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

September 2, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

email2 direct mail2





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, del.icio.us 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:

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

July 29, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter


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.


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