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.


ISH 2015: The Biggest Tradeshow I’ve Ever Attended

April 21, 2015
Source - Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Pietro Sutera

Source – Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Pietro Sutera

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect

I recently attended the ISH Show, a biennial show, which took place in Frankfurt, Germany in March. This was the first time I was able to attend this show and it sure did not disappoint. I guess the one word I would use to describe this show would be overwhelming!

Here are some of the amazing statistics from the show:

  • Over 850,000 square feet of exhibit space – sprawled out over 11 buildings, most with multiple levels
  • Almost 2,500 exhibitors – representing over 50 countries; and this number is not nearly as impressive as the individual sizes of their booths; 61% of these exhibitors came from outside of Germany
  • Nearly 200,000 visitors – from plumbing and HVAC professional tradesman (accounting for around a third of the total), architects and engineers, to distributors, service providers, public authorities and more; 37% of these visitors came from outside Germany
Source - Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Pietro Sutera

Source – Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Pietro Sutera

This is by far the world’s leading show for the combination of water and energy topics. Everything one could possibly imagine for these industries was covered under the following five product groups:

  1. The Bathroom Experience – think of KBIS on steroids…Grohe and Hans Grohe even had their own buildings
  2. Building and Energy Technology – everything from boiler and burners, to heat pumps and components for heating equipment
  3. Efficient Systems and Renewable Energies – all the alternative energies were represented from solar, rain water, biomass and geothermal, plus there was even an entire floor dedicated to stoves, pellet burners and fireplaces
  4. Air-Conditioning, Cooling and Ventilation Technology – this section was comparable to the entire AHR Expo in U.S.
  5. World of Installation Technology – covering plumbing techniques, tools and systems for surface mounting, pipes, fittings and fasteners
Source - Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Jens Liebchen

Source – Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Jens Liebchen

The overall theme for ISH 2015 was “Comfort meets Technology” where the world’s leading companies covered future-oriented issues such as resource conservation and renewable energies. Here are some of the other broad themes covered during the show:

  • ISH Water: Interior + Technology – Design and Function in Harmony. Topics covered included: the multi-generational bathroom; bathroom architecture in the light of demographic change; hygiene requirements for drinking water and efficient use of water as a resource
  • ISH Energy: Energy Efficiency Plus. Topics covered included: energy efficiency in the heating market; hybrid systems; using a single room fireplace to provide comfortable warmth and holistic sustainability
  • Future Buildings: Topics covered included technology, comfort and energy efficiency in harmony; integrating automation of interior spaces and energy efficiency and smart living – the networked home becomes an everyday reality

Amazingly, this show is really equivalent in size to 4 or 5 of our major U.S. professional tradesman shows. The show was five days in length and you needed almost all of it to walk the entire show. And the booth traffic was tremendous, and not just on the first day of the show like most U.S. trade shows, seeming to build each and every day.

If you’ve never been to the ISH Show and you are involved in any part of the Water and Energy fields, it’s definitely worth attending. Just make sure to book your travel accommodations early and wear comfortable walking shoes!

Want to keep reading about ISH? Check out these links:

Holy cow! ISH Show continues to amaze

6 plumbing trends from ISH

The show that is del-ISH

ISH Frankfurt 2015 Recap from Eric Aune

ISH 2015 — Day 1

ISH 2015 — Day 2

ISH 2015 — Day 3


Tips on Building a Good Contractor Email List

April 14, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

tradesperson-cement

Let’s face it, we’re all in this for the same reason. To talk with people who share the same interest. We must always be tweaking and improving what we deliver.

So in order to get them to give up their email, we better come up with some interesting and helpful stuff that will make them want to read our emails for future gems. It’s not only what you have to say, but how you say it. Beyond being potential customers, these contractors can be your best friend by sharing it with their peer group.

Here are some tips to building a better list of contractors and tradesmen:

  • Think like a contractor  What are their pain points? Give them practical solutions.
  • Talk like a human – Don’t use marketing or sales speak. Keep it conversational.
  • Give them a reason to sign up – Sneak peeks at new products, exclusive product demos.
  • Ask the contractor what they want help with – Get engagement from the audience you want to reach.
  • Don’t be afraid of humor – People like to smile and it shows more of your human side.
  • Reach out to contractors – On a regular basis, randomly pick several contractors and have a product manager call and pick their brains on possible new product ideas.

Emails are back and stronger than ever if we do them right.


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.


New Project Meetings – Tips on How to Make the Most of Them

April 7, 2015

By Robin Heike, Production Foreman at Sonnhalter

Project meetings for marketing activities are so important for all who will be working on them, so let’s make sure we make the most out of them.

We usually start out with a creative brief initiated by the lead person for the project. This sets the tone and objectives for the project, so when the team does get together, they have a clearer picture of what needs to be done.

We use a creative brief to get the process going, and it might help you if you don’t have a formal process.

Here are the key elements:

  • Project description – Give overall scope of what needs to be accomplished.
  • Background – What are your current problems? What are possible key solutions? What are the current beliefs and what are the desired ones?
  • What do you want the communication to do – introduce a new product or service?
  • Target audiences – who are your primary and secondary audiences?
  • Unique Selling Proposition – what sets a product or service apart from your competitors?
  • Support points – give back-up features and benefits.
  • Mandatories – logos, association bugs, tag lines.
  • Tone – informative, leadership, etc.
  • Deliverables – ad, e-blast, event, product sheet, blog post?
  • Timeline – when is it due?
  • Budget – Self explanatory.

Complete info includes direction/message to convey, any background info including examples, photos if they are being supplied, deadlines for completed project (who is responsible for what or where we can gather needed info/pieces and when and how a project will be presented).

Written details supplied on all project paperwork is so important since each person usually has more than one project in the works/on their mind.

Project meetings are most effective when all info that will be available is discussed with everyone who will be working on the project.


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?


Skilled Workforce: Alternative Jobs That Don’t Need a 4-year Degree

March 24, 2015

According to a recent article by Andy Szal on IndustrialDistribution.com, even the Federal Government has identified good paying jobs that don’t require a 4-year degree.

The agency expects those jobs to grow by 17 percent through 2022 and that prospects for qualified applicants “should be very good.”

Electrician & Breaker Panel

Most of the other positions on the agency’s list worked in building maintenance or construction, including building inspectors, iron and steelworkers, electricians, pipefitters, masons and elevator installers. Many jobs receive on-the-job training or post-secondary training.

According to Jeff Owens, president of Advanced Technology Services, the retiring baby boomer generation has a huge impact on the skilled labor shortage.” With the youngest of this generation approaching their mid-fifties and older, boomers are retiring at an average of 10,000 per day according to the Washington Post; American manufacturing is facing serious challenges. “The fact that the retiring workforces acquired their skills through high school industrial arts and company-sponsored apprentice programs that are not available to today’s youth only exacerbates the problem.”

Associations are even getting into the picture to try to help members recruit good talent. One such association is the PMPA that publishes a blog, yourcareerfacts.com, to let young people know there are viable alternatives to a 4-year degree.

As manufacturers, I think our responsibility is to get involved in our local communities with career days. Talk to guidance counselors and offer tours of your facilities and have your HR people be available to talk to students about manufacturing. We can’t sit back and wait for kids to come to us if they don’t know the opportunities exist.


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