Content Marketing: Who has the Advantage – Big Brands or Small Ones?

May 27, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

gorillaI always like stories of the little guys who take on the 800-lb. gorilla and win the battle. One of the benefits of social media and content marketing is you don’t have to be an 800-lb. gorilla to succeed.

In my opinion, it’s the one who is consistent on providing good content and responding in a timely matter that really counts.

All too often larger companies need to go through a “process” that is very time-consuming for both posting content and answering questions. They may have a bigger staff, but do they know your target customer? They may be able to outspend you, but can you out-market them?

Smaller companies, for the most part, have closer and more frequent contact with customers and know what’s on their minds. Customers don’t care how big you are, they just want solutions/answers to their questions, and if you can offer them more and better content, then you win.

So what constitutes a good Content Marketing Strategy?

Here are some tips:

  • Know your customer
  • Know their pain points
  • Anticipate their questions
  • Know where they look for info and be there
  • Timeliness of responding to questions
  • Be consistent and post content regularly

By following these simple guidelines, you will get the recognition you’re looking for, create engagement with potential customers and become a brand leader. Companies large or small need to focus on customers’ needs and always answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”

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

New Content Marketing Research for Manufacturers

Why PR Should be a Part of your Content Marketing Strategy

Do’s and Don’ts of Content Marketing


Is Your Brand Humanized?

May 13, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

If you’re using social media, your objective is to connect with your target audience. In order to do that, you need to talk in non-business terms instead of connecting on a human level.

Hopefully you’re not taking your existing marketing material and repackaging it into social. The best way to connect with prospects is through story telling. You can still get your message across without the hard sell.

I recently read a post by Ishita Ganguly on Social Media Examiner titled 9 Ways to Humanize Your Brand with Social Media. Some of the highlights from her article are:

  • Show a sense of humor – you can share information and make it fun
  • Use everyday language – don’t speak industry jargon
  • Engage in conversation – a small gesture like thanking someone for a retweet goes a long way.
  • Acknowledge mistakes – owning up to a mistake shows not only that you’re human, but it also builds long-term credibility by admitting it.
  • Sign your posts – it puts a human face to your brand.
  • Provide solutions – shows you understand their pain points.

What are your thoughts? Have you tried any of these? What are you doing to humanize your brand?


Do You Use Relationship Marketing When Trying to Reach Contractors?

May 12, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

609_3676925-electricianstalking

I’ve always been a big believer in relationship selling. After all, we usually buy stuff from people we know, like and trust. Agree? So why not take that to another step in the selling process by using the same principles to your marketing efforts?

This is especially true now that content and content marketing is such a big part of everyone’s overall strategy.

We all have heard the saying that Content is King and Community is its Kingdom, but what brings them together? It’s building solid relationships with Contractors and Tradesmen using relationship marketing.

I recently read a post by Wade Harman, Why relationship marketing is the key to your content, where he outlines a strong case for using this type of tactic.

He points out that we need to know and understand what our target wants and needs. They want solutions, not necessarily a sales pitch. You need to make yourself available in conversations with contractors.

He also points out that we should collaborate with others that share the same passion. For an example, say your target is professional plumbers. You want to focus on products that will help them do their install better. You’re not interested (nor capable) in helping them market their plumbing business locally.

Why not team up with someone who’s focus is just that, like Plumbers SEO.net or Darren Slaughter who specializes in contractor marketing.

This blog focuses on helping manufacturers better communicate with contractors and professional tradesmen. We have three challenges: 1) identify our audience, 2) give them meaningful content, and 3) keep them coming back. One of the most important things I try to communicate is that to be successful, you must be able to engage and have a genuine relationship with your reader.

Here are some steps to build those relationships:

  • A genuine relationship starts with you – start with an open and positive mindset and be willing to work on the relationship.
  • Make posts as helpful and useful as you can – it’s not about you, it’s about your readers’ problems and concerns.
  • Be helpful and positive in all interactions – whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or your blog…always be helpful, positive and upbeat.
  • Encourage discussion in comments – you’re not the only one with good ideas. Make sure to engage on your response and ask their opinion.
  • Give back on other blogs – link when appropriate to other blogs, visit their sites and make comments and write guest posts for them.

One of the most important points is you can’t fake this stuff. If you are just pretending to care about your readers, if you don’t really want to talk to them, they’ll feel it and then you’ve lost them.


Listen…Please

April 29, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

ListeningThink about the people you care about and like both in your personal life as well as your professional one. I bet one of the reasons you like them is because they take the time to listen.

You know it’s hard to have a conversation with someone who’s always talking. In business, I think the best salesmen are the ones who take the time to find out what the customer’s problem is and then offers options for fixing it.

I find that those same people who want to talk a lot don’t worry much what’s said about their company or brand on the internet, and that could come back to bite them big time in the long run.

I recently read a post by Zoe Summers in Social Media Examiner that outlines ways to use listening in your business life (social listening is also known as social media monitoring). Here are some highlights:

  • Generate leads by solving problems
  • Attract new customers
  • Discover where your target audience hangs out
  • Use as a customer care tool
  • Get feedback on new products

Another post by Jay Baer, 6 Parts of Your Company That Should be Listening to Social Conversations, I found extremely interesting and wanted to share some highlights. Some are obvious; others we all should put on our list.

  1. Sales – Listening programs give you the opportunity to find prospects when the timing is perfect and when they’re actually asking for answers you have.
  2. Marketing and PR – Listening helps make sure that the language you’re using as a company is the same language being used by the people you’re hoping to hook.
  3. Customer Service – Customers are airing their concerns, questions and grievances over social media channels, especially if traditional channels prove less than helpful.
  4. R&D – You can fuel your idea engine by harnessing the input, thoughts and creativity of the online audience.
  5. HR – The obvious potential here is talent recruiting, in both finding potential employees and examining their online social graphs.
  6. Executives and Management – They can understand market trends through the unfettered viewpoint of the online masses and determine whether they’re behind, ahead of, or riding the curve.

So next time, whether it’s online or in person, take a deep breath and listen first.


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.


12 Tips for Effective Tradesman Videos

April 8, 2015

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent at Sonnhalter

If you’re like me, you’ll flip the channel when commercials come on. Hopefully, unlike me, you’ll remember what you were watching when the break is over.

Well tradesmen are the same way, so don’t expect them to actively seek out a 5-minute commercial on YouTube. All the search terms in the world won’t make people sit through a video that does nothing more than pat yourself on the back for making such a great product.

If you want eyeballs, and the increased search results they equal, you need to show how your product fixes their problems. Here are a few tips:

  1. Make it shooting-videoSolution Based – Why does this product exist? What problem does it solve, or how is it best used. Make the solution, not the product the focus. This also gives you a chance to showcase your “total” solution; customer service, technical support, anything else that sets your solution apart from the competition.
  2. Keep it, and Your Customers Moving – Just like a good commercial, an effective video should drive the customer somewhere, in the shortest amount of time available. Website, local distributors, a call center. Figure out where you want them, and give them a reason to get there.
  3. Be Yourself; or Have Someone Else – If you’re not funny, don’t try to be now. Work with what you have. Or better yet, add another person. They can bounce ideas and concepts off each other instead of the camera and both will feel more natural. One set up I’ve always liked is a “Product Expert” being interviewed by an “Everyman.” This way they can tease the pertinent info out, rephrase it in common language and keep the conversation moving.
  4. Know What You’re Good At – Even the best message can get lost with poor delivery. Now isn’t the time to hire your Brother-In-Law’s cousin. Highly qualified freelancers are available across the country. Put out feelers through friends, social media, your PR people and vendors, and get quotes. And not just for camera, but sound, direction, editing and production. Done correctly, a video will become the first interaction a potential customer will have with your company, so make it count.
  5. It’s All in the Prep – Just like painting a room, most of the work should take place before the job gets started. Have a script, a shot list, a location, talent, and props in-hand. Make sure everyone is on the same page about goals and message. Editing is great, but it can’t make words or actions you never shot magically appear.
  6. Say It or Show It; Not Both – A picture is worth a thousand words, so save the words for something else. It’s a video, not a book (or blog post) so keep text to an absolute minimum.
  7. Multitask – As long as you’re hiring freelancers, setting up lights and everything else, cover a few other bases. Product photography, other solutions or products that can be shown in the same set-up, video for trade show use and social media all can be taken care of. With a well-choreographed crew, you can shoot 3-6 short videos in one day. So make the most of it, but keep to your priorities.
  8. Consider All Platforms – Where do you want your video to be watched? Everywhere. On your website, YouTube, Facebook and mobile devices. So keep it as short as possible. Even the best smart phone right under a cell tower won’t play a 10-minute video without a pause or two, so don’t try your viewer’s patience.
  9. Don’t Re-Post; Re-Direct – Once you’ve uploaded the video to YouTube, make sure you let everyone know. But do it through links and redirected placement. For instance, don’t embed the video on the product page; embed the YouTube link. That way all the views are being accumulated in one place, increasing that number and moving it up the search results.
  10. Tag, So You’ll Be It – Think like a customer, or potential customer. They don’t know the products part number or trademarked name. So while all that should be in the tags, so should more generic terms and phrases, as well as your competitors’ names, terms and phrases.
  11. Keep An Eye On It – Once it’s posted, track it. How many views does it get after a week, a month and a year? Use the Analytics options on YouTube (all free) to see how people are finding it, how long they’re watching it and re-post it someplace every few months.
  12. Don’t Take Comments Personally – By now you’ve been living with this project for a few months, and feel pretty happy about the end product. So negative comments, which are almost guaranteed in the internet age, are going to feel like a personal attack. They aren’t, and the biggest mistake you can make is to feed the trolls. Address legitimate concerns as diplomatically and quickly as possible, but don’t add fuel to a fire.

Video is an incredibly powerful tool. It works in almost any setting; in an office, on a sales call, or in the field. Make it as effective as possible, and it can sell the product, reinforce your brand and be relevant for years to come.


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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