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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

Why Marketing and Sales Need to Work Together

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter For some reason there’s always been a disconnect between sales and marketing, and for the life of me I can’t understand why they can’t play nice. After all isn’t the objective of both is to increase sales? I recently read an article in Duct Tape Marketing, Counseling the Marriage Between Marketing and Sales to Generate Revenue that got me thinking of why they should work together towards the same goal. Most of the journey your contractors take is already over by the time they speak with a salesperson. That’s a tremendous opportunity for marketing to influence the sales process and dovetail together in creating a seamless experience. Here’s an interesting  statistic: 57% of the buyer’s journey is completed before the buyer talks to sales, according to Gartner. Prospects know more about you than you know about them. Mutual Expectations 12896read more >

5 ways to engage professional tradesmen using content marketing

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter Content marketing should be a vital part of your strategy to reach and engage contractors and professional tradesmen and move them through the sales funnel. Manufacturers are always focused on leads and will use things like traditional e-books and white papers. Not all activity will result in conversions. We should consider building brand awareness. Here are five tactics to consider: Blog posts.You may already be doing a blog and if you’re not you should consider it. It helps set you up as an industry expert and helps move prospects through the know, like and trust phase of the journey. Include a strong call to action that will hopefully engage the reader to go somewhere or do something. 12883read more >

Manufacturers: Is your social media participation developing new business leads?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter If not, it’s important to know WHY. Most manufacturers finally got on board with social media back in 2010. They created their company blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram accounts and jumped in. 70% of marketers reported that social media marketing delivers poor or average return on investment. Many manufacturers thought that by merely having a social media presence, it would give them social media credibility. But they’re learning it takes more than a social media presence to produce new business opportunities. I recently saw a post from my mentor on the social media scene, Michael Gass. Here are some things you need to review and possibly revisit your social media strategy and implementation: Here are 11 reasons why social media doesn't lead to new business: 12614read more >

Manufacturers: Focus Content on Contractors, Not Your Brand

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

Contractors: How do you deal with Millennials and Boomers?

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

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

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

Podcast: Issues affecting contractors

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter Listen to insights from John Mesenbrink from Mechanical-Hub.com as we discuss industry issues that include: Updates to their website and what contractors are looking for What’s new on integrating the latest technology and products in actual installations The skilled labor shortage How the election might affect businessread more >

Do you have Relevant Content to Support Your Sales Team?

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

Why Interactive Content Matters when Reaching the Professional Tradesman

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

Contractor Email List – Do You Have One?

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

How Many Calls Does it Take to Make a Sale?

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

Emails are in for 2016

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

Don’t Miss the Marketing Summit for Building Material Manufacturers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop and Smell the Roses

Last week I was reminded of how fragile life really is.I lost a friend who was only 57 and appeared to be in great health and they found him at work in his car. One really doesn't know when your time is up.read more >

Are you Using Mobile to Share Your Content with Tradesman and Contractors?

What I find especially interesting is mobile is last on the list and social media is second. Do they think contractors are checking their Facebook or Twitter accounts during the work day to see what kind of info a manufacturer is promoting that day? I wonder if those content marketers really understand how and what might be useful to a contractor on a job site.read more >

For Your Lead Nurturing Programs – Where do you Find Good Content?

One of the biggest challenges B-to-B marketers face is developing/identifying content that can be used in e-newsletters, e-blasts or just plain emails as part of a nurturing program. I think a major stumbling block is that some think they need to produce all-original content themselves or have control of all the messaging. The whole point of a nurturing program is to engage potentials with RELEVANT and INTERESTING content.read more >

What Will our B-to-B Marketing Responsibilities Look Like in 2 Years?

Marketing's role over the last decade has been pretty simple. Focus on your brand and identify new potential sales. Granted, there have been several new tools and processes introduced to help us identify, track and communicate with potential new customers. But the ultimate end game was to differentiate your brand and help identify and create good leads for sales to follow-up on.read more >

Do you have a B-to-B Video Strategy?

Videos can be a powerful tool for any manufacturer, but they need to be done right. You need to have a video strategy before doing your first one. Don't do them because your competitor is. Do them because what you have to say is relevant, timely and well done. Yes, people would like to be entertained a bit, but what they're really looking for in our space is a solution to a problem. read more >

Are You Still Pitching or Are You Starting a Conversation?

I'm still amazed by the number of folks who are still trying to sell me something instead of trying to solve my problem. I think it's because they are struggling with their story and finding the right voice to tell it on. The old school model of glad handling and feature benefit selling has gone by the wayside for the most part.read more >

We All Have Something To Be Thankful For

As the Thanksgiving weekend approaches, I'd like to say thanks to the many friends and clients we've had the good fortune to come in contact with over the years. We're all running in several different directions all the time, and this time of year we need to slow down a bit to appreciate the things around us.read more >

How Are You Utilizing Training?

I don’t think any manufacturer out there would argue the importance of training. What manufacturer wouldn’t want to ensure their customers are trained properly on how to use their products or informed on their latest product offerings. Plus, training offers manufacturers a way to further differentiate themselves from competitors as well as continue to build their brand with their customersread more >

STAFDA Show Recap

I just returned from the STAFDA show which was held in Charlotte, NC. It was the biggest one in some years. The show, for the most part, was upbeat, and the economic forecast for the next few years looks promising for the construction market.read more >

Manufacturers: How’s your 2014 shaping up?

If you listen to the media, we all should be fat, dumb and happy since business is just rolling in and we can't handle it. I know housing starts are at an all time high since 2008, road and bridge contracts are now being released, automotive production in this country is setting records and most industrial indicators for manufacturing are on an upward trend.read more >

What Buying a New Car Taught Me About Customer Service

In my list of top things I hate doing is getting a new car. It ranks right up there with going to the dentist to get a root canal. My lease was coming due and I looked on the internet at options and customer satisfaction results and had narrowed it down to two models. I filled out the forms on the site, picked a dealer and waited for a response.read more >

What Are You Doing With All Those Email Leads You’re Getting?

We all have a list of customers' emails in some assemblage of order. What are you doing with them? Let's not assume just because someone is currently buying from you that they will continue to do so. You need to continue to reinforce why they should do business with you and it doesn't have to be a sell piece. Give them something of value that they can use in their business. A quick installation tip. A calculator link to help them figure out how much product they need. Besides the emails you already have from current, past and future customers, what are you doing with all the leads you're getting from digital sources? Digital media is a great way to build on to your existing database list and start nurturing them along your selling cycle. By using an email marketing tool, you can build silos by market or by where they are in the buying cycle so you can tailor messaging to each. Here are a few tips in developing your lists: Get their permission - send them an email that you'd like to keep them on a list to send out valuable info on a regular basis that would help them. Ask questions - when sending out the initial request, give them options of things that might interest them, i.e., markets, product or applications that they would find useful. Get them engaged - invite them to a webinar or send them a how-to video or an e-book if you have one. Stay on topic - focus on what you do. You're trying to build brand awareness and credibility. Respect their time - experts say you shouldn't send more than 2-3 emails a month. My recommendation is start with 1. Monitor who's reading them - by using an email marketing tool, you can see who opened…read more >

What Are You Doing to Drive Opted-in Emails?

Let's face it, we're all in this for the same reason. To talk with people who share the same interest and could possibly be or refer us a new client. So in order to do it get them to give up their email we better come up with some interesting and helpful stuff that will make them want to be in our look for future gems. It's not only what you have to say but how you say it read more >