to where they should be spending their time and effort.

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While the economy is their biggest concern, it’s one they have little control over. Truth be known, 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.
Here’s my view of what these distributors should be concerning themselves with:
  • Specialize – if you’re a general line distributor, I wish you luck as you won’t be in business too much longer. If the only thing you have to sell is price and availability, the big guys are going to eat you alive. The cutting tool, power transmission and other specialized distributors who add value to the sale will and can be more competitive. If you have a  cutting tool problem on a CNC machine, Grainger or Amazon aren’t going to be sending anyone out to help you solve the problem.
  • Promote value-added relationship selling – they are the local guys and should be selling themselves as the guys who have your back (assuming you have value to add). If not, look for a buyer.
  • E-Commerce – Get in or you won’t be long for the world. We live in front of a computer screen and the “I want it now” mentality that we find on the consumer side has trickled over to ours. Let’s face it, some people would like to place orders after hours and they would like to know if you have it available and can have it delivered the next day.
  • Buying groups – If you’re not in one, get in one. They are the easiest way for you to stay price competitive, and many offer other services in the day-to-day operations.
If you like this post, you may want to read:

Why Content Marketing May Work Better Than Traditional Advertising in Reaching Contractors

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Contractors and professional tradesmen 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.

When they do go looking for things, the first place most go to is the Internet and they Google it. Chances are that they are looking for a solution just as much as they are looking for a specific product.

That’s why search is so important in the big scheme of things… and what makes you go up in search? Good meaningful content! You need to be top of mind when they reach that portion of the sales funnel where they will need to contact someone.

Heidi Cohen had an interesting article regarding advertising vs. content driven messages that had some good points for the B-to-B market.

B-to-B lags behind the consumer counterpart in doing research before they contact a manufacturer or distribution point. But even at 57%, you’d better have some skin in the game from a search perspective or you’re going to be left at the curb.

Best Lead Generation Tips

Razorfish found that:

  • 50% of U.S. consumers will do anything to avoid ads
  • 75+% of U.S. consumers hate hearing or seeing ads multiple times
  • 65% of U.S. consumers use a DVR to skip ads

Those are some scary numbers, and even though they are consumer driven, remember that those same consumers may be buying your products at their workplace. So what’s the alternative?

  • 86% of U.S. consumers value brands that are useful over those that have interesting advertising

Translation: Give your customers the info they need when they need it. Here are some tips:

  1. Leverage the social media platforms where your customers hang out.
  2. Supply product info for potentials to seek out.
  3. Tap into sources your customers trust, like trade associations.
  4. Make sure the info you give prospects enhances the product value.
  5. Skip the promotion and show them best practices when using your products.
  6. Re-promote your content. Once is not enough.

So the question is, how much effort are you using to create great content? You only have so much time, so use it wisely. Give them solutions to help them run their business better and make money. You’ll be a hero in the end.

Do You Have a Company LinkedIn Page? You should.

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

LinkedIn is a business platform and although it’s set up for individuals, companies can and should have a company page. It allows your company to have a snapshot of who you are and helps you connect with your audiences.

Yes, LinkedIn has been used primarily in the past for people to network, but remember, not all folks on LinkedIn are looking for jobs.

LinkedIn Company Page

I recently read an article from socialmediaexaminer.com on 7 Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Page and I wanted to share some of their 7 insights.

  • Brand recognition − Use your company logo and colors that define your brand. Create a custom background image to set you apart. Incorporate your main URL and phone number too.
  • Focus message – Instead of taking the about us from your website, tailor the description that speaks directly to the people who are visiting your page.
  • Improve search  Under the specialty section, add key words/phrases. You need to make your page easy to find.
  • Stay in front of your prospects – Post relevant content on a regular basis and create custom images to set you apart. You have three options for sharing: 1  Push it to everyone that follows you, 2  Target specific groups (if you have enough in each group) and 3  Pay to sponsor the update to attract new followers.

Start promoting your page on email signatures and even send an e-blast out to your current database with a link to your page. The key is don’t miss this opportunity.

Contractor Email List – Do You Have One?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

tradesperson-cement

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.

Warranty cards and trade show leads are a start but we need to be more creative. Salesmen visits to job site are a good way to start a conversation.

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. 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:

  • Think like a contractor  What are their pain points? Give them practical solutions. Always answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”
  • Talk like a human – Don’t use marketing or sales speak. Keep it conversational.
  • Give them a reason to sign up – Sneak peeks at new products, exclusive product demos.
  • Ask the contractor what they want help with – Get engagement from the audience you want to reach.
  • Don’t be afraid of humor – People like to smile and it shows more of your human side.
  • Reach out to contractors – On a regular basis, randomly pick several contractors and have a product manager call and pick their brains on possible new product ideas.

Emails are back and stronger than ever if we do them right. Remember, you’re not looking for a big list, but a good one.

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