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 under 20 employees
  • Most started working in the trades and moved into starting a company
  • They have long days, usually starting around 6 in the morning and ending around 5 in the evening
  • The have to multi-task — 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 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.


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


Why Building an Internal Database is so Important

December 9, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

I know we all know “CONTENT IS KING” and we focus on putting out good stuff. But we should be just as focused on building the list to whom we’ll be sending all this valuable info. There are so many sources for gathering data from trade shows, PR and leads from advertising. We need to formulate a plan to separate them by market, industry or other criteria so specific targeted messages can be sent with a strong call to action.

Organically grown lists will give you better delivery and open rates. They will also help your conversion rates since the prospects are more likely to open email. With folks being inundated with emails this will  become an even more important factor.

It’s a fact that if you have an engaged database of subscribers, you have a captive audience, not only for them to read, but to share. I read a post on problogger.net by James Penn entitled, 10 Ways to Get More Email Subscribers For Your Blog that I thought brought home some key points.

Among them are:

  • Use multiple opt-in forms – have 3-4 in your newsletter template. The more you have, the better the chances of them signing up.
  • Offer a freebie for signing up – Give them a report, industry trends or white paper for signing up.
  • Use your most popular posts – They will continue to bring in traffic.
  • Create special reports on industry issues – Use already existing content to create.
  • Ask readers to join your email list – What better way to get people on board.

These are some great tips. What are you doing to increase your email lists?


Content Marketing: More is Not Necessarily Better

November 22, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Your potential audience doesn’t want quantity, they want quality. So if you’re trying to generate more content quicker just for the sake of having it, don’t waste your time. You need to accelerate demand, not noise.

I recently read an article by Carlos Hidalgo from Content Marketing Institute on How to Develop a Buyer-Centric Content Marketing Strategy that made several good points.

The best way to connect with your audience is to determine what kind of content they want. In other words, what motivates buyer behavior and how do they get information? If you know these, you can build the correct content architecture.

  • What motivates buyer’s behavior? You need to have a deeper understanding of how a buyer thinks and then what do we need to say to get him over to our side.
  • How do they get their information? What type of content do they prefer and where do they go to get it?
  • Building a content architecture – Once you have an answer to the above questions, then you can map out a plan to get to them with the right info at the right time.

Content Marketing’s main purpose is to drive specific business outcomes. So the buyers are looking for more info, just the right info. He points to a 2014 ANNUITAS survey where less than 3% of those responsible for content marketing activities were happy with their outcomes. Here’s another scary fact from Sirius Decisions — that 70-80% of all content is never used!

These are not good numbers to take to the C-Suite to get more funding. If you can’t achieve positive and measurable results that can be tied to sales revenues, you really don’t have a content strategy at all.


Are You Using Videos to Connect with the Professional Tradesman?

November 10, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Short videos are ideal for social media and for you to gain reach and shares.

As a manufacturer, are you capitalizing on this powerful tool to disperse your message? You don’t need a “Hollywood” production. As a matter of a fact, the ones done on a mobile phone would do just fine. We’ve done “man on the street” interviews with contractors at will-call counters and on job sites asking their opinions on tools and other products.

Did you know – Videos convey more info per minute than any other media and 65% of the public like to learn via videos.

In my opinion, you’re better off making a series of very short videos (keep each to one thought or idea). Ideally under 2 minutes is what I tell folks to shoot at. Below is an example of one of a series of videos we have done.

 

Here are some thoughts on content.

  • Focus on a problem your customer might have from their perspective (what happened if the problem isn’t resolved?)
  • Provide tips to solve it.
  • Utilize the video medium to show examples or illustrate a solution. Here’s your chance to be creative.
  • Make sure they know your company has the solution to solve their problem.

Donna Moritz did a recent post in Social Media Examiner that talks about 6 ways to use short videos in social marketing. Here are some highlights:

  • How to video – solve a problem.
  • Highlight your skills – what better way to get your value proposition out there.
  • Showcase an event – trade show, association event or new product intro.
  • Go behind the scenes  give the viewer some insights of your company that they normally wouldn’t see.

She also outlines 10 tools you can use to create and edit short videos.

The bottom line is, use video in your marketing efforts.


Is Print Dead?

November 4, 2015

We’ve been hearing for years that print is “dead” and digital media reigns. However for B2T, print is still and important medium.

Join Matt Sonnhalter in the next installment of our Marketing Minute series to find out more about why you shouldn’t call time of death of print advertising.

To view other videos from Sonnhalter, visit our YouTube channel here and let us know if there’s a B2T marketing topic you’d like us to cover.


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