Are You Using Videos to Connect with the Professional Tradesman?

November 10, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Short videos are ideal for social media and for you to gain reach and shares.

As a manufacturer, are you capitalizing on this powerful tool to disperse your message? You don’t need a “Hollywood” production. As a matter of a fact, the ones done on a mobile phone would do just fine. We’ve done “man on the street” interviews with contractors at will-call counters and on job sites asking their opinions on tools and other products.

Did you know – Videos convey more info per minute than any other media and 65% of the public like to learn via videos.

In my opinion, you’re better off making a series of very short videos (keep each to one thought or idea). Ideally under 2 minutes is what I tell folks to shoot at. Below is an example of one of a series of videos we have done.


Here are some thoughts on content.

  • Focus on a problem your customer might have from their perspective (what happened if the problem isn’t resolved?)
  • Provide tips to solve it.
  • Utilize the video medium to show examples or illustrate a solution. Here’s your chance to be creative.
  • Make sure they know your company has the solution to solve their problem.

Donna Moritz did a recent post in Social Media Examiner that talks about 6 ways to use short videos in social marketing. Here are some highlights:

  • How to video – solve a problem.
  • Highlight your skills – what better way to get your value proposition out there.
  • Showcase an event – trade show, association event or new product intro.
  • Go behind the scenes  give the viewer some insights of your company that they normally wouldn’t see.

She also outlines 10 tools you can use to create and edit short videos.

The bottom line is, use video in your marketing efforts.

Are Industrial Distributors Missing Opportunities by Not Participating in E-commerce?

October 28, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

We’ve had conversations here before about independent industrial distributors missing sales opportunities by not keeping up with the latest technology available.

According to Forrester Consulting, a 2014 study shows that 52% of business buyers expect at least 50% of their purchases to be made online in 3 years’ time. This should be an eye opener for distribution, but some are ignoring the facts. The big boys like Grainger (40% of their sales are from the internet) and MSC Industrial (over 50% of their sales come from online) are certainly taking advantage. Shouldn’t that set the tone for the independents? Forrester forecasts that B-to-B e-commerce will exceed $1.1 trillion and comprise 12% of all B-to-B sales by 2020.

I’ve said in the past that for smaller industrial distributors to survive, they need to use the internet. They can’t count on the business model of contractors coming in at 7 in the morning or around lunch time to pick up what they need. Time is money, especially for them.

Industrial Distribution magazine recently released some research on The state of B2B e-commerce in Industrial Distribution. Here are some highlights:

  • Independent distributors are slow-moving in implementing e-commerce programs.
  • Technical challenges are making sites user-friendly, making it aesthetically appealing and staying ahead of the competition.
  • Primary reasons of not engaging online was lack of demand, technical obstacles and lack of marketing/promotional resources.

Customer satisfaction and the customer experience are the key factors in developing an online presence. Ironically, that’s how the independent distributor built their business in the first place. Now they just need to transfer that to a different platform, not only to keep existing business, but to grow additional revenue.

Figure 4

Source: Industrial Distribution

My worse fear is that the Amazons and the Alibabas of the world are going to make the independent extinct in a few years. I understand that the AD buying group has just instituted a new program to help members deal with some of these issues. It’s too early to tell if it’s making an impact, but at least they recognize the issue and are trying to help.

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

What’s the future of small independent distributors?

Are independent industrial distributors helping Amazon to succeed?

Distributor Strategy: What’s yours?

Aesthetic issues (product descriptions, product images, graphics, logos) 22.1%

Cost 7.1%

Keeping pace with or staying ahead of competitors 18.6%


Comprehensive List of Nation’s Vocational Education Programs now Available

October 20, 2015

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect at Sonnhalter

Photo courtesy of Viega LLC.

Photo courtesy of Viega LLC.

One issue that concerns all of us who are selling to the professional tradesman is that there is and will be a shortage of qualified tradesman in the future as the 50-plus segment of the market is on the verge of retirement.

We represent lots of manufacturers who realize this and want to do something to spur interest in and obviously get their brands in the hands of future users.

Sonnhalter, a marketing communications firm to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, released a database which includes virtually every Vocational education and technical program in the United States. The database, which includes more than 2,000 programs, contains useful and easy-to-read information about each program, including addresses, phone numbers, websites and more.

The database serves as a tool for companies in the trade markets who wish to implement more grassroots campaigns to recruit the next generation of professional tradesmen. With details about each individual program within a technical center, marketing toward students within a specific skill set is easy and convenient. The database is available for download and is designed to be sortable and searchable for a variety of fields, including program type, degree type and other important information.

You can sign up to download a copy here.

Does Your Lead Nurturing Deliver Strong Results?

October 7, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

First of all, do you have a lead nurturing program? If the answer is no, you may want to consider one and here’s why.

In a recent article in, there were some interesting findings in a study done by Demand Gen Report (DGR) in July of 2015

  • Over 50% of U.S. B-to-B marketers said nurturing programs outperformed their counterparts from 10-30%.
  • These leads outperformed others in moving through the sales funnel, and respondents reported a 10-30% increase in sales opportunities.

Types of Lead Nurturing Campaigns Currently Used by US* B2B Marketers, July 2015 (% of respondents)

The key in lead nurturing is being able to define specific markets and subsequent messaging. You need to be relevant. Email was the most widely used tactic with over 94% using it.

Another interesting stat is that 42% of consumers will delete an email if it isn’t mobile friendly, so keep that in mind.

So do some of these stats resonate with what you’re doing?

If you like this post you may want to read:

Lead Nurturing: What Industrial Marketers Need to Know.

For Your Lead Nurturing Program-Where do you Find Good Content?

What’s the Difference Between Lead Nurturing and Follow-up Calls?

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.


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