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.


Are You Using Brand Advocacy in Reaching Contractors ?

June 28, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Let’s face it, in an ideal world we’d all want our customers to love us! We all know that’s not going to happen, but I’ll bet you might have more advocates for your brand than you think.

Why are brand advocates important? Studies show that people rely on peer recommendations and reviews before purchasing goods. Contractors are no different, especially if you’re introducing a new product or application they haven’t used or seen before. They certainly don’t want to be the first to try something.

Brand advocates are more than loyal customers. They are your ambassadors in the trades. I’ve seen contractors with tattoos of company logos. That to me is the ultimate.

Some brand advocates will surface on their own by commenting on your blog or website several times or talking you up on an online forum. Others might offer positive comments on a survey or warranty card. Don’t forget to ask your sales staff in the field who are calling on contractors, as well as your customer service department. They certainly should be able to identify a few. Hopefully a few will be high-profile folks within some associations that you are a part of.

One of our clients in the plumbing market was able to identify and nurture several advocates over the years. Once they brought the top 10 contributors into the main office and treated them like royalty for two days and then sent them home. They got a plant tour, a look at what was coming down the line as new products and met with customer service and technical people that they interface with on a regular basis on the phone or with emails. You wouldn’t believe the results of that effort. They became ambassadors on steroids!

Once you’ve found them, then what? You should set up a brand advocacy program that will give them ways to help you grow the brand. Here are a few ideas:

  • Ask them to write testimonials or reviews on new products. Then ask them to share them.
  • See if they would be willing to do a case history for you.
  • If timing permits and you can meet them at an association meeting or trade show, see if they would let you  interview them both for a podcast and testimonial video.
  • Ask them for referrals.
  • Have them test and evaluate new products before they are brought to market.
  • Have them identify potential new products.

This needs to be an ongoing effort so you’re always adding new advocates to keep the message current and fresh.

Don’t miss a golden opportunity for your customers to help sell your brand.


6 Ways to Make Your Marketing to Contractors More Effective

June 22, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Today we have so many options to reach our targeted audiences. While I’m a proponent of trying new things, we must not lose sight of who we’re trying to reach. More importantly, we need to identify the preferred way they like to be communicated with.

Below are six ways you can make your marketing to tradesmen more effective:

1. Focus On What You Can Control

You can’t control what’s going on in Washington, the economy or most other market factors. However, you do have control over your marketing. Recognize where the demand is and go after it. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

2. Re-Evaluate Your Marketing Goals

Based on what’s happening with the economy, are your company’s marketing goals achievable? It may be time to re-state and re-prioritize your goals.

3. You Can’t Manage What You Can’t Measure

Take a hard look at the performance of your marketing plan. I know something like ad awareness is costly and hard to measure. But things like trade show leads, direct mail and online programs are measurable. Look hard and, if needed, reallocate and optimize your budget. You can’t afford under-performing programs.

4. Fish Where The Fish Are

You know who your customers and potential customers are. Make the most of your marketing investment and increase your visibility through targeted vehicles where your prospects will see your message and take action.

5. Integrated Marketing

We’ve always been advocates of tying your messages to various touch points for your customers. This synergistic method allows you a better bang for the buck! And don’t forget to bring the sales team up-to-speed as to what you’re doing. They’re an extension of your marketing efforts.

6. Focus On Quality not Quantity

More is not necessarily better. The quality of your sales leads is far more important. If you adhere to the previous five suggestions, you will deliver better-quality leads, which will improve your bottom line and make everybody happy.

What are you doing to reach your targeted audiences?


Why Content Marketing May Work Better Than Traditional Advertising in Reaching Contractors

June 8, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Contractors and professional tradesmen 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 they Google it. 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! You need to be top of mind when they reach that portion of the sales funnel where they will need to contact someone.

Heidi Cohen had an interesting article regarding advertising vs. content driven messages that had some good points for the B-to-B market.

B-to-B lags behind the consumer counterpart in doing research before they contact a manufacturer or distribution point. But even at 57%, you’d better have some skin in the game from a search perspective or you’re going to be left at the curb.

Best Lead Generation Tips

Razorfish found that:

  • 50% of U.S. consumers will do anything to avoid ads
  • 75+% of U.S. consumers hate hearing or seeing ads multiple times
  • 65% of U.S. consumers use a DVR to skip ads

Those are some scary numbers, and even though they are consumer driven, remember that those same consumers may be buying your products at their workplace. So what’s the alternative?

  • 86% of U.S. consumers value brands that are useful over those that have interesting advertising

Translation: Give your customers the info they need when they need it. Here are some tips:

  1. Leverage the social media platforms where your customers hang out.
  2. Supply product info for potentials to seek out.
  3. Tap into sources your customers trust, like trade associations.
  4. Make sure the info you give prospects enhances the product value.
  5. Skip the promotion and show them best practices when using your products.
  6. Re-promote your content. Once is not enough.

So the question is, how much effort are you using to create great content? You only have so much time, so use it wisely. Give them solutions to help them run their business better and make money. You’ll be a hero in the end.


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.


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