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.


Another Reason to Use Emails to Reach Contractors: Acquisition and Retention

August 10, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

B to B trends tend to follow retail ones and here’s one more. I’ve been a big proponent of using emails as the best way to reach the professional contractors and tradesman and here are further reasons to consider this tactic.

A recent study by email on acid reported that email marketing is going to remain a top priority for companies in 2016. Though we could have predicted this was the case, nearly three out of four companies (71.8 percent) say they are planning to spend more time on email production and more than four out of five (86.7 percent) report that they will increase email marketing budgets this year.

A great email doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have a good list to send it to. That’s why building your own list is so important. You want to have an opted-in list so you can be assured your message gets by the firewalls and junk mail boxes.

Warranty cards and trade show leads are a start, but we need to be more creative. Sales visits to jobsites 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.

Be sure to read 5 tips on how to write effective email subject lines by Sandy Bucher, Media Engineer at Sonnhalter that will help you get them opened.

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.


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.


What’s your Unique Selling Proposition to the Professional Tradesman?

July 13, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

I recently read an article by Mark Buckshon from Construction Marketing Ideas where he was talking about how contractors need to identify what makes them different from all the rest. It got me to thinking about farther up the food chain (manufacturers) and how they all have a hard time differentiating themselves. How many times have you heard the following:

  • Best in Class
  • Industry Expert
  • Leading Source
  • Industry Leader
  • World Class
  • Award Winning
  • One-of-a-Kind
  • Innovative

The point is, what do these really say about your company that sets it apart from the competition? Phrases like these are marketing hype and nothing more. You need to look hard at those things that really truly set you apart from the competition. Manufacturers typically look at products as the points of difference and in some cases, that might enough. But no manufacturer can say that across their entire product line.

Maybe you should be looking at other points of differentiation such as tech/field support, customer service or distribution policies. For example, in the plumbing fixture category, there are tons of competitors. Yes, some like Kohler and Grohe go after the high-end, but what about the regular guy who needs a new faucet or shower head? If you were a contractor, who would you recommend?

Here’s a good example. Gerber Plumbing fixtures are sold only through plumbing wholesalers and plumbing contractors. Now if you’re a contractor, that would make a difference. They offer similar styles and finishes as their competitors, but they don’t have the hassle of a customer going to Home Depot and telling them they can buy that same fixture for $50 less than what you’re quoting. That’s a competitive advantage. Gerber has the contractors’ backs because that’s their target market.

Here are 3 questions you need to answer regarding your positioning:

  • Is it True?
  • Is it Relevant?
  • Is it Provable?

So I might suggest you take a look at your positioning statement and see if it passes the test.

 


Manufacturers: Have you Considered a Contractor Council?

July 6, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Beyond the normal marketing things you do, what are you doing to get closer to your customers and LISTEN to what their issues are?

May I suggest a contractor council? You all have brand advocates out there, why not get them together a few times a year and get a better sense of what’s happening in their world and what keeps them up at night. You could even pass by new product ideas before putting them into production. If you make the meetings about them and not you, the outcome will be more positive.

You know these guys talk to each other, either through social media like forums or at association and trade meetings. Meetings could be planned around major trade shows or meetings, and you’d ask them to come in a day ahead of time for say a half-day meeting.

I’d also suggest that some of the meetings could be held at your location (at your expense) so they get to meet other members of your team. Keep these meetings on track with an agenda that should include issues they want to talk about as well. There also should be action items coming out of each meeting where they can see that you actually did listen and are taking some action. Note that all action items don’t have to have a positive resolution, but the council needs to know that you at least took it under consideration.

Other than the ultimate end user, do you sell through independent reps and or distributors? These should be on your radar screen to get closer to as well. Rep and Distributor councils can also reap great results.

  •  Reps are in the trenches daily and can give you valuable insights not only on the end-user level, but also what’s happening at the distributor level.
  •  Distributors can give you insights on not only current avenues of business, but might be able to point out new possible areas of growth.

Bottom line is, I’ve seen firsthand what a well planned council can bring to a company. It’s a great long-term strategy that will help you set your brand apart.


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