12 Tips for Contractor Testimonials

September 1, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

testimonials

Testimonials are one of the best ways to validate your products/services, especially if it’s from a contractor. Don’t be afraid to ask as most are more than willing to participate. Once you get them, make sure to repurpose them in several areas. Put it on your website; if you have a blog, do a post. If you’re on social media, share a link. Do project profile sheets that your salesman and distributors can use in the field.

Third-party validation is a powerful tool for new business. Testimonials help to eliminate skepticism, provide credibility and trust. If done correctly, it’s one of the easiest and most effective ways of creating appeal with potential contractors.

Here are some tips for creating and using testimonials:

  1. Don’t be generic. Specific, detailed testimonials are much stronger than those that are general and vague.
  2. Prospects are more likely to believe testimonials that are attributed to a specific person and company than those that hide their identify. I’ve found that most happy clients are glad to provide a written recommendation and are willing to have their name attributed to the testimonial.
  3. Provide testimonials on your firm’s website, your online brochure. They should be used anywhere and everywhere on your site. Not just on a testimonial page. Also include them in other materials used to promote your company. The more places potential clients can see them, the better. 
  4. Develop a consistent process to solicit testimonials from your satisfied clients. The best time to ask is immediately after you have done business with them.
  5. An easy way to request a recommendation is through LinkedIn. You can ask your connections to write a recommendation of your work that you can display on your profile, and with their permission, you can add it to other materials used to publicize your company. LinkedIn is also a great place to give testimonials in order to get testimonials.
  6. Whenever you receive a great letter or e-mail from a client, be sure to ask them if you can use their comments as a recommendation.
  7. Adding pictures to testimonials can significantly increase interest and raise their CTR.
  8. Providing a link to the site of the person who wrote the testimonial can bring additional credibility.
  9. Don’t neglect to create some select video testimonials. These are much more personal and powerful than just written copy.
  10. Good testimonials are filled with benefits. That’s what prospective clients are really looking for, how your services benefit them.
  11. When asking for testimonials, give your clients clear instructions on what you need.  Make them as specific as possible.
  12. I’ve found that setting up a Google Alert to receive daily emails of who is talking about your company is a way to discover additional testimonials.

If you aren’t using testimonials, you’re missing out on a simple, but great tool for new business.

Do you have any additional tips to share? Please add them in to the comment section below.


4 Tips for B2B Social Media Success

August 20, 2015

Today we have a guest blog post from Stacy Combest, Marketing Team Leader at WTWH Media.

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It’s no secret that social media has become the major player in marketing, but with all the hype, there are still companies not ready to step up to the plate. In the beginning, business-to-consumer companies were reaping all the benefits of social media. Consumers were attracted to the informality of engaging with their favorite brands one on one. However, recently business-to-business companies have started to pay attention to the benefits of using social media.

With that, the distinguished line between B2C and B2B has begun to fade. What we are discovering is that even though we’re interacting with other brands, we know there is a person or team of people behind the name, changing how we interact with them. Rather than targeting the brand alone, B2B social media targets individual influencers either directly related to the brand, the industry or in some cases both.

The goal in targeting the influencers is to shift them into brand ambassadors: people who will share your content, give your company positive reviews and ultimately spread the word about you. The key is to know who your top influencers are, what platforms they use, how to capture their attention and when they are online.

Top influencers typically have a strong social media presence and are industry experts in their own right. They may already be engaging with you often, increasing your success because the relationship has already been established.

Tip 1: Lists are key for success

Make a list of these users (broken down by industry if you’re company is involved in more than one) so you can target them for future campaigns.

It’s important to push your business across many channels; however if you are using Facebook because it’s popular—but your audience isn’t there—it’s a waste of time. LinkedIn is currently the best social platform for B2B companies. Starting out as more or less an online resume, LinkedIn has grown into the place to be for B2B companies because those on it are there for business reasons. You are not going to see pictures of what someone ate last night for dinner or the umpteenth smiling baby. Rather, LinkedIn is a social platform for the professional.

Twitter is another platform growing in popularity within the B2B community. Aside from live tweeting; tools like CoveritLive and Storify give customers real-time updates not only from the company but everyone using a specific hashtag or handle. The number of things you can do with Twitter grows everyday.

Tip 2: Broaden the search and ask for love

Search for top influencers on all the platforms you’re on—you may even find the same influencers on more than one. Invite them to like your page, follow your Storify or share your post. (Chances are…they will!)

The way in which you compose your post is also very important. Each social platform is designed to attract in different ways. Twitter allows 140 characters in a tweet but most successful tweets are fewer than 60. Where Facebook has an unlimited amount of characters, it recommends a character count of around 100. Learn what will attract your influencers based on the industry you’re in. For example, engineers use social media to learn or seek information, so posts that work best are composed in the form of questions.

Tip 3: Learn the lingo

Test the headline of your article on by tweeting multiple titles and seeing which one performs the best.

Finally, timing is everything. You created an amazing social post; it has a beautiful eye-catching image and the perfect call-to-action. You post it on all your platforms at the same time but the next day your impressions are less than 2% of your total following with zero clicks. What did you do wrong? The answer is timing. Everyone uses social media at different times, and diving even deeper, each platform’s traffic is different. The key is to know what times of the day are the most active and post then. You may find that users are on LinkedIn in the mornings but more active on Facebook in the evenings. So the same post will need to be scheduled at different times.

Tip 4: Don’t let your post die in vain

Each platform has an average life for its posts. Facebook is 2-5 hours, Twitter is about 45 seconds (yikes!), Pinterest never dies, and so on. Learn when your customers are online and target your posts during those times, otherwise your hard work will never pay off because no one will ever see it.

All in all, social media is constantly shifting and changing. What worked for you today may not work next year or next month. By continually checking your reports and what’s working, you’ll be able to stay on top of your social media success.

Stacy Combest is the Marketing Team Leader for WTWH Media and has been with the company for three years. After her service with the 350th Psychological Operations Company, she shifted her focus from the military’s version of marketing to winning hearts and minds in the civilian world. Stacy enjoys life in Ohio with her husband and daughter. 


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.

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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

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?


Are You Using Landing Pages to Help Qualify Leads?

July 28, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Landing pages are microsites where prospects go when they click-through a link.

landing page

Hopefully, as part of your strategy to move prospects along the selling cycle, you are using landing pages in order to deliver on what you promised. It’s also a great way to track responses and gather contact info. It could also be a way of losing a potential customer.

Here are some tips that might help results:

  • Keep it simple – Deliver on what you promised to get them there in the first place.
  • It’s not about you – How can you help them with a problem that got them there in the first place.
  • This is not an ad – They’re not looking for a sales pitch, but answers to specific questions.
  • Powerful content – Keep it relevant. Don’t focus on key words. Instead, make what you say useful and valuable.

Landing pages focus the visitor on the next step in the process.

All too often, folks want to talk about 5 different things and give them additional links. It won’t work. Just ask yourself – why did they click on a call-to-action that got them here? Then deliver what you promised.

If you want to learn more, you might want to read:

Are you Using Landing Pages?

Product Landing Pages: Tips on How to Improve Performance


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