12 Tips for Contractor Testimonials

September 1, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

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Testimonials are one of the best ways to validate your products/services, especially if it’s from a contractor. Don’t be afraid to ask as most are more than willing to participate. Once you get them, make sure to repurpose them in several areas. Put it on your website; if you have a blog, do a post. If you’re on social media, share a link. Do project profile sheets that your salesman and distributors can use in the field.

Third-party validation is a powerful tool for new business. Testimonials help to eliminate skepticism, provide credibility and trust. If done correctly, it’s one of the easiest and most effective ways of creating appeal with potential contractors.

Here are some tips for creating and using testimonials:

  1. Don’t be generic. Specific, detailed testimonials are much stronger than those that are general and vague.
  2. Prospects are more likely to believe testimonials that are attributed to a specific person and company than those that hide their identify. I’ve found that most happy clients are glad to provide a written recommendation and are willing to have their name attributed to the testimonial.
  3. Provide testimonials on your firm’s website, your online brochure. They should be used anywhere and everywhere on your site. Not just on a testimonial page. Also include them in other materials used to promote your company. The more places potential clients can see them, the better. 
  4. Develop a consistent process to solicit testimonials from your satisfied clients. The best time to ask is immediately after you have done business with them.
  5. An easy way to request a recommendation is through LinkedIn. You can ask your connections to write a recommendation of your work that you can display on your profile, and with their permission, you can add it to other materials used to publicize your company. LinkedIn is also a great place to give testimonials in order to get testimonials.
  6. Whenever you receive a great letter or e-mail from a client, be sure to ask them if you can use their comments as a recommendation.
  7. Adding pictures to testimonials can significantly increase interest and raise their CTR.
  8. Providing a link to the site of the person who wrote the testimonial can bring additional credibility.
  9. Don’t neglect to create some select video testimonials. These are much more personal and powerful than just written copy.
  10. Good testimonials are filled with benefits. That’s what prospective clients are really looking for, how your services benefit them.
  11. When asking for testimonials, give your clients clear instructions on what you need.  Make them as specific as possible.
  12. I’ve found that setting up a Google Alert to receive daily emails of who is talking about your company is a way to discover additional testimonials.

If you aren’t using testimonials, you’re missing out on a simple, but great tool for new business.

Do you have any additional tips to share? Please add them in to the comment section below.


Fresh Ideas for Staffing Your Hard-to-Fill Skilled Trade Jobs

August 26, 2015

Today, we have a guest blog from Area Temps on new ways to staff hard-to-fill positions in the skilled trade industry.

The job market is tight, and you have several unfilled openings for hard-to-find candidates, causing your company to lose production unless you pay overtime to your current staff. You’re not alone. According to a recent Boston Consulting Group report, by 2020, there will be a shortage of 875,000 machinists, welders, maintenance technicians and industrial engineers. The steady growth in Northeast Ohio manufacturing, just as many skilled laborers are reaching retirement age, is leaving employers scrambling to find the right candidates from an ever-shrinking pool of applicants. Often, positions remain open for months while HR personnel search for the perfect person who can perform 100 percent of the job duties upon hire. A better solution may be employing individuals with school training who are motivated to work in their chosen fields. Let’s explore why.

Reason #1 – Flexibility

A candidate who is looking for on-the-job experience after completing a training program will be more flexible about work responsibilities than someone with years of experience. They won’t shy away from other duties during down times, such as assisting in the warehouse or cleaning work areas. In most cases, they are satisfied as long as they perform their primary job, such as machining or welding, most of the time. In contrast, many skilled candidates feel that doing work outside their field is beneath them. Recently, we interviewed a highly skilled welder who refused to do anything except welding, even though other job requirements, such as sweeping his work area, were minimal. Needless to say, our client selected a different candidate with less experience but a more flexible mindset. In industry today, having a flexible workforce is a key component to a company’s success.

Reason #2 – Less Turnover

Some skilled applicants are available in this highly competitive market because they are simply not interested in committing to any company long-term. They may spend one or two years with an organization before seeking greener pastures and moving on to a competitor who is offering more money or better benefits. Even though these individuals require minimal training and are productive while you have them, they won’t hang around for long, and you may be in a bigger staffing bind once they leave than you were before you employed them. On the other hand, trainees tend to be appreciative and loyal to the companies that took a chance and hired them. There is a higher likelihood that they will stay with you if you treat them well and give them opportunities for advancement.

Reason #3 – Economical

To land a highly skilled applicant, you must be prepared to offer an extremely competitive salary and benefits package. And if you want to keep them, you will need to give healthy raises, which may become a strain on your budget. In contrast, a candidate with school-only training is typically willing to work for a reasonable entry-level salary to increase their hands-on knowledge in the field. Be careful of underpaying these individuals once they become proficient in their jobs. You should always keep tabs on the going rate for their experience level and pay them appropriately, so you don’t lose them to your competitors. Keep in mind that other forms of compensation work well too, such as generous vacation plans, profit sharing or production bonuses.

Reason #4 – Faster Hire

Since there are more trainees available than experienced applicants, you will be able to fill your openings more quickly. Many times, a trainee can be hired within a few days, versus the weeks or even months needed to hire a skilled individual. Leaving a position open for an extended period of time will result in higher overtime costs to offset lost production. In most cases, a trainee will become proficient in less time than it would take for you to fill the job with your ideal candidate.

Reason #5 – More Trainable

Have you ever hired a candidate who, on their first day, said, “That’s not how we did it at XYZ Company?” If so, you know how frustrating it is when a seasoned person comes into your organization and is reluctant to conform to your procedures, because they feel they know better. Granted, some of the ideas they bring to the table might be good ones, but if they haven’t learned why you handle tasks a certain way, how do they know their methods are better? Trainees come into your company with a clean slate. They are eager to be taught your processes, to prove that they have what it takes to succeed within your organization. Even though they need more initial training than a skilled candidate, they make up for their lack of experience with a willingness to learn.

Reducing the Risk of Hiring an Entry-Level Candidate

Are you still unsure about hiring candidates with limited on-the-job experience? If so, you can mitigate your risk through Area Temps’ temp-to-hire program, which gives employers the opportunity to work with applicants during a probationary period, prior to making a long-term commitment. A trainee’s ability to learn the job, their attitude, their reliability and other important factors will all become evident during this timeframe. Candidates who develop into assets to your organization can be rewarded with permanent employment, at no additional cost to you. Please contact us if you would like more details about available applicants or our temp-to-hire program.

This post originally appears here on Area Temps blog.


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

August 25, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

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. The survey polled over 700 respondents with only 8% buying after the first call.

David Frey, the senior content editor and author of several marketing books advises, “An educated prospect is your best prospect, and if they haven’t become a customer, it’s because you haven’t fully educated them on the value of your product and developed a relationship of trust.” 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:

  1. It should be systematic.
  2. It should generate consistent, predictable results.
  3. It should require minimal physical interaction to make it run.

This leads to a more pressing issue and that is, what is the difference between sales lead management and a CRM tool? According to Russ Hill, President of Ultimate Lead Systems: Sales lead management is a sub-function within an overall CRM strategy. Traditional CRM programs like Salesforce.com, SalesLogix, ACT, Goldmine, Maximizer and others focus on the sales person entering and managing his own data and pushing it “up” to management.

Sales lead management starts with management generating and capturing leads from all sources, fulfilling information requests and delivering them to the sales channel and tracking follow-up and sales results to measure marketing return-on-investment.

Here are some other interesting facts:

INQUIRIES MEAN NEW BUSINESS!

  • 67% of all inquiries are from legitimate prospects with real needs.
  • 34% have current needs that must be satisfied within 6 months!
  • 70% did not know the company made the product before seeing their ad … making them NEW PROSPECTS!

A six-year study* of nearly 60,000 inquiries conducted by Penton Media Company also found that:

  • 43% of inquirers receive literature and information too late to be of use.
  • 72% of inquirers are NEVER CONTACTED by a salesman.
  • 25% of sales contacts are made at the inquirer’s request.
  • 40% of inquirers purchase the advertised product, a competitive product or change their suppliers.
    * NED Reader Action Reports

The key is to get a lead management system in place that can help your CRM convert those leads into sales.


4 Tips for B2B Social Media Success

August 20, 2015

Today we have a guest blog post from Stacy Combest, Marketing Team Leader at WTWH Media.

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It’s no secret that social media has become the major player in marketing, but with all the hype, there are still companies not ready to step up to the plate. In the beginning, business-to-consumer companies were reaping all the benefits of social media. Consumers were attracted to the informality of engaging with their favorite brands one on one. However, recently business-to-business companies have started to pay attention to the benefits of using social media.

With that, the distinguished line between B2C and B2B has begun to fade. What we are discovering is that even though we’re interacting with other brands, we know there is a person or team of people behind the name, changing how we interact with them. Rather than targeting the brand alone, B2B social media targets individual influencers either directly related to the brand, the industry or in some cases both.

The goal in targeting the influencers is to shift them into brand ambassadors: people who will share your content, give your company positive reviews and ultimately spread the word about you. The key is to know who your top influencers are, what platforms they use, how to capture their attention and when they are online.

Top influencers typically have a strong social media presence and are industry experts in their own right. They may already be engaging with you often, increasing your success because the relationship has already been established.

Tip 1: Lists are key for success

Make a list of these users (broken down by industry if you’re company is involved in more than one) so you can target them for future campaigns.

It’s important to push your business across many channels; however if you are using Facebook because it’s popular—but your audience isn’t there—it’s a waste of time. LinkedIn is currently the best social platform for B2B companies. Starting out as more or less an online resume, LinkedIn has grown into the place to be for B2B companies because those on it are there for business reasons. You are not going to see pictures of what someone ate last night for dinner or the umpteenth smiling baby. Rather, LinkedIn is a social platform for the professional.

Twitter is another platform growing in popularity within the B2B community. Aside from live tweeting; tools like CoveritLive and Storify give customers real-time updates not only from the company but everyone using a specific hashtag or handle. The number of things you can do with Twitter grows everyday.

Tip 2: Broaden the search and ask for love

Search for top influencers on all the platforms you’re on—you may even find the same influencers on more than one. Invite them to like your page, follow your Storify or share your post. (Chances are…they will!)

The way in which you compose your post is also very important. Each social platform is designed to attract in different ways. Twitter allows 140 characters in a tweet but most successful tweets are fewer than 60. Where Facebook has an unlimited amount of characters, it recommends a character count of around 100. Learn what will attract your influencers based on the industry you’re in. For example, engineers use social media to learn or seek information, so posts that work best are composed in the form of questions.

Tip 3: Learn the lingo

Test the headline of your article on by tweeting multiple titles and seeing which one performs the best.

Finally, timing is everything. You created an amazing social post; it has a beautiful eye-catching image and the perfect call-to-action. You post it on all your platforms at the same time but the next day your impressions are less than 2% of your total following with zero clicks. What did you do wrong? The answer is timing. Everyone uses social media at different times, and diving even deeper, each platform’s traffic is different. The key is to know what times of the day are the most active and post then. You may find that users are on LinkedIn in the mornings but more active on Facebook in the evenings. So the same post will need to be scheduled at different times.

Tip 4: Don’t let your post die in vain

Each platform has an average life for its posts. Facebook is 2-5 hours, Twitter is about 45 seconds (yikes!), Pinterest never dies, and so on. Learn when your customers are online and target your posts during those times, otherwise your hard work will never pay off because no one will ever see it.

All in all, social media is constantly shifting and changing. What worked for you today may not work next year or next month. By continually checking your reports and what’s working, you’ll be able to stay on top of your social media success.

Stacy Combest is the Marketing Team Leader for WTWH Media and has been with the company for three years. After her service with the 350th Psychological Operations Company, she shifted her focus from the military’s version of marketing to winning hearts and minds in the civilian world. Stacy enjoys life in Ohio with her husband and daughter. 


Why use Video as Part of your Marketing Mix to Reach the Professional Tradesman

August 18, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Video is a powerful tool. Consumers view more than 8 billion videos a day on YouTube and Facebook. That alone should tell you something – that people like videos. Why should you use short videos to attract the professional tradesman? Show how to solve a problem or demo a new tool or application.

Although there’s no specific research for the B-to-B sector, and more specifically to the professional tradesman, I think it would be safe to assume that these folks like to watch them as well. Here are 12 tips for effective tradesman videos. By using testimonials and showing how a product is used, videos also help move prospects through the sales process.

A recent study was done by Animoto of 1,000 consumers on how they interact with and feel about companies who use videos. Here are some highlights:

  • 25% of consumers lose interest in a company if they don’t use video.
  • Email open rates can increase by up to 50% if video is included.
  • 75% believe a video describing a service is important.
  • 80% believe a demo video is helpful.

How are you using video to help you sell?

Video Marketing Cheat Sheet


5 Tips for Ordering Promotional Items

August 6, 2015

By Robin Heike, Production Foreman at Sonnhalter

Promotional items can serve a variety of purposes such as adding the “rattle factor” to a direct mail marketing campaign or being a keepsake to commemorate an award.

From sourcing small items such as logoed sunglasses, to larger items like commemorative beer steins, here are a few tips to keep in mind next time you need to order a promotional item:

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  1. Get quotes from 3-4 sources. Not only does this help you find the best price, but it gives you extra options if the first supplier or product falls through.
  2. Get a sample, even if you have to pay for it, prior to ordering. This will ensure you found the right source for the right item. No one wants to trash an order of 100, 1,000 or 10,000 promo items that arrive and are not what you expected.
  3. Get custom packaging if you’re shipping out a promotional mailing with breakables. No one wants to receive a broken item.
  4. Build in time for damaged or lost shipments. If possible, order extras. This is very important if you’re ordering from an overseas location.
  1. Probably the most important tip: Give yourself as much extra time as possible to account for any delays.

Why a Blog Can Help in Generating New Business

August 5, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Your Blog is a repository of helpful content that can effectively attract a large number of prospective customers.

Here are 5 simple steps and suggestions to improve your company’s blog as a major tool for fueling new business leads:

1. Creating

Each new blog post is a new opportunity for you to be found online by your best prospects. Some quick suggestions:

  • Write to a specific target audience and provide answers to their advertising/marketing challenges.
  • Write consistently: This is important to creating regular readership. Write at least 3 to 5 posts per week.
  • Post should average 350 to 450 words and be pleasantly scannable to the eye. Break up long paragraphs, use bullet/numbered lists when possible. Highlight key words and thoughts.
  • Write in the inverted pyramid style, lead with your conclusion. People read differently online than they do for print. They tend to scan much more.
  • Identify and consistently use key words in your post title. You want to be able to dominate these words in Google search.
  • Let your reading fuel your writing.
  • Write 1 original post to every 4 to 5 resource posts. You’ll never be considered a thought leader without original content, but you won’t generate much traffic if all of your content is just your original thought. A balance of both needs to be provided through your blog.
  • Write with an “evergreen” style that will have a long shelf-life and provide a great return on your time investment.
  • Provide the “Readers Digest” version for your writers. Do the work on behalf of your readers and pull out the nuggets in simple language that is concise and easy to read.

2. Optimizing

  • Carefully think through your blog’s heading. A “heading” is a stand-alone phrase that describes your blog’s content that appears below it. I usually advise clients to create a blog descriptor statement for the header that lets a reader and search engines know the purpose and intent of the content. Mine is “Marketing to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets.”
  • Be sure you own your domain. A person that still has “wordpress or blogspot” in their domain won’t be able to change blogging platforms without losing traffic.
  • Be sure your site is indexed with Google. If your pages are not indexed, then Google is not crawling them.
  • Build quality inbound links. There are lots of online business directories where you can just submit your URL, agency’s name and a description of your services. There are also many social media sites where you can simply build links to your site. Writing guest articles and posts and optimizing our press releases can build links. The best way however, is to produce valued content and create a blog that is a repository of helpful information for your target audience.

3.  Promoting

  • Make sure your content can be easily shared on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, as well as social bookmarking sites such as Digg, del.icio.us and StumbleUpon with Share buttons.
  • Jumpstart traffic by repurposing your blog’s content through an email newsletter that is sent every other week. This is an easy thing to do. Since you already have the content and can create an email template that is reused, it will take literally minutes to prepare the newsletter and send.
  • Build a sizable Twitter following that is targeted using TweetAdder and repurpose your blog content to your Twitter account using a program such as Social Oomph.
  • Write guest posts; invite others to guest post for your blog.
  • Comment on other blog posts and online articles, sites such as STAFDA or HVAC Professionals on LinkedIn, etc. Select those sites that are frequented by your target audience.
  • Write content for searchability.
  • Publish new blog content to your other social media accounts such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Conduct your own primary research using your blog; generate links and traffic through press releases using your groups on LinkedIn.
  • Be proactive in facilitating speaking opportunities by creating a Speakers Page for your blog; list the topics and titles that you can speak to. You can also provide links to your past speaking engagements through YouTube; post photos through your Flickr Photostream.
  • Pull blog content together, expand SEO opportunities, creating Slideshare Presentations, Whitepapers, etc.

4. Converting

All of this activity isn’t worth the time investment if it doesn’t turn visitors into leads.

  • Place your RSS Subscription Feed button above the fold, near the top of your blog’s homepage. Visitors who subscribe will automatically receive updates every time you publish a new post either through an RSS Reader or through their email inbox. I would suggest setting up an RSS feed through Feedburner.
  • Also place a subscription for your email newsletter within your blog’s sidebar to create Opt-Ins from site visitors.

5. Measuring

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Fortunately, you can measure a lot online and continually hone your program.

  • Review your blog site’s analytics daily to see what posts are generating the most traffic, what search terms are being used, where traffic is coming from, who is linking to you, links readers clicked on, page views, etc.
  • Utilize your email newsletter analytics to improve open and click-through rates. Test the day of the week your email newsletter is sent, time-of-day and subject line copy.
  • Create a first-step call-to-action for your readers to know how to initially engage you. This could be something similar to my Industry White Papers. Make it something simple and of value that doesn’t take a lot of consideration but does separate to qualified prospects from those that just want to glean what they can get from you for free.
  • Use this suite of tools to analyze your marketing efforts:

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