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.

They use the trade publications to catch up on what’s happening in the industry, who bought who, and to read articles to help them run their business. They use the Internet to do research on various things from troubleshooting to new product demos and online training. Some participate in online forums with their peer groups to talk about issues/problems they are having in their day-to-day operations. Most of the Internet activities are done either before or after the normal business day. One example is Contracting Business magazine who sponsors a forum – HVAC-Talk – that’s the leading forum for HVAC professionals to talk to each other. They average over 50,000 page views a month.

Contractors as a whole are lagging behind when it comes to social media. The reasons given range from, “I don’t have the time” to “I don’t understand it,” and with the economy the way it is, my first priority is to stay in business. The ones that get it and are using it have found that it’s another marketing tool to generate new business and stay connected with their customers. Most trade associations haven’t done a good job explaining to their members the possible usages and benefits for social.

Manufacturers shouldn’t be discouraged. Those that have embraced social are reaping the benefits. It’s just another way you can get customers to interact with you. Here’s a great example of a hand tool company, Snap-on Tools, that on Facebook has over 25,000 fans. Every time Snap-on updates their events section or uploads new video or photos, all their fans are automatically updated.


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  1. David Jacobs

    I’d be interested in hearing some feedback on old fashioned print catalogs. Not new or exciting but they don’t require an internet connection and the batteries don’t run out of juice at the jobsite.

    Is anyone communicating with their customers through print catalogs finding success or issues to overcome?

    We haev found that our clients put up a website and then go back to having a print book with the website. They say they are complimentary and perform 2 different functions. 1 for people at a desk and the print book for decisions made in the field.

    • tradesmeninsights

      Most of our clients sell through distribution and their internal sales folks especially their counter people nned and use a printed catalog. We have found that if there is a good internet version of the catalog it benefits the user more than the distributor and you can keep it updated easier. I don’t believe in the near term they will go away. Thanks for your comments

    • morgan

      We have gone back to a printed catalog at the request of customers and has helped. think you have to do both these days. can atake a looik at the on line version at or ask me for a hard copy. Cost us about $6.5 each net.


  2. Matt Nelson

    Although I love standard print media, I think they fall down when it comes to engaging their audience. This is really the forte of the social media, but I don’t see the trade publications or the trades industry picking up on this at all or if they do it’s a weak attempt at best.

    Could you imagine HVAC-talk coming out with mobile app that would allow techs to post questions and get answers quickly? Or tweeting a problem to a 100 of their closest tech buddies or directly to the manufacturer and getting a bunch of different responses.

    I can definitely see a day in the near future when these companies wake up to the possibilities, evaluate was is and is not working in their marketing strategies, and take the plunge to be more social.

    • tradesmeninsights

      agree Print is a one way conversation. Most print haven’t figured it out yet but at least HVAC Talk is on the right road. As mobile apps become more acceptable these folks will have to move in that direction. The biggest problem with print is that they think everything they do has to be a profit center. Until they understand that it will be an uphill battle because social doesn’t work that way. Thanks for your comments.

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