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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

Managing Price Overrides: 4-Step Process

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

Creativity is the Key

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

Free Resources You May Not Know About (for Tradespeople)

By Sandy Bucher, Media Engineer at Sonnhalter Here's a little-known tip on an easy way to keep up with news in your industry. If you are interested in finding out what’s happening in your trade, there are many trade publications available at no charge to tradespeople of all kinds, if you qualify. If you want to learn about the latest industry trends, read about upcoming trade shows or industry events or see new products available, all you need to do is request a subscription from these trade publications. As long as you qualify for those magazine’s specifications, you should be able to receive your own copy of that magazine. Depending on your market, most of the qualification questions asked when requesting a subscription are the type of organization you work for, your job title or function, types of work your company does and do you buy or specify certain products/services. Sometimes they also ask for number of employees at your location, what types of construction fields is your firm engaged in or would you like a print or digital version. Most subscriptions these days can be requested online from a publication’s website. It’s a pretty easy process. Take a few minutes and sign up for those publications that would benefit you in your work.read more >

Social Media, How Can Tradesmen Connect?

Mile Free, Director of Industry Research and Technology for the Precision Machined Products Association, is posting today with advice for connecting on social media. Miles blogs regularly on PMPA's blog, Speaking of Precision. As tradesmen, advertising used to be pretty easy to figure out. A yellow pages ad in the local phone book, small display advertisements in the newspaper and maybe some classified advertisements in the weekly as well. Near a big city? Maybe you would have bit the bullet for a display ad in their yellow pages too. As a customer, in the old days, that’s how I would have found you… So who uses a phone book these days? Who still has a land line phone? How many folks with smartphones walk around carrying a phone book? That’s a trick question. While no one is carrying a phone book, the fact is that when they need to find something, they go search for it. On their smart phone or web device. How easy are you to find on search? For what kind of things are you on Google's page one? I’m not suggesting that you need to pay for advertisements on Google to get to page one, but if you use  social media tools correctly, you can be found on Google for the services that you provide, and that your customers want. While I am a staff director for a trade association of precision machining companies, the lessons I learned about how to increase visibility in online search are just as applicable to tradesmen to build your credibility, and thus your visibility online. Here are 5 steps to increasing your online visibility: Make sure that your website covers the products and services that you provide. Having an up-to-date website with photos is key to engaging your potential customers…read more >

Relax…It’s Labor Day

Happy Labor Day! We need to take time to say thanks to all the tradesmen that we come into contact with on a regular basis. What would we do without the electricians, plumbers, HVAC professionals? How would our factories run smoothly without all the MRO professionals out there? Sonnhalter salutes America’s professional tradesmen and laborers on this very special holiday. Our working force built this country. And it’s because of each and every American’s labors that we enjoy the freedoms we have today. At Sonnhalter, we earn our own living by marketing to professional tradesmen in industries like yours…from construction to industrial to MRO. To show our appreciation for such hard-working individuals, we offer a tip of the hardhat and our sincere thanks. However you celebrate your Labor Day, enjoy it. You’ve certainly earned it.read more >

Relax…It’s Labor Day

Happy Labor Day! We need to take time to say thanks to all the tradesmen that we come into contact with on a regular basis. What would we do without the electricians, plumbers, HVAC professionals? How would our factories run smoothly without all the MRO professionals out there?read more >

Mobile Apps: Are You Thinking About Them to Reach the Professional Tradesmen?

Professional tradesman, for the most part, do more field work so they have a mobile office. The smartphone is coming more and more into play, so if your company doesn't have an app, you may be missing an opportunity. According to Nielsen, as of the 3rd quarter of '10, 28% of mobile phones are smartphones with 41% of recent acquirers moving in that direction. read more >

QR Codes: Are Manufacturers Missing an Opportunity? Part 1

B-to-B Marketers need to take advantage of every marketing tool especially if your target market is the professional tradesman. Most of these folks are on the move and depend on their cell phone not only to stay in touch, but to get valuable info that will help them do their job. One tool for mobile smart phones that probably is overlooked are QR codes. read more >

Are you Using Blogs to Reach the Professional Tradesmen?

Blogs are still a very effective way of reaching an audience, especially if you're in a niche market. While it may be true that social networks and microblogs have outpaced the traditional blog, the opportunity for you to build thought leadership and branding is better served by blogs. More than 50% of web users will read blogs this year. According to eMarketer by 2014 150 million American ,or 60% of the population of the US will be reading blogs.Blogging has become an accepted part of the online media landscape and blogging is easy to do. read more >

How to Engage the Professional Tradesmen on Twitter

I don't know why people are afraid of Twitter. Most of the world suffers from ADD anyway and wants something short and to the point. Politicians use the 10 second sound bit all the time to grab our attention. Do you know why? Because it works! 10 seconds isn't a lot of time so they give us one idea to think about. Twitter is the ideal platform to state your case and engage your reader.read more >

Awareness of Twitter Has Exploded: Great Way to Reach the Professional Tradesmen

Contractors are busy people, and the 140-character message is just enough to peak their curiosity and have them click through to your message. Twitter is one of the social media tools that can be used as a tool for your company's social media marketing strategy to generate online traffic and a pipeline for new business leads. Over the past year, the leading traffic generator to my blog has been Twitter. read more >

Want to Find Out if Professional Tradesmen are Active with Social Media?

If you're reading this blog, then it would be safe to say that you aren't asking the "why" or "should" we be using social media. What you're looking for are ways to answer the "where" and "how." Companies should follow, not lead their customers in the social media arena. I read a post recently from Jay Baer, one of social media's thought leaders, Four Ways to Find Out if Your Customers are Active with Social Media, and I thought I'd share some of the highlights:read more >

E-Mail: Still an Effective Method to Reach the Professional Tradesmen

All of us are getting inundated with e-mail, but studies show it's still one of the best ways to reach out to people. It does have its challenges with spam filters and and internal firewalls.But I've found that by using some of the techniques for writing blog posts have come in handy in writing e-mails. So here are some tips on how to more effectively use this tool:read more >

Double Your Marketing Effectiveness When Going After The Professional Tradesmen

Although everyone is focusing on social media, let's not forget an old friend, e-mail marketing. Using social media as a partner, it will provide new avenues for engaging and sharing both current customers as well as prospects. Professional tradesmen are used to being contacted via e-mail and more and more are getting into the social media arena. Let's not let an opportunity go by to make your marketing message more impactful.read more >

Building a B-to-B Social Media Lead Generation Program Targeting the Professional Tradesmen

B-to-B marketers, especially those in the manufacturing sector who are targeting the professional tradesmen, are slow to adapt to new things and social media is one of them. I've seen it in our business that clients (manufacturers) are aware of social media but don't know how to use it to get business. Yes, social isn't about getting business (short term), it's about branding and thought leadership roles. But in the real world, and especially in this economic climate, companies are also identifying new potential customers and taking them through the selling cycle to see if they can be converted to a sale. If B2B folks would have a better understanding of how to use social, then it would be easier for them to incorporate it into their other marketing efforts.read more >

How Can We Promote Blue Collar Careers?

My target audience is manufacturers who want to sell stuff to contractors and professional tradesmen. Any of us who have been around this industry (no matter what field) know that the biggest challenge facing contractors is lack of qualified people. So long term if the professional tradesman goes away or certainly doesn't keep up the current need, who are we going to sell our stuff to?read more >

The Best Way To Reach The Professional Tradesman: Social or Traditional Media?

The answer is both. Contractors are busy folks and they get their info from various sources and sometimes it's on the fly. I've done several interviews of contractors from HVAC/R, electrical, plumbing to general contractors that have said that they get info about how to run their business from both the traditional trade publications as well as various sources on the Internet.read more >

Your Most Valuable Asset When Reaching the Professional Tradesman: Thought Leadership

As a B-to-B marketer, Thought Leadership is one of the most valuable assets of your brand. When reaching out to the professional tradesman, you have several audiences that you need to build relationships with - Distribution, Buying Groups, Associations and ultimately, the Contractor or End User. Messaging to each of these markets while sharing common traits can and will be different. The sooner you begin building relationships in the buying cycle, the better off you're going to be. Thought leadership and brand building should be an ongoing process.read more >

Use Online Training to Educate Tradesmen – Part 1

Training - both product and safety, are important to professional tradesmen. That's why several years ago we formed a strategic alliance with BlueVolt to help educate and inform our client's customers (the professional tradesman). BlueVolt creates online marketing and learning platforms that are focused on the professional tradesmen. They have delivered over 535,000 courses to 50,000-plus registered users. We have the privilege of having Lisa Bordeaux, director of sales and partner development, here to share with you a two-part series on the benefits of online training. Enjoy her insights!read more >

Build a Genuine Relationship with Professional Tradesmen

My 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.read more >

What’s the Best Way of Reaching the Professional Tradesman: Drip or Closed Loop Marketing?

The answer is both depending on how you're developing and nurturing prospects. Today both Drip Marketing and Closed Loop marketing are seen to be online strategies. Truth be known, these have been going on long before we had the use of the Internet tools. Effective marketing programs today should utilize both. We are fortunate to have these tools that help us monitor and measure our activities in infinite ways. Here are some suggestions on how to reach the Professional Tradesman using both Techniques: Drip Marketing - I define this as an ongoing way to communicate and deliver product info and thought leadership to contractors and tradesmen who have identified themselves to us. It can use traditional methods like direct mail with things as simple as a series of postcards or other mailers to touch folks on a regular basis (monthly, weekly or daily). With the advent of the Internet we can add links to our e-mails to landing pages that can expand on content, offer incentives and interact with tradesmen.I'd suggest that to be effective, run and monitor these campaigns using an automated system.These automated systems will help you create and deliver messages and gives you the metrics to monitor open rates,click throughs and opt outs.They will also help reduce spam complaints and increase delivery. Closed Loop Marketing - I define this as a more complex system that involves marketing working closely with sales to work a contractor through the sales process. It utilizes many if not most elements that are in a Drip program but goes beyond just delivering information based on a previous actions and their place in the buying cycle. Marketers literally "close the loop" by working with sales to provide the right info at the right time based on contractors responses. "Close the Loop" marketing provides…read more >

Reaching Professional Tradesmen: How Important is Your Post Title?

I know some of us write to specific audiences. Some posts may be more general in nature, but the majority will be focused at your target and should have a title that will not only stop them, but will make them want to click for more info. That's why the title is so Important. You could be giving away chances for a million dollars inside your post, but no one would know if they didn't open it. read more >

How to Keep Tradesmen Coming Back to Your Blog

Tradesmen have specific issues relating to their business and are looking for ways to improve and stay on top of their game. As a blogger who is targeting this market one my objectives is for them to return often to my blog as a source of information they can use.read more >