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.

Which Works Better for Reaching Contractors – E-blasts or Direct Mail?

September 2, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

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I have this running conversation with clients about which is better, a traditional direct mail program or an e-blast. It’s a tough question to answer and I’m not too sure there is only one answer. There are challenges for using both methods and we have seen it become more and more difficult to get emails delivered even if we use opt-in lists from trade publications and have them send it out under their name.

I think that when reaching out to our target market, the professional tradesman, you have just as good, if not better of a chance, of reaching them with traditional snail mail.

We recently did a sampling program for a client who wanted to focus more on the electronic side of things and wanted to use more, if not most, in this media. They assumed that direct mail was a thing of the past and was too costly (neither of which are true). We convinced them to give both a try and the results were surprising.

The direct mail portion of the program outperformed on average 3-to-1 over the e-blasts. We used the same criteria for both lists and did both within 2 weeks of each other. We’re doing a second test using the same message and list parameters and it will be interesting to see if it still holds true.

We’ve all used both of these marketing tools. My question to you is, have you found one better than the other in reaching contractors or the professional tradesman?

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

8 Practical Uses for Livestreaming

August 11, 2015

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect at Sonnhalter

Periscope, Meerkat, Hangouts, YouTube Live, etc. are all names that are appearing more and more in social media marketing news. Many in the B2T (and B2B) space may not even be familiar with those names, or have heard them and wonder what they are.

At the end of the day all of these apps and services do basically the same thing: Live video streaming.


The concept of livestream is by no means new, we’ve been doing live webinar and video conferences for years. The transition of livestreaming from desktop to mobile for more than just FaceTime and Skype is what’s making these services newsworthy.

Here are a few applications where live video streaming can be beneficial to your business:

1. Webinars

2. Meetings (for shareholders, employees, partners, etc.)

3. Large public announcements (product launches and large announcements)

4. Presentations

5. Virtual press conferences

6. Conferences

7. Live Q&A sessions

8. Focus groups

Obviously many of these applications are cross-functional. Livestreaming can be an effective way to get everyone in one place in a business or industry that can be geographically scattered.

The service you select for livestreaming depends on your needs and capabilities, including:

  • Your audience size
  • Equipment
  • Mobile device capabilities
  • Public vs. closed audience
  • Interactivity needs
  • Recording needs

I personally recommend recording anything you stream live, even if it’s a closed meeting. Keep a library of your videos for your own records, to share with anyone who missed the event, for later promotion on YouTube or Vimeo, to provide as a resource and for reference for various content development needs.

If you’re hosting webinars, services such as GoTo Webinar, WebEx and others are probably still the best option as they are primarily for screen sharing of presentations. For live Q&A events or virtual press conferences, Hangouts and YouTube live may be best, but apps like Meerkat and Periscope also work. Meerkat and Periscope can be great options for streaming presentations via mobile devices at an offsite location.

Regardless of the service you use to live stream, here are a few tips for an improved experience for your audience:

  • Make sure audio is clear
  • Keep the video device stable
  • Start streaming before the event officially starts and end after the event ends
  • Incorporate your livestream into your social media promotion
  • Make sure users can easily access the stream
  • Record for future use

Do you have experience with livestreaming? What tips would you share?

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, 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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