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?

Here are Some Blogs Professional Tradesmen Read

July 15, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

There are over 152 million blogs – how do you identify and communicate with the right ones to get in front of the professional tradesman? The first question to answer is are your products or services applicable to your end users using social media? If the answer is “yes,” then your goal should be to identify the right communities, monitor them and jump in and get involved!

If social is to be a part of your media relations strategy, you must remember that different rules apply to social:

  • Your brand can be affected positively or negatively. Remember you don’t control the message.
  • Your brand depends on the “loyalists” who are passionate about you.
  • Key blogs or social sites are authored by thought leaders from your industry.

All blogs are not created equal. Do comprehensive research as to the communities you might want to get involved in and then monitor them. If they seem to be talking about relevant topics, jump into the conversation. Social media demands transparency, so be honest in your engagement. Here are a few sites that may be of interest to those going after the professional tradesman:

Blog references:


The blogs of MDM: segmented into Distribution Sales & Marketing; Economy; Human Resources; Industry Insiders; Management & Strategy; Mergers & Acquisitions; Online Marketing; Public Policy; Technology.

Plant Engineering Blogs: designed for plant engineers and maintenance professionals.

The blogs of IMPO: blogs covering various topics related to industrial maintenance and plant operations.

IndustrialSAVER: serves as a free all-in-one Online Industrial Marketplace, B2B Classifieds and Trade Portal for those looking to buy/sell all kinds of industrial, engineering and construction supplies, equipment and machinery as well as custom and contract manufacturing solutions.

Industrial/MRO Forums

Industry Week Forum

CR4 Forum

Maintenance Forums: Where reliability and maintenance meet


Residential Construction Blogs

Home Construction Improvement: Todd Fratzel is a full-time principal engineer for a large design-build construction firm. In his spare time, Todd blogs on home improvement and construction. In addition to the expert advice available on this site, Todd is also very accessible for questions or advice about individual projects.

Paragon Remodeling: This company has won awards for Top Remodeler from Qualified Remodeler Magazine for their outstanding home remodeling services for Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. They specialize in deck construction, patio building, window replacement, roofing, siding replacement, sunrooms, kitchen remodeling, bathrooms and basement remodeling. The primary focus of the blog is industry news, contractor requirements, home projects and cost versus value reports.

Commercial Construction Blogs

Construction Market Data: CMD’s portfolio of products and services includes national, regional and local construction data, building product information, construction cost data, market analytics and advertising channels to construction industry professionals in the U.S. and Canada. With a wide range of choices from forums to building codes, this blog includes a vast array of topics. Post subjects include staffing solutions, computer models and Sears houses.

Green Blogs

Building Green: Blog from, an independent publishing company committed to bringing its members accurate, unbiased and timely green design information.

Greenversations: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency keeps a detailed blog about all things green. In addition to employees, the occasional expert guest blogger stops by to post. There is even a section for frequently asked questions.

Architecture and Design Blogs

anArchitecture: A blog by Christoph Wassmann, living and working in Vienna, Austria, anArchitecture is an internationally focused blog related to architecture and architectural thinking. A resource for people in the orbit of architecture, this blog aims to broaden the horizon of architectural design – pushing the boundaries of what architecture can be. He posts regularly with news, links and opinions.

BLDG Blog: This blog is written by Geoff Manaugh, the Senior Editor for Dwell Magazine and author of The BLDGBLOG Book. The blog focuses on architectural conjecture, urban speculation and landscape futures.

Inhabitat: This site is devoted to the future of design, tracking innovations in technology and practices that push architecture and home design towards a smarter and more sustainable future. Started by NYC designer Jill Fehrenbacher, this blog was intended as a forum in which to investigate emerging trends in product, interior and architectural design.

Construction Informer: An active blog by Duane Craig with interviews, articles and discussion about building structures and the things that make up the built environment.

Electrical Blogs
LiveWire is the source for electrical news. Monitored and maintained by Jim Lucy and Doug Chandler who are seasoned journalists from the editorial team of Electrical Wholesaling/Electrical Marketing.
Features the latest association news from NAED President and CEO, Tom Naber, and others.
Established in 2013, NEMRA’s blog covers articles produced by the organization as well as follow up information on article topics.

Online Forums
A leading authority on marketing, referral management and search engine optimization for contractors, plumbers, remodelers, landscapers, painting contractors and HVAC contractors throughout North America. The site contains marketing tips, a free marketing newsletter and lots of great ideas on how to win more new clients, get more referrals and win more new business from existing clients
Professional Electrical Contractors’ forum.
Professional Contractors’ forum with electrical sub-forum.
The BIMForum’s mission is to facilitate and accelerate the adoption of building information modeling (BIM) in the AEC industry. Ten subforums have been established to address each relevant industry sector and topic.
Part of a network of forums for professional contractors.
Online forum of Contracting Business; Broader audience that includes consumers and educated DIYers; Peer-to-peer.

HVAC Blogs

ACHR News Blogs
Blogs for The News, includes: Opinions Blog, Editors Blog, Guest Blog and The Coach’s Blog.
Blogs feature news, opinions, business advice and a variety of other topics.

Contracting Business Blogs 
Blogs for Contracting Business, written by editors Terry McIver and Ron Rajecki. Blogs cover a variety of HVAC- and business-related topics.

Energy Vanguard Blog
Energy Vanguard’s mission is to turn houses into high-performance homes through training and design. The blog covers topics including industry standards, building science, industry news, safety issues, conferences and education.

Blogs written by SNIPS Magazine editors Michael McConnell and Kori A. Winters, with contributor Al Levi. Blogs cover industry topics including legislation and trade shows.

Plumbing Blogs

Plumbing Engineer industry news blog.

eLocal site with tips and advice from professionals for homeowners.
This blog is a home base for kitchen and bath professionals hosting a weekly Twitter chat, contains topics, host profiles, transcription and other information.
Blog by internet marketing provider for plumbers that features blog posts and podcasts with advice for plumbers to gain better online visibility.
General Pipe Cleaners’ blog with plumbing and drain cleaning tips and best practices..

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?

What are you doing to keep good employees?

June 10, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

We’re in a service business, and I always say our assets walk up and down the stairs every day. The key to any good company is great people. This is especially true in smaller companies where every “body “needs to be the right person.

I recently read a book by Andrew Bennett, The Talent Mandate: Why Smart Companies put People First, that outlines sure-fire ways of keeping great people. Here are some highlights:

  • Don’t put jerks in management just because they’ve been around for a while; it doesn’t mean they are ready to manage others. No matter who you put there, they need to be able to think out of the box and come to the table with new and fresh ideas.
  • Hire for the future, not the past – Choose talent that has a broader perspective on life and can adapt to the world of today.
  • Measure results, not hours  unless you run a factory. Focus on the end game, not how they got there. There’s plenty of ways to get to a goal; be open to new ideas.
  • Mix old with new – If your company is big enough, include different generations on teams to get a better perspective on solving a problem. A good idea can come from anywhere and the Millennials have a lot to offer and are willing to learn.
  • Formal training program – No matter how big or small your company is, if you want them to move up the ladder, you need to get them exposed to different aspects of your business. Someone in sales may need to do a stint in customer service or production scheduling to have a greater appreciation of the bigger picture.
  • Empower your team – The best way for anyone to make good decisions is have all the facts. Don’t hoard info or rationale on why you want to do something.

What are you doing to keep good people?

5 Reasons to Consider a Trade

June 3, 2015

Today, we have guest blog from Julian Groneberg of AEG Powertools, who will be discussing some of the top benefits of entering the trade business.

Working as a tradesman has more than its fair share of perks. From being your own boss, to having valued skill sets that will always be in demand, there are many reasons why people turn towards the blue-collar trades for a rewarding career. If you have thought about living the dream as a tradesman, read on for five of the biggest reasons why working as a tradesman offers plenty of benefits.


1. Trade Skills Are Always in Demand

As a tradesman, your skills are always in demand, and these skills are becoming increasingly required due to skill shortages in many areas, particularly in the more specialized trades. Many trades, including plumbing, mechanics and electric work, are considered recession proof, with their tasks unlikely to be performed by robots or computers in the future. The high level of technical skill required in most trades means there will always be demand, which means greater job security compared to many other industries.

2. No Lengthy Study or Massive Student Debt

Instead of a massive debt for a degree that may or may not guarantee you a job when you graduate, tradespeople often wind up with quite manageable debts because they learn a lot of their skills while on the job. This means they can start earning money right away and avoid the stress of repaying sizeable student loans while they look for employment. The on-the-job training tradesmen receive makes them very employable and opens up lots of options, even during the early stages of their careers.

3. Be Your Own Boss

A large percentage of tradespeople work for themselves, setting their own hours and deciding which contracts they want to take. Tradespeople also have the potential to grow their own business (and their income) as they become more established, with greater earning potential than other fields where incomes remain static.

While there are costs associated with running what is essentially your own business, including insurance and having to purchase tools from specialty suppliers, the flexibility of being your own boss is something that’s too good to pass up. This flexibility makes it a very appealing career option for many who like to be in charge of their own destiny.

4. High Sense of Satisfaction

As a tradesman, there’s a high degree of self-satisfaction getting your hands dirty creating something that people will use and developing solutions that will make lives better. Every day as a tradesman is a challenge, but you’ll never be bored sitting idly behind a desk watching the clock. Whether it’s the construction of a brand new home, installing an eco-friendly lighting design in a new office building or creating a seamless kitchen perfect for cooking, the projects that tradesmen work on can be extremely varied with a very tangible finished product. This variety and sense of purpose offers a high level of satisfaction for any tradesperson.

5. High Earning Potential

While the income ceiling for white-collar workers may be higher, the reality is that the average white-collar worker salary sits at about the same or lower than that of a skilled tradesperson. For tradesmen who show management potential and entrepreneurial ability, their earning potential can be virtually uncapped and will outperform those in many other industries.


Julian Groneberg is a Brisbane-based freelance writer for AEG Powertools. When he’s not bashing away at the keyboard writing engaging content, he’s out eating his way through as many local food establishments as is humanly and financially possible.

What other reasons are there to be a tradie? Share your insights in the comments below.

Are Your Print Ads Effective? Here’s How You Can Find Out.

June 2, 2015

By Sandy Bucher, Media Engineer at Sonnhalter

ChemicalProcessingJan2015-Ad StudyIf your company currently has a print advertising program in the trade publications, did you know that many of these publications offer ad readership studies at no additional cost to the advertiser? These studies are usually completed once or twice a year, on ads half-page or larger in size. A sample of the publication’s readers are invited to respond to the questions, and are encouraged to give feedback on the various ads in the issue being studied.

The average ad readership study will tell you:

  • If your ad is attention-getting
  • If your ad is believable
  • If your ad is informative

You’ll also get verbatim comments on your ad – actual quotes from the readers that let you know what message they received from your ad.

Comparing your ad’s results with other ads in the issue, both higher and lower scoring, will give you an idea of the creative approach that can best reach that particular audience, and you can adjust your creative accordingly.

Another type of ad study offered by some publications, also done at no additional cost for advertisers, gives scores based on whether the reader recalls seeing the ad or recalls reading the ad. While the results represent a small sampling of the magazine’s total circulation, they do reflect the opinion and commentary of readers who are the most active, providing insight into how the general audience may react to the advertising.

So if you’re interested in learning how your ads are performing in the markets you’re active in, consider placing a print ad in those issues offering the readership studies. If you’re not sure if the publications you advertise in offer these studies, be sure to ask your agency or magazine sales rep to find out for you.

Following are links to the advertising pages for just a few trade publications that offer these types of studies:

The Challenges of Being Seen, Heard and Read

May 20, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Everyone is getting better at resisting all the interruption-driven ads and promotions. Your customers are taking control of what they want to read or look at.

So what’s the answer? Quit selling and start giving them what they want (helpful content), where they want it and when they want it.

I recently read a post by George Stenitzer on Content Marketing Institute that talked about when more people are saying no to ads, what options do we have to get your message in front of them?

He cites some amazing stats:

  • Mobile has taken over as the first screen to view content
  • Over 50% of Americans record TV shows and don’t watch commercials
  • 91% of consumers unsubscribe or unlike brands for which they once opted in for

George gives us some helpful ways to make sure your content is seen and read.

  1. Permission is golden – If someone allows us to share info with them, make sure you give them good relevant content (it’s not about you).
  2. Give them what they want – A small percentage of your content will outperform the rest. Use your analytics to give them more of the same.
  3. Earn their attention in 7 seconds (23 words) – In the battle for attention, you need to answer the question quickly of what’s in it for them. Use images where possible.
  4. Keep customer info up to date – If you’re trying to be more personal and have the wrong info, you’ve lost the battle before it started.

These tips are not earth shattering, but a good reminder of what sets good content apart from the other self promotions.


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