Even During a Pandemic, Influencers in the Trades Build On: Part Three

By Andrew Poulsen, Content Engineer, Sonnhalter With the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic constantly looming, finding silver linings throughout this situation isn’t always easy. But with millions stuck at home with their phones acting as their main source of entertainment and social interaction, influencers and content creators in the trades have been able to use this time as an opportunity to expand their audiences, connect and engage with their online communities and use their platforms to spread messages of positivity and encouragement. One of these content creators is Dustin Henson, owner of Rustic Customs Woodshop. Based out of Texas, Dustin primarily makes custom wood projects for customers, such as barn doors, dining room tables and built-in shelving units. On Instagram, Dustin is a very active voice in the woodworking and DIY communities, where he shares his projects and woodworking tips to his more than 13,000 Instagram followers. Sonnhalter spoke with Dustin to learn more about how the pandemic has affected his personal and professional life, the nature of the content he creates and some of the positives he has experienced while staying home with his wife and kids. Sonnhalter: What were some of the initial changes you noticed in your personal and professional life when the pandemic started? Dustin Henson: In my personal life, I think it’s obvious. It’s been nice spending time with the family, but I think being stuck in the house has us ready to strangle each other. [laughs] Professionally, I was already booked two or three months ahead of time, so it hadn’t slowed down my business yet. I just don’t have as many new projects coming in. Probably about 90% of my stuff is barn doors or custom-built furniture for houses, where I have to go out and visit the homes to measure…read more >

How the Trade Media is Adjusting to the “New Normal” of COVID-19: A Conversation with Mechanical-Hub

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect As we are all challenged with navigating our businesses through the realities of COVID-19, we’ve noticed that a number of the trade media have been nimble in responding to the “New Normal.” We had the opportunity to speak with several publishers in our B2T (business-to-trades) industry to learn how they were adapting to this new environment. The following is part three of our five-part series. Mechanical-Hub is an online industry resource for today's plumbing, heating and mechanical contractors. Founded in 2012, its mission is to provide updated industry news and information to the trade contractor and to partner with industry leaders in media, contracting and manufacturing. We spoke with John Mesenbrink, president of Mechanical-Hub, who oversees its one-of-a-kind website and digital ecosystem. Today’s busy contractors looking for information to help them perform their jobs more efficiently turn to the site for highlights of the latest industry news, originally written features, videos, new products and tools, weekly guest blogs and contractor resources. The “Hub” also features social media engagement on its social channels and is a cornucopia of unique and original information for contractors and a great place to connect with other professionals in the industry. “We started almost 10 years ago as a digital-only resource,” said Mesenbrink. “In these unfortunate circumstances of the pandemic, we feel that we are in a good position to be flexible and to help our clients and their companies get their messages out. We can be the vehicle to help promote a brand.” Online After-Hours Training Many of Mechanical-Hub sponsors rely heavily on in-person training and trade shows to educate their customers. With these types of events canceled because of COVID-19, Mechanical-Hub felt that it had an opportunity to help companies by facilitating casual online training sessions. A few companies…read more >

How the Trade Media is Adjusting to the “New Normal” of COVID-19: A Conversation with Babcox Media

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect As we are all challenged with navigating our businesses through the realities of COVID-19, we’ve noticed that a number of the trade media have been nimble in responding to the “new normal.” We had the opportunity to speak with several publishers in our B2T (business-to-trades) industry to learn how they were adapting to this new environment. Following is part two of our five-part series. Babcox Media is a business-to-business media and information services company serving the auto dealer, auto care, tire, performance, commercial trucking, powersports and enthusiast markets. Its 100-year heritage is built upon its commitment to connecting audiences with quality content and providing clients with results-oriented campaigns. It delivers content through various assets across all channels and platforms to engage its audience. We spoke with Sean Donohue, group publisher/vice president of sales at Babcox Media, where he oversees several brands, including AutoSuccess, Dealer Service, Motorcycle and Powersports News, BodyShop Business, Engine Builder, TechShop and Professional Car Washing and Detailing. Betting on Video … Even Before COVID-19 “Over the last 18 months, we’ve been making big bets on video, which is proving to be a good strategy,” said Donohue. “Eighty percent of content viewed online is video in today’s world.” As tools get more complicated—and cars get more intricate, technicians are using video as a key training resource to conduct their jobs. Video allows technicians to learn a lot more, a lot quicker. Since COVID-19, the demand for video has not slowed down at all, and, in fact, the video segment of its business has actually increased for Babcox Media. “Everybody’s at home and there is a desire to want more content, to learn, to see what’s new, to see what’s next, and to be able to do that quickly in a video format,” added…read more >

SEO Checklist for 2020

Today we have a guest post from Pete Kever, president of K6 Digital Marketing, who has been leading the SEO, search marketing, website development and digital marketing for its clients. He’s been at it since before Google. The World Wide Web has reached its “thirtysomething” birthday and is the base of the world’s digital information infrastructure. Today, according to websitehostingrating.com, there are over 1.74 billion websites containing many trillions of documents. With so many websites clamoring to deliver information to their target audience, search engine optimization (SEO) is as important as ever. SEO is the art and science of attempting to gain a listing of website content on page one of Google, the world’s most popular search engine. If your content is not on page one, your competitors are getting their messages in front of your potential customers instead of you. SEO helps businesses put their messages in front of people right at the moment they are searching for it. SEO is Important to Every Business Trades marketers and manufacturers need to care about their search engine rank. According to a recent Google study:   71 percent of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search On average, B2B researchers do 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand’s site 89 percent of B2B researchers use the internet during the B2B research process Nearly half of all B2B researchers are millennials B2B researchers who are not in the C-suite influence purchase decisions 70 percent of B2B buyers and researchers are watching videos throughout their path to purchase While there are a number of marketing strategies and services available to get the attention of online viewers, such as social media marketing, pay-per-click advertising, email marketing and digital banner ads, SEO still offers the most long-term value. We have developed…read more >

How the Trade Media is Adjusting to the “New Normal” of COVID-19: A Conversation with BNP Media

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect As we are all challenged with navigating our businesses through the realities of COVID-19, we’ve noticed that a number of the trade media have been nimble in responding to the “new normal.” We had the opportunity to speak with several publishers in our B2T (business-to-trades) industry to learn how they were changing their tactics to adapt to this new environment. Following is part one of our five-part series. As print readership has been declining over the past several years, many publications have been gradually making the move to offering digital issue options for readers who would prefer to receive their industry news on their laptop, tablet or smartphone. One publisher doing exactly that is BNP Media. In business for more than 90 years, BNP Media is one of the largest B2B publishers, publishing nearly 60 titles that serve the architecture, engineering & construction, food, beverage & packaging, gaming & hospitality, manufacturing, mechanical systems (including plumbing), security and services markets. We spoke with Dan Ashenden, group publisher of the Mechanical/Plumbing Group at BNP Media, on his organization’s reaction. The Mechanical/Plumbing Group publications include Plumbing & Mechanical, which targets contractors, Supply House Times, which targets wholesale distributors and PM Engineer which targets plumbing/mechanical engineers. Digital-First Format “Moving to an all-digital platform was part of BNP’s long-term strategy, said Ashenden. “The unfortunate pandemic we find ourselves in was simply a happenstance and motivation for BNP to say, ‘Why go slow with this plan?’ We’d already done the groundwork—we had been getting all our users registered and had started creating products that were trackable. And, our customers were demanding more digital options.” On March 31, 2020, BNP co-CEO Taggert Henderson made an official video announcement that beginning with the April 2020 issues, BNP controlled subscription publications were moving to…read more >

Even During a Pandemic, Influencers in the Trades Build On: Part Two

By Andrew Poulsen, Content Engineer, Sonnhalter With the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic constantly looming, finding silver linings throughout this situation isn’t always easy. But with millions stuck at home with their phones acting as their main source of entertainment and social interaction, influencers and content creators in the trades have been able to use this time as an opportunity to expand their audiences, connect and engage with their online communities and use their platforms to spread messages of positivity and encouragement. Sarah Listi, who runs Tool Girl’s Garage, is one of Instagram’s leading voices in the woodworking, home improvement and DIY communities. Based out of Texas, Sarah is a full-time tool reviewer, builder and all-around storyteller who has partnered with some of the industry’s biggest brands and built a loyal following of more than 51,000 Instagram followers. Sonnhalter spoke with Sarah to learn more about how the pandemic has affected her personal and professional life, the content she creates and how the situation has affected her brand partners and the online community at large. Sonnhalter: How has it been trying to create content in the midst of the pandemic? Sarah Listi: There is a lot of fear and concern out there, so I try to generate content that is useful and positive. There is that feeling of, and I don’t want to say “obligation,” but you want to put out positive content when things are going on that are difficult to escape. This is a hard time. It’s weighing on everybody. So, I’m trying to stay positive and focus on what the content is meant to do, whether it’s meant to inspire, bring positivity or just be funny or irreverent. What have been some of the challenges for you and how have you overcome them? Trying to…read more >

Even During a Pandemic, Influencers in the Trades Build On: Part One

by Andrew Poulsen, Content Engineer, Sonnhalter With the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic constantly looming, finding silver linings throughout this situation isn’t always easy. But with millions stuck at home with their phones acting as their main source of entertainment and social interaction, influencers and content creators in the trades have been able to use this time as an opportunity to expand their audiences, connect and engage with their online communities and use their platforms to spread messages of positivity and encouragement. One of the leaders in this online community of DIYers and woodworkers is Rob Rein of Ginger Woodworks. Based in Grand Island, New York, located north of Buffalo and south of Niagara Falls, Rob is a full-time social worker during the day and a practicing woodworker and DIYer to his nearly 80,000 Instagram followers during all the hours in between. Sonnhalter spoke with Rob to learn more about how the pandemic has affected and influenced him, his content and his online community at large. Sonnhalter: When the pandemic crisis began in the U.S., how did you initially respond? Rob Rein, Ginger Woodworks: Initially, I saw it as, “How are we going to balance this new routine, but also be productive?” So, I went out and bought all the supplies I needed to finish all the projects in the house. All of us have projects we get into and they get left behind because the next project happens and it all just snowballs. We grabbed everything for some projects we needed to finish and had a staged setup ready to go. I wasn’t going to let the time be wasted. Have there been any unexpected benefits or positive experiences with your time at home? With my kids, they are always busy, but with all that stuff no…read more >

Throughout COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, Professional Tradesmen are Essential as Ever

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect, Sonnhalter Over the past few weeks, the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has presented an unprecedented set of challenges to not only our country’s workforce, but nearly all facets of our daily lives. While millions of Americans are being advised to work remotely or self-quarantine, our professional tradesmen are still reporting for work each day to keep the lights on and the water running. While this pandemic has brought on stress and uncertainty for many, Sonnhalter wanted to shine a light on some of the ways that those working in the trades continue to persevere, with some even finding new opportunities to succeed during this crisis. Toilet Woes Still Require Plumbing Pros With the well-documented toilet paper shortages across the country, people have resorted to using toilet paper alternatives that can wreak havoc on your plumbing, from napkins to shredded t-shirts. While those at home see these incidents as misfortunes, the recent increase of flushing improper items has provided an unexpected increase in business for some plumbers, like Michael Williams of Just Drains LLC in Philadelphia. “This is going to turn out fantastically for the drain cleaning industry,” he asserts. “People are flushing lots of things down the drain that should not go there – wipes, tissues, paper towels.” Utility Company Workers are Redefining “Work from Home” With hospitals filling up, people filing to the supermarkets to stock up and many telecommuting from their homes, it is unthinkable how much worse the crisis would be without power or natural gas. But in order to maintain operations, utility companies in New York and Florida have taken a new approach to both keep utilities running and abide social distancing guidelines by sequestering employees in offices, power stations and control rooms. According to the article, employees for these utility companies…read more >

Will Tradesmen Be Safe From the Rise of Automation?

by Relena Jane, guest columnist Article exclusively written for Tradesmen Insights The rise of machinery and automation has been a constant thorn in the side of engineers, machine operatives and even farmers for many years. As far back as the 1700s workers were revolting against the onset of technology. English textile workers rallied against the development and implementation of new machinery. They were known as the Luddites, a term that became synonymous with people who opposed technological advances. It might have taken a couple of centuries, but increased understanding of technology is leading to more automation and AI involvement in our working processes than ever before. Slowly, but surely, machines have taken over from human beings. Think about your supermarket experience and the self-service checkout, or booking cinema tickets using your computer, collecting them from a machine on arrival. Nowadays, algorithms are being used to mark essays in certain parts of the world, something that seemed impossible a decade or two ago. People are being used less and less in all forms of business, customer service and engineering. Will our dependable tradesmen, the plumbers and joiners of this world, be safe from the rise of automation? To answer we have to understand how quickly technology is advancing. Manufacturing is one industry that has been hugely affected. Operatives have become scarcer on production lines, even when dealing with intricate assembly and manufacture of parts such as computer chips. Soon enough, AI will start disrupting this industry for the better, making processes much more efficient and quicker. The complexity of circuit board parts to create new machinery will be no more, and will lead to completely eradicating the need for human intervention. Thus, some areas will always need reactive operatives, but in far fewer numbers than before. 15368read more >

5 Tips for Communications During the Coronavirus Crisis

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect, Sonnhalter As we’ve learned from the fallout regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), this is a very unsettling time for businesses, and it has created many challenges for manufacturers, as well as their team members and customers. It’s important during times of crisis, such as we are experiencing, to maintain a calm, collected brand voice and keep the channels of communication open with customers, team members and stakeholders. Here are five tips for effective communications during the COVID-19 crisis: Form a Communications Leadership Team Have representatives from every aspect of your business—C-suite, Marketing, HR, Operations, Sales, Legal, etc. so that you receive input on the different perspectives of how the crisis is affecting the individual departments and their functions. This team can vary in size based on the size of your company and should include a chain of command. From this team, appoint one or two official spokespersons that will be the only ones providing information on behalf of the organization. 15353read more >

Crisis Communications: If a Crisis Hits, Do You Have a Plan?

The recent coronavirus pandemic reminds us that at any given time, organizations, communities, states and even countries can be faced with a crisis that requires effective communications with a strategic plan. Today seemed like a good time to dust off a past guest blog post from Nancy Valent of NMV Strategies on crisis communication.   Your phone rings. It's a CNN reporter wanting to know why your facility had an explosion, which injured five of your employees. What is your response? Probably the first reaction you have is to say: "No comment." It seems harmless and a good safety net to buy you some time. In reality, your "no comment" starts a snowball reaction of assumptions that you are trying to hide something or go on the defensive. Spokespeople who use this phrase are subliminally communicating that they are not being proactive or stepping out to really tell the truth. This type of response drives both consumers and business clients away and starts to degrade your brand and corporate identity faster than just saying in a very truthful tone: "I will get back to you in an hour with the facts and information, which I can confirm." Too many large, medium and even small manufacturing businesses operate under the philosophy that a company crisis will never happen to them. But, if it does it won't get media attention and somehow they will ultimately handle it. If you research any of the past company crises that get national attention and talk to the manufacturing operations people who have lived through it, they will tell you everyone should be prepared for the sudden and the smoldering crisis...it can happen to you. 15344read more >

Content Marketing Research for Manufacturing

A recent study published by The Content Marketing Institute identifies issues that manufacturing content marketers are facing. The B-to-B sector has always been known to be slightly behind the curve when compared to consumer goods, but the manufacturing side is even farther behind. The good news is that this sector is willing to try things, and this study shows that they are now identifying things that work and are focusing on improving them. One thing that definitely needs improving: too many manufacturing organizations are still talking about themselves instead of prioritizing their audience’s informational needs. While 51% of manufacturers regularly prioritize audience information needs, this number is quite a bit lower than the 73% of B2B North America content marketers who do. So, how can manufacturing marketers reverse this? 15314read more >

3 Areas To Tackle Now For Bottom Line Impact

This post originally appeared on INSIGHT2PROFIT.com. Several years ago, an Ohio-based specialty metal business made the decision not to charge for freight costs, even though their products were extremely heavy. The rationale? None of their competitors were charging, so they couldn’t either. In reality, this company was No. 1 in the industry, so all those competitors were actually just following their lead. When the company realized what was going on, it had the opportunity to change the policy for its entire industry. And so it did—collecting more than $1 million in additional revenues. Smart companies know pricing strategy isn’t just about the price on the invoice. To have an immediate impact on your bottom line without formally raising prices, here are three areas to tackle first. 1. Freight Costs If you’ve been operating for decades, your freight policies have probably been in place just as long. Maybe you don’t charge for freight at all, or fees are the same across all territories—or you charge the same as you did 50 years ago even though shipping rates have risen dramatically. To start, ask yourself: 15251read more >

International Builders’ Show (IBS/KBIS) 2020 Show Recap

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect, Sonnhalter This year’s NAHB International Builders’ Show was as robust as ever, with more than 90,000 attendees and 1,400 exhibitors packed into the massive, 60,000-square-foot Las Vegas Convention Center. The show has always been a special and important time for builders, remodelers, design professionals, architects and specialty contractors to learn and share their new ideas. Strong Educational Focus The show offered more than 150 education sessions in seven different tracks and dozens of hands-on demonstration opportunities. Examples were the “Tech Bytes” sessions, which featured two stages delivered via headphones and attendees could choose the program they wished to follow by using a switch on the headset. The topics for these programs focused on technologies that are changing the home-buying experience and how attendees can better plan their projects and business operations. Other key highlights from the educational portion of the show included the “Game Changer” keynotes which addressed critical issues in the housing industry and the “High Performance Building Zone” which offered practical demonstrations on topics like blower-door testing and rainscreen-sliding details. The Future of “Smart” Homes From a tech standpoint, one of the greater themes from this year’s show continues to be “smart” technology and digital assistants and how attendees could incorporate them into their future home building projects. The CEDIA® Technology Pavilion gave attendees the chance to familiarize themselves with hundreds of products and ideas that they could apply to their kitchen, bath, energy efficiency and other construction and remodeling projects. Another showcase for the latest in smart tech came from The New American Home® and The New American Remodel® model homes which featured some of the industry’s smartest and most energy-efficient products on the market. Some of the highlights from these models included motorized window shades, climate control solutions and in-wall touch…read more >

Marketing Minute: Trade Show Pre-Show Activities

We're in the midst of trade show season, and admittedly, trade shows can be overwhelming.  Sonnhalter is here to help. In the first installment of our series of Marketing Minute videos on trade show best practices, Matt Sonnhalter reviews some of the pre-show activities that you can take advantage of to help make your next trade show a success. From reminding your contacts through e-blasts, e-newsletters and social media and sending postcards to the preregistered  attendee list, to leveraging the editorial contacts in attendance, trade shows are great marketing opportunities when properly taken advantage of.   To view other videos from Sonnhalter, visit our YouTube channel here.   Let us know if there’s a B2T marketing topic you’d like us to cover.read more >

Benefits and Challenges of Unpaid Influencer Partnerships

by Andrew Poulsen, Content Engineer, Sonnhalter Lately, we have seen tremendous growth in the number of influencers in the trades. In fact, it has grown so much so that Sonnhalter clients are forming partnerships and relationships with these influencers much in the same way we would with traditional media. What defines an influencer can sometimes be broad, so there are categories like “micro-influencer” and “nano-influencer” that distinguish these social media content creators by the size of their audience. Many influencers make a full-time living by working with brands to make sponsored content that involves financial compensation. However, there are plenty of influencers who are slightly less established and are looking to start a relationship with a brand and are willing to make content in exchange for free product and cross promotional opportunities. Since the company is only sending product samples, unpaid influencer partnerships are great for increasing brand awareness and social media numbers when you have a limited marketing budget. Below is a real-world example that outlines some of the pros and cons of unpaid influencer partnerships. The Origin of the Campaign One of our clients had a strong reputation overseas as one of the leading manufacturers of spirit levels, laser levels, and layout tools, marking and measuring tools, but had yet to make a major splash in the U.S. We had experienced a decent amount of success in getting this client featured in many key trade publications, but with the rise of influencer marketing in the woodworking, construction and DIY markets, we thought we could gain more traction with our time by exploring this new, grassroots approach. We wanted a better method for conveying the client’s product ingenuity in a way that was more interactive and visual. We figured that the quickest way to grab the attention and build…read more >

Manufacturers: How Are You Getting Closer to Professional Tradesmen?

By John Sonnhalter, Founder, Sonnhalter Beyond the normal marketing tactics you do, what are you doing to get closer to your contractors and LISTEN to what their issues are? May I suggest a tradesmen council? You all have brand advocates out there, why not get them together a few times a year? By doing so, you can get a better sense of what’s happening in their world and what keeps them up at night. It's also an opportunity to run new product ideas by them 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 and forums or at trade events. Meetings can be planned around major trade shows or association meetings. You’d simply invite them to come in a day ahead of time for a half-day meeting. I’d also suggest that some of the meetings 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 includes 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…read more >

The State of SEO In Industrial Marketing

Today, most industrial marketers understand that their company’s website entails more than a nice-looking, professional site that is informative and responsive. SEO is an important component to generate traffic to your site and shouldn’t be neglected. SEO is a constantly growing and evolving marketing tactic. Industrial marketers must optimize pages for key words and build links, and today, more than ever, make high-quality content available for improving search engine rankings. Search engines are continually changing and upgrading their algorithms, creating almost a mystique about when it comes to the best tactics to employ. GlobalSpec recently set out to find out how industrial marketers feel about SEO. It conducted a survey examining the challenges, spending and content production processes. According to the survey results of industrial marketers: 72% actively produce content for SEO purposes in their organizations 57% do not have any employees dedicated to SEO 45% expect their spending on SEO to increase over the next 12 months 19% are unsure of which SEO strategies work A summary of the results is illustrated by GlobalSpec’s “The State of SEO in Industrial Marketing” infographic. The in-depth survey is available for download here. Want more info about SEO in industrial marketing? Read blog post SEO Checklist or listen to podcast SEO in Manufacturing: 3 Things You Need To Be Doing.read more >

How to Use Content to Reach Contractors

By John Sonnhalter, Founder and Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter We all want to get our message in front of contractors. In order to get more mileage out of your content, you need to tie it to your strategy. We need to help contractors with solutions to their problems, a better technique or tool for the job. A different process that will save time and money. Online training for their workers. We’re all so concerned on getting our message out that we sometimes miss other opportunities to use the same content (message) and deliver it differently. I recently read a post by John Jantsch, 10 Ways to Use One Piece of Content, that brings this into perspective. Contractors get their info in several formats. Have you tried any other ways of delivering your message? Here are some highlights from John’s post: Turn your content into a series of videos that the sales team can send out on an individual basis Do a webinar and feature it on your website Develop an infographic and send it out in an e-blast Testimonials. Locate contractors who are already happy customers to give you testimonials, either written or on video. You don’t need more content – you need the right content in the right context. Want to read more about content for contractors? How To Repurpose Content for Contractors 5 Ways to Engage Professional Tradesmen Using Content Marketing  read more >

Sonnhalter Honored with Multiple PRSA Rocks Awards

Marketing firm wins gold award in “Brand and Reputation” category on behalf of Kapro Tools and bronze award in “Media Relations: Trade” category on behalf of Weldcote. CLEVELAND – December 2019 – Sonnhalter, a communications firm marketing to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, received a gold award in the “Brand and Reputation” category and bronze award in the “Media Relations: Trade” category at the 17th Annual Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Cleveland Rocks Awards competition. Sonnhalter received the gold award in “Brand and Reputation Management” for the U.S. influencer program it launched for Kapro Tools, a manufacturer of spirit levels, laser levels, and layout tools, marking and measuring tools. Sonnhalter worked strategically in finding and pitching woodworking, DIY and contractor influencers in the U.S. and Canada who would be willing to use Kapro products on upcoming builds and give honest opinions on the product’s features. Sonnhalter drafted personalized letters to accompany each package of Kapro product samples. Within the first year of Sonnhalter fully implementing Kapro’s influencer program, the number of Kapro’s Instagram followers has more than tripled. Without ever paying more than the costs of shipping free products, Kapro has greatly increased its presence and credibility across many crucial online communities. Sonnhalter received the bronze award in the “Media Relations: Trade” for its trade industry media presentation at FABTECH 2018 for Weldcote, a welding products manufacturer. Weldcote was exhibiting for the first time at FABTECH, a large, industry trade show, so Sonnhalter developed a plan four months before FABTECH 2018, identifying the tactics, messaging and budget and presented it to Weldcote. Sonnhalter invited trade media attending the show that cover the welding/fabricating industry to a media event arranged at Weldcote’s booth after show hours. Weldcote received immediate product coverage in industry trade publications…read more >

Finding Common Ground within the “Millennial Mindset”

By Andrew Poulsen, Content Engineer, Sonnhalter “Millennial Mindset,” hosted by Walsh University faculty members Ron Scott and Amanda Gradisek, is a podcast that pairs Baby Boomers or Generation Xers with Millennials who work in a particular field and tries to find common ground and understanding between the two generations. As Millennials continue to increase the size of their footprint in the modern workplace, there has been a decent amount of pushback and skepticism from older generations who maybe struggle to see the value in what Millennials bring to a company. Millennial Mindset helps show the parallels between the professional journeys of both generations and how they can help each other succeed.   Earlier this year, I sat down with Ron and Amanda to discuss my journey and how it led me to working in public relations for a creative agency. For this episode, Ron and Amanda also spoke with Brian Brinkman, a graphic designer of more than 25 years who runs his own agency in Canton, Ohio, OnTheBrinkCreative. While the two of us work in different disciplines and come from different generations, there was certainly a lot of overlap in our career paths and what we value in our respective professions. I encourage you to listen to the entire episode yourself, but here are three major takeaways I had after listening back to our conversations with Ron and Amanda. Having an open mind can allow you to be an artist without being a “starving artist.” After graduating from Ohio University with a degree in journalism, I initially had my heart set on moving to a big city and taking a job at a newspaper or magazine where I would write about exciting things like rock and roll, art, movies and politics. 15115read more >

Skills Gap Awareness: Are We Making Progress?

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman It’s been a while since we talked about one of our hot buttons: the ongoing skills gap in manufacturing and the trades. It’s good to see that the topic is very much alive and getting continual, positive coverage in the media. Are we slowly experiencing a shift to bring young people back into skilled traded positions? Is the stigma for blue collar positions slowly lifting? Plenty of industry leaders are doing their part to help bring awareness. Lincoln Electric recognizes this issue and is leading the challenge to change the perception of manufacturing jobs, which as CEO Christopher Mapes points out, “When people think about welding, they typically don’t think high-tech. Instead, they picture workers with their heads enveloped in welding helmets. That’s not what welding is today…Welding is robotics. It's metallurgy. It’s software engineering.” Read more about Lincoln’s initiatives for tackling the skill gap here. Skilled trade’s biggest proponent, Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe, who recently published, “The Way I Heard It,” believes, “The skills gap today, in my opinion, is a result of the removal of shop class and the repeated message that the best path for most people happens to be the most expensive path.”   While 40 years ago we needed more people to get into higher education, the pendulum swung so far in the direction of promoting higher education, that it has alienated an entire section of the workforce, skilled trades. With 7.3 million skilled jobs unfilled in our country (and 1.6 trillion in debt from higher education), we desperately need the pendulum to swing back. It seems the messaging is starting to get through. This recent article articulates how trade schools are now touting how blue-collar professionals such as plumbers, electricians and mechanics make more money than workers whose roles…read more >

Marketing Minute: Trade Show Leads and Inquiries

When you return from a trade show, do you have a plan in place for handling the leads and inquiries that your company received? Join Matt Sonnhalter for the latest Marketing Minute. Learn several helpful strategies for handling all the leads you may have received while attending a trade show. Matt addresses prioritizing leads, following up with the press and evaluating your presence with your team. 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. https://youtu.be/iUmQ1c-w5gE  read more >

Are You Attending STAFDA in Nashville This Week?

Are you attending the STAFDA Show in Nashville this week? If so, check out our exclusive Insider’s Guide to Nashville and use this guide to help you get around the "Music City"  during your free time. • Want to know where the locals like to eat barbecue and hot chicken? We have the insider information from our friends in Nashville. • Need tips on nightlife and sightseeing? It's not just honkey-tonk and saloons. It's a great place to check out one of the countless live music venues. We made a list of shouldn’t-miss recommendations. • Have you ever driven in Nashville? We have you covered with taxi and limo services. See you downtown at the Music City Center…or at one of the great places in our guide!read more >

Getting the Most Out of Your Company’s Instagram Account (Part 2)

By Andrew Poulsen, Content Engineer, Sonnhalter Last summer, we published a blog that outlined some of the best practices for running an Instagram account for your company. Since then, Instagram has grown to be arguably the most useful social media tool for the trades. If you’re still new to Instagram, we encourage you to go back and read the blog and some of the basics for getting your account started. Say you’ve set everything up, posted some cool product shots, gained a respectable number of followers and have a pretty good understanding for how the app functions. The next step is to take advantage of some of Instagram’s more advanced features and strategies that can improve your ROI, grow your number of followers and increase your brand’s visibility. Here are a few things to consider incorporating into your Instagram strategy moving forward. Influencer Marketing One of the fastest-growing marketing strategies on social media, particularly Instagram, is what’s known as “influencer marketing.” Influencer marketing is when brands collaborate with opinion leaders in an online community, known as “influencers,” to create content that endorses a product. This collaboration is typically done for a monetary fee, free products or a combination of both. What that content looks like varies between influencers and is usually negotiable. Content can range from a static shot of the product with a written review, to photos or videos of the product being used in the field or for building something in a workshop. Finding the right influencers in your target audience can build credibility by using a trusted source in the community and, thus, increase sales. Like the online forums of the past, professional tradesmen use Instagram to be a part of a bigger community within their trade, and these influencers are often considered leaders within these communities…read more >

Generic Values = Generic Culture

Following is a guest post from our friends over at Long & Short of It, masters of ideation, customer insights and market research. They like to say they "dig and find lots of data and then turn it into actionable insights." MOST COMPANIES HAVE A SET OF VALUES. MOST OF THESE STATED VALUES ARE GENERIC AND QUITE FRANKLY, MEANINGLESS. Take this test. Pull out a copy of your organization’s values – remove your company name and logo from it. Replace it with another company name. Does it work for them? Could it apply to that company? If so, then your company values are not distinct enough to have meaning and value. A company like a person needs to have unique values similar to your personal values which cannot easily be shared by anyone else. This is important because the culture of your company is a reflection of what the company values – it guides employee behavior and decision making. The more generic the values, the more difficult it is for employees to know what to do or how to represent the company that is in alignment with the culture.  For example, here are the values of a company: Communication – We have an obligation to communicate. Here, we take the time to talk with one another… and to listen. We believe that information is meant to move and that information moves people. Respect – We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Integrity – We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do it; when we say we cannot or will not do something, then we won’t do it. Excellence– We are satisfied with nothing less than the…read more >

How Can Manufacturers Get the Most Out of Their Marketing?

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect, Sonnhalter Being able to accurately show how well your efforts impacted a company’s bottom line is one of the biggest challenges marketing teams face every year. For years, the easiest indicator of a marketing team’s success was measured mostly in sales and lead generation. But with the rise of content marketing, influencer relations and social media in marketing plans, it’s sometimes difficult to accurately quantify exactly how all these tactics improve ROI. Regardless of where you stand on the value of these tactics, even the most stubborn skeptics will need to face the reality that content marketing, social media and other tactics for the digital age are here to stay. Unfortunately, most marketing budgets have yet to catch up with the financial and personnel resources necessary to successfully utilize these tactics. Many of these challenges and concerns were addressed in IEEE GlobalSpec’s “Trends in Industrial Marketing Survey,” which surveyed 326 marketing and sales professionals in the industrial sector on marketing trends within the engineering, technical, manufacturing and industrial communities. Here are some of the most interesting tidbits from the survey: Breakthroughs in marketing analytics have made it easier to calculate the ROI of a company’s marketing efforts. “Marketers are under steady pressure to demonstrate ROI for their marketing programs. The need to improve ROI is one of the top challenges industrial marketers face. To meet this challenge, marketers use leads as their number one measure of success. But generating high-quality leads for sales is also one of the top marketing challenges. This may sound like a vicious cycle, and some marketers would agree, but the point is that measurement matters. Other measures of success include customer acquisition and sales attributed to marketing campaigns. Marketing automation software, which can improve tracking and measurement capabilities, is used…read more >

Influencer Relations: Is It Right for Your Brand?

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman Recently, you’ve been hearing a lot about “Influencer Marketing” or “Influencer Relations.” But what exactly is it, how does it work and is it right for your company’s marketing strategy? Sometimes referred to as the “new media,” a comprehensive marketing communications strategy often will include influencer relations as a tactic for expanding a brand’s awareness. What is an influencer? An influencer is someone that has a large social media following and actively engages with its audience to “influence” them on his or her opinions. While “influencer” might conjure up ideas of Kim Kardashian touting the latest waterproof eyeliner or designer handbag, there are influencers in the industrial, manufacturing and contractor space, as well. While some of these influencers might not boast the same Instagram audience numbers as Kardashian’s 149+ million followers, their audiences can be very significant for the market they are in. A large social media following can be relative. Nano influencers, with 1K to 10K followers, have small, niche and highly engaged audiences. Micro influencers, the next tier up, with 10K to 50K followers, are often the most informed opinion leaders in their niches and typically have a very engaged community of followers who rely on (and trust) their content. If you are a nano/micro influencer in a niche market such as woodworking, developing relationships with companies that are promoting the tools or supplies you use can be mutually beneficial for both parties. For the influencer, it provides the opportunity to be the first to experience innovative products and share their experiences and opinions with their followers, providing appealing content that keeps their followers enthralled and looking for more. For the brand marketing products, it provides an authentic, engaging opportunity to get your products or services endorsed by an opinion leader and visibility…read more >

Updated Sonnhalter Electrical Market Overview Now Available

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

Tenth Annual Sonnhalter Tool Drive Raises $28,000 Worth of Donations for Habitat for Humanity

CLEVELAND – September 2019 – Sonnhalter, a communications firm marketing to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, partnered with Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity for a tenth year during its annual Sonnhalter Tool Drive, which ran the entire month of August and collected $28,000 worth of tools and building materials. Since Sonnhalter began its efforts in 2010, it has collected nearly $280,000 in donations. Organizations, businesses and residents were encouraged to donate new and gently used tools, as well as building materials, furniture and appliances, to Sonnhalter to help benefit Habitat for Humanity’s cause of eliminating substandard housing and homelessness.       “Cleveland Habitat for Humanity eagerly awaits Sonnhalter’s annual Tool Drive,” said John Habat, president/CEO of the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity. “It replenishes our inventory and generates revenues to support our affordable homeownership program. Sonnhalter has been doing this for ten years, demonstrating again and again its commitment to affordable housing in Cleveland. Sonnhalter is a treasured partner.” 14889read more >

Honoring the Trades, Building the Future

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman, Sonnhalter It seems especially appropriate to address the subject of “skills gap” today, the third Friday in September, which is also “National Tradesmen Day.” National Tradesmen Day is a day where we honor the men and women dedicated to maintaining the complex infrastructure of our roads, cities, water systems and power grids. The skills and knowledge of those in the trades–electricians, plumbers, masons, mechanics, carpenters and everyone in between–ensure the jobs get done and businesses, homes and entire nations keep running. While these professionals work day in and out to maintain their skills unique to their trade, the grim reality is that every day qualified workers retire, and the demand for skilled workers grows. In fact, as the country grows, the skilled trades are one of the fastest-growing sectors in the job market today. Their skills and jobs are so valuable, in fact, that training is available in nearly every sector of the skilled trade job market. The problem is there are fewer and fewer students pursuing an education in the trades. Instead, they have been led to believe that it’s necessary to attend a four-year college in order to get a high-paying, satisfying job. It isn’t. There are other paths to a good career. Build Your Future, an organization that aims to be the catalyst for recruiting the next generation of craft professionals, elaborates on the advantages of a career in the skilled trades in this guest post. By 2023, there will be 1.5 million construction jobs that need to be filled. This shortage could be detrimental to the infrastructure and construction projects in America. As the skills gap worsens, those with a lot of knowledge and experience in the crafts will be highly sought out with high-paying opportunities. Following the idea of supply…read more >

Are You Considered a “Trusted Authority” in Contractors’ Minds?

By John Sonnhalter, Founder, Sonnhalter We all want to be recognized as leaders in our respective fields and in today’s world the current mantra is to be that “Trusted Authority.” To be a recognized leader in your field is not an overnight sensation. It takes time and you need to deliver more than just bells and whistles. Mark Buckshon from Construction Marketing Ideas discusses this very topic. He uses the example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s role in leading architecture to a new level in his day. Wright truly was considered a trusted authority, and if you wanted a second opinion, you’d just have to ask him. Not everyone agreed with him, but they respected him.     Time is one thing we have little of, yet it’s what it takes to position yourself and your company as the industry expert. Wisdom comes from experience and experience is gained over time. Much of your credentialing may come from the school of hard knocks. But that’s OK. We should learn from our failures and missteps. Learn to share your expertise and solve problems instead of trying to sell contractors stuff. With social media, we no longer control the message or where or when it will be delivered. You need to learn to share your experiences via storytelling as opposed to a sales pitch. Show your expertise by telling contractors how you helped others solve a problem or gave them a better way of doing a job that resulted in them making more money. To become a true authority, you need to deliver results beyond the ordinary. If you do this, you’ll be able to grow your business through referrals and repeat business. Contractors are very loyal, and they talk among themselves, so let’s make sure what they are saying about your company is good. It’s a never-ending battle. You need to…read more >

Manufacturers: Avoid These Three Frequent Failures of a Product Launch

Today we have a guest post from MAGNET (The Manufacturing and Growth Advocacy Network) organization that has a mission for helping manufacturers grow and compete in Northeast Ohio, especially the 98% of startup to medium-sized manufacturers that drive our economy. MAGNET rolls up its sleeves to provide hands-on support ranging from new product design to operations and brings education and business together to create tomorrow's manufacturers.  Did you know 70% of all new product launches fail? While manufacturers may feel a sense of urgency to introduce a new product or service to market, testing thoroughly before launch can mean the difference between success and failure. After all, simply launching a new product will not guarantee its success. So whether you’re in the ideation phase of a new innovation, or zeroing in on your promotion plan, you’ll want to take into consideration these frequent failures of a product launch. Lack of Market Understanding Why do so many products fail? The answer is simple: failure to understand the market. Misunderstanding the market is equal to destroying a product before launching it. We’ve all heard the old adage “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, why do it at all?” Instead of rushing to get several products to market with incomplete research, sales support, or inventory, manufacturers should consider planning for a few, well-thought out products in a given time period for higher profit margins and faster growth. Read more.read more >

How Effective is Your Social Media Strategy in Reaching the Professional Tradesman?

By Andrew Poulsen, Content Engineer, Sonnhalter Social media has been an essential cog in every consumer brand’s marketing machine for more than a decade, but manufacturers in the trade industries have been slow to embrace the many marketing advantages that come with social media. I believe this comes from the perception that social media had originally only targeted the younger generations, and with the average age of the professional tradesmen skewing higher and higher, these manufacturers felt more comfortable using more traditional methods with their marketing dollars. However, with Facebook and Twitter both grossing hundreds of millions of users, it quickly became clear that almost any brand had customers and prospective customers on these platforms. While many companies in the trades have adapted and are actively using Facebook and Twitter to connect and engage with its audience, there are plenty of other digital and social platforms whose features can be useful to companies in these industries. And with only so much time, effort and money available, brands should examine all of these platforms and their potential and effectiveness in reaching the professional tradesman. Here is a rundown of some of the most popular social and digital tools out there, how they help reach the professional tradesman and how well they do it. Facebook Despite its well-documented PR hiccups, Facebook still casts a wider net than any other social media network…for now. Facebook has more than two billion users, and there are more than 65 million businesses using Facebook Pages. Because of the sheer volume of users, every company should be on Facebook to regularly promote new products, announce trade show appearances, share positive media coverage and company news, etc. 14843read more >

Thousands of vocational programs, many ways to connect

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman, Sonnhalter We're in the midst of back-to-school season--which prompted us to update our vocational education database. And with the ongoing concern about our nation’s skills gap, the option for choosing an education to pursue a vocational career is certainly an attractive one. With plentiful skilled labor jobs to fill, trade jobs pay very well (sometimes better than four-year college degrees) and don’t saddle students with hefty student loans. We originally released our extensive vocational education database in 2015 after conducting extensive research on thousands of vo-ed programs across the country. When we updated the list in 2017, we added 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. Our most recent update features nearly 980 schools across the country, not including satellite or branch locations of each. There are almost 4,700 programs, offering different types of degrees or certifications. The types of programs include construction, electrician, robotics, welding, HVAC, plumbing, machine tool technology, among others. A separate tab for national programs and resources is also included. Why would a marketing communications firm take the time to create and update such a resource? We hope our tool helps to bridge the gap between manufacturers and educational programs. The database serves as a useful tool for companies looking to implement more grassroots campaigns to recruit the next generation of professional tradesmen. There are numerous ways to take advantage of a tool like our database. Here are a few suggestions of how to make our work, work for you. 14840read more >

Skills Gap: We’re Between a Rock and a Hard Place

By John Sonnhalter, founder and rainmaker journeyman, Sonnhalter Our workforce is aging faster than we can replace them, especially in the skilled labor category. High schools used to push college as the only viable alternative to higher education. These graduates, with their liberal arts education, come into the workforce with no vocational skills. And individuals who lack the right skills or credentials, land in careers with little or no chance for meaningful advancement. We’ve talked for years, now, about how many of our youth are missing opportunities in the workforce because they were thinking that they had to go to college. Let’s face it, college is not for everyone and for many who go to college, they end up in jobs that have nothing to do with their major. In recent years, the media and the rest of the world have now started to pay attention to the lack of skilled labor to fill loads of trade jobs that, by the way, pay very well (sometimes better than four-year college degrees) and don’t have big student loans to pay back! And electrician, plumber or carpenters jobs can’t be outsourced overseas! Here’s what Mike Rowe has to say about it: 14830read more >

Sonnhalter Partners With Habitat for Humanity for Tenth Annual Tool Drive

Donate extra inventory, demo models, tools and building materials that are no longer needed during the month of August to support Habitat for Humanity. CLEVELAND – August 1, 2019 – Sonnhalter, a communications firm marketing to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, is partnering with Habitat for Humanity again for its Tenth Annual Sonnhalter Tool Drive. From Thursday, August 1 to Saturday, August 31, organizations, businesses and manufacturers are encouraged to donate extra inventory, demo models, tools and building materials to the Sonnhalter Tool Drive to benefit Habitat for Humanity’s cause and its efforts of eliminating substandard housing. Affiliates of Habitat for Humanity individually work with participants to sponsor fundraising activities such as tool drives. The Sonnhalter Tool Drive strives to engage businesses and organizations to look through warehouses for extra inventory and overstocked tools or items, as well as the community to look through their workbenches, storage lockers, basements and garages for duplicated or no-longer-needed tools and items to donate.   “At last year’s Tool Drive, we were excited by the community’s response in donating more than $31,000 worth of tools, building materials, appliances and other items, bringing the total to more than $250,000 donated since our efforts began in 2010,” said Matt Sonnhalter, vision architect at Sonnhalter. “In our tenth year, we’re looking forward to exceeding last year’s total. We are once again counting on the generosity of our community as well as businesses to clean out their extra inventory, overstocked materials and demo models, and donate to this very worthy cause.” Sonnhalter partners with Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity for its annual Tool Drive. Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity has completed more than 250 homes since 1987 and today, engages over 3,000 volunteers, who provide more than 93,000 hours of service per year…read more >

3 Tips on Maintaining Good Relationships with Contractors

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect, Sonnhalter The cost of acquiring a new customer can be up to five times greater than keeping an existing one.   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 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. Contractors 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 cultivate strong relationships with professional tradesmen: Stay in touch. E-mail is probably the best and most cost-effective way to this. Make them feel important, even if it’s a quick e-mail to say “thanks for your business” or a follow-up note from customer service after they helped out with a problem. It will pay off long term. 14808read more >

Pricing Challenge: Actual Versus Plan

This post originally appeared on INSIGHT2PROFIT.com. Welcome back to INSIGHT2PROFIT’s 2019 Pricing Challenge! Each article covers a common pricing challenge faced by businesses and provide some tips to help improve your profitability.   Now that we’re about halfway through 2019, let’s talk about the plan you set for the year. How have you performed thus far relative to your plan? If your performance hasn’t matched your financial projections for this first part of the year, what happened?  Maybe you’ve looked at your financial reports, and you see that your customer or product mix isn’t what you were expecting, or that you have been impacted by tariffs, and your profitability has suffered because of it. That’s a start – having a rough idea of the shortfall – but you need to get to the root causes. Has a shift in your mix driven down margin rates? Are you falling short of plan due to a volume slowdown, or are pricing shortfalls eroding your revenue growth? How does that vary by market segment or by salesperson? Analyzing the gap down to the customer-SKU level can yield clear, actionable intelligence about your problem. Well-run businesses have a strategy, and the budget is the road map to execute it. Planning at the same level of granularity as your sales allows for a healthier understanding of what’s happening within your business, why, and how to act. By having a detailed budget, you are creating a source of accountability for your team and a path for success for your business. Accurate revenue planning and measurement is tough to do, but it’s one of our specialties. Every engagement includes strategy, a client-specific model, a detailed plan and road map to execute it, and measurement to achieve the set goals. All while leveraging our DRIVE technology platform. To learn more about how your company…read more >

10 Tips for Trade Show Marketing

Trade shows provide incredible opportunities for connecting with customers, developing relationships with the media and generating brand awareness for your company. The key to trade show marketing success is organization, proactive planning and comprehensive follow up.   In our latest Tip Sheet, we’ve laid out 10 strategies for making sure you’re taking full advantage of all the marketing opportunities associated with trade shows. Follow these tips, and you will be sure to maximize your company's trade show presence. You can sign up to download it here. Need help with your trade show marketing? Give us a call or email. And check out our other Tip Sheets here.read more >

Manufacturers: Why Customer Service Is So Important In Serving the Tradesman

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect, Sonnhalter We’ve talked much over the years about customer service and how important it is to resolve issues. And, 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 increases. Don’t take your distributor and tradesman for granted. There’s always someone out there that can identify contractor’s needs and deliver—and it won’t necessarily be based on price or delivery—but on the total customer experience. This article in HVACR Business by Jim Baston stressed, once again, how important customer service is in the big picture. Jim’s article is focused on the HVACR service business, but his points can be transferred to the manufacturing sector as well. Jim breaks it down into five dimensions of service: Reliability: Your ability to dependably and accurately deliver as promised. Assurance: Your ability to convey trust and confidence. Tangibles: Your personal presentation and the condition of the physical facilities and equipment. Empathy: Your ability to demonstrate a high degree of caring and individual attention. Responsiveness: Your willingness to promptly and courteously respond to customers’ needs. As manufacturers, you need to understand your customers’ (distributors and contractors) needs. Remember that everyone in your company is in customer service. If you haven’t asked your customers what their needs are recently, maybe you should. Things change and their priorities might have too. Focus on what matters to them. If you like this post you may want read: Manufacturers: Are you keeping up with your customers expectations? Customer Service: What Are You Doing to Retain Customers?read more >

Best Practices for Dealing with Negative Feedback on Social Media

By Andrew Poulsen, Public Relations Technician, Sonnhalter When social media was in its dinosaur days, the technology’s potential seemingly capped out at reconnecting with old friends who live abroad, or more commonly, sharing with your peers that you were having a taco salad for lunch. Few would’ve predicted that social media would become not just a helpful, but an essential tool for companies to connect with customers in ways that are faster, easier, cheaper and more personal than almost any other asset within a marketing strategy. Social media allows companies to speak with customers directly and display trust and accountability in ways that did not exist 20 years ago. However, for companies new to these platforms or unfamiliar with the volatile nature of Internet commenters, seeing countless strangers saying hurtful and profane things about your products or services in real time can be jarring, if not infuriating. Uncomfortable as it may be, these kinds of comments are inevitable. Even the most beloved brands in the world have comment sections filled with negativity from disgruntled commenters and trolls. The reality is that there is no way to avoid negative comments and reviews, but by internalizing some of these best practices, you can learn how to maintain an even keel and turn some of these upset commenters into lifelong customers. Be quick to respond, even if you don’t have an immediate answer Customers who leave negative feedback are often coming from a place of disappointment or unmet expectations. The last thing you want to do is make them feel like you are avoiding them or as if their opinion doesn’t matter. If someone comments on an issue they have with your business, publicly reply to the comment immediately, even if it is just to say, “Can you please email or message us…read more >

3 Technology Trends Transforming Manufacturing

Today we have a guest post from MAGNET (The Manufacturing and Growth Advocacy Network) organization that has a mission for helping manufacturers grow and compete in Northeast Ohio, especially the 98% of startup to medium-sized manufacturers that drive our economy. MAGNET rolls up its sleeves to provide hands-on support ranging from new product design to operations and brings education and business together to create tomorrow's manufacturers. The widespread adoption of technology is indisputably transforming manufacturing operations. But before manufacturers jump right in and fight for technology implementation and adoption, it’s important to understand how certain techs can work, how they’re used, and what benefits they may reap. MAGNET details three common technology trends that are impacting manufacturing processes: 1. Expansion of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) 2. More Emphasis on Cybersecurity 3. Continued Push for 3-D Printing To read the entire post and download MAGNET's 2019 State of Northeast Ohio Manufacturing Report, click here.read more >

Why Should You Use Social Media in New Business Development?

In the traditional sales model, we identify our prospects and then use several tactics to get in front of them, qualify them and ultimately sell them. But, what about all the other potential users of your product or service that you don’t know about? Yes, some of them may find you through a referral or make their way to your website, but there are many more that may not ever know that you exist. In most cases, especially for manufacturers who are selling more complicated products, there is a sales funnel you need to take prospects through before they are ready to buy. That’s great, but that only works if you’ve identified the potential sale. Think of social media as your silent salesman. It’s out there bird dogging for you and taking a potential customer through some of the initial stages of the selling cycle. Social media is a great way to connect with prospective buyers because they will find you based on what they are searching for (what kind of problem they are looking for a solution for) on the web. It allows you not only to connect, but to start a conversation. It allows them to get a better feeling for the company and how you go about helping people. In other words, you start building the “know, like and trust” model that comes with any sale, especially to new potentials. Social media is a great way to educate prospective buyers because of all the tools you have available: Blogs, Forums, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. All are platforms for you to add value to the conversations by giving them great content, and it starts establishing you as an expert they can count on. Social media is a great way to collaborate with potential buyers because of…read more >

Sonnhalter and Viega Honored with PRSA Rocks Award

Marketing communications firm wins silver award in the “feature article” category for its article on the subject of water quality. CLEVELAND – May 2019 – Sonnhalter, a communications firm marketing to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, received a silver award in the “feature article” category at the 16th Annual Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Cleveland Rocks Awards competition. The feature article, “Go with the Flow: Best Practices for Maintaining Water Movement in Plumbing Systems,” was written in collaboration with Viega, a leading manufacturer of pipe fitting installation technology. In 2018, Sonnhalter targeted and reached out to a top trade publication in the plumbing industry and pitched a feature article on the subject of water quality. Once accepted, Sonnhalter interviewed and collaborated with Viega personnel to develop an article that focused on how to reduce the spreading of water system-related illnesses. The winning feature article outlined a number of best practices for maintaining water flow and temperature with the intention of informing plumbing system designers and installers of some of the new ways to combat the risk of waterborne diseases. 14605read more >

Updated Sonnhalter Plumbing Market Overview Now Available

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

Marketing Minute: Using an Integrated Marketing Campaign

Running a successful marketing campaign requires a number of different tactics, not just one "silver bullet." Join Matt Sonnhalter for a Marketing Minute and learn how your company can get the most results out of your marketing efforts by using an integrated campaign.   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.read more >

How to Repurpose Content for Contractors

by Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect, Sonnhalter For those of you who might be looking for ways to generate more awareness and conversations, generating new content may not be your only option. It makes sense to use other social media outlets as a way to get your existing messages out. To achieve higher reader engagement you need to know your audience, their habits and pain points. Different social media outlets reach people differently. So whether you’re looking to repurpose existing data or convert outdated info, consider delivering them in smaller bite size pieces using alternative avenues. Looking for ideas on how to do this? This article in Social Media Examiner, “19 Tools to Create Social Media Content,” shows you ways to repackage existing material and use other social media outlets to get the message out. They outline several ways and give examples of tools to use. Here are some highlights that I think manufacturers could use in reaching the professional tradesman: Present your business via video. Tell your story, not the corporate one, but the one that talks about ways to come up with solutions to help contractors do their jobs better. Use infographics. They are 30 times more likely to be read than pure text. People like visuals and are more likely to share them. Convert long form content into slides. Use existing presentations and break them up into smaller groups. You can use them as PowerPoint presentations or there are programs that will easily allow you to incorporate animation. Use podcasts to share your voice. Podcasts are one of the fastest growing mediums for social media and it comes as no surprise. Interview contractors and talk about the newest technologies. I’m sure you can come up with a multitude of topics to cover.  read more >

Pricing Challenge: Price Leaks

This post originally appeared on INSIGHT2PROFIT.com Welcome to INSIGHT2PROFIT’s 2019 Pricing Challenge! Each month we’ll discuss a common pricing challenge faced by businesses and provide some tips to help improve your profitability. First up, let’s talk about price leaks. You’ve set your product pricing, but after considerations like discounts, freight costs, program allowances, rebates and payment terms, how much of that price actually reaches your bottom line? Today we’ll look at how just one factor – expedited orders – can dip into your profit margin and how you can quickly address that challenge.   Has this ever happened to you? Your customer calls and says they need their product in three days instead of the usual two weeks. You jump through hoops to make it happen – interrupt your production cycle, delay other customers’ orders, pay extra for freight, pay overtime – and you do it for free to keep your customer happy. You just offered your customer tremendous value; you should be getting paid for it. How might you go about making that happen? First of all, ensure your customers have a clear understanding of what your standard lead time is. If they ask about expediting, and your production team says it’s feasible, let your customer know there will be an associated surcharge. Based on our historical tracking of expedited order requests, one of two things will happen: You’ll save money. When faced with a fee, about half of your customers will decide they don’t actually need the order that quickly and can deal with the regular lead time. You neither disrupted production nor incurred additional expenses to meet a need that wasn’t real. You’ll make money. The other half of your customers will appreciate that you offer the option to expedite orders and will gladly pay the surcharge,…read more >

Spring Clean Your Social Media

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman Since the social media scene developed years ago, it’s become cluttered. There are accounts on all social platforms that sit, gathering dust for years. Do any of those accounts belong to you or your company? Thanks to Marie Kondo’s recent popularity, we’ve become obsessed with decluttering and organizing, so we thought it might be a good time of the year for a little spring cleaning of your social media. By now, most companies have several social media accounts that have been running for quite some time and even a few accounts that have shut down (Google+) or become less relevant as a social media platform (Flikr). It doesn’t take much time to conduct a quick audit of your social media platforms and get back on track, if you know what to do. Here are a few pointers to get you started. 14552read more >

Social Media: Does it Affect Marketing to the Professional Tradesman?

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect Are you trying to increase your exposure, traffic and leads? Are you trying to provide insights to contractors and generate leads? If so, social media should be part of your overall marketing program. Social media is a targeted way of getting your message out and letting prospective customers find you. Social media benefits are: Reach – get your message distributed to a broader audience. Influence – both existing contractors as well as new prospects. Conversions – marketing insights lead to engagement that leads to sales. Here are some tips to maximize your social media efforts to the contractor market. Reach – Use several different social media platforms, i.e. YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, to reach contractors. Make sure what you do share is relevant, as you don’t want to waste contractors time. They want quality content, not quantity. Repurpose existing content that they may not have been aware of. Influence – You may not have to impress your existing customers, but you do for potential customers. Here’s where you have to become a thought leader. Don’t push your company or brand, but communicate a solution to a potential problem. Develop thought leaders within your company (no need for marketing to bear all the responsibility). Tap seasoned customer service reps, your engineering department and sales force. They are the ones on the front lines that deal with problems and arrive at solutions. Conversion – This is a hard metric if you want to tie it directly to sales. In many cases where products are either specified or sold through distribution channels, it’s nearly impossible to track sales results. You can, though, create landing pages with offers for white papers or other items that would help the contractor in their day-to-day operations. Be patient, and as you…read more >

Blogs and Forums for the Professional Tradesman

There are around 505 million blogs in the world today and not all are created equal. So, how do you identify and communicate with the right blogs and forums to get in front of professional tradesmen? The first question to ask yourself is: are your products or services applicable to your end users using social media? If the answer is “yes,” then your goal should be to do comprehensive research to identify the right communities, monitor them and jump in and get involved in the conversations. As you get involved in these conversations on social media, keep this in mind: Your brand can be affected positively or negatively. You don’t control the message. Your brand depends on the “loyalists” who are passionate about your brand. Key blogs or social media sites are authored by thought leaders from your industry. Social media demands transparency, so be honest in your engagement.   Here are a few sites that may be of interest to brands attempting to reach and interact with the professional tradesman: 14451read more >

Sonnhalter and One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning Honored with Silver Davey Award for Integrated Campaign

Marketing communications firm and One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning received a Silver Davey Award in the business-to-business integrated campaign category. CLEVELAND – March 2019 – Sonnhalter, a communications firm marketing to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, received a Silver Davey Award in the 14th Annual International Davey Awards competition. Sonnhalter accepted the award in the business-to-business integrated campaign category for the “Shouldn’t We Be Talking?” personalized road trip campaign it developed with One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning. Sonnhalter worked with One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning to create a personalized, integrated campaign to connect with business owners to discuss the potential benefits that they would gain from joining the One Hour franchise. With the objectives of gaining interest among prospects and softening the idea of becoming a franchisee, Sonnhalter used the simple concept of sitting down over a cup of coffee to broach a difficult topic with the theme, “Shouldn’t We Be Talking?” The theme was intertwined throughout all the touch points of the campaign and culminated in the salesperson bringing a thermos of hot coffee to the meeting. The campaign consisted of several touch points that were personalized to communicate local market knowledge and insights and secure an in-person meeting. Communication tactics for the campaign included phone calls, emails, postcards, 3D mailings of coffee mugs and social media. “Converting a business into a franchise of a national brand can be a hard and stressful decision, so the campaign’s goal was to make that experience feel more honest and conversational,” said Matt Sonnhalter, vision architect at Sonnhalter. “Both Sonnhalter and One Hour are very pleased with the rise in opportunities that stemmed from this campaign and are honored to be awarded for our efforts.” The Davey Awards honor the finest creative work from…read more >

Should Your Company Start a Blog?

Join Matt Sonnhalter for a "Marketing Minute" and learn the pros and cons of starting a blog as part of your company's marketing strategy.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhlFipdzA6w 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.read more >

Are Independent Industrial Distributors Helping Amazon to Succeed?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman I read a recent survey in Industrial Distribution magazine that stated distributors’ biggest concern now is dealing with Amazon. Distributors and wholesalers overwhelmingly regard Amazon Business as their biggest threat, dwarfing other concerns. That’s one of the findings Unilog released recently, after surveying 244 manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers. Surprisingly, 52 percent of those same survey respondents admit they don’t have a strategy for competing with Amazon Business. And, 43 percent of manufacturers surveyed said they sell direct on Amazon Business, often bypassing their traditional distribution channel. I wrote a post in 2015 regarding this subject on another survey from Industrial Distribution magazine. Back then, Amazon was convincing distributors to join their third party selling agreement and many jumped on board. Today it’s hard to compete toe-to-toe with Amazon on product purchases. But distributors sell themselves short. Distributors have the brick-and-mortar stores right in their customers’ backyards. They have the relationships with the customers. Distributors have the technical knowledge to help their customers work through application issues. Here’s a link to the 2015 post: http://www.sonnhalter.com/2015/02/24/are-independent-industrial-distributors-helping-amazon-to-succeed/  read more >

Is It Time for a Website Tune-Up? Make Sure You Use the Right Mechanic.

By Angela Ruland, Design Engineer   Your website is a lot like your car. For example: Sure, it’s your car. But let’s face it; one of the reasons you bought it, is for what it says to other people about you. »A website is very often your first chance to tell someone who your company is, and it should always be geared towards them and their experience. And sure, you can buy a car from your sister’s brother-in-law’s cousin. But if you want one that’s reliable, safe and not going to break down on you in the middle of a long trip, it’s best to buy from a reputable place. »When you go to build a new website, ALWAYS use a professional web designer, but make sure they fundamentally understand your business and customers. Of course, you can (and should) do some of the regular maintenance yourself, but for the major tune-ups and preventative stuff, it’s best to find a mechanic that knows what they’re doing and how you use the car. »And that’s what we’d like to examine today. Your website should never be something that you set up and take for granted until someone decides it’s time for a revamp. Just like your car, your website is being used daily, for short trips, long trips and in all kinds of traffic. Occasionally it may wind up in a sketchy neighborhood, or have someone try and break in. So, just like you work on your car, or have someone do maintenance, you need to check on your website regularly. Here are a few ways to accomplish that: 14413read more >

Updated Construction Market Overview Now Available

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

New Year’s Resolution: Review Your Content Marketing Efforts

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman It’s a new year, and a perfect time to take a quick review of the past year. Before we start doing the same old thing, we should take a minute to make sure what we’re doing is getting us the results we want. We’re cleaning, purging and issuing new challenges in our personal lives, why not do it for our marketing lives? Makes sense, doesn’t it? As we are making these evaluations, it doesn’t hurt to check on industry predictions that can help us adjust our strategies to respond and align with recent discoveries. Heidi Cohen’s blog post makes 10 predictions for content marketing success in 2019 that we find valuable as we navigate the shifting landscape. Here are a few highlights: Content saturation continues to increase, which is raising the cost of content marketing necessary to break through and get acted upon. Instead of creating new content, improve and transform pre-vetted content and use content audits to keep content relevant and increase traffic. Customers expect more personalized content experiences. Segment your email and other communications to deliver targeted messages. Post sales experience increases in importance. While customers may buy from you once, if you don’t gain their trust, they won’t stay customers. Content formats continue to diversify. Due to the use of more devices and screens tailored to personal and environmentally relevant needs, content consumption patterns continue to change. Influencers including brands remain relevant for content creation and distribution. Work with micro-influencers who have deeper connections with their followers. Heidi has more predictions and recommendations, but the idea is to take the time to evaluate what you did last year, so that you can improve on it this upcoming year. Happy New Year! Let’s make 2019 a successful one.read more >

Podcasting: Another Effective Tool to Reach Contractors

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

New Study Finds What You Already Knew

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

The Scary Side of Public Relations

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

Are You Attending STAFDA In Phoenix This Week?

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

Manufacturing Day: Open Doors, Open Minds

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

Why You Use Relationship Marketing When Trying to Reach Contractors

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

An Idea Worth Stealing

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

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

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

Today is National Tradesmen Day!

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

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

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

Attending IMTS in Chicago this week?

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

Is Selling to Professional Tradesmen Getting Easier?

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

Old or New: School is Back in Session

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

Making the Most of a Trade Show Visit

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

8 Tips for Making Customer Service a Priority in your Marketing

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

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

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

Updated Electrical Market Overview Now Available

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

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

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

Getting the Most out of Your Company’s Instagram Account (Part 1)

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

Making the Most of YouTube

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

PMPA Addresses Skills Gap With Member Outreach

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

6 Ways to Make Sure You’re Using Multimedia Effectively

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

Using the Gender Gap to Close the Skills Gap

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

Updated HVAC Market Overview Now Available

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

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

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

Updated Plumbing Market Overview Available

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

Industry Trade Association Addresses the Skills Gap Issue

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

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

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

Content is All About Repurposing

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

Meet the Craze Halfway

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter  A decade ago, you couldn’t change the channel without finding a new motorcycle build show. Five years ago, it was extreme eating challenges and local legendary greasy spoons. And today it seems like you can’t touch the remote without seeing a show about tiny houses. It seems millennials are rejecting “more is more” McMansions and opting for small, portable and innovative living spaces that reflect their personality. Believe it or not, this could be the best thing that ever happened to the Skills Gap. 13554read more >

Happy Holidays!

The Sonnhalter team will be taking some time off over the holidays. We hope that you enjoy this holiday season and time with your family and friends! We'll see you in the New Year!read more >

New Research Shows How Manufacturers are Using Content Marketing to Build Audiences

Guest post from Lisa Murton Beets, Research Director, Content Marketing Institute Are you delivering valuable, relevant, consistent content to your audience? If not, prepare to be ignored. There is just too much information available today, and only so much time in a day for your target audience to consume it. This is especially true for tradesmen, who spend most of their time in the field. That said, you should be delivering valuable content consistently (hopefully, to a subscribed audience via vehicles such as email newsletters), so when your prospect does need a product or service, your company is top of mind. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) defines content marketing as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. 13515read more >

LinkedIn: Not what you think it is

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter LinkedIn gets a bad rap. Some describe it as “Facebook for Job Hunters” or worse. And part of that problem is real. Since its purchase by Microsoft, the platform has struggled with its identity and purpose. Is it a Professional Social meeting place? A job-hunter's paradise? A tally of how “connected” you are? Yes, No, Maybe and... All Of The Above The simple truth is that like any other tool, it’s exactly what you use it for. And with some different thinking, it can probably be a whole lot more than you’re using it for: 13481read more >

Customer Service for Customer Retention & Value

Today we have a guest post from Russ Hill, Founder of Ultimate Lead Systems. I recently lunched with some long-time friends and sales and marketing professionals. The topic turned to the importance of Customer Service in the face of the plethora of CRM and Marketing Automation software available today. The conversation raised more questions than it answered. We agreed on the following definitions for the purpose of the discussion: Customer Service – The interaction with a customer or prospect that traditionally revolves around resolving a problem and producing a positive outcome. This could be in person or via phone or email. CRM – It’s not software but a strategic process designed to cultivate and enhance the relationship with customers. The goal is to maximize retention rates and capitalize on the life-time value of the customer. Something else we agreed upon was that companies seem to be racing to dramatically reduce their costs of engaging customers. Those costs are typically associated with people on payroll, and management too often views automated systems as a means of delivering customer engagement AND customer service at reduced cost. We also agreed that Customer Service is all about NOW and all other engagements are about future opportunities. We’ve all experienced agonizingly long waits in Customer Service phone queues that assure us our “call is important” only to get transferred to a voicemail box that is full and not taking messages. Programs like Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua and Exact Target can help deliver content that may be of value to customers they already know. What about new customer and prospects? Websites without phone numbers that force the customer to do all of the work to find solutions to their own needs do not make it easy for customers to buy or remain customers. How many take their business elsewhere because Customer Service is self-serve or…read more >

The Crisis Isn’t Looming Anymore… It’s Here.

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter The mainstream media continues to wake up to the skills gap in the trades, as this recent report from CBS Sunday Morning proves. The report was spurred by the lack of skilled tradespeople specifically surrounding hurricane clean up, however it continued to shed light on the issue. A large part of increased recognition is the result of two people featured in the piece: Norm Abram of This Old House and Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs. Both, as individuals and as part of their shows, these two have been “fighting the good fight" on the skills gap. Fighting against media bias, educational neglect and pop culture stereotypes of the trades. Make sure to check out the last part of the video though, as the progress Lehigh Career & Technical Institute has made acts as an inspiring end to the continuing story. Want to get involved? Keep reading.read more >

Mapping Your Plan

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter It's that time of year again... the 2017 calendar is looking thin and we've turned our attention to next year. If you haven't already started planning your marketing communications for 2018, now is the time. To have a successful year, it’s important to do more than just set goals. You don’t just jump in the car to go to a new location for the first time, you look at how to get there, how long the trip will take or at least put the destination into your GPS. That’s planning. Planning is crucial no matter the size of the organization or depth of the project. Whether you’re initiating a rebranding campaign or creating a 30-second video, you have to plan. To map out your journey, you need to determine: 12944read more >

Have you considered your brand experience?

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter Last year, I wrote a blog about Generation Z being the true digital native generation and urged organizations to look ahead. Perhaps you heeded that urging and have been looking forward, perhaps you're still trying to figure out the whole Millennial thing. By this point in time, the oldest Millennials are approaching 40. We've been working for/with you, buying from you or avoiding you for years now. Most of the business world seems to have made the jump into adapting to Millennial behaviors... even if some were pushed. It's time to move on. There's a whole generation approaching adulthood - Generation Z. Generation Z is the next group that needs to be reached, specifically for attracting them to the trades. They will be your next audience, so it's a good idea to start considering them in your communication efforts. You might be more prepared to handle GenZ than you think you are... 12938read more >