Are You Asking Contractors for Feedback?

July 30, 2014

We’re all focusing on the next greatest product or making sales numbers for the month, but often overlook the very source of those sales.

Consistent contractor feedback is a key in establishing a long-term partnership. Let’s face it, we all have competition and contractors have choices. I think we’re missing opportunities to cement relationships and differentiate our brands. When was the last time you talked to a contractor that didn’t have an opinion?

It doesn’t have to be a complex program and your field sales guys can certainly help in this regard. Here are a few questions they should ask:

  • What’s working - Find out what you’re doing right. Are they getting the tech support they need? Is customer service taking care of them in a timely manner? It’s a great way of finding out their level of satisfaction with you.
  • What’s not - Here’s your opportunity for you to find out ways of things that need to be improved. After talking with several contractors, you will find out rather quickly if a pattern is emerging.
  • What can we do to improve our relationship - Show them that you are proactive. It might surprise you. Together you may identify new opportunities.

Of course, the info you collect will be worthless unless sales and marketing compile a spreadsheet of all answers to review. Action items and process improvements. If you’re not ready and open to making changes, don’t waste your time or the contractors. When talking with tradesmen, there’s not a one of them that would love the opportunity to share insights. Wouldn’t you rather they share them with you instead of your competitors?

 


Content Marketing: What Are Your Competitors Doing?

July 29, 2014

We hear a lot today about content marketing and how we all need to start producing more meaningful content to share. I’m OK with that, but most of us have the cart before the horse.

Instead of starting to develop content, we first do a content strategy. Lots of us do this by taking a look internally to see what content might already exist and identify topics and resources for future development.

But here’s where most of us stop—we don’t take a look at your competitors and see what they are doing. Doesn’t this make sense? If we were going to launch a new product, don’t we do our homework to see what’s already out there so we can figure out what to develop that will give us a competitive advantage?

I recently read a post by Danielle Terreri, Competitor Content Audits: Why & How to Vet Other Players in Your Industry that outlines steps you should take before finalizing your content strategy. Here are some highlights:

  • Content - what are they doing, do they have a blog, how are they talking about themselves and the industry?
  • Setup - what does it look like, how are they promoting it?
  • Blog - does it have a consistent theme, how often are they posting, what kind of topics are they writing about?
  • Evaluation - are they solving problems for their audience, where do you see opportunities for your company?

So bottom line is to avoid the ready, fire, aim strategy, vet your competitors and identify things you can do that would add value to your  target audience.


Considering Starting a Blog?

July 24, 2014

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Engineer

John and I presented a webinar awhile back, at the request of a client, about blogs. When it comes to blogs, the most frequent question we get is:

Should we start a blog?

It’s important to analyze the goals of your organization’s overall marketing plan to see if a blog fits into it. A company blog, like any other communication initiative, is a commitment. Blogs overall take time and energy to run, but they can provide a great payoff if they’re done well.

Here are 5 key questions to ask when thinking about starting a blog:

  1. Who is my audience?
  2. Who else is competing for my audience’s attention?
  3. What will be the blog’s focus?
  4. What are the goals for the blog?
  5. How will these goals be measured?

If you have those answers established and decide that a blog should be a part of your marketing plan, check out the presentation from our webinar below, or watch it on YouTube to get more information on the ins and outs of getting a blog going. And of course, our team is happy to help you get a blog off the ground as well!

Webinar: Should a blog be a part of your marketing plan? Slides

B-to-B Marketers: Are You Utilizing SlideShare?

July 23, 2014

slideshareWhen we think of utilizing social media in the marketing mix, SlideShare is probably the most overlooked and underutilized tool. There are over 60 million unique visitors a month to SlideShare sites with over 215 million page views.

Users are not only looking for good content, but also shared insights and SlideShare gives you a platform for both. Plus, you get the added bonus of using the other social media tools to promote your Power Points.

Lots of marketing departments, even if you tell them how great a tool it is, their push back very often is we don’t have time to develop one. My position is that between sales, marketing and the C suite, there are plenty of Power Points already existing that highlight and focus on issues that help differentiate you and help set you up as an industry expert. Here are some places to look:

  • Industry or association speeches that a C suite executive have given regarding an important issue or trend and their position on it.
  • Presentations to key customers on ways you can help solve their problems.
  • General positioning  Power Point on what makes you different.
  • Distributor-focused Power Point that talk about ways you support them.
  • Contractor-focused Power Point of the tools available to them from you to help them do their job.
  • New products with features and benefits.

I recently read an article by David Waring in Social Media Examiner -7 Ways to Use SlideShare for Your Business, that I found to be very  useful. He gives tips and examples on things as basic as creating well-designed slides, to how to work to get high rankings with key words and phrases by using key words in the file name and tag names. He also gives you tips on  how to grab attention using  how-to guides and  list titles.

The long and short of it is if you haven’t tried it, you have nothing to lose. You may be surprised what kind of views and leads you may get. I’d like to know your thoughts after you’ve tried it.


Do B-to-B Buyers Trust Your Website?

July 22, 2014

Interesting question, isn’t it? I think everyone thinks because they built one, everyone will like and trust what you have up there.

I recently read an article from the Content Marketing Institute written by Dianna Huff entitled, Why 55% of Potential B2B Buyers Might Not Trust Your Website that highlights some interesting findings. These findings were from a KoMarketing Associates usability report and are worth discussing. The key in a B-to-B relationship is that trust and credibility be established up front. The more transparent you are, the better. Here are some highlights:

It’s the little things that can either make or break the next steps in the process. Their study showed that lack of phone number or contact info was the biggest stumbling blocks in building trust (55%). That one made me wonder. The next few were expected – lack of a true message, do it yourself sites and tiny texts were no surprises.chart-elements establish website credibility

Content assets that helped establish credibility were lead by thorough contact and about us page. So I guess we need to carefully look at what we say about ourselves and give them several options on getting in touch with us. Email was the most preferred way (no surprise there) and phone came in second. The reality is vendors source suppliers online and if you don’t have a clear cut message and contact info, you’ll be passed over.

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Remove all barriers from people contacting you
  • Include email and phone number on each page for easy access
  • Include info about the people behind your company
  • Consider the strategic importance of the “about us” page

 

 

 


Why Content Curation is an Important Marketing Tool to Reach the Professional Tradesman

July 16, 2014

What is Content Curation?

Content curation is the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme. The work involves sifting, sorting, arranging and publishing information.

Why is it important to Manufacturers who want to reach the Professional Tradesman?

Chances are you have lots of bits and pieces of information on your products/services. They are scattered all over from catalog, tech sheets installations sheets, presentations, etc. We as marketers are so focused on creating content, and in most cases, your first priority is to consolidate all relevant info on a product or service in one place. Once you see what you have, it will be easier to identify the pieces that are missing and need to be created.

Professional tradesman are always looking for help in solving problems, and it benefits both you and them if they can go to one source and get all their questions answered.

Wouldn’t it make sense for a potential customer who is interested in left-handed widgets to find one source that could:

  • help evaluate your situation and options available
  • give you an independent industry perspective on possible solutions
  • give you guidelines on what products to consider for the project at hand
  • give you tips on installation
  • give you troubleshooting suggestions
  • give you tips on maintenance

So if the number-one challenge to marketers is lack of time, doesn’t it make sense to organize first, then prioritize how you’re going to fill the holes?

Heidi Cohen wrote an interesting article recently, The Top 10 Reasons You Need Content Curation in Your Content Marketing Mix where she outlines her reasons to use content curation.

Here are a few that caught my attention:

  • it provides a variety of perspectives which helps increase its credibility
  • positions you as a thought leader in your field
  • good content will be shared leveraging other people’s audiences
  • builds your brand
  • content can be segmented for social media and drive folks to your curated site with more information that they requested

So don’t take the ready-fire-aim approach to developing content.  Take an inventory of current assets before developing new ones. Also don’t try to do everything at once. If you have products that serve several markets, pick one, do it well, document results and then plan the next one.

 

 


Tips on Making your Landing Pages Better

July 15, 2014

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. 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.

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


Are Your Sales and Marketing Departments on the Same Page?

July 9, 2014

Sales and marketing must work together to define the ideal client and determine how and what to get in front of them.

Social media and the internet in general has changed the way people buy. Today, research is done online long before the potential customer identifies themselves to a prospective vendor. So what can you do to ensure that when the buyer is ready, you’re on the list to talk to?

This is an issue that continues to frustrate marketers and sales across the board. Both disciplines have insights to offer and neither should be working in a vacuum.

I read an interesting article recently by John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing that addresses this very problem. He states: “My take is that for organizations to take full advantage of the dramatic shift in the way people and organizations buy today they must intentionally blend inbound marketing, outbound marketing and inbound selling a way that mirrors today’s customer journey.”

He offers some suggestions on how they can work together. Here are some highlights of shared responsibilities:

  • Planning - When marketing is creating a plan, involve sales. They have insights that marketing doesn’t. Their insights are invaluable in helping define the customer journey.
  • Editorial – Even if sales people aren’t great writers, they certainly can identify pain points along the way and possible solutions for marketing to write about.
  • Social - Make sales aware of social opportunities, whether it’s LinkedIn or participating in an industry forum that social is a good networking tool.
  • Engagement - Have sales and marketing make calls together or write a proposal.
  • Measurement - Forget quantity and focus on quality of lead and how you can take them down the sales funnel. Focus on creating a profitable customer.

If you liked this post you might like:

Are You Getting Your Sales Force Involved in Social Media? 

How Does Social Media Impact a B-to-B Purchase?

 


Distributor Strategy: What’s Yours?

July 2, 2014

In the B-to-B world that I live in, manufacturers have to balance their time and efforts when dealing with distribution, between the big boys like Grainger ($9.4 billion), Fastenal ($3.3 billion) and MSC ($678 million), and the independently owned small local distributors.

Here are a few facts about the independent distributors (ISA) that you might not have known:

They collectively represent about $153 billion in sales.

AD (Affiliated Distributors) members do about $25 billion and NetPlus Alliance more than 5 billion in sales.

Now I realize they need to sell both. The strategy and support for a big player is much different from that of the local independent distributor. Let’s look at the different personas of both.

Big Boys.

  • Sell lots of stuff.
  • Beat you up on price and delivery.
  • Are more order takers than problem solvers.
  • Most are high maintenance from a customer service perspective.
  • Sales staff turnover high – most use sales as a stepping stone either inside that organization or for a position elsewhere.
  • Because of the high turnover, it’s hard to train and build a relationship with them.

Independent Distributors.

  • Collectively they sell more than the big boys.
  • Usually you can make more margin.
  • Are usually problem solvers not order takers (that’s their value proposition).
  • Lower maintenance from a customer service perspective.
  • More stable sales staff.
  • Have actual relationships with local customers
  • Able to train and build relationships with sales staff.

Logic and sometimes management says that we need to focus more time on the big boys as that’s where the biggest potential is.

Here’s a challenge for you.

Let’s take Fastenal for example. They have over 2,000 branches in North America. Besides calling on corporate, how many of the branches are stocking your product? What’s the average sale per year per branch?

Now look at the number of independents you sell to and what is the average annual sales for those that stock your product?

I think what you might find is that the independents will be outselling the big boys.

Now the next question is, what percentage of your sales teams times are being spent on both groups.

For those of you who do the exercise, I’d be interested if your results are similar to what I’m suggesting.


Manufacturers: Help Your Contractors Have Online Success

July 1, 2014

Many contractors have trouble navigating the digital scene. Here are some tips that can be forwarded on to them to help them get noticed and sell more of your stuff!

Guest post by Lachezar Stamatov, a regular contributor to the Work N’ Gear blog.

Contractor’s Online Success Strategy: Get Listed on These 4 Websites

ToolStop / Flickr / CC BY

ToolStop / Flickr / CC BY

For service-providing businesses, like contracting companies, greater online visibility can almost immediately bring more business. People’s primary way of finding somebody to do a job for them is by doing a quick online research. In order to increase your chance of being found online, one of the things you can do is get listed on websites for contractor services. Here are some websites worth considering.

HomeAdvisor

HomeAdvisor.com

HomeAdvisor.com

With over 56,000 likes on Facebook and more than 14,200 followers on Twitter, HomeAdvisor is one of the most popular websites for home service professionals.

HomeAdvisor’s web platform is extremely user-friendly. There is a very wide array of home improvement categories to choose from. Homeowners pick one, describe their needs and they get matched with up to four professionals. They can also read reviews of a particular contractor’s services.

Perks of the site include the Home911 app, which homeowners can use to find contractors willing to take emergency calls and do immediate repairs.  Another great benefit of registering with HomeAdvisor is that you will also get listed on other popular websites such as 1-800-Contractor, Realtor.com, Build.com and more.

CraftJack

CraftJack.com

CraftJack.com

CraftJack is a very versatile web tool which allows you to do a lot more than just get listed in a search directory.

CraftJack works much like a social network but one geared exclusively towards contractors. Each contractor has a unique profile page, which they can use to promote their business. You can use it to showcase your finished work by posting photos and videos. Plus, the page will display your overall customer rating.

CraftJack comes with a feature called Lead Manager, which can help you get more leads and referrals. You can even get discounts on the leads you win (e.g. by contacting a lead within 30 minutes of receiving the notification).

ACCA

Acca.org

Acca.org

ACCA stands for the Air Conditioning Contractors of America. But that doesn’t mean that only HVAC contractors can get listed. The website also works for contractors in refrigeration, plumbing, home and building performance, etc.

The way the website works is very simple. There is a search engine which homeowners, builders or building owners can use to find a contractor based on a variety of criteria, such as proximity, the kind of work they perform and the market segment in which they operate – commercial, residential or government. Site visitors can also find instructions on how to choose the most suitable contractor and see a list of questions they may want to ask the contractor before the work begins.

While you can get listed even if you are not a member, becoming one will grant you some extra benefits, such as opportunities to network during ACCA events or discounts on accreditation programs.

Angie’s List

AngiesList.com

AngiesList.com

Angie’s List is for contractors who work in the areas of home and yard improvement, as well as auto and health services. The website claims to be used by more than 2 million US households.

There are two ways your business can get listed in Angie’s List’s search directory. The first one is if a customer that is really pleased with your services adds you there and recommends you as a professional. The second one is if you create your own free profile where you can list your areas of expertise, follow your ratings and respond to customer feedback.

If you receive a negative review, Angie’s List will give you the opportunity to talk to the reviewer and hopefully have the review removed. Bear in mind that you should have a valid license, because Angie’s List gives homeowners the option to check if you are licensed and bonded.

Some Additional Advice

These four websites will give your business great visibility and increase your chances of getting more business. But there are two other things you should also do. First, get registered with Google Places, so your business can appear in the “sponsored ads” column of Google search results. Second, try to get listed in the .gov website of your state, as this will give you some extra credibility.

What steps are you taking to advertise your business and make sure you are visible online?


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