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?


Are you using SlideShare to Generate Leads from Tradesman?

March 11, 2015

SlideShare is probably the most overlooked social media tool.

Close to 70 million visitors a month second only to YouTube is nothing to sneeze at. SlideShare was purchased by LinkedIn a few years ago which allows both platforms to work seamlessly together which is good news for you.

Why should you consider using it?  It’s a great way to market your business, showcase your expertise as an industry leader. Not only can you put up Power Point presentations and white papers, you can upload videos by using SlideSharepro  and have a way to repurpose your webinars or online training options.

If you’re worried about sharing your information with the world, you can upload content that you can make available to select audiences (by invitation only).

The most important reason for using SlideShare is to generate leads. Peg Fitzpatrick recently wrote a great post on Social Media Examiner on ways to capitalize on getting leads.

She focuses on ways to collect emails from viewers, how to use links in slides, why you should add visual calls to action and lastly, why the description. It’s a good quick read.

Heidi Cohen outlines 10 actionable marketing tactics to get the most out of leads.

Don’t miss out on this valuable tool that will help you not only become a thought leader, but generate leads at the same time.


Are you Using Mobile to Share Your Content with Tradesman and Contractors?

March 10, 2015

The professional trades are no different from normal consumers when it comes to using mobile. There have been a few recent articles in eMarketing.com about both time spent on mobile devices and what’s being used to open and read emails. The most recent eMarketing article has to do with B-to-B content marketers not using the mobile platform to spread their message.

What I find especially interesting is mobile is last on the list and social media is second. Do they think contractors are checking their Facebook or Twitter accounts during the work day to see what kind of info a manufacturer is promoting that day? I wonder if those content marketers really understand how and what might be useful to a contractor on a job site.

Besides the content they want to deliver, they need to consider apps and mobile tactics. Here are a few.

Possible Apps to Consider:

  • Product information
  • Engineering or other calculators
  • Installation and troubleshooting instruction videos
  • Productivity tools
  • Competitive cross-reference charts
  • Ability to check current inventory levels
  • Distributor locator with direct links

Top Mobile Tactics to Consider:

  • Responsive website – so it can be read on any device.
  • Mobile-friendly campaigns – optimize landing pages.
  • Mobile advertising – can be tailored by location, time and device so take advantage of them.
  • Mobile email – make sure your HTML can be read properly on these devices.
  • Mobile apps – apps let you secure a prominent presence on your customer’s device.

Why Should You Use Short Videos to Attract Professional Tradesman?

March 4, 2015

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.

 

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.


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