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?”


How to Use Content to Reach Contractors

May 4, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

time for content

We all want to get our message in front of contractors. In order to get more out of your content, you need to tie it to your strategy.

We need to help them with solutions to their problems, a better technique or tool for the job. A different process that will save time and money. Online training for their workers.

We’re all concerned on getting the message out that we sometimes miss other opportunities to use the same content (message) and deliver it differently.

I recently read a post by John Jantsch, 10 Ways to Use One Piece of Content, that brings this into perspective. Contractors get their info in several formats. Have you tried any other ways of delivering your message?

Here are some highlights from John’s post:

  • Turn your post into a series of videos that the sales folks can send out on an individual basis
  • Do a webinar and feature it on your website
  • Use a SlideShare deck that you can use both on SlideShare as well as on your LinkedIn profile
  • Develop an infographic and send it out in an e-blast
  • Testimonials. Get contractors who are already happy customers to give you testimonials, either written or on video.

John’s point is that it’s not the amount of content, but its intention.

What are you doing to maximize your content?


Are you ready for the true digital natives?

April 20, 2016

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter

The Millennial generation has been a hot topic for managers and marketers for many years now; in fact you used to call us Generation Y. Not everyone agrees on the exact years for each generation, but it’s generally accepted that Millennials are those born between 1980 and sometime between 1998 and 2000. Generation Z is the next upcoming generation with birth years in the 1990s through 2010. Predictions are already being made about the generation of kids born after 2010 as well!

People used to call Millennials “digital natives” due to our comfort using the internet and technology in general. But the generation after is what I would consider truly digital natives.

Millennial Technology Experience

Take me as an example. I’m a member of the Millennial generation and I can trace the growth of technology through my formative years. I recall changing the channel on the television using a dial and improving the picture on the tube TV by repositioning bunny ears. I used DOS and the first laptop computer I ever touched had a black and white screen. I looked up phone numbers in the phonebook and had to take typing classes in school. But we also caught on as technology advanced by leaps and bounds. I think that’s part of why the Millennial generation is so quick to learn – we had to adapt quickly.

Generation Z Technology Experience

The next generation that communicators should be preparing for is Generation Z. Those who knew how to use a mobile phone before they could sit in the front seat of a car. Those who stream music, TV and movies as the norm and consider DVDs to be “old” technology and don’t know what the “Save” icon really is.

The need for visual and video content is apparent now, but this generation will consume content differently and we need to be talking to them the way that they want to be talked to. Now more than ever, people have more control over the messages that reach them.

Everything travels fast, which enhances the need for real-time marketing and virtual communication. In our B2B space, we’re often protected and can learn from the mistakes and triumphs of others because we don’t start talking to this generation until they enter the workforce, so pay attention now. Watch the consumer brands that communicate to a younger demographic. You’ll notice an increase in visual, real-time communication, but don’t think that means your brand needs to get on SnapChat or Instagram to communicate with the new generation.

Infographic via Fluent

Infographic via Fluent

Video

By and far, mobile, visual, app-based social media is being used for interpersonal communication among peers. Instead, this group is turning to video on YouTube as well as on Facebook. This is an area where you should be upping your game now. Video is such a valuable content marketing tool for your brand as it is. Refresh yourself on 6 Tips For Using Video To Tell Your Story and make sure you’re working video content into your integrated marketing plans.

Live Conversations

It may seem strange to bring up live conversations when talking about a digitally native generation, but technology makes live conversations even easier. Livestreaming, video chatting and other services facilitate an in-person conversation without actually being in person. Check out our recommendations for using livestreaming.

Start Now

Don’t let the next generation of your B2B audience sneak up on you. Take the lessons you’ve learned from communicating with tech-savvy Millennials and the observations that you make on communications with digital natives in Generation Z and implement them in your marketing communication plans today.


Passion Isn’t the Problem

March 2, 2016

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

I recently listened to a report on NPR about how big companies are analyzing their social media followers to make sure they’re “passionate” enough. It’s not enough for these brands anymore to just rack up followers; they need to re-tweet, blog and be engaged enough to matter.

In manufacturing, the opposite could very easily be said. There’s no shortage of passion, but social media numbers and avenues continue to be a struggle.

Passion side of the argument, the case is easy to make. There simply aren’t people more passionate about their work than skilled craftsmen. It’s part of what makes that jump from simply doing a job, to doing a job right so distinct. And look at the time and effort the average tradesman puts into sharing knowledge with others and the next generation, it’s unmatched in any other field. Lastly, look at the brand loyalty and rivalries that do exist in our industry. The passion generated by Ford/Chevy, Lincoln/Miller, Deere/Case IH, Snap-On/Mac/Matco and a hundred other make Coke/Pepsi look like a kindergarten sandbox dispute.

So how can you use that passion to improve your social media numbers?

  • Be on the Right Channel – Facebook can allow for a more direct line of access, but it can also be demographically wrong. Twitter allows for quick hits of info, but requires more monitoring. LinkedIn is great for professional development, but has a structure that takes some getting used to. You don’t need to have all your eggs in one basket, but you should prioritize your message and messaging.
  • It’s Not All Rah Rah – If you’re only going on social media to talk about the latest products and re-post press releases, stop now. Be a source for more than just self-promotion.
  • Know What Your Audience Wants to be Doing – What do your customers do when they’re not working? Share stories about that every once and a while, so you become a resource.
  • Share the Bigger Picture – Community outreach, training and other industry rather than company issues should be a regular feature of your feed.
  • Don’t Read the Comments, Except When You Do – Part of the passionate rivalries I mentioned above seems to be following the brand you DON’T like, just to constantly comment on how much you don’t like it. Don’t give those comments the time of day (or attention their posters want). However, social media can be an excellent point of contact for legitimate customer issues. Act on those, and quickly.

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


Social Media As a Profit Center

January 26, 2016

Today, we have guest post from Jeff Guritza, a marketing professional in the power tools accessories industry, on the incorporation of social media in a company’s business plan.

1284_5052019We’ve all heard the term “social media,” and you may have even been afraid to ask, “What the heck is that?!” Regardless of your awareness level, you shouldn’t be asking yourself if your business should be engaged in social media. You should be asking yourself how.

Practically overnight, social media has become a cultural phenomenon. Simply stated, social media is defined as people going online to find, read or share content that interests them. Commonly used platforms are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just a personal platform that millennials use during their free time. Increasingly, people of all ages and nationalities jump online 24/7 for practically everything: researching gift ideas, sharing photos, reviewing products or getting directions

Social media is not a fad that will fade in time. Like your morning cup of coffee, it’s here to stay.

Social media transcends personal opinions, pastimes and hobbies. Its vast influence is felt in industries both large and small, near and far. Baby Boomers are embracing social media in droves, looking to communicate with grandkids and reconnect with friends. Whether you like it, people right now are vetting your business based upon content they find about you online.

To help guide you, here’s three smart steps to follow when looking to jumpstart your company’s social media engagement.

1. Social Media Lite: First, realize in this day and age you absolutely must have a social media presence. At a bare minimum, your company should set up accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. To do so, find your most tech- savvy associate and have him or her get online with a logo, some pictures, key contact information, company facts and reasons for being (think elevator pitch.)

This first step is non-negotiable and must be done ASAP. If you don’t have capable internal resources, it is worth the investment to have an outside vendor handle this on your behalf. Just ensure they share all account info (user names and passwords) to enable you to self-manage your accounts in perpetuity. This step isn’t expensive, complicated or even time-intensive. People are already forming opinions about your organization and likely sharing them online. As any PR counselor will tell you, it’s important to control the message, and having a social media presence is a way to accomplish this. This first step truly is the baseline cost of doing business today.

2. Define Your Brand: Step two focuses on building online content within the framework established in step one so that you’re engaging social media in a timely and purposeful way. From new product launches and success stories, to employee service anniversaries and customer awards, there’s plenty of content that industrial businesses can post.

And you should post. Many of your stakeholders find value in the content shared. Social media is a powerful new channel-to-market primed for you to get your business noticed in a positive way. And with step two, you’ve now taken what was a simple online presence and launched a bonafide program.

A valuable byproduct of this second step is tangible ROI. Like most online efforts, you’ll be able to track and quantify all activity (number of visitors, page “likes”, etc.) This is powerful data to capture and analyze to help guide strategic planning. It’s good to know what your target audience and stakeholders think about you and your company, warts and all.

With step two complete, you’ve effectively created an online measurable forum for people (customers, vendors, former employees, etc.) to engage with your organization on a personal, yet professional, level where they can provide feedback, ask for technical support and provide critiques that ultimately reflects how your company (brand, associates, policies, service levels, prices) is perceived by the market.

3. Establish A Process: (a rare final step today within the industrial distribution realm) is creating a daily, strategic online content management system. This only happens when you commit a dedicated resource (FTE) to reinforce and grow your brand in meaningful ways each and every day via social media.

This final step follows a structured, formal daily process to engage your company’s online audience by posting content that positions your company as the best in breed. This includes content from your team on best practices, helpful hints and upcoming trade shows and events.

Great content is king. Post anything that you consider valuable. This includes how-to videos, conversion charts, technical specs, best practices, success stories, etc. The goal is consistent, quality content that is aligned with your brand’s promise.

Make no mistake. Companies that have embraced step three can directly attribute business success (leads, sales, VOC improvements, etc.) to the social media process. Therefore, social media is making them money.

With step three, your social media function is now part of the expected, daily workflow and has become an integral component of your overall, multi-faceted marketing plan.

All industrial businesses must be present online in some formal fashion or you risk being viewed as outdated or even irrelevant. It’s like choosing not to travel to an industry event you’ve attended for years or forgoing an annual display ad in a trade publication. You become conspicuous by your absence. Forgo social media, and you’ll be viewed differently.

A fully operational social media process at your organization will allow you to educate, engage and convert readers into leads. And you will close more business (direct sales) because of your social media program.

Keep in mind it’s not an overnight process; it’s brand-building. And like Rome, it wasn’t built in a day.

The granular nature of online audience segmentation allows surgical strikes to an audience of one, a concept previously unattainable with traditional media.

People do business with people. And social media is people. This isn’t a lifeless magazine ad or a direct mail postcard; social media is one person’s thoughts, opinions and perception of your business. In this manner, it affords you the chance to identify opportunities and seize upon them.

As the information age continues to advance at a seemingly ever-increasing pace, any perceived lack of presence online is to your company’s detriment. Do yourself a favor now and invest the time to establish a baseline social media profile for your business. It’ll help attract land and retain customers, vendors and employees. You’ll thank me later.

Jeff Guritza is an international sales and marketing professional with more than 20 years of experience working for both manufacturers and distributors within several industrial markets: power transmission, fluid power and power tool accessories. This post originally appeared on Industrial Distribution.


Why B2B Content Marketing is Different than B2C

December 8, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

I think we’re all in agreement that Content Marketing is here to stay and is becoming a more integral part of overall marketing programs. Some of the reasons are that technology is broader, easier to use and more accessible. People are trying to do more in less time and are motivated to seek self-serve product information to reduce pre-purchase decisions.

Heidi Cohen recently wrote an excellent post on B2B vs. B2C Content Marketing: How They Differ that explains the differences. Here are some highlights:

The mistake most marketers make is not developing a content strategy, because the B-to-B objectives are going to be different from its B-to-C counterpart. That’s why you need a written plan. Make sure they include:

  • Develop better content, not more
  • Pick one problem to start
  • Tie content to business goals
  • Focus on the user experience

The top 3 tactics for B-to-B:

  1. Social media
  2. Case Studies
  3. Blogs

The top 3 effective tactics for B-to-B:

  1. In-person events
  2. Webinars
  3. Case Studies

The top 3 social media platforms for B-to-B:

  1. LinkedIn
  2. Twitter
  3. Facebook

The top 3 content marketing goals for B-to-B:

  1. Lead generation
  2. Sales
  3. Lead nurturing

The top 3 metrics to measure B-to-B metrics:

  1. Sales lead quality
  2. Sales
  3. Higher conversation rates

 


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