Why Distribution Needs to Charge for Their Expertise

June 30, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Distributors in general are their own worst enemies when it comes to the value they bring to the table and charging customers for it. As their customers are asking for more and are willing to pay less, the distributors’ margins are being reduced and they don’t know how to change the momentum.

If you’re a general line distributor, I wish you the best of luck as you are destined to go out of business if you continue to follow this path. Most distributors who have a specialty like cutting tools/abrasives, power transmissions, bearings, etc. have a distinct value to the proposition, but many aren’t taking advantage of it.

Traditional brick and mortar distributors can’t compete with online catalog sites on price, but what if there’s an on-site production problem? Over the years, I’ve been on several joint end-user calls where the distributor and manufacturer are going in to solve a production problem.

Long ago, the distributors just solved the problems and didn’t charge for it (by the way, it wasn’t usually the product the distributor sold them; it was how the customer was or was not using it correctly).

dollar signI recently read an article in Industrial Distribution by Bill Moore from SKF on how distributors can put a dollar sign on the valuable services they offer. Here are some highlights:

  • Understand your value stream – Are you taking advantage of all the support your manufacturing partners are offering such as training or engineering assistance? All can contribute to a cash value at the customers.
  • Understand the customers’ challenges – Instead of selling him cutting tools, find out what type of production issues they’re having using the tools. Help him solve that. Add value they can’t get somewhere else.
  • Valuate your services – What do you bring to the table that they’d have to hire an outside consultant to do? What price can they put on not having to shut down a production line?

Bottom line is, take advantage of what your supplier partners have to offer. They can help you improve your value and add $ to your bottom line.


How Many Ways Are You Using Content to Reach Tradesmen?

June 24, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

time for content

We all want to get our message in front of contractors. In order to get more out of your content, you need to tie it to your strategy.

We’re all concerned on getting the message out that we sometimes miss other opportunities to use the same content (message) and deliver it differently.

I recently read a post by John Jantsch, 10 Ways to Use One Piece of Content, that brings this into perspective. Contractors get their info in several formats. Have you tried any other ways of delivering your message?

Here are some highlights from John’s post:

  • Turn your post into a series of videos that the sales folks can send out on an individual basis
  • Do a webinar and feature it on your website
  • Use a Slideshare deck that you can use both on Slideshare as well as on your LinkedIn profile
  • Develop an infographic and send it out in an e-blast
  • Testimonials. Get contractors who are already happy customers to give you testimonials, either written or on video.

John’s point is that it’s not the amount of content, but its intention.

What are you doing to maximize your content?


Do Less, But Do It Better

June 23, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Outside the box

I don’t know why folks think that more is better. Better than what? Why do you have to focus on the latest and greatest new thing that comes out? From a marketing perspective, I think we’d be better off if we focus on some key initiatives and do them extremely well.

We can’t be all things to all people so identify your USP (unique selling position) and focus on a marketing strategy that addresses your points of differentiation. Once that’s in place, identify 2-3 key initiatives that you can focus on to show your thought leadership in your area of expertise.

Think outside the box when identifying ways to promote your USP. Identify where your business is coming from. Is it from presentations or referrals? If so, you need to nurture them. Do blogs or e-blasts perform better for getting your message out? Then make sure your content is strong and spot on.

By limiting the number of tactics, you can spend more time doing less but doing it better. Not only can you focus on good content, but you can also measure your ROI.

What are your top 2-3 ways of promoting yourself?


Are You Making the Most of Your Content Curation?

June 17, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

One of the biggest challenges we all face is getting more out of our marketing budgets. Most of us, when thinking of developing content, think of it as a new task that we have to start with a clean sheet of paper.

Some overlook the fact that you may be sitting on a gold mine of existing content, but have you maximized your existing content (content curation)? Heidi Cohen, in a recent post, Internal Content Curation: What Most Marketers Miss, shows how to give new life to content you’ve already published.

Internal Content Curation -Chart

By changing headlines, graphics or focusing it on a specific industry or application, you can get more mileage out of it. Or utilize the content in a different format, i.e. SlideShare or an infographic. It’s a great way to get more content out there to incremental audiences without spending lots of money.

Heidi lists 10 steps to maximize your internal content curation. Here are a few that caught my eye:

  • Audit existing content – This is low hanging fruit. Look at the gems that get the most attention. Are there content sections missing or that are weak and need to be bolstered up?
  • Gather content from across the organization  Look outside the marketing department for relative content. Don’t overlook customer service, tech service and engineering as good resources. Collect questions they get from customers on a regular basis and make sure you address them.
  • Monitor content analytics – What kind of content attracts the most traffic? What keywords do best? Is one platform outperforming others?

What are you doing to maximize your ROI on content?


Lead Nurturing: What Industrial Marketers Need to Know

June 16, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Industrial marketers who are targeting design engineers need to practice the virtue of patience when communicating with them. I know Sales wants low hanging fruit to sell now, and the C suite is looking for results sooner than later.

The truth is, nothing moves fast when dealing with designers. According to IHS Engineering 360, 70% of new business comes from long-term leads. You don’t know whether they are just fishing for options, have a real project and need help in determining options, or are ready to  download CAD files to put in their drawings.

Very rarely does the conversation start at the download CAD drawings. Being spec’d in can take 6 months to several years. Is it worth it? Long term, I think the answer is yes.

As an industrial marketer, our jobs are to identify where they are in the sales funnel and engage with them as they move toward a sales. Your company needs to be top of mind so when the purchasing decision is being made, you have an advocate inside promoting you.

Here are the four cornerstones of a nourishing campaign:

  1. Nourish – provide them healthy servings of relevant, useful information.
  2. Protect – keep their interest so they don’t abandon you for a competitor.
  3. Support – stay in regular contact and always meet their needs.
  4. Encourage – give them offers to help them through the sales funnel.

IHS Engineering 360 has put together a lead nurturing tool kit. Here are some highlights:wp_leadnurturingtoolkit

  • Respond to inquiries in a timely fashion – if you don’t respond for a month or so, chances are they will have forgotten why they inquired in the first place.
  • Respond appropriately. Define your audience segments so the messages will be meaningful.
  • Offer value, not sales pitches.
  • Create a call to action and objectives. Engage a prospect and monitor results.
  • Build a schedule of multiple touches over a period of time.

What are you doing to nurture leads?


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


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.


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