What’s the Future of Small Independent Industrial Distributors?

June 9, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Long before Grainger, Fastenal, Home Depot and the thing they call the Internet, the local industrial distributor was the backbone to local manufacturers and businesses. My, how things have changed over the past several decades.

I believe the small guy still has a chance to compete on a local level, but they need to change the way they do things. They need to know what their value proposition is, and most importantly, know their customers and what they want.

Source: Industrial Distribution magazine

Source: Industrial Distribution magazine

If they can’t add value, then what’s the point? At the recent ISA Convention in Cleveland, one of the breakout sessions, “Looking Ahead at Distribution: The Future Impact of Size and Value Content 2015,” revealed some interesting issues. Mike Hockett, Associate Editor of Industrial Distribution magazine, did a good job summarizing both the results of the study, as well as the subsequent panel discussion.

Here are some highlights:

  • Service sales represented only 5% of their total sales.
  • Buying groups represented the best support.
  • Manufacturers relied on small local distributors for customer loyalty and technical expertise.

It’s no surprise that cutting tools and abrasives remain the top two product categories that industrial distributors sell. Both require technical knowledge to support and troubleshoot problems. The question is, are the distributors going to charge for this expertise and are their customers going to be willing to pay for it?

So what do smaller industrial distributors need to do to stay in the game? Here are some thoughts:

  • Embrace Technology – get an online sell site, integrated supply services and electronic billing for customers to order easily.
  • Value Proposition – need to define so they can focus on the things that matter most and where they make their money.
  • Buying Groups – need to get in one or more so you can stay competitive and make more money.
  • Technical/Engineering Expertise – set yourself apart from the pack.

What others can you add to the list?

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

Are Independent Distributors Helping Amazon Succeed?

Manufacturers: Tips on Getting More of Your Distributors Time.

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:

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

Big Data – Is it Really Worth the Effort for B-to-B?

May 26, 2015

 By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

I understand the concept of what Big Data is, but truthfully, I’m having a hard time getting my arms around whether it’s worth the time, money and effort to track everyone’s movement.

Most studies, when citing companies that are using Big Data, are usually big consumer brands for the most part. But is it the right thing for the small- to medium-size company, or is there a better way to invest time and money?

Everyone is concerned about the customer experience. Wouldn’t it be just easier to ask them?

This might work for consumer behavior, but in the B-to-B world and especially in construction and the trades, it’s not all that complicated. In the world of design engineers, the process is a little more complicated, but the crucial piece of info we need is where are they in the buying cycle and what kind of info can we supply to help them make a better informed decision.

I’m not saying tools that will help you identify activity levels of potentials is not helpful, but where it fails is in the assumptions we make based on that criteria.

I’m of the opinion that if we think we really know our customer base and their pain points, why not give them good content to solve their issues and make their life easier? In my world, those folks would be top of mind when it comes to the actual purchase process.

What are your thoughts?

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.

4 Trades That Are Crucial to the Construction Industry

May 19, 2015

Today we have a guest blog post on behalf of WIA (Welding Industries of Australia) on four trades that are crucial for the construction industry.

Whether you live in a small town or a large city, you rely on the construction industry to provide infrastructure. From large corporations to modest family households, the construction industry is responsible for creating buildings that shelter you. But while we may depend on this industry for many things, the industry itself relies on several specialized trades. Here are four of the trades that are vital to the field of construction.

1. Electricians

Readi609_3399637ng at night, keeping cool in the summer, using computers at work or cooking a meal, there’s a seemingly endless list of day-to-day activities that are made possible by electricians. In our modern society, there’s no doubt that any building without electrical wiring would be virtually useless; the construction industry wouldn’t get very far without the skills of electricians. And while these tradespeople generally get paid well (U.S. News puts the average salary for electricians at around $50,000), there are certainly drawbacks to this profession. Aside from limited promotion opportunities and a lack of flexibility, electricians also face the very real risk of injury or death on a daily basis. According to Electrical Contractor magazine, 143 or so construction workers die due to electrocution each year, with about 34 percent of these individuals being electrical workers. It’s little wonder electricians experience above-average stress levels on the job.

2. Carpenters

Most of the wooden furni432_2980060ture you use, timber floors you walk on and wooden walls and beams that support the roof over your head are the handiwork of carpenters. When you consider that the majority of homes in the U.S. are constructed with timber frames, the importance of carpentry becomes even more obvious. With over 900,000 carpenters in the country and projections for this number to rapidly grow, this trade is clearly an important part of the construction industry. Fortunately, the decent working conditions and respectable average salary of about $45,000 should see this trade continue to flourish in the future.

3. Welders

Welders, often categorized together with cutters, solderers and brazers, are essentially the metal equivalent of carpenters. From manufacturing household appliances, to building race cars, there is a uniquely diverse range of projects that a skilled welder can find themselves working on. While less known than other trades, welding is an extremely valuable element of the construction industry.430_4403220

Welders require thorough training and often need to earn credentials before landing their first job. Sometimes, they also have to invest in their own equipment from a specialist provider like WIA. These factors may contribute to the fact that welding is the only trade on this list that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted will decline in number moving towards 2022. According to this Forbes article, welding is one of the main fields in which an older average population of workers could lead to a shortage in the near future. This means that welding is not just a crucial trade for the construction industry, it’s also a worthwhile career path for young aspiring tradespeople.

4. Plumbers

Similar to electricians, plumbers are essential in the construction of any contemporary building. They also become vital tradespeople when you want to renovate a bathroom, decide to add an en suite to your home or have any toilet issues. 609_3677189The task of keeping our pipes and water systems functioning smoothly employs about 390,000 plumbers in the U.S., and this number is expected to grow much faster than the average profession this decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This steady growth is likely due to the construction industry’s (and society’s) consistent demand for plumbing work, combined with the healthy average salary of around $49,000 and the job satisfaction that comes from regularly making a difference to the lives of other people.

There are many trades that form integral parts of the construction industry – these are just four of the most crucial ones. Reflecting on the important role these tradespeople play can help us appreciate and understand why pursuing a trade can be a lucrative and very fulfilling path.


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