Manufacturers: Are you Looking to Build your Social Media Presence? Use LinkedIn.

July 29, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

LinkedIn

LinkedIn by far is the best tool for B-to-B users in my opinion. It’s easy to use and the networking options are almost limitless. I’ll assume most of you are on it, but when was the last time you refreshed it?

The 2015 Social Media industry report from Social Media Examiner said 88% of B-to-B companies use LinkedIn and 41% cite it was their most important platform.

Jeffrey Cohen from SocialmediaBtoB.com wrote an interesting article recently on ways you can refresh LinkedIn.

Here are some highlights:

  • Review your company page – What, you don’t have one? Better get going on creating one. Keep it up to date with current news. Consider changing the images frequently during the year.
  • Review results of posts – Track links that drive visitors to your blog or website so you can better understand what’s driving engagement.
  • Add relevant showcase pages – Create topical pages of areas of interest to your customers. It’s a great way to segment your audiences and post content relevant to them.
  • Employee lunch and learn – While we can’t force folks to promote the company, we can certainly encourage them to do so by buying them lunch to explain why and show them what they could do would be helpful. By providing them a standard 2 or 3 sentence description of the company, it will help search results for the company as well.
  • Create a Slideshare deck for employee profiles – create a short deck describing your company. Your employees can add it to their profiles.

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

LinkedIn Still Top Performer for B-to-B

How to use LinkedIn to Promote your Innovative Company

What are you Doing to Grow your LinkedIn Connections?


Manufacturers: Are you Using Marketing Automation Tools?

July 22, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

To keep our sanity in trying to keep up with and engage potential customers, it makes sense to use some sort of marketing automation tools to help the process. And there are plenty of options out there: Marketo and Hubspot being two of the better known.

We all know nurturing improves lead quality and moves them through the famous sales funnel. The problem is most sales funnels aren’t simple straight lines.

Here’s the reality – the typical sales funnel isn’t as straight forward as we’d like to think especially in the B-to-B world. The Forrester graphic below is probably more accurate.

2015 B2B Buyer Journey

The challenge for me is determining messaging for each level to get them to the next step. We need to make them as personal and to the point as possible, but you can’t have 20 different e-mails.

Depending on what you’re selling (engineered product), the selling cycle is longer, and in many cases, there are multiple decision makers, all of which have different hot buttons. How do you handle them? Ideally you want to send leads to sales that are sales ready.

Here are some tips:

  • Try to identify where they are in the sales funnel so you don’t lose them on messages that are already past.
  • Give them something to download that will help them in their job (i.e. calculator, configurator, relevant case study).
  • Make them aware that CAD files are available for downloading.
  • Try to initiate a question that will want them to talk with one of your application engineers.

What are you doing to better qualify leads before sending them to sales?


Customer Service: How Are You Handling Unhappy People?

July 8, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

I’m amazed by the stats that more than half of those on social media don’t have a plan to respond to negative social media posts. Social media isn’t new, isn’t going away, and if you’ve followed or read anything about this space, you know there have been numerous posts about the subject.

customer service

Customer service departments are usually the place where traditional issues are handled. But when it comes to social media, most don’t know how to find complaints and have a process of responding in a timely manner. Customers especially on the internet want a response and want it now (42% want to be responded to in an hour or less).

I recently read a great article by Jay Baer from Convince and Convert on Why You Need a Customer Service Response Road Map that highlights ways to identify, prioritize, assign responsibility and set deadlines that’s well worth reading.

Negative issues need to be addressed and what better way to hear about issues than on social platforms. Don’t you want to know what customers are saying about you? You’d better be monitoring them and jump in with a plan to respond. There are several monitoring options out there will help you. Here are some free ones: Social Mention, Google Alerts, Hootsuite and TweetDeck.

I recently had an experience with a major faucet manufacturer about a replacement. We had to get a new tub at home and my wife wanted to update the faucets, which we did. The manufacturer sent the wrong spout and it took our plumber almost 2 months to get the replacement for it. They weren’t good at customer service, just making excuses. I made mention (by brand name) on a tweet what my frustration was, and true to form, heard nothing back.

In the short run, ignoring me may not be a big deal to them since I had already purchased the tub set, but in the long run, my wife is planning to replace all the faucets in our 3 bathrooms. Guess who isn’t going to be considered for that purchase?

In a world where we have alternative plans for everything, don’t overlook social responses to negative posts. It’s better to address them straight on or they will fester and come back to bite you when you least expect it. Have a plan in place as negative reviews will affect your SEO.

Unless you are offering something you can’t get anywhere else, then you’re going to have competition from someone. So what makes your customers or potentials want to do business with you instead of them?

Assuming you have a good product, then I’d say the customer experience would be the major deal sealer or breaker. Customer service starts the moment someone from your company answers the phone through the sales process and follow-up with your customer service department if a question or problem arises.

I guess what I’m trying to say is your company’s customer service should start with every employee. Those that are on the front line (be it a CS or delivery man), they have the one-on-one contact with the customer and can sway future purchases by their actions or inactions. We all build our business around repeat sales, so everyone in the company needs to be good will ambassadors. The challenge for all of us is to find the friction in our process and smooth it out.

Here’s a good test. Make a complaint on social media about one of your products (under a name they won’t recognize) and see what kind of response you get.


Big Data – Is it Really Worth the Effort for B-to-B?

May 26, 2015

 By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

I understand the concept of what Big Data is, but truthfully, I’m having a hard time getting my arms around whether it’s worth the time, money and effort to track everyone’s movement.

Most studies, when citing companies that are using Big Data, are usually big consumer brands for the most part. But is it the right thing for the small- to medium-size company, or is there a better way to invest time and money?

Everyone is concerned about the customer experience. Wouldn’t it be just easier to ask them?

This might work for consumer behavior, but in the B-to-B world and especially in construction and the trades, it’s not all that complicated. In the world of design engineers, the process is a little more complicated, but the crucial piece of info we need is where are they in the buying cycle and what kind of info can we supply to help them make a better informed decision.

I’m not saying tools that will help you identify activity levels of potentials is not helpful, but where it fails is in the assumptions we make based on that criteria.

I’m of the opinion that if we think we really know our customer base and their pain points, why not give them good content to solve their issues and make their life easier? In my world, those folks would be top of mind when it comes to the actual purchase process.

What are your thoughts?


Are Your Employees Brand Ambassadors? Why Not?

April 22, 2015

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent at Sonnhalter

Osborn

Photo Courtesy of Osborn

Do your employees know where your products are used? Do they know the applications the parts they make make possible? Are they aware of the history and critical nature of your company? There are many simple, cost-effective ways to increase productivity and morale by implementing a program that lets them know.

To land new business, you’re always told to “Tell Your Story” well. It’s just as important to tell it internally. Why?

It makes employees feel like part of the plan – Let them see the big picture and where you as a company fit into it

It helps them see the long view, not just their day-to-day part in it – There’s a plan, not just a daily task

It builds internal networks – If Engineering tells their story to Customer Service, everyone sees people and faces, not silos

It allows them to be brand ambassadors – If they know the story you want told, then that’s the story that gets re-told

So how do you reach them? That’s the easiest part—the same way you reach new customers:

Host an Employee Open House – Let them show off to their kids, and see what goes on in other departments

Giving a tour of your facility? Engage employees – Don’t treat them like an extension of the machine they’re working, but have them describe what they do, and the cost savings, quality assurance or other aspect of their work

Start an internal newsletter – It’s a great place to either post external press releases, or develop case studies for outside use

Cover the Walls – Advertising blown up as posters reinforce your brand internally and when guests tour your facility

Let them hear & be heard – Have a quarterly or monthly meeting of non-managerial representatives from every department, and allow for an open exchange or ideas, complaints and stories

Highlight your company’s history whenever possible – Old ads, press clippings or photos give a sense of pride and place

Have a mission statement – And stress it internally. Print it on business cards, coffee cups in the vending machines; anywhere it will be seen regularly

You don’t need to be told that Manufacturing has gotten a bad rap. For years it’s been the butt of jokes, seen as a “dead end” and been declared all but extinct in this country by countless talking heads.

Well those people are wrong. And the house they left to get into the car they drove to the studio where they made their comments is testament to it. And it’s time your employees knew that too.

I once heard a really cool story about the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. It has a unique elevator that kind of side-steps its way up to the top of the arch. Well if you look into the arch, instead of out at the view, along the way you’ll see large welder-generators. They’ve been there since the Arch was built in the mid 60’s. Because of the way the arch was made, it was impossible to move them, so they just left them, placed another (which also got left behind) and kept building.

As a former employee of that welding manufacturer, I think that’s fascinating, and if I could ever get over my nagging fear of heights, it would be the best part of the trip up. To know that something that was made in the same building I worked in was instrumental in a project like that, it just boggles the mind. All the “ordinary” people, doing their “ordinary” job at factories all across the country added up to a modern marvel like that. Inspire that sense of awe in your employees, and they’ll help do the heavy lifting of establishing a brand.


Podcasting – Another Effective Way to Get to Contractors

April 15, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

microphone

Podcasts are a very popular medium today and rightfully so. Podcasts can add another dimension to your audience as they can hear the voice behind the words.

Alisa Meredith recently wrote a piece on HubSpot on why marketers should be using Podcasting and shows you that getting started is relatively painless.

Jay Baer, in a recent episode on Social Media Examiner, said,“There’s something about bringing somebody inside your head through your ear holes that ties you to that person in a way that reading a blog post or reading a book or anything else just doesn’t.”

Using podcasts is a way of building brand awareness as well as loyalty. Podcasting gives busy contractors another way to get information (let’s face it, we all only have so much time to read), and the auto industry with smart dashboards are making it easier to listen to.

You can also put them on iTunes which can give you access to more potential customers who are searching for info on key subjects by key words or phrases. Don’t be obsessed with the number of people who listen to your podcast, but more on the quality of them.

There are several ways that you can use podcasts to get to the professional tradesmen. Here are a few to consider:

  • You initiate them. You can talk about issues affecting the tradesmen and possible solutions they could consider.
  • You can interview industry experts or association leaders that can talk about everything from legislative issues that might relate to your business in the future, or talk about things you can do now to improve your business.
  • Be a guest on someone else’s podcast. There are bloggers out there that target the same types of audiences you do. Follow them for a while, and if you determine it would be a good fit, contact the blogger and ask if they would consider doing a podcast with you. You’ll need to lay out the reasons why you think you can contribute to their audience and propose several topics for discussions. Don’t know any bloggers? Go to iTunes and type in under podcasts some of the key words that you are associated with. You’d be surprised at the number of podcasts that already exist. Listen to a few and contact the originator.

Podcasts help set you apart and allow you to be known as not only an industry leader, but if you do your own podcasts and get guests to interview, it will also show that you are wired to the right people who can give a different view or experience that will help your listener. It’s a win-win for everyone.


Do You Know How Tradesmen Make Their Purchasing Decisions?

March 25, 2015

For a major new purchase, do you think a contractor or tradesman just walks into a distributor and asks what’s new, and then just buys it? Of course not.

They hear or read about a new or better solution to help them do their job better and more efficient. They research what other tradesman think about the idea, either on forums or in person. They research it online and download information to help them. It’s at this point they may contact their local distributor or manufacturer to get more questions answered or ask for a product demo.

2015 B2B Buyer Journey

The point is, the contractor has done lots of research long before they identify themselves to you as a potential sale.

Marketing’s role is to make sure that the right information is in the right place for contractors, whether it’s in trade publication ads, testimonials, product reviews, customer ratings, PR or social media. The fact is, B2B customers are 60-90% the way through a purchasing decision before they contact you! Yikes.

Heidi Cohen recently posted an article on how the 2015 B-to-B purchasing decision process has changed.

Here are some and points to consider:

  • 5% of website visitors provide an email address
  • 20% of marketing emails are opened
  • 1% of leads are nurtured

These types of challenges require some sort of marketing automation tools to help you better reach and engage prospects. You need to determine what content they want, put it where they want it and understand the next steps in their process.

What are your biggest challenges?


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