Manufacturers: Is Social Media Working for you in Reaching Contractors?

August 23, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

social media iconsSocial media has been around long enough that by now you should have an idea of whether or not it’s working for you. Is it? Do you really know? Do you really care?

I guess the first question we should ask ourselves is why are we doing it? Hopefully it’s not because everyone else is. The next question would be which of the many social media options out there are you focusing on?

Let’s explore the first question – Why are you doing it?

  • Are you really sold on it?
  • How much of your promotional budget is set aside for social?
  • Do you have a written strategy for social?
  • Do you have some way of defining and measuring success?

If you’re really sold on it, you’d have a written plan and a dedicated person responsible for its implementation and success.

How about the second question – What social media tools are you using?

  • Is Facebook and Twitter the right way to connect to your audience?
  • Are the photo sharing apps making sense for you?
  • What type of YouTube presence do you have?
  • Are you utilizing SlideShare?
  • Are you participating in appropriate LinkedIn groups?
  • Have you started a blog?

I have found that Facebook  and Twitter have little impact on reaching contractors. The best tools for results, in my opinion, are blogs, YouTube, SlideShare and LinkedIn. Here are some interesting factoids:

  • 80% of all B-to-B social media sales come from LinkedIn.
  • SlideShare receives 500% more traffic from business owners than Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube combined.
  • Google+ gets an average of 1.2 billion visits per month, compared to 800,000 for Facebook.

I’d be curious to find out from you what social programs are working for you.

Here are some links to posts that you may find interesting regarding social media:

SlideShare is probably the most overlooked social media tool to reach contractors

Social Media: does it affect marketing to the professional tradesman?

Why Manufacturers should personalize content for the professional tradesman.

Do you have a company LinkedIn page? You should.

How to use content to reach Contractors


Content Marketing Helps Drive Business Results

August 16, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

I think we all can agree that content marketing is playing a vital role in everyone’s overall marketing plan. Everyone wants lead generation and engagement, and to get both, you have to give them good content!

In a September 2015 study by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs, 76% of B2B marketers in North America said they expect to create more content in 2016 than they did in 2015.

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!

And here’s what they are looking for:

The challenge is how do you develop good content? The recognition of these difficulties is leading many B2B marketers to focus on outsourcing some of their work to specialists. Nearly three-quarters of B2B marketers in Ascend2’s survey either outsourced all of their content marketing work or used a combination of outsourcing and in-house resources.

You can certainly look for freelancers to fill the gap or you could look to an obvious source – your PR or marketing firm. They are familiar with your overall goals, your voice and what you do. The key is quality content, not quantity, and your outside professionals can help you keep the bar high.

6 CRM Best Practices

August 9, 2016

Today we have a guest post from Russ Hill, Founder and CEO of Ultimate Lead Systems. BestPracticesImage-300x171

With a couple of decades of experience helping companies with their B2B sales lead management and CRM programs, 6 Best Practices have revealed themselves that I would like to share. I’ve witnessed companies succeed and increase sales by diligently applying these practices. I’ve also seen organizations waste thousands of marketing dollars and lose thousands of dollars in sales opportunities by ignoring these practices. If you are serious about improving your sales and marketing ROI, these practices will lead you to some big wins.

1. Get your sales and marketing teams on the same page

First of all, Sales and Marketing need to re-think how they fundamentally interact. They frequently operate in their own “silos.” They need to learn how to support each other to release their inherent synergy to increase sales. Customers are rarely ready to sign a purchase order when reps first call. And reps are usually not present when the purchasing decision is made. Thus, today’s marketing programs need to nurture buyers throughout their buying process and notify the rep when a buyer is ready to engage. Marketers must send the right messages out at the right time that appeal to all of the buying influences. And the sales person must make multiple calls on the right people to further cultivate the relationship. It is a team selling approach. Everyone has a role and responsibility.

Industry research shows that buyers are 60% into their buying process before they engage your company or sales person, so it’s crucial to have sales and marketing working together.

2. Define and document roles for everyone using your CRM

CRM programs are tools for facilitating strategy, driving initiatives and measuring results. Each role has responsibilities along with goals and tasks. Many users will have access, but do they all understand each others respective roles? Roles typically include administrators, sales, marketing, email marketing, social media, html and graphic designers, analytics and management. Sales and Customer Service people are often charged with making or taking so many calls per day. Marketing people must manage and grow subscriber lists, execute targeted email campaigns, promote content on social media, drive web traffic, generate sales leads and more. Clearly defining all of the user roles and responsibilities, documenting processes and communicating it all to your team will provide everyone with deeper insight into how their role supports your organization. It will also help everyone better understand how you are leveraging the CRM and marketing tools to achieve company objectives and growth. Update your documentation frequently so everyone can stay on top of the latest processes and responsibilities, and make sure it is readily available via your intranet or network.

3. Send only “Qualified Leads” to your sales team and require follow-up

Today’s customers are likely to engage your company with multiple interactions via your different marketing channels before they are ready to talk with a sales rep. A sales person’s time is expensive and they are tasked with making productive calls and hitting sales goals. A sales lead sent to a rep that doesn’t pan out – is unqualified – undermines their confidence in the whole process and in the marketing team. It is paramount for sales and marketing to be on the same page when it comes to defining “what makes a lead a lead.”

Marketing must also understand the difference between an “inquiry” and a bonafide “sales lead” from the sales person’s perspective. They need to talk with sales and come to an agreement on what “qualified lead” means. Marketing is then challenged with generating sales leads that meet that profile. From the sales person’s viewpoint, the number of page views, click-throughs, emails received and opened is a lot of noise. Sales people want to know who has requested a sales call or requested a quote and is a bonafide prospect with life-time value. These qualified leads with details on needs and purchase plans should be passed on quickly to sales reps and accessed with easy-to-use tools for managing follow-up. The more leads they can close to sales, the more confidence they will have in marketing’s efforts. Sure there are always reps who “cherry pick” and look for business to fall into their laps. And some reps ignore leads no matter how much opportunity they may represent, so management must require follow-up. But good reps respond to quality leads and know how to effectively follow-up to cultivate opportunities and win sales. Research also shows that it takes an average of 5 calls to close the typical B2B sale, so reps need to put in the right effort and follow-up.

4. Keep your CRM data CLEAN!

Clean CRM data is the crucial for the success of your sales and marketing teams and for tracking success. Unfortunately, CRM programs are frequently “garbaged-up” making the job of everyone who touches the program more difficult.

Examples: Users enter duplicate accounts and contacts rather than looking to see if they already exist. Account and contact data isn’t kept up to date. Important data is inadvertently deleted. Call reports are not entered so contact history is not up-to-date. Order history is incomplete, etc.

CRM data quality assurance is everyone’s responsibility and that expectation must be made clear to all users from the outset and with regular reminders. It is the perfect environment for “garbage in, garbage out!” Quality data enables you to build effective business intelligence, improve customer service and drive more business. Here are a few things you can practice to maintain clean data:

  • Ensure the correct data is recorded at every entry point and for each user type. (Know all entry points and user interfaces in order to identify where problems are occurring.) Train your staff so that data quality expectations and the steps to assure quality are well known.
  • Maintain consistency in data values. (For example United States and USA, or state abbreviations vs. spellings.) Force data value selections by using drop-down lists where possible.
  • Avoid entry of duplicate accounts, leads and contacts. Always check for previous entries first.
  • Merge duplicate records. Establish program rules ensure that unique account numbers are not overwritten. Use built in dupe checking functionality for preventing duplicates or third party deduping tools. Maintain complete and up-to-date information on your records.

5. Train, Train and Train!

It is impossible to get everyone on the same page regarding your sales process, goals and expectations through a single memo or meeting. CRM programs are complex with many functions – many your team may never use. But they need to know the functions that enable them to fulfill their role. Pilots don’t become proficient after a single take-off and landing. Surgeons don’t master surgery with one operation. Likewise, your team and their CRM training. Training must be ongoing with the focus on important functions and with frequent review. There are no shortcuts. Memories are short. Mastery comes through repetition.

6. Measure Success

After all of the time, money and effort invested in your program, how do you measure CRM success? Consider the following:

  • How frequently do your users access your program?
  • Is your “qualified” lead volume increasing?
  • How quickly are your reps looking at and following up their leads?
  • What is your lead conversion rate?
  • Is it improving?
  • What kind of feedback are you getting from your users?
  • What suggestions are you getting for improvements?
  • Are you soliciting them?
  • Is your social media and other marketing activity actually delivering bonafide, new leads?
  • Is your sales team happy with the sales lead quality and quantity?
  • Are sales going up?

These are just some of the questions you may want to consider when exploring how to measure the success of your CRM and lead management programs.

When considering CRM Best Practices, ask yourself honestly and realistically: How good are you at applying best practices in order to improve your organization’s return on its marketing and sales efforts? Are your “best practices” leading your company to greater success?”

Russ Hill is the founder and President of Ultimate Lead Systems, Inc., a company specializing in sales lead management, CRM and support services.

SlideShare is Probably the Most Overlooked Social Media Tool to Reach Contractors

August 3, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Close to 70 million visitors a month, five times more traffic from business owners than Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. SlideShare was purchased by LinkedIn a few years ago which allows both platforms to work seamlessly together, which is good news for you.

Why should you consider using it? Contractors like visuals and are wanting to learn more of how or why to do things a certain way.

It’s a great way to market your business, and showcase your expertise as an industry leader. Not only can you put up Power Point presentations and white papers, you can upload videos by using SlideSharepro  and have a way to repurpose your webinars or online training options.

If you’re worried about sharing your information with the world, you can upload content that you can make available to select audiences (by invitation only).

The most important reason for using SlideShare is to generate leads. Peg Fitzpatrick wrote a great post on Social Media Examiner on ways to capitalize on getting leads.

She focuses on ways to collect emails from viewers, how to use links in slides, why you should add visual calls to action and lastly, why the description. It’s a good quick read.

Heidi Cohen outlines 10 actionable marketing tactics to get the most out of leads.

Here are some tips:

  • Are slide titles and text consistently placed and aligned?
  • Other than the title slide, are they numbered?
  • Does your presentation title appear at the top of each page?
  • Did you add your firm’s name, URL and contact info at the bottom of each page of your handouts?
  • Did you convert presentation files to Adobe Acrobat to preserve text formatting?
  • Did you check each link after uploading to make sure they work?
  • Did you create links between SlideShare and social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter?

Don’t miss out on this valuable tool that will help you not only become a thought leader, but generate leads at the same time, so make sure you put a good strong call to action in it.

Social Media: Does it Affect Marketing to the Professional Tradesman?

July 27, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Are you trying to increase your exposure, traffic and leads? Are you trying to provide insights to contractors and generate leads? If so, social media should be part of your overall marketing program.

Social media is a targeted way of getting your message out and letting prospective customers find you. Social media benefits are:

  • Reach – get your message distributed to a broader audience.
  • Influence – both existing contractors as well as new prospects.
  • Conversions – marketing insights leads to engagement that leads to sales.

Here are some tips to maximize your social media efforts to the contractor market.

Reach – Use several different social media platforms, i.e. YouTube, SlideShare, Instagram, Flickr, to reach the contractors. Make sure what you do share is relevant as you don’t want to waste contractors time. They want quality content, not quantity. Repurpose existing content that they may not have been aware of.

Influence – You may not have to impress your existing customers, but you do for potential ones. Here’s where you have to become a thought leader. Don’t push your company or brand, but a solution to a potential problem. Develop thought leaders within your company (no need for marketing to bear all the responsibility). Tap some seasoned customer service folks, your engineering department and sales force. They are the ones on the front lines that deal with problems and come up with solutions.

Conversion  This is a hard metric if you want to tie it directly to sales. In many cases where products are either specified or sold through distribution channels, it’s nearly impossible to track sales results. You can, though, create landing pages with offers for white papers or other items that would help the contractor in their day-to-day operations. Be patient, and as you engage these folks on social media, attempt to take them off-line and start a traditional relationship with them.

Are Your Sales and Marketing Teams Working Together to Reach the Professional Tradesman?

July 26, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

It may be time to reflect on ways we can do better moving forward to better identify ways to reach contractors and professional tradesmen. I have found one of the biggest issues and one of the easiest ones to correct is communications between sales and marketing. As you can see in the chart below, most companies see room for improvement.

Sales and marketing must work together to define the ideal client and determine how and what to get in front of them. They need to share information and have a plan in place to hand off a lead from marketing to sales.

Social media and the internet in general have changed the way people buy. Today, research is done online long before the potential customer identifies themselves to a prospective vendor. So what can you do to ensure that when the buyer is ready, you’re on the list to talk to?

This is an issue that continues to frustrate marketers and sales across the board. Both disciplines have insights to offer and neither should be working in a vacuum. Marketing’s role is to provide qualified leads to the sales team so they can more effectively close more sales.

I read an interesting article recently by John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing that addresses this very problem.

He states: “My take is that for organizations to take full advantage of the dramatic shift in the way people and organizations buy today they must intentionally blend inbound marketing, outbound marketing and inbound selling in a way that mirrors today’s customer journey.”

He offers some suggestions on how they can work together. Here are some highlights of shared responsibilities:

  • Planning – When marketing is creating a plan, involve sales. They have insights that marketing doesn’t. Their insights are invaluable in helping define the customer journey.
  • Editorial – Even if sales people aren’t great writers, they certainly can identify pain points along the way and possible solutions for marketing to write about.
  • Social – Make sales aware of social opportunities, whether it’s LinkedIn or participating in an industry forum that social is a good networking tool.
  • Engagement – Have sales and marketing make calls together or write a proposal.
  • Measurement – Forget quantity and focus on quality of lead and how you can take them down the sales funnel. Focus on creating a profitable customer.

If you liked this post, you might like:
Are You Getting Your Sales Force Involved in Social Media?
How Does Social Media Impact a B-to-B Purchase?

5 tips on how to write effective email subject lines

July 19, 2016

By Sandy Bucher, Media Engineer, Sonnhalter

I receivThe number 5e many marketing tip email newsletters, and recently received The Industrial Marketer, a newsletter from ThomasNet rpm. In this newsletter, Derek Yi Yang of ThomasNet rpm discusses how having an effective subject line increases the chances of your email getting opened, and read.

Here are the 5 tips:

  1. Don’t use capital letters – may increase the chance of your email getting caught in spam filters
  2. Make lists – people seem to prefer emails in list format – probably because they know it’ll be a quick read
  3. Personalize the message – use the recipient’s name, location or current event in the subject line
  4. Time-sensitive offer – creating a sense of urgency can increase open and click rates
  5. Short and to the point – make it a quick read and enticing enough for your readers to open and read

Keep these tips in mind next time you’re composing your next marketing email. And be sure to click on the link above to read Derek’s post for examples of the 5 tips.


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