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).


Manufacturers – What is your Biggest Concern?

March 29, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

I guess it would be getting new customers and keeping existing ones.

An effective customer experience starts with understanding your customer and then delivering good, meaningful content to them. The more positive the experience, the better the sales or so it would seem. This could be a challenge in today’s market where sales have turned from relationship-based to transactional-type sales.

So let’s look at two areas – marketing and customer service.

It’s not surprising then that a recent survey of CMO’s by eMarketer showed that their biggest concern was the customer relationship followed by ROI on marketing activities.

But what about once you have them as customers? Usually it’s easier and less costly to keep an existing customer than try to find a new one.

I ran across a study recently in emarketer.com “How to Win at Customer Service,” that claimed most people just want their questions answered.

Attitudes Toward Customer Service Among Internet Users Worldwide, Aug 2015 (% of respondents)

Here are some highlights:

  • 81% of those surveyed just wanted their questions answered
  • 89% feel more positive about brands that give good customer service
  • 46% tell their friends and family about a quick response time

So what does all this mean to the manufacturing sector? Well the bar isn’t raised too high and we certainly don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Here are some tips on how to serve the professional tradesman:

  • Keep your customer service department open on business days from 7 AM to 5 PM EST. If the contractors are having issues, you need to be available when they are working.
  • Staff your customer service department with experienced people who can answer questions, troubleshoot a problem or forward them on to someone who can.

A post you may want to read, Customer Service: How are you Handling Unhappy People, may be a good read. A good customer service department can help increase future sales by giving them a positive experience.


Most Effective Ways to Reach the Right B-to-B Decision Makers

March 1, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

We’re all looking for the best, most effective way to get in front of our prospects. According to a recent survey by eMarketer.com conferences, trade shows and webinars are the three best venues to do that.

Trades shows, although expensive, can be an effective tool in getting in front of the right audience. The big problem for most of us who can’t afford a 100 x 100 foot booth is getting folks to notice you.

Types of Events that US B2B Marketers* Have Hosted or Attended, Sep 2015 (% of respondents)

 

What’s often overlooked are industry conferences where you may either not attend or send only a few of your team. Typically, these are the kinds of events that C-suite folks go to, and most conferences allow plenty of time for networking opportunities. Ideally, it would be nice to be able to present to the group as an industry leader.

Webinars are another great way to get the attention of your target audiences. The best part of webinars is that you’re not competing for their attention, you have 100% of it. The key to a great webinar is having content that users need. This is especially true when talking with engineers (both design and mechanical).

The biggest challenge is getting people to sign up and attend. You naturally want to include existing customers, but ideally, you want to attract new potentials. There are media companies out there like WTWH Media that will help identify and get folks to participate, but will also act as moderators and promote the event both before and after.

The key is to try some of these other activities to aid in your thought leadership.


B-to-B Email Marketing – Still the Best for ROI

February 23, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

I keep harping on building your own internal customer database. One of the reasons is that if you’re selling online, that list could be gold for you. 90% of the marketers surveyed by Accenture and the Blackstone Group said email marketing was what they used to promote their commerce activities.

Another interesting stat is that of these marketing executives, 23% said that email marketing drove at least 25% of overall revenues. Some say that email marketing accounts for more sales than all other digital advertising.

If you want accountability, consider this:

Heidi Cohen gives us several reasons why email trumps social media:

  • Email provides directly measurable ROI – You know immediately how many opened and read your message.
  • Email is content format agnostic  It’s user-friendly and you can use text, images, videos, audio, PDFs.
  • Email can deliver both long and short content – Content can vary from a link to several pages in length.
  • Emails – you can control delivery – Whether it’s now or delayed.
  • Emails can be read on anything – Smart phones, tablets, laptops, no apps required.
  • Emails build customer relationships – Once someone allows you to communicate with them, it represents a certain level of trust.

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

Email Marketing-Still a Top Performer.

Email Marketing-Is this the Best Way to Reach Professional Tradesman?


Why Story Telling is So Important When Dealing with Contractors

February 10, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

I recently read a post by John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing, People Buy Stories Before They Buy Stuff, that reminded me how true that statement was, especially when talking with contractors.

Tell me, do you know a contractor that won’t talk your leg off? If you do, it’s a rarity. Contractors learn by telling and listening to stories. Whether it’s about how they developed a short cut in their process to save them money, to a funny story about one of the new hires screwing up a job royally until they stepped in and saved the day.

I think we all agree that stories are an important part of the selling process. For you, it starts with how you write an email or blog post, to your interaction when face to face with a contractor. They need to feel comfortable with you.

Yes, they know you want to sell them something, but most want to do a little talking first (consider it foreplay). There is a right way to use stories as a way to guide contractors to that perfect journey.

John outlines several keys to building a better framework for storytelling:

  1. The ideal contractor persona – you need to know what drives them, what they believe and what they fear. Your local distributor should be able to help fill in the back story on each contractor. It’s about establishing yourself as the right person to help them.
  2. Make them the hero – the main character must be your ideal customer persona. You’re there to help them understand the real problem and that you can help them solve it.
  3. Help them understand their problem – and give them practical and proven methods of fixing it.

Understanding contractor’s goals and questions during every phase of the buying process gives you, the manufacturer, a chance to create content and campaigns aimed at satisfying their needs.

Do you really know your ideal customer’s persona?


Professional Tradesman Email Contacts: The Holy Grail of B to B Marketing

February 2, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

As manufacturers we all know how important keeping in contact with our customers is. Email is one of the easiest and most effective way to do that and unfortunately for those of you who sell through a distribution process it’s hard to get the ultimate end user’s name no less try to start a relationship with them.

That’s why it’s important to begin building your own database of both current and potential contractors. If you’re fortunate enough to make products that require a warranty card that certainly is a place to start. Other outbound marketing activities should include incentives for contractors to give up their contact info so you can start a dialog with them.

Give them something of value that would help them in their everyday activities, such as:

  • mobile app
  • some sort of calculator to help them estimate projects
  • white paper
  • a series of how-to videos
  • industry research on new and upcoming trends
  • checklists on  detailed processes
  • case study
  • tool kit (cheat sheets, checklists, videos, e-books)

Do you know that the average office worker checks their email 30 times an hour? Can you imagine what the stats are for contractors out in the field?

The point is that emails are very acceptable ways of communicating with each other. The key is to have relevant and timely info for your prospect.

Heidi Cohen gives us several reasons why email trumps social media:

  • Email provides directly measurable ROI – You know immediately how many opened and read your message.
  • Email is content format agnostic  It’s user-friendly and you can use text, images, videos, audio, PDFs.
  • Email can deliver both long and short content – Content can vary from a link to several pages in length.
  • Emails you can control delivery – Whether it’s now or delayed.
  • Emails can be read on anything – Smart phones, tablets, laptops, no apps required.
  • Emails build customer relationships – Once someone allows you to communicate with them, it represents a certain level of trust.

With all the marketing trends and new things over the last several years, email still seems to be the “workhorse”  for most people’s marketing efforts. Recent research from Gigaom reports that over 75% of smart phone users check their emails on their phones. What I find remarkable, if you look at the chart below, 5 years ago paid search, SEO and digital ads would have been at the top of the list. Oh, how the more things change, the more they remain the same.

So what are you doing to grow your own email list?

Here are some other posts you might find useful:

Benchmark Report on Email Marketing Sheds Light on Top Priorities for B-to-B Marketers

5 Tips on Improving Your Email Marketing to Professional Tradesmen

Email Marketing: How Are You Using it to Reach the Professional Tradesmen


Are Your Sales and Marketing Departments on the Same Page?

January 20, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

As we start 2016, it may be time to reflect on ways we can do better moving forward. I have found one of the biggest issues and one of the easiest ones to correct is communications between sales and marketing. Here’s a post I did last year that might give you some starting points.

Sales and marketing must work together to define the ideal client and determine how and what to get in front of them. Social media and the internet in general has 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.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 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?


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