Manufacturers: Are you Looking to Build your Social Media Presence? Use LinkedIn.

July 29, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter


LinkedIn by far is the best tool for B-to-B users in my opinion. It’s easy to use and the networking options are almost limitless. I’ll assume most of you are on it, but when was the last time you refreshed it?

The 2015 Social Media industry report from Social Media Examiner said 88% of B-to-B companies use LinkedIn and 41% cite it was their most important platform.

Jeffrey Cohen from wrote an interesting article recently on ways you can refresh LinkedIn.

Here are some highlights:

  • Review your company page – What, you don’t have one? Better get going on creating one. Keep it up to date with current news. Consider changing the images frequently during the year.
  • Review results of posts – Track links that drive visitors to your blog or website so you can better understand what’s driving engagement.
  • Add relevant showcase pages – Create topical pages of areas of interest to your customers. It’s a great way to segment your audiences and post content relevant to them.
  • Employee lunch and learn – While we can’t force folks to promote the company, we can certainly encourage them to do so by buying them lunch to explain why and show them what they could do would be helpful. By providing them a standard 2 or 3 sentence description of the company, it will help search results for the company as well.
  • Create a Slideshare deck for employee profiles – create a short deck describing your company. Your employees can add it to their profiles.

If you like this post, you may want to read:

LinkedIn Still Top Performer for B-to-B

How to use LinkedIn to Promote your Innovative Company

What are you Doing to Grow your LinkedIn Connections?

Are You Using Landing Pages to Help Qualify Leads?

July 28, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Landing pages are microsites where prospects go when they click-through a link.

landing page

Hopefully, as part of your strategy to move prospects along the selling cycle, you are using landing pages in order to deliver on what you promised. It’s also a great way to track responses and gather contact info. It could also be a way of losing a potential customer.

Here are some tips that might help results:

  • Keep it simple – Deliver on what you promised to get them there in the first place.
  • It’s not about you – How can you help them with a problem that got them there in the first place.
  • This is not an ad – They’re not looking for a sales pitch, but answers to specific questions.
  • Powerful content – Keep it relevant. Don’t focus on key words. Instead, make what you say useful and valuable.

Landing pages focus the visitor on the next step in the process.

All too often, folks want to talk about 5 different things and give them additional links. It won’t work. Just ask yourself – why did they click on a call-to-action that got them here? Then deliver what you promised.

If you want to learn more, you might want to read:

Are you Using Landing Pages?

Product Landing Pages: Tips on How to Improve Performance

Manufacturers: Are you Using Marketing Automation Tools?

July 22, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

To keep our sanity in trying to keep up with and engage potential customers, it makes sense to use some sort of marketing automation tools to help the process. And there are plenty of options out there: Marketo and Hubspot being two of the better known.

We all know nurturing improves lead quality and moves them through the famous sales funnel. The problem is most sales funnels aren’t simple straight lines.

Here’s the reality – the typical sales funnel isn’t as straight forward as we’d like to think especially in the B-to-B world. The Forrester graphic below is probably more accurate.

2015 B2B Buyer Journey

The challenge for me is determining messaging for each level to get them to the next step. We need to make them as personal and to the point as possible, but you can’t have 20 different e-mails.

Depending on what you’re selling (engineered product), the selling cycle is longer, and in many cases, there are multiple decision makers, all of which have different hot buttons. How do you handle them? Ideally you want to send leads to sales that are sales ready.

Here are some tips:

  • Try to identify where they are in the sales funnel so you don’t lose them on messages that are already past.
  • Give them something to download that will help them in their job (i.e. calculator, configurator, relevant case study).
  • Make them aware that CAD files are available for downloading.
  • Try to initiate a question that will want them to talk with one of your application engineers.

What are you doing to better qualify leads before sending them to sales?

Manufacturers: Are you Keeping up with Your Customers’ Expectations?

July 21, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Are we living up to our customers expectations? As consumers, we know that through the improvements in technology that most of us want fast, cost-effective and personalized levels of experience. And most are getting it, but at what cost?

Is this any different for the manufacturing world and your customers? Have your distributors and contractors become more demanding? My guess is yes, because remember, they are consumers too and they expect the same from their business dealings.

I read an interesting article in eMarketer recently that companies in general are having trouble meeting customer expectations. 93% of business leaders worldwide said technology has changed the customer experience in the last 10 years.

Ways in Which Technological Innovations Affect Customer Expectations Today vs. in the Future* According to Business Leaders Worldwide, Jan 2015 (% of respondents)

How does that stack up with what you’re experiencing?

What are your biggest challenges? Are they in this chart?

What are you doing about it?

Customer service. We all say we have it, but what is it? Where does it start?

Unless you are offering something you can’t get anywhere else, then you’re going to have competition from someone. So what makes your customers or potentials want to do business with you instead of them?

Assuming you have a good product, then I’d say the customer experience would be the major deal sealer or breaker. Customer service starts the moment someone from your company answers the phone, through the sales process and follow-up with your customer service department if a question or problem arises.

I guess what I’m trying to say is your company’s customer service should start with every employee. Those that are on the front line (be it a CS or delivery man), they have the one-on-one contact with the customer and can sway future purchases by their actions or inactions. We all build our business around repeat sales so everyone in the company needs to be goodwill ambassadors. The challenge for all of us is to find the friction in our process and smooth it out.

Do you know what a customer is worth to you? Think beyond this quarter or even this year. Think about the last 5 years. How much stuff have you sold them? More importantly, if you come out with something new, where are your best chances of selling it? To someone new, or to someone who knows, likes and trusts you?

Here are some insights on how we can make the customer experience better, resulting in better loyalty and ultimately more sales:

  • Deliver outstanding quality – from a great quality product to courteous customer service and user-friendly literature.
  • 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 to you.
  • Under promise and over deliver – exceed your customers’ expectations, then do it again!
  • Don’t sit on your laurels – yes, you have some neat products, but instead of sitting there and just doing the same old same o, innovate. If you don’t, someone else will.

Now these points probably aren’t a revelation to you, but when was the last time you focused on your customers and said THANK YOU!

Here are Some Blogs Professional Tradesmen Read

July 15, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

There are over 152 million blogs – how do you identify and communicate with the right ones to get in front of the professional tradesman? The first question to answer 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 identify the right communities, monitor them and jump in and get involved!

If social is to be a part of your media relations strategy, you must remember that different rules apply to social:

  • Your brand can be affected positively or negatively. Remember you don’t control the message.
  • Your brand depends on the “loyalists” who are passionate about you.
  • Key blogs or social sites are authored by thought leaders from your industry.

All blogs are not created equal. Do comprehensive research as to the communities you might want to get involved in and then monitor them. If they seem to be talking about relevant topics, jump into the conversation. Social media demands transparency, so be honest in your engagement. Here are a few sites that may be of interest to those going after the professional tradesman:

Blog references:


The blogs of MDM: segmented into Distribution Sales & Marketing; Economy; Human Resources; Industry Insiders; Management & Strategy; Mergers & Acquisitions; Online Marketing; Public Policy; Technology.

Plant Engineering Blogs: designed for plant engineers and maintenance professionals.

The blogs of IMPO: blogs covering various topics related to industrial maintenance and plant operations.

IndustrialSAVER: serves as a free all-in-one Online Industrial Marketplace, B2B Classifieds and Trade Portal for those looking to buy/sell all kinds of industrial, engineering and construction supplies, equipment and machinery as well as custom and contract manufacturing solutions.

Industrial/MRO Forums

Industry Week Forum

CR4 Forum

Maintenance Forums: Where reliability and maintenance meet


Residential Construction Blogs

Home Construction Improvement: Todd Fratzel is a full-time principal engineer for a large design-build construction firm. In his spare time, Todd blogs on home improvement and construction. In addition to the expert advice available on this site, Todd is also very accessible for questions or advice about individual projects.

Paragon Remodeling: This company has won awards for Top Remodeler from Qualified Remodeler Magazine for their outstanding home remodeling services for Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. They specialize in deck construction, patio building, window replacement, roofing, siding replacement, sunrooms, kitchen remodeling, bathrooms and basement remodeling. The primary focus of the blog is industry news, contractor requirements, home projects and cost versus value reports.

Commercial Construction Blogs

Construction Market Data: CMD’s portfolio of products and services includes national, regional and local construction data, building product information, construction cost data, market analytics and advertising channels to construction industry professionals in the U.S. and Canada. With a wide range of choices from forums to building codes, this blog includes a vast array of topics. Post subjects include staffing solutions, computer models and Sears houses.

Green Blogs

Building Green: Blog from, an independent publishing company committed to bringing its members accurate, unbiased and timely green design information.

Greenversations: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency keeps a detailed blog about all things green. In addition to employees, the occasional expert guest blogger stops by to post. There is even a section for frequently asked questions.

Architecture and Design Blogs

anArchitecture: A blog by Christoph Wassmann, living and working in Vienna, Austria, anArchitecture is an internationally focused blog related to architecture and architectural thinking. A resource for people in the orbit of architecture, this blog aims to broaden the horizon of architectural design – pushing the boundaries of what architecture can be. He posts regularly with news, links and opinions.

BLDG Blog: This blog is written by Geoff Manaugh, the Senior Editor for Dwell Magazine and author of The BLDGBLOG Book. The blog focuses on architectural conjecture, urban speculation and landscape futures.

Inhabitat: This site is devoted to the future of design, tracking innovations in technology and practices that push architecture and home design towards a smarter and more sustainable future. Started by NYC designer Jill Fehrenbacher, this blog was intended as a forum in which to investigate emerging trends in product, interior and architectural design.

Construction Informer: An active blog by Duane Craig with interviews, articles and discussion about building structures and the things that make up the built environment.

Electrical Blogs
LiveWire is the source for electrical news. Monitored and maintained by Jim Lucy and Doug Chandler who are seasoned journalists from the editorial team of Electrical Wholesaling/Electrical Marketing.
Features the latest association news from NAED President and CEO, Tom Naber, and others.
Established in 2013, NEMRA’s blog covers articles produced by the organization as well as follow up information on article topics.

Online Forums
A leading authority on marketing, referral management and search engine optimization for contractors, plumbers, remodelers, landscapers, painting contractors and HVAC contractors throughout North America. The site contains marketing tips, a free marketing newsletter and lots of great ideas on how to win more new clients, get more referrals and win more new business from existing clients
Professional Electrical Contractors’ forum.
Professional Contractors’ forum with electrical sub-forum.
The BIMForum’s mission is to facilitate and accelerate the adoption of building information modeling (BIM) in the AEC industry. Ten subforums have been established to address each relevant industry sector and topic.
Part of a network of forums for professional contractors.
Online forum of Contracting Business; Broader audience that includes consumers and educated DIYers; Peer-to-peer.

HVAC Blogs

ACHR News Blogs
Blogs for The News, includes: Opinions Blog, Editors Blog, Guest Blog and The Coach’s Blog.
Blogs feature news, opinions, business advice and a variety of other topics.

Contracting Business Blogs 
Blogs for Contracting Business, written by editors Terry McIver and Ron Rajecki. Blogs cover a variety of HVAC- and business-related topics.

Energy Vanguard Blog
Energy Vanguard’s mission is to turn houses into high-performance homes through training and design. The blog covers topics including industry standards, building science, industry news, safety issues, conferences and education.

Blogs written by SNIPS Magazine editors Michael McConnell and Kori A. Winters, with contributor Al Levi. Blogs cover industry topics including legislation and trade shows.

Plumbing Blogs

Plumbing Engineer industry news blog.

eLocal site with tips and advice from professionals for homeowners.
This blog is a home base for kitchen and bath professionals hosting a weekly Twitter chat, contains topics, host profiles, transcription and other information.
Blog by internet marketing provider for plumbers that features blog posts and podcasts with advice for plumbers to gain better online visibility.
General Pipe Cleaners’ blog with plumbing and drain cleaning tips and best practices..

What is a creative brief?

July 14, 2015

Do you use a creative brief to guide your marketing plan?

In the most recent Marketing Minute video from Sonnhalter, Matt explains what this useful marketing tool is and the 11 elements that Sonnhalter’s creative briefs include.

To view other videos from Sonnhalter, visit our YouTube channel here.

Customer Service: How Are You Handling Unhappy People?

July 8, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

I’m amazed by the stats that more than half of those on social media don’t have a plan to respond to negative social media posts. Social media isn’t new, isn’t going away, and if you’ve followed or read anything about this space, you know there have been numerous posts about the subject.

customer service

Customer service departments are usually the place where traditional issues are handled. But when it comes to social media, most don’t know how to find complaints and have a process of responding in a timely manner. Customers especially on the internet want a response and want it now (42% want to be responded to in an hour or less).

I recently read a great article by Jay Baer from Convince and Convert on Why You Need a Customer Service Response Road Map that highlights ways to identify, prioritize, assign responsibility and set deadlines that’s well worth reading.

Negative issues need to be addressed and what better way to hear about issues than on social platforms. Don’t you want to know what customers are saying about you? You’d better be monitoring them and jump in with a plan to respond. There are several monitoring options out there will help you. Here are some free ones: Social Mention, Google Alerts, Hootsuite and TweetDeck.

I recently had an experience with a major faucet manufacturer about a replacement. We had to get a new tub at home and my wife wanted to update the faucets, which we did. The manufacturer sent the wrong spout and it took our plumber almost 2 months to get the replacement for it. They weren’t good at customer service, just making excuses. I made mention (by brand name) on a tweet what my frustration was, and true to form, heard nothing back.

In the short run, ignoring me may not be a big deal to them since I had already purchased the tub set, but in the long run, my wife is planning to replace all the faucets in our 3 bathrooms. Guess who isn’t going to be considered for that purchase?

In a world where we have alternative plans for everything, don’t overlook social responses to negative posts. It’s better to address them straight on or they will fester and come back to bite you when you least expect it. Have a plan in place as negative reviews will affect your SEO.

Unless you are offering something you can’t get anywhere else, then you’re going to have competition from someone. So what makes your customers or potentials want to do business with you instead of them?

Assuming you have a good product, then I’d say the customer experience would be the major deal sealer or breaker. Customer service starts the moment someone from your company answers the phone through the sales process and follow-up with your customer service department if a question or problem arises.

I guess what I’m trying to say is your company’s customer service should start with every employee. Those that are on the front line (be it a CS or delivery man), they have the one-on-one contact with the customer and can sway future purchases by their actions or inactions. We all build our business around repeat sales, so everyone in the company needs to be good will ambassadors. The challenge for all of us is to find the friction in our process and smooth it out.

Here’s a good test. Make a complaint on social media about one of your products (under a name they won’t recognize) and see what kind of response you get.


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