Do You Have a Company LinkedIn Page? You should.

June 7, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

LinkedIn is a business platform and although it’s set up for individuals, companies can and should have a company page. It allows your company to have a snapshot of who you are and helps you connect with your audiences.

Yes, LinkedIn has been used primarily in the past for people to network, but remember, not all folks on LinkedIn are looking for jobs.

LinkedIn Company Page

I recently read an article from socialmediaexaminer.com on 7 Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Page and I wanted to share some of their 7 insights.

  • Brand recognition − Use your company logo and colors that define your brand. Create a custom background image to set you apart. Incorporate your main URL and phone number too.
  • Focus message – Instead of taking the about us from your website, tailor the description that speaks directly to the people who are visiting your page.
  • Improve search  Under the specialty section, add key words/phrases. You need to make your page easy to find.
  • Stay in front of your prospects – Post relevant content on a regular basis and create custom images to set you apart. You have three options for sharing: 1  Push it to everyone that follows you, 2  Target specific groups (if you have enough in each group) and 3  Pay to sponsor the update to attract new followers.

Start promoting your page on email signatures and even send an e-blast out to your current database with a link to your page. The key is don’t miss this opportunity.


Contractor Email List – Do You Have One?

June 1, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

tradesperson-cement

Let’s face it, we’re all in this for the same reason. To talk with people who share the same interest. We must always be tweaking and improving what we deliver.

Warranty cards and trade show leads are a start but we need to be more creative. Salesmen visits to job site are a good way to start a conversation.

So in order to get them to give up their email, we better come up with some interesting and helpful stuff that will make them want to read our emails for future gems.

It’s not only what you have to say, but how you say it. Beyond being potential customers, these contractors can be your best friend by sharing it with their peer group. Remember contractors need to know, like and trust you before any meaningful dialog will start.

Here are some tips to building a better list of contractors and tradesmen:

  • Think like a contractor  What are their pain points? Give them practical solutions. Always answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”
  • Talk like a human – Don’t use marketing or sales speak. Keep it conversational.
  • Give them a reason to sign up – Sneak peeks at new products, exclusive product demos.
  • Ask the contractor what they want help with – Get engagement from the audience you want to reach.
  • Don’t be afraid of humor – People like to smile and it shows more of your human side.
  • Reach out to contractors – On a regular basis, randomly pick several contractors and have a product manager call and pick their brains on possible new product ideas.

Emails are back and stronger than ever if we do them right. Remember, you’re not looking for a big list, but a good one.


8 Tips on How to Connect with Contractors

May 24, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Building relationships with contractors is no different from building them with your friends. You build relationships with friends over time, but once they know, like and trust you, then they will do anything for you.

Building relationships with contractors is no different. It can’t be a one-way street when everything you talk about is trying to sell them something. You’d get a lot farther if you were looking out for their best interest and helping them solve problems or do things better so they can make more money.

609_3676925-electricianstalking

A friend of mine once told me “contractors buy stories before they buy stuff.” Anyone who has spent time with contractors knows how true this is. Know what’s bothering them and keeping them up at night. So how are you going to find those things out? By talking with them and starting to build a relationship.

So if you’re a manufacturer looking to spend more meaningful time with contractors, I’ve written 8 tips on how to connect with contractors that you can get HERE.

8 Tips

The paper gives you tips on how to use relationship marketing and storytelling when dealing with contractors. You’ll also learn how to use training modules and mobile to stay connected and help them train their staffs.


Are you Considered a “Trusted Authority” in Contractors’ Minds?

May 10, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

We all want to be recognized as leaders in our respective fields and in today’s world the current mantra is to be that “Trusted Authority.” To be a recognized leader in your field is not an overnight sensation. It takes time and you need to deliver more than bells and whistles.

I recently read an article by Mark Buckshon from Construction Marketing Ideas where he discusses this very topic. He gave the example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s role in leading architecture to a new level in his day. He truly was considered a trusted authority, and if you wanted a second opinion, you’d just have to ask him. Not everyone agreed with him, but they respected him.

 Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin D. Martin House, in Buffalo, NY. Courtesy of Dave Pape.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House, in Buffalo, NY. Courtesy of Dave Pape.

Time is one thing we have little of, yet it’s what it will take to position yourself and your company as the industry expert. Wisdom comes from experience and experience is gained over time. Lots of your credentialing will come from the school of hard knocks. But that’s OK. We should learn from our failures and missteps.

Learn to share your expertise and solve problems instead of trying to sell contractors stuff. With the advent of social media, we no longer control the message or where or when it will be delivered. You need to learn to share your experiences via story telling as opposed to a sales pitch. Show your expertise by telling contractors how you helped others solve a problem or gave them a better way of doing a job that resulted in them making more money.

To become a true authority you need to deliver results beyond the ordinary. If you do this, you’ll be able to grow your business through referrals and repeat business. Contractors are very loyal and they do talk among themselves, so let’s make sure what they are saying about your company is good.

It’s a never-ending battle. You need to keep being ahead of the curve and continue to wow contractors. Remember, everything you do at the contractor level should answer this one simple question, “What’s in it for me?”


E-Commerce: Why is the Independent Distributor Missing a Great Opportunity?

May 3, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

We’ve had conversations here before about independent industrial distributors missing sales opportunities by not keeping up with the latest technology available.

I see that Industrial Distribution magazine is doing a webinar on this very subject on May 18th; you may want to sign up for it or suggest some of your independent distributors who are still lagging behind get in the game. Jon Eames from NH Bragg and Jack Templin from Affiliated Distributors will be contributors. Here’s what they will be covering:

Industrial customers are asking suppliers of all sizes to offer a highly functional e-commerce-enabled website. So how do smaller, independent distributorships take the first steps:
  • Review ways independents can get in the game of e-commerce without breaking the bank.
  • Hold true to their business objectives while developing an e-commerce strategy.

According to Forrester Consulting, a 2014 study shows that 52% of business buyers expect at least 50% of their purchases to be made online in 3 years’ time. This should be an eye opener for distribution, but some are ignoring the facts. The big boys like Grainger (40% of their sales are from the internet) and MSC Industrial (over 50% of their sales come from online) are certainly taking advantage. Shouldn’t that set the tone for the independents? Forrester forecasts that B-to-B e-commerce will exceed $1.1 trillion and comprise 12% of all B-to-B sales by 2020.

I’ve said in the past that for smaller industrial distributors to survive, they need to use the internet. They can’t count on the business model of contractors coming in at 7 in the morning or around lunch time to pick up what they need. Time is money, especially for them.

Industrial Distribution magazine recently released some research on The state of B2B e-commerce in Industrial Distribution. Here are some highlights:

  • Independent distributors are slow-moving in implementing e-commerce programs.
  • Technical challenges are making sites user-friendly, making it aesthetically appealing and staying ahead of the competition.
  • Primary reasons of not engaging online was lack of demand, technical obstacles and lack of marketing/promotional resources.

Customer satisfaction and the customer experience are the key factors in developing an online presence. Ironically, that’s how the independent distributor built their business in the first place. Now they just need to transfer that to a different platform not only to keep existing business, but to grow additional revenue.

Figure 4

Source: Industrial Distribution

My worse fear is that the Amazons and the Alibabas of the world are going to make the independent extinct in a few years. I understand that the AD buying group has just instituted a new program to help members deal with some of these issues. It’s too early to tell if it’s making an impact, but at least they recognize the issue and are trying to help.

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

What’s the future of small independent industrial distributors?

Are independent industrial distributors helping Amazon to succeed?

Distributor Strategy: What’s yours?


Contractors: Do You Know How to Connect With Them and Stay Connected?

April 28, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Manufacturers who focus on contractors and professional tradesmen need to understand who they are and what makes them tick. They need to spend less time selling and more time solving the contractors problems.

I recently presented to a group of building material manufacturers at a marketing summit put on by Mark Mitchell from the Whizard Strategy. You can find the entire presentation here.

I’ve been talking with contractors for lots of years and here are some takeaways to consider when wanting to connect and support them.

Contractor Profile:

  • Most are family-owned businesses
  • Most have fewer than 20 employees
  • Most started working in the trades and moved into starting a company
  • They have long days, usually starting around 6:00 in the morning and ending around 5:00 in the evening
  • They have to multitask — project management, purchasing and sales
  • Most of their day is spent in the field
  • Biggest challenge is finding qualified workers
  • Second biggest challenge is training them

What are Contractors Looking for?

  • Solutions to their problems
  • How to do job better, in less time
  • Have access to knowledgeable factory people for technical assistance
  • Manufacturers who under promise and over deliver

How to Connect with Contractors

  • Have your sales force spend a majority of their time in the field talking with contractors
  • Have a special contractor portal, hotline and emails to get their questions answered in a timely fashion
  • Mobile apps (if applicable) to help them do their job better, i.e., an estimating tool
  • Online product/application training for their workers
  • Send them leads

Contractors buy stories before they buy stuff. If you’re trying to establish a long-term relationship, the contractor needs to know, like and trust you first. It’s like any friendship; it develops over time and the relationship is mutually beneficial to both sides. If contractors are your life blood, take good care of nurturing them as a good friend would do.


What Are You Doing to Keep Contractors Coming Back?

April 27, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

The biggest challenge manufacturers face today is the ability to keep contractors interested and engaged in their brands. It’s much easier to keep an existing contractor than going out and trying to convert a new one.

In a recent eMarketer article they talked about how B2B International surveyed 266 U.S.- and Western Europe-based B2B marketers from a variety of industries in October and November 2015. The market research firm found that 62% of respondents said building market share remained the top challenge among others.

Leading Business Challenges Faced by B2B Marketers in Western Europe and the US*, 2014 & 2015 (% of respondents)

But how do you build market share without building relationships with those you sell to? Contractors are looking at solutions, not new products! If your product can help them do their job better or quicker, then you have a winner.

What can you do? One way is helping them identify pain points in their daily routine. A common one is getting new business leadsOwens Corning has a great website where on the one page it focuses on getting the user to the right contractor.

Another pain point for contractors is training employees, both old and new. Most good contractors are limited on growing their company because they can’t find qualified people to do the work. Dust off those YouTube videos and training tips and tricks and offer them to contractors. They can be offered online and you can incentivize the recipients for taking and passing the course. What better way to build brand loyalty from both the contractor and the worker.

There are plenty of ways to build market share and one of them is loyalty. You need to get and keep them engaged and always answer the question,  “What’s in it for me?” Word gets around (contractors talk to each other).


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