Emails are in for 2016

May 17, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

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.

Here’s their interesting infographic.

 

2016_EmailMarketingInsights_EmailOnAcid_Final

 

To see the infographic clearly, please click here and download a copy.


E-Commerce: Why is the Independent Distributor Missing a Great Opportunity?

May 3, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

We’ve had conversations here before about independent industrial distributors missing sales opportunities by not keeping up with the latest technology available.

I see that Industrial Distribution magazine is doing a webinar on this very subject on May 18th; you may want to sign up for it or suggest some of your independent distributors who are still lagging behind get in the game. Jon Eames from NH Bragg and Jack Templin from Affiliated Distributors will be contributors. Here’s what they will be covering:

Industrial customers are asking suppliers of all sizes to offer a highly functional e-commerce-enabled website. So how do smaller, independent distributorships take the first steps:
  • Review ways independents can get in the game of e-commerce without breaking the bank.
  • Hold true to their business objectives while developing an e-commerce strategy.

According to Forrester Consulting, a 2014 study shows that 52% of business buyers expect at least 50% of their purchases to be made online in 3 years’ time. This should be an eye opener for distribution, but some are ignoring the facts. The big boys like Grainger (40% of their sales are from the internet) and MSC Industrial (over 50% of their sales come from online) are certainly taking advantage. Shouldn’t that set the tone for the independents? Forrester forecasts that B-to-B e-commerce will exceed $1.1 trillion and comprise 12% of all B-to-B sales by 2020.

I’ve said in the past that for smaller industrial distributors to survive, they need to use the internet. They can’t count on the business model of contractors coming in at 7 in the morning or around lunch time to pick up what they need. Time is money, especially for them.

Industrial Distribution magazine recently released some research on The state of B2B e-commerce in Industrial Distribution. Here are some highlights:

  • Independent distributors are slow-moving in implementing e-commerce programs.
  • Technical challenges are making sites user-friendly, making it aesthetically appealing and staying ahead of the competition.
  • Primary reasons of not engaging online was lack of demand, technical obstacles and lack of marketing/promotional resources.

Customer satisfaction and the customer experience are the key factors in developing an online presence. Ironically, that’s how the independent distributor built their business in the first place. Now they just need to transfer that to a different platform not only to keep existing business, but to grow additional revenue.

Figure 4

Source: Industrial Distribution

My worse fear is that the Amazons and the Alibabas of the world are going to make the independent extinct in a few years. I understand that the AD buying group has just instituted a new program to help members deal with some of these issues. It’s too early to tell if it’s making an impact, but at least they recognize the issue and are trying to help.

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

What’s the future of small independent industrial distributors?

Are independent industrial distributors helping Amazon to succeed?

Distributor Strategy: What’s yours?


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.


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