The Challenges of Being Seen, Heard and Read

May 20, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Everyone is getting better at resisting all the interruption-driven ads and promotions. Your customers are taking control of what they want to read or look at.

So what’s the answer? Quit selling and start giving them what they want (helpful content), where they want it and when they want it.

I recently read a post by George Stenitzer on Content Marketing Institute that talked about when more people are saying no to ads, what options do we have to get your message in front of them?

He cites some amazing stats:

  • Mobile has taken over as the first screen to view content
  • Over 50% of Americans record TV shows and don’t watch commercials
  • 91% of consumers unsubscribe or unlike brands for which they once opted in for

George gives us some helpful ways to make sure your content is seen and read.

  1. Permission is golden – If someone allows us to share info with them, make sure you give them good relevant content (it’s not about you).
  2. Give them what they want – A small percentage of your content will outperform the rest. Use your analytics to give them more of the same.
  3. Earn their attention in 7 seconds (23 words) – In the battle for attention, you need to answer the question quickly of what’s in it for them. Use images where possible.
  4. Keep customer info up to date – If you’re trying to be more personal and have the wrong info, you’ve lost the battle before it started.

These tips are not earth shattering, but a good reminder of what sets good content apart from the other self promotions.


4 Trades That Are Crucial to the Construction Industry

May 19, 2015

Today we have a guest blog post on behalf of WIA (Welding Industries of Australia) on four trades that are crucial for the construction industry.

Whether you live in a small town or a large city, you rely on the construction industry to provide infrastructure. From large corporations to modest family households, the construction industry is responsible for creating buildings that shelter you. But while we may depend on this industry for many things, the industry itself relies on several specialized trades. Here are four of the trades that are vital to the field of construction.

1. Electricians

Readi609_3399637ng at night, keeping cool in the summer, using computers at work or cooking a meal, there’s a seemingly endless list of day-to-day activities that are made possible by electricians. In our modern society, there’s no doubt that any building without electrical wiring would be virtually useless; the construction industry wouldn’t get very far without the skills of electricians. And while these tradespeople generally get paid well (U.S. News puts the average salary for electricians at around $50,000), there are certainly drawbacks to this profession. Aside from limited promotion opportunities and a lack of flexibility, electricians also face the very real risk of injury or death on a daily basis. According to Electrical Contractor magazine, 143 or so construction workers die due to electrocution each year, with about 34 percent of these individuals being electrical workers. It’s little wonder electricians experience above-average stress levels on the job.

2. Carpenters

Most of the wooden furni432_2980060ture you use, timber floors you walk on and wooden walls and beams that support the roof over your head are the handiwork of carpenters. When you consider that the majority of homes in the U.S. are constructed with timber frames, the importance of carpentry becomes even more obvious. With over 900,000 carpenters in the country and projections for this number to rapidly grow, this trade is clearly an important part of the construction industry. Fortunately, the decent working conditions and respectable average salary of about $45,000 should see this trade continue to flourish in the future.

3. Welders

Welders, often categorized together with cutters, solderers and brazers, are essentially the metal equivalent of carpenters. From manufacturing household appliances, to building race cars, there is a uniquely diverse range of projects that a skilled welder can find themselves working on. While less known than other trades, welding is an extremely valuable element of the construction industry.430_4403220

Welders require thorough training and often need to earn credentials before landing their first job. Sometimes, they also have to invest in their own equipment from a specialist provider like WIA. These factors may contribute to the fact that welding is the only trade on this list that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted will decline in number moving towards 2022. According to this Forbes article, welding is one of the main fields in which an older average population of workers could lead to a shortage in the near future. This means that welding is not just a crucial trade for the construction industry, it’s also a worthwhile career path for young aspiring tradespeople.

4. Plumbers

Similar to electricians, plumbers are essential in the construction of any contemporary building. They also become vital tradespeople when you want to renovate a bathroom, decide to add an en suite to your home or have any toilet issues. 609_3677189The task of keeping our pipes and water systems functioning smoothly employs about 390,000 plumbers in the U.S., and this number is expected to grow much faster than the average profession this decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This steady growth is likely due to the construction industry’s (and society’s) consistent demand for plumbing work, combined with the healthy average salary of around $49,000 and the job satisfaction that comes from regularly making a difference to the lives of other people.

There are many trades that form integral parts of the construction industry – these are just four of the most crucial ones. Reflecting on the important role these tradespeople play can help us appreciate and understand why pursuing a trade can be a lucrative and very fulfilling path.


Is Your Brand Humanized?

May 13, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

If you’re using social media, your objective is to connect with your target audience. In order to do that, you need to talk in non-business terms instead of connecting on a human level.

Hopefully you’re not taking your existing marketing material and repackaging it into social. The best way to connect with prospects is through story telling. You can still get your message across without the hard sell.

I recently read a post by Ishita Ganguly on Social Media Examiner titled 9 Ways to Humanize Your Brand with Social Media. Some of the highlights from her article are:

  • Show a sense of humor – you can share information and make it fun
  • Use everyday language – don’t speak industry jargon
  • Engage in conversation – a small gesture like thanking someone for a retweet goes a long way.
  • Acknowledge mistakes – owning up to a mistake shows not only that you’re human, but it also builds long-term credibility by admitting it.
  • Sign your posts – it puts a human face to your brand.
  • Provide solutions – shows you understand their pain points.

What are your thoughts? Have you tried any of these? What are you doing to humanize your brand?


Do You Use Relationship Marketing When Trying to Reach Contractors?

May 12, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

609_3676925-electricianstalking

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 recently 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. They want solutions, not necessarily a sales pitch. You need to make yourself available in conversations with contractors.

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:

  • A genuine relationship starts with you – start with an open and positive mindset and be willing to work on the relationship.
  • Make posts as helpful and useful as you can – it’s not about you, it’s about your readers’ problems and concerns.
  • Be helpful and positive in all interactions – whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or your blog…always be helpful, positive and upbeat.
  • Encourage discussion in comments – you’re not the only one with good ideas. Make sure to engage on your response and ask their opinion.
  • Give back on other blogs – link when appropriate to other blogs, visit their sites and make comments and write guest posts for them.

One of the most important points is you can’t fake this stuff. If you are just pretending to care about your readers, if you don’t really want to talk to them, they’ll feel it and then you’ve lost them.


Why Forecasting and Budgeting are Vital to Success

May 6, 2015

Today, we have a guest blog from Emily Hunter on the importance of forecasting and budgeting when making smart financial and HR decisions in planning a successful business model.

Adjust sales budget concept

Why Forecasting and Budgeting are Vital to Success

There are countless aspects to running a successful enterprise, and forecasting and budgeting are amongst the most important. Without a proper focus on these aspects, a business can easily spend too much money, make errors in hiring and have different departments in a company working toward competing goals. Let’s take a look at some of the more important reasons that budgeting and forecasts are so vital to keeping your business in sync.

Planning for the Unexpected

One mishap or emergency can sometimes spell disaster for the entire company. Being ill-prepared for these events can result in a company going out of business or, best-case scenario, having a long run of unprofitable months. This is where budgeting and forecasting models are so essential. Though a time may never come when a contingency plan is necessary, having one in place is still important.

Forecasting potential issues can help a company stay afloat if, for instance, a top producer in the corporation departs. Having a financial plan set up to keep a company going strong in this instance, and in many others, prevents any one department, individual or another aspect of a company from being the only thing keeping it successful.

Making Appropriate HR Decisions

Some companies hire an overabundance of new employees with the idea that they’ll need them in the long run. This can be an unfortunate decision if proper budgeting and forecasting solutions aren’t implemented. Discovering that unnecessary resources are being spent can sometimes result in angry former employees and increased unemployment insurance costs.

Fortunately, enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions can help in this situation. Because these types of tools allow multiple departments to simultaneously access information and data related to inventory management, product planning, marketing and a variety of other aspects, it’s easier to forecast staffing needs instead of making pointless hires. In the end, this can save untold expenditures in training and other human resources expenses.

Improving Income Statements

Operational plans are essential to forecasting projected income for a corporation. Making them more efficient is a great way to improve budgeting and forecasts, and thus be prepared for events which could impact a company’s progress. Creating these plans is much easier and produces better results when cash flow statements and balance sheets are integrated between all departments.

Increasing Good Collaboration

Effective budgeting and forecasting tools can also ensure that collaborative projects run much more smoothly and efficiently at any company. Simply imagine an individual ordering inventory without realizing that another employee has just made a huge sale that will diminish much that is on hand. Similarly, someone focusing solely on inventory without realizing that the approaching month’s sales will be slower can result in overstock.

ERP software can go a long way to prevent such mistakes from occurring. All employees who would benefit from access to the forecast model can be added to the shared permissions for any collaborative sections. This allows for more cooperative human resources; when each employee knows the full circle of their tasks, it is less likely that costly mistakes will be made.

Recognizing Growth Opportunities

Properly created budgeting and forecasting models allow a company to make informed decisions on whether or not they can expand. By using the reports derived from this data, it’s possible to answer questions such as: “Can we afford another employee in Department X,” or “Will increasing production result in enough sales to still cover overhead costs while still turning a profit?”

There are not many aspects of a company that the elements of forecasting and budgeting do not directly affect. Because of this, an ERP software solution containing these elements is certainly amongst the best software investment a budding entrepreneur can include in their budget. The aforementioned benefits are just a small sampling of what a successful budgeting and forecasting model can do to ensure your company’s ultimate success.

Emily Hunter is a SEM Strategist and Outreach Supervisor at the Marketing Zen Group, working closely with TGO Consulting. She loves designing strategies with her team and is excited about spreading the Zen gospel. In her spare time, she cheers for Carolina Crown and Phantom Regiment, crafts her own sodas, and crushes tower defense games. Follow her on Twitter at @Emily2Zen


Did Your Website Survive Mobilegeddon?

May 5, 2015

And Did You Know It Happened?

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent at Sonnhalter

mobile

(image courtesy of CNET)

On April 21st, Google changed its search results algorithm.

Sounds boring, right? Well the results of that change may impact your business more than you think. As of that Tuesday, nicknamed Mobilegeddon by various media outlets, the mobile friendliness of a site is now a more important factor in ranking mobile search results. Why the change? Because the way we access the web is changing.

Last year, it was estimated that over half (60% by some estimates) of all online traffic was from mobile devices. Facebook reports that 85% of daily access to its site is from mobile devices, and last holiday season, Amazon stated that 60% of all sales were from, you guessed it, mobile. At the same time, Google’s dominance in mobile has slipped. As more and more mobile search comes from apps rather than true search, so has their share of traffic and revenue. In 2014, they reported 68% of all mobile search revenue. Impressive, but dramatically down from the 82.8% only 2 years earlier.

So What Can You Do?

First and foremost, find out how mobile friendly your website is. Google has a site, here, that will score your site (tradesmeninsights.com scores an “awesome”) Now that you know, there are several steps you can take:

  • Add some elements to your pages to make them more user-friendly:
    • Have text that is readable without tapping or zooming
    • Make sure tap targets are spaced appropriately
    • Avoid unplayable content and horizontal scrolling
  • The update applies to individual pages, not entire websites, so make sure your most critical pages such as product pages, receive mobile makeovers first.
  • Pages being a good search match still trump mobile-friendliness, so make sure you know how people search. Customers probably aren’t searching by product number, so make sure your pages contain common keywords and industry-specific slang.
  • This new criteria only applies to mobile searches, so know how your customers are finding you. It may be that you don’t need a mobile strategy right now. But keep in mind that the biggest name in search has a mobile strategy, so soon you’ll need one too.

Listen…Please

April 29, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

ListeningThink about the people you care about and like both in your personal life as well as your professional one. I bet one of the reasons you like them is because they take the time to listen.

You know it’s hard to have a conversation with someone who’s always talking. In business, I think the best salesmen are the ones who take the time to find out what the customer’s problem is and then offers options for fixing it.

I find that those same people who want to talk a lot don’t worry much what’s said about their company or brand on the internet, and that could come back to bite them big time in the long run.

I recently read a post by Zoe Summers in Social Media Examiner that outlines ways to use listening in your business life (social listening is also known as social media monitoring). Here are some highlights:

  • Generate leads by solving problems
  • Attract new customers
  • Discover where your target audience hangs out
  • Use as a customer care tool
  • Get feedback on new products

Another post by Jay Baer, 6 Parts of Your Company That Should be Listening to Social Conversations, I found extremely interesting and wanted to share some highlights. Some are obvious; others we all should put on our list.

  1. Sales – Listening programs give you the opportunity to find prospects when the timing is perfect and when they’re actually asking for answers you have.
  2. Marketing and PR – Listening helps make sure that the language you’re using as a company is the same language being used by the people you’re hoping to hook.
  3. Customer Service – Customers are airing their concerns, questions and grievances over social media channels, especially if traditional channels prove less than helpful.
  4. R&D – You can fuel your idea engine by harnessing the input, thoughts and creativity of the online audience.
  5. HR – The obvious potential here is talent recruiting, in both finding potential employees and examining their online social graphs.
  6. Executives and Management – They can understand market trends through the unfettered viewpoint of the online masses and determine whether they’re behind, ahead of, or riding the curve.

So next time, whether it’s online or in person, take a deep breath and listen first.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 730 other followers