Content Marketing: More is Not Necessarily Better

November 22, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Your potential audience doesn’t want quantity, they want quality. So if you’re trying to generate more content quicker just for the sake of having it, don’t waste your time. You need to accelerate demand, not noise.

I recently read an article by Carlos Hidalgo from Content Marketing Institute on How to Develop a Buyer-Centric Content Marketing Strategy that made several good points.

The best way to connect with your audience is to determine what kind of content they want. In other words, what motivates buyer behavior and how do they get information? If you know these, you can build the correct content architecture.

  • What motivates buyer’s behavior? You need to have a deeper understanding of how a buyer thinks and then what do we need to say to get him over to our side.
  • How do they get their information? What type of content do they prefer and where do they go to get it?
  • Building a content architecture – Once you have an answer to the above questions, then you can map out a plan to get to them with the right info at the right time.

Content Marketing’s main purpose is to drive specific business outcomes. So the buyers are looking for more info, just the right info. He points to a 2014 ANNUITAS survey where less than 3% of those responsible for content marketing activities were happy with their outcomes. Here’s another scary fact from Sirius Decisions — that 70-80% of all content is never used!

These are not good numbers to take to the C-Suite to get more funding. If you can’t achieve positive and measurable results that can be tied to sales revenues, you really don’t have a content strategy at all.

Are You Using Videos to Connect with the Professional Tradesman?

November 10, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

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. Below is an example of one of a series of videos we have done.


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.

Is Print Dead?

November 4, 2015

We’ve been hearing for years that print is “dead” and digital media reigns. However for B2T, print is still and important medium.

Join Matt Sonnhalter in the next installment of our Marketing Minute series to find out more about why you shouldn’t call time of death of print advertising.

To view other videos from Sonnhalter, visit our YouTube channel here and let us know if there’s a B2T marketing topic you’d like us to cover.

Are You Winning at Customer Service?

November 3, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Everybody wants answers, especially to problems, and they expect your customer service department to be on 24/7. This is especially true in the B to C market.

I recently had trouble with a wine cooler that was one month out of warranty and quit. Needless to say, I wasn’t a happy camper and I let the manufacturer know on their website over a weekend. To my surprise, I got an answer within a few hours and they are working with upper management to solve my issue. Now they may just be blowing smoke and we’ll see, but their responsiveness made me cool down a bit.

I ran across a study recently in “How to win at customer service,” that claimed most people just want their questions answered.

Attitudes Toward Customer Service Among Internet Users Worldwide, Aug 2015 (% of respondents)

Here are some highlights:

  • 81% of those surveyed just wanted their questions answered
  • 89% feel more positive about brands that give good customer service
  • 46% tell their friends and family about a quick response time

So what does all this mean to the manufacturing sector? Well the bar isn’t raised too high and we certainly don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Here are some tips on how to serve the professional tradesman:

  • Keep your customer service department open on business days from 7 AM to 5 PM EST. If the contractors are having issues, you need to be available when they are working.
  • Staff your customer service department with experienced people who can answer questions, troubleshoot a problem or forward them onto someone who can.

A post you may want to read, Customer service: How are you handling unhappy people, may be a good read. A good customer service department can help increase future sales by giving them a positive experience

Are Industrial Distributors Missing Opportunities by Not Participating in E-commerce?

October 28, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

We’ve had conversations here before about independent industrial distributors missing sales opportunities by not keeping up with the latest technology available.

According to Forrester Consulting, a 2014 study shows that 52% of business buyers expect at least 50% of their purchases to be made online in 3 years’ time. This should be an eye opener for distribution, but some are ignoring the facts. The big boys like Grainger (40% of their sales are from the internet) and MSC Industrial (over 50% of their sales come from online) are certainly taking advantage. Shouldn’t that set the tone for the independents? Forrester forecasts that B-to-B e-commerce will exceed $1.1 trillion and comprise 12% of all B-to-B sales by 2020.

I’ve said in the past that for smaller industrial distributors to survive, they need to use the internet. They can’t count on the business model of contractors coming in at 7 in the morning or around lunch time to pick up what they need. Time is money, especially for them.

Industrial Distribution magazine recently released some research on The state of B2B e-commerce in Industrial Distribution. Here are some highlights:

  • Independent distributors are slow-moving in implementing e-commerce programs.
  • Technical challenges are making sites user-friendly, making it aesthetically appealing and staying ahead of the competition.
  • Primary reasons of not engaging online was lack of demand, technical obstacles and lack of marketing/promotional resources.

Customer satisfaction and the customer experience are the key factors in developing an online presence. Ironically, that’s how the independent distributor built their business in the first place. Now they just need to transfer that to a different platform, not only to keep existing business, but to grow additional revenue.

Figure 4

Source: Industrial Distribution

My worse fear is that the Amazons and the Alibabas of the world are going to make the independent extinct in a few years. I understand that the AD buying group has just instituted a new program to help members deal with some of these issues. It’s too early to tell if it’s making an impact, but at least they recognize the issue and are trying to help.

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

What’s the future of small independent distributors?

Are independent industrial distributors helping Amazon to succeed?

Distributor Strategy: What’s yours?

Aesthetic issues (product descriptions, product images, graphics, logos) 22.1%

Cost 7.1%

Keeping pace with or staying ahead of competitors 18.6%


Comprehensive List of Nation’s Vocational Education Programs now Available

October 20, 2015

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect at Sonnhalter

Photo courtesy of Viega LLC.

Photo courtesy of Viega LLC.

One issue that concerns all of us who are selling to the professional tradesman is that there is and will be a shortage of qualified tradesman in the future as the 50-plus segment of the market is on the verge of retirement.

We represent lots of manufacturers who realize this and want to do something to spur interest in and obviously get their brands in the hands of future users.

Sonnhalter, a marketing communications firm to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, released a database which includes virtually every Vocational education and technical program in the United States. The database, which includes more than 2,000 programs, contains useful and easy-to-read information about each program, including addresses, phone numbers, websites and more.

The database serves as a tool for companies in the trade markets who wish to implement more grassroots campaigns to recruit the next generation of professional tradesmen. With details about each individual program within a technical center, marketing toward students within a specific skill set is easy and convenient. The database is available for download and is designed to be sortable and searchable for a variety of fields, including program type, degree type and other important information.

You can sign up to download a copy here.

Reaching Professional Tradesman: Why Content Marketing Works When Advertising Might Not

September 30, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Contractors and professional tradesman often don’t have time to read the latest trade publication or look at the magazines’ website on a regular basis and might miss your message. Chances are, unless you only make one product, their interest at any given time may be on another product.

When they do go looking for things, the first place most go to is the internet, and the chances are that they are looking for a solution just as much as they are looking for a specific product. That’s why search is so important in the big scheme of things, and what makes you go up in search – good meaningful content!

Heidi Cohen had an interesting article regarding advertising vs. content driven messages that had some good points for the B-to-B market.

B-to-B lags behind the consumer counterpart in doing research before they contact a manufacturer or distribution point. But even at 57%, you’d better have some skin in the game from a search perspective or you’re going to be left at the curb.

Best Lead Generation Tips

Razorfish found that:

  • 50% of U.S. consumers will do anything to avoid ads
  • 75+% of U.S. consumers hate hearing or seeing ads multiple times
  • 65% of U.S. consumers use a DVR to skip ads

Those are some scary numbers, and even though they are consumer driven, remember that those same consumers may be buying your products at their workplace. So what’s the alternative?

  • 86% of U.S. consumers value brands that are useful over those that have interesting advertising.

Translation: give your customers the info they need when they need it. Here are some tips:

  1. Leverage the social media platforms where your customers hang out.
  2. Supply product info for potentials to seek out.
  3. Tap into sources your customers trust, like trade associations.
  4. Make sure the info you give prospects enhances the product value.
  5. Skip the promotion and show them best practices when using your products.
  6. Re-promote your content. Once is not enough.

So the question is, how much effort are you using to create great content?


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