Reaching Professional Tradesman: Why Content Marketing Works When Advertising Might Not

September 30, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Contractors and professional tradesman often don’t have time to read the latest trade publication or look at the magazines’ website on a regular basis and might miss your message. Chances are, unless you only make one product, their interest at any given time may be on another product.

When they do go looking for things, the first place most go to is the internet, and the chances are that they are looking for a solution just as much as they are looking for a specific product. That’s why search is so important in the big scheme of things, and what makes you go up in search – good meaningful content!

Heidi Cohen had an interesting article regarding advertising vs. content driven messages that had some good points for the B-to-B market.

B-to-B lags behind the consumer counterpart in doing research before they contact a manufacturer or distribution point. But even at 57%, you’d better have some skin in the game from a search perspective or you’re going to be left at the curb.

Best Lead Generation Tips

Razorfish found that:

  • 50% of U.S. consumers will do anything to avoid ads
  • 75+% of U.S. consumers hate hearing or seeing ads multiple times
  • 65% of U.S. consumers use a DVR to skip ads

Those are some scary numbers, and even though they are consumer driven, remember that those same consumers may be buying your products at their workplace. So what’s the alternative?

  • 86% of U.S. consumers value brands that are useful over those that have interesting advertising.

Translation: give your customers the info they need when they need it. Here are some tips:

  1. Leverage the social media platforms where your customers hang out.
  2. Supply product info for potentials to seek out.
  3. Tap into sources your customers trust, like trade associations.
  4. Make sure the info you give prospects enhances the product value.
  5. Skip the promotion and show them best practices when using your products.
  6. Re-promote your content. Once is not enough.

So the question is, how much effort are you using to create great content?

How to Get More out of your B-to-B Strategies to Reach the Professional Tradesman

September 29, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

When developing content, manufacturers may be concentrating on the wrong types, making the results less than desirable. Many focus on product brochures and slide presentations as they are easily available.

These may be low hanging fruit for development, but they’re also not delivering the results they want. According to a recent survey by the CMO Council, NetLine and Content ROI Center, brochures only delivered 9% great leads and slide presentations only 15%.

A recent article talks about ways to improve performance on developing content.

Content Types that Deliver Great Leads According to B2B Marketers in North America, Q2 2015 (% of respondents)

Content pieces that weren’t “salesy” drew much better numbers. It’s not surprising that white papers, industry reports, videos and webcasts scored better.

This should serve as a wake-up call for all those manufacturers that are trying to make an impact on contractors and professional tradesmen. Get away from selling and start helping them solve their problems.

If you want to get noticed and build up your credibility, this is the way to do it. Chances are you already have many of the assets needed to do most of these tasks, from how-to videos to webinars talking about a specific topic. I know you’ve got the brain trusts inside your company to either create the white papers or do the videos; why not capitalize on their expertise?

We also need ways to measure the effectiveness of these tasks and try to link back leads to actual sales. Landing pages are a great way to start collecting data and nurturing campaigns will help them through the selling cycle.

Let’s face it, we all have limited time and budgets and we need to make the most out of both.

5 Best Practices for Testimonials

September 23, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

I have found that there’s no better way to position yourself as a credible source than by having a third party sing your praises. Most companies, if pleased with what you did or supplied, would be happy to not only give you a recommendation, but in some cases, a testimonial.

Here are five things to consider:

  • Keep the requests to unique applications or markets. This helps you focus on something that sets you apart.
  • Ask when the project is complete – when everything is fresh in everybody’s mind.
  • Get proper clearances upfront – when dealing with bigger companies or unique situations, it’s smart to get an approval upfront and let the customer know what you want to accomplish and assure them that they will have final approval before it’s used. If you have a PR department or agency, they are used to vetting out potential before you waste time and resources.
  • It’s best you control the writing. Most customers are not writers, they’re contractors. Besides, they aren’t aware of the big picture of what you’re ultimately trying to accomplish. Write an outline of what you want to accomplish and then let someone interview the contractor and write the story.
  • Utilize info in multiple places – try to get it featured in a leading trade magazine. Post it on your website. Have a sell sheet made up for your salesmen to use. If you’re on social media, post it there with links back to your website. Here’s a good example of Viega that uses case studies very effectively.

ViegaMercyHealthProfileDon’t miss out on one of the best ways of building credibility using a third party.

Be the Resource

September 16, 2015

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent at Sonnhalter

“Content Marketing” has been a buzzword for a few years now, and quite frankly, it can be a confusing term to translate to your everyday marketing strategy. But for manufacturers, it all boils down to one simple sentence:

Be a resource.

You have a product, your competitors have a product, but now more than ever, your current and potential customers need information. Just like you, they are dealing with a skill gap. Just like you, they need to establish a way to transfer knowledge and training to a new generation of workers. Be there to help, and sales takes care of themselves.


For generations, John Deere has published The Furrow. Currently, Lincoln Electric has garnered justified publicity and acclaim for taking what was The Stabilizer and updating it as Arc Magazine. And there are more examples.

For all their marketing and CRM uses, the real purpose of both is to be a resource. Both companies have chosen to make best practices, product information and collective knowledge a matter of public knowledge, and in so doing, they have engendered customer loyalty and established themselves as “industry experts.” They have become the resource. They have transcended the marketplace of products and become the leaders in the marketplace of ideas.

The key to an effective program is to make the same essential information accessible in multiple formats and repurpose it as much as possible.

As an example, take a newly developed solution and:

  1. Develop a press release
  2. Write a white paper
  3. Host a webinar based on the white paper
  4. Take the questions from the webinar and develop short videos for posting on social media
  5. Use the video links as the basis of an email campaign
  6. Use responses to the email campaign to feed your lead generation system
  7. Write a success story about a company that implements the solution, showing gains in productivity or cost reductions

So, the same essential information has now been repurposed seven different ways, generating leads and exposure all along the way.

And best of all, when a customer you never even knew about searches for information on that solution, they find you.

What is a QR Code?

September 15, 2015

Quick Response (QR) codes seem to be everywhere. They can be a great tool in mobile marketing if you use them correctly.

In the latest video in Sonnhalter’s Marketing Minute series, Matt shares some ways to use QR codes effectively to reach a mobile audience.

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

Tips on How to Build an Effective Landing Page to Reach Contractors

September 8, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Landing pages are a great way to both monitor and capture information. The key to successful landing pages are to focus on the one message that got them to that page and deliver.

No matter what kind of promotion you’re doing, when going after the professional tradesmen, the bottom line is you want them to ask for more info and ultimately a sale. You can’t do that in an ad (print or digital) by itself. You need those that are interested in whatever it is you’re selling to go somewhere to get more info. Effective landing pages make it clear what the visitor is going to do/get for the site.

A good call to action should fit seamlessly in the flow of the landing page so even if they are scanning the page it will stand out and will give them a clear and compelling reason next step.

Make sure the call to action is “above the fold” if your landing page is more than one screen. We don’t want to take the chance of them not scrolling down to get what they want. Give them more details on what you’re offering and a reason to give up their contact info in order to get it. If you’ve promised a contractor a mobile app that will make his life easier, tell him in more details why.

Landing pages help segment markets, capture leads and make it possible to monitor advertising effectiveness.

  • By directing them to a specific page with an offer and the appropriate form to fill out, it makes it more likely that they will complete the form and convert to a lead.
  • If your visitors decide to download your offer, why not invite them to share your content?
  • Lead nurturing is a very important part of the process. 50% of those who respond aren’t ready to buy just yet.
  • 78% of sales that start with a web inquiry get won by the first company that responds.
  • By sending a follow-up thank you to those that downloaded material, you have the opportunity to offer them additional info and downloads, as well as asking them to share this with others via social media.

Contractors’ time is precious, so keep the message to only a few short paragraphs and use bullet points where possible. Test it out first. Pass it by some contractors to get their feedback and see if they get the intended message the way you intended.

You’ve spent time, money and energy to get them to this page and you don’t want to lose them.

12 Tips for Contractor Testimonials

September 1, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter


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.


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