Market Overview: HVAC Market for 2013

June 19, 2013


Sonnhalter is deeply involved with the professional tradesmen. We recently updated our overview of the HVAC market. The purpose of the document is to give the reader a quick snapshot of the industry and its players for 2013.

Highlights include association and buying group contacts, training firms/certification organizations, franchisee organizations and consolidators, online resources, trade shows/meetings and media publications.

A free copy for download is available. Click here to sign up.

What’s Your Mobile Media Strategy for 2012?

February 7, 2012

Moving forward in 2012, is mobile media going to be part of your overall marketing strategy?

According to a recent survey by the Association of Strategic Marketing (ASM), 2011 Trends in Mobile Marketing, 58% of respondents indicated that they were not using mobile marketing.

As a matter of fact, mobile seems to rank somewhere in the middle of overall marketing practices behind email (which ironically is number one) and SEO. The 42% that do use mobile in their marketing plans are optimizing their websites and emails and are beginning to use QR codes.

If you like this post you might like:

Is Mobile Marketing the Best Way to Reach the Professional Tradesman?

What Are You Doing to Reach the Young Professional Tradesman?

The Mobile Marketing Trends Study was created to allow marketing folks to see what similar organizations were doing. Some highlights of mobile marketing goals include:

  • Sales/revenue – 33%
  • Product service info – 25%
  • Customer retention – 15%
  • Lead nurturing – 11%
  • Customer opt-in – 10%
  • Alert reminders – 6%

For those of us in the B-to-B space, and especially for those of us trying to reach the professional tradesman, mobile should be a part of your marketing plan.

Not sure where to start? The easiest place to start is to optimize your website for mobile. Secondly, consider sending mobile-optimized emails.

The key is to make a plan and do something, monitor the response and do something else. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe mobile is going away, and there are many opportunities to reach our target audiences.

5 Things An E-Mail Marketer Should Avoid when Targeting the Professional Tradesman

January 27, 2010

Sometimes we take things for granted and can tend to become complacent when using tools like e-mail marketing. We think we know it all since we’ve been doing it for so long, but we may have lost sight of what made e-mail so successful in the past.

A recent post by Curtis Jackson, What are the top 10 e-mail marketing mistakes, got me thinking that we should all evaluate the processes we have in place regarding e-mails. Here are my 5 top things to avoid:

  1. No Strategy - When you first started using e-mails, didn’t you have a written strategy of what you wanted to accomplish and how you were going to measure it? How are you doing?
  2. List updates - When was the last time you updated your list? Have your open rates been increasing or decreasing? How about undeliverables? That brings us to the next point.
  3. Ignoring metrics - If you’re actively doing e-mail marketing, you have to be using some tool like Constant Contact to help you manage your programs. They have metric tools built in to see how successful the actual e-mail was (both in content and delivery).
  4. Missing an opportunity in your top line message - Chances are your message will be viewed in a preview pane. Make sure your top line message includes a link to a web-based version.
  5. Timing - Tuesday at 10 a.m. may not be the most opportune time to reach your audience. Test out different combinations to see what works best for your audience.

Those are my thoughts. What are you doing to ensure you are getting the most out of your e-mail marketing?


Why Online Videos Help Attract Professional Tradesman

December 16, 2009

Manufacturers should not  lose site that videos are a powerful informational tool when it comes to building credibility with contractors. Consider if you will that next to Google Search, the next highest search is YouTube. That alone should tell you something.

From case studies, testimonials and training, to new product info, videos are a unique way of telling your story and add another dimension to the story by engaging the viewer. According to, rich media ads with video had a higher dwell rate than those without, and almost double the dwell time.

Rich Media Metrics Worldwide: Video vs. No Video, Q4 2008-Q3 2009

This translates into fewer impressions needed for the same results.

So What’s Your Social Media Strategy to Reach Professional Tradesmen?

September 2, 2009

Everyone in the manufacturing sector is feeling the pressure from around them to get in on this social media phenomenon. So you open a LinkedIn account, set up Twitter and even get a Facebook page set up. Wow, that was easy, now all I have to do is to wait until somebody finds me. Unfortunately, this scenario is much truer than one would like to think. Social media is no different than any other marketing program you have. You have to have a strategy in place before you go and start implementing it. You need to determine why you’re on the social media scene before you implement the how. Here are some helpful hints:

  • What’s your point? Do you want to build awareness, build loyalty or generate new leads?
  • What’s your point of differentiation? You have to define a niche or specialty.
  • Do some research into how your target audience uses Social. You may find contractors use Facebook more to try to promote their local business or maybe it’s Twitter. Do you know?
  • How will you determine whether your social program will be successful? You need to determine expectations before starting a program.

Jason Baer wrote a great post recently, Develop a social media strategy in 7 steps, that you might find interesting reading.


E-mail and Social Media – A Great “One-Two” Punch to Capture the Professional Tradesman

July 21, 2009

one-twopunchSocial media has dominated the news lately, and many marketers are considering moving out of traditional e-mail programs and focusing more on social. My advice to them is that neither one is the answer by itself, especially when it comes to reaching professional tradesmen who are slower to jump on the social bandwagon.

Social elements are just more tools marketing can use to gain attention and begin a dialog. Until social media came along, a good e-mail campaign only had their web site to fall back on for support. Social media complements e-mail efforts. B-to-B marketers who want to stay on top of their game must learn how to make them work together.

Here are 4 tips to get the best out of both worlds:

  • Create ONE strategy - Create the objective and then see how each element can help you meet those objectives. By working towards one goal, you’ll be much more effective in the long run.
  • Create content simultaneously - You need to make sure messages are coordinated (and are using the same voice) and are working together and not against each other. You don’t want to be duplicating content.
  • Utilize sites like Facebook and LinkedIn – These and other sites allow groups to their group members. Make sure when sending messages to these groups to target your message.
  • Use e-mail to give them something special whether it’s a sneak preview of a new product, a discount on a current one or some scoop about an upcoming company event or trade show activity. Then make it easy for them to share. Encourage them to share the news with their friends on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Make the most out of your marketing program by making the elements work together.

I’d like to hear what you’re doing to maximize your efforts using social and e-mails.

Here are some other posts that might be of interest to you:

7 Ways to Combine Social Media with E-mail to Reach the Professional Tradesman

Stay Up on New Trends But Don’t Forget Old Friends


Social Media 101: How to Get Started So You Can Reach the Professional Tradesmen

June 30, 2009


So, you’ve been reading about all this social media stuff…your friends have been talking about Facebook or Twitter, but you haven’t yet taken the plunge. Come on in, the water is fine. The longer you wait, the farther behind you’re going to be. Social media has made it to the mainstream which means businesses (you) need to get on board.

The best way to learn is by doing it yourself. Don’t worry, you can’t break anything. This whole social thing can be overwhelming, so I’d recommend you start off slow, and as you get comfortable, expand your horizons. If you want to get up to speed quicker, I’d recommend hiring a coach. When we decided to get into the social market, we wanted to be up and running in a short period of time, so we hired a coach that helped us identify our niche for a blog, and helped not only set up the basic accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), but helped us to get our networking going. Your timeline will be dependent on what you want to accomplish. If you are going after the professional tradesman or other industrial-type markets and want to ramp up your activity quickly, we do offer a program to help you do that, and if you want more information, you can click here.

Here’s what we are recommending to our clients who want to get started:

  • LinkedIn. Beyond the basic profile info, make sure you link to your web site and eventually your blog (if you decide to do). Start inviting your friends and business associates to join (you might be surprised as to how many are already on). Join groups that are appropriate to your industry and start watching and participating in discussions, surveys, etc. Once you start getting a following, you can start asking for recommendations. Also consider starting your own group. Our agency started our own group, Sonnhalter.
  • Facebook. You need to make a choice of either doing a personal or company profile. Once that’s determined, you need to fill out the profile making sure to include your web site and leave room for a link to your blog (again, if you plan on doing one). Facebook also offers pages, which are set up similar to profiles, except people are fans of pages making it a good option for companies, products or brands. You need a profile before you can create a page. On Facebook, you can also add photos (either personal or work-related depending on how you set up your site). Start inviting friends and engage in the conversations.
  • Twitter. Sign up and start adding followers. Rule of thumb is if someone follows you, you should reciprocate. The idea is to have more people following you than you are them. Twitter has some useful tools, one of which I’d recommend you start off with is Twilert. This is a tool where you can put in search terms (about your company, its products or your competitor), and they will identify any tweets that have mentioned those terms.
  • Google. Through Google, you can set up Google Alerts which again uses search terms and gives you daily updates on the latest web and news pages on the Google web search. They also have a tool called Google Reader which lets you assemble, in one place, all of your reading resources and links from various sources.

(Remember, our target audience is manufacturers who want to sell to the professional tradesmen, but these suggestions apply across the board.)

A link you will find interesting from Nicky Jameson, How to create your own social networking site on a shoe string.

Suggested reading, Monitoring the Social Web, by Larry Weber

Comic courtesy of


Blogs: How to Take Advantage of Them to Reach Professional Tradesman

June 8, 2009

onlinetradesmenblogspot2There are over 100 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.

You need to develop the right strategies based on the importance of social media in your overall communications plan. Cision has issued a white paper, Staying afloat in a sea of social media, that gives a good overall view of how to manage and monitor social media.

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:

Remember that just because you’re using social media, the basic rules of marketing still apply. You must identify your universe, communicate to them clearly, engage in conversations, monitor comments, evaluate and respond.

I’d like to hear from you. What interesting communities have you come across that reach the professional tradesman?


Four Ways to Write a Better B-to-B Blog

June 2, 2009

bloggingFor any of us who write a blog, you know it’s a major time commitment especially if you’re going to do it right. Some of you may only have 30 minutes or so each day and you really want to put out a good post. My audience are the manufacturers who sell to the professional tradesman and they know they need to get straight to the punch line in order to keep their attention. My main advice is to be consistent and keep the quality of your post high. Here are 4 guidelines I like to use to make sure I keep myself on track:

  1. Do at least one original post a week. Since a blog is about your opinion, then let’s make sure that you have one.
  2. Content over Frequency.We’re not in a marathon to see who can write the most posts. It’s what you say that’s important.
  3. KISS. Keep it simple. One key topic per post. Deliver the goods in the first paragraph (what’s in in for me).
  4. Keep it Short. The best and yet the hardest writing sometimes are those short, to-the-point sentences using just the right words.

These are on my checklist. What’s on yours?


Use Twitter in Customer Service to Take Care of Problems in the Field for Professional Tradesmen

June 1, 2009

d0d3d30c-e678-42d6-991e-d5dbce607b57twitter300I’m sure we all have stories of customer service experiences both good and bad. I’d bet you’ve had more bad than good experiences though. For manufacturers who sell to the professional tradesmen, these are even more challenging. Think about it for a minute, when do these guys have questions/problems? Usually it’s on a job site or out in the shop where they may or may not have access to a computer. If they do call, they may be on hold for what seems like an eternity and still not get an answer to their question.

You need to think outside the box. Twitter is an ideal tool to service your customers. Customer service departments are supposed to solve problems, reinforce a positive brand experience and not cost you an arm and leg to support.

  • While phone calls may solve the problem, wait times do not. Twitter is almost instantaneous and can help solve most problems quickly.
  • Brand experience. Great customer service gets talked about and can lead to more sales.
  • Economical. Using Twitter often takes less time thus saving money.

Once you have an understanding of how Twitter can work, you can also easily track and monitor what people are saying about your brand.

Tweetbeep-Keeps track of contractor conversations that mention you.

Monitter-Lets you monitor the Twitter world for a set of key words and watches what people are saying about you.

Let contractors know how to know you’re there. Ask users to follow you on Twitter. Place a button on your web site in the customer service section so they know they can contact you in another manner.

Respond quickly and transparently. When you find a tradesman complaining about an issue, @reply them asking if you can help. If the problem is sensitive or the customer is highly upset, you can either direct a message to them or give them a quick way to contact you directly (direct line or your e-mail).

Be engaged in the conversations. Twitter is a conversational platform. Contractors like to talk. This is an opportunity to build your brand.

Be authentic. Contractors are no dummies and if you try to pull the wool over their eyes, it will come back to bite you.

Twitter and social media are helping the way customer service is done. Think outside the box. Wouldn’t you want to be the first in your line of work to offer this as an optional customer service tool?



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