3 Tips on Maintaining Good Relationships with Contractors

August 31, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

The cost of acquiring a new customer can be up to five times greater than keeping an existing one.tradesmen-300x167

Unless you have a unique product that no one else has, you have to compete with someone for the business, and part of that process is building good customer relationships.

Contractors, for the most part, are loyal folks as long as your product delivers on its promises and you don’t treat them like dirt. Bottom line is, if you treat them right, they’ll be customers for life. 

Not only will they continue to be a customer, but they will become an advocate for your brand. These guys talk to each other and believe me, if your product doesn’t deliver on its promises, word will spread fast.

Here are three ways to keep relationships with professional tradesmen strong:

1. Stay in touch. E-mail is probably the best and most cost-effective way to this. Make them feel important, even a quick e-mail to say thanks for the business or a follow-up note from customer service after they have helped out with a problem will pay off long term.

  • A call from their local sales rep to say hi with no particular sales pitch may lead to opportunities if they (your sales guys) just listen.
  • Make them feel like they’re special by giving them a first look at new products as they are being developed.
  • They also could be the ideal source for field testing prior to launch. Also think about doing a webinar for customers only on a new product or application.

2. Solicit feedback. You have the perfect audience of people who know and use your product. I haven’t met a contractor yet that doesn’t have an opinion he wants to share. There are several low-cost survey and poll services that you should check out:

What better venue to ask for feedback on a new product or product enhancements. Make them feel like they’re part of the team.

3. Provide valuable resources. These contractors are up to their eyeballs, so if you’re going to give them something, make sure there’s some meat on the bone. Good vehicles to use would be to have pertinent information on your website like case studies and white papers.

If you feel really bold, set up industry forums on your site and let the contractors come and talk to each other. You’ll find that there will be strong advocates that arise out of such forums that will be your best advertising to the group.

I’ve always been a big believer in relationship selling. After all, we usually buy stuff from people we know, like and trust. Agree? So why not take that to another step in the selling process by using the same principles to your marketing efforts?

This is especially true now that content and content marketing is such a big part of everyone’s overall strategy.

We all have heard the saying that Content is King and Community is its Kingdom, but what brings them together? It’s building solid relationships with Contractors and Tradesmen using relationship marketing.

We need to know and understand what our target wants and needs. They want solutions, not necessarily a sales pitch. You need to make yourself available in conversations with contractors.

We should collaborate with others that share the same passion. For an example, say your target is professional plumbers. You want to focus on products that will help them do their install better. You’re not interested (nor capable) in helping them market their plumbing business locally.


Manufacturers: When’s the last time you looked at your Value Proposition?

August 30, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Have you given contractors clarity and conviction as to who you are? Sometimes manufacturers focus all their efforts on products and not enough time on developing their value proposition. Others take for granted that everyone knows who we are and what we do.

I recently read an article by James O’Gara from On Message about creating clarity and conviction in the minds of your customers that got me thinking about a possible disconnect on messaging through the buying process. James points out that the message has to be consistent before, during and after the sale. Customers or potential customers can’t have one message when they are investigating a solution, only to find out once they start the buying process, the culture and messaging has changed.

Your story needs to capture not only your purpose and vision but your positioning statement, the value you deliver and what sets you apart from the competition. The bottom line is, your story can’t change from one phase to another. You need to be consistent and authentic!

According to Kapost, a content management company, “75 percent of the B-to-B buying process takes place online and more than 60 percent of decision makers start the buying process with informal research using search engines and blogs to look for products or solutions.” If you get them to take the next step and your messaging isn’t consistent, you risk losing the sale.

Now for most manufacturers who sell to contractors, you’re not looking for a one-time sale, so how you do in the first two portions might dictate future additional sales. According to New Business Strategies,“60 percent of fortune 500 companies say their purchase decision is based on what the buyer believes their post-purchase experience is like.”

So when was the last time you took a look at messaging throughout your buying process? 


SlideShare is Probably the Most Overlooked Social Media Tool to Reach Contractors

August 3, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

Close to 70 million visitors a month, five times more traffic from business owners than Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. SlideShare was purchased by LinkedIn a few years ago which allows both platforms to work seamlessly together, which is good news for you.

Why should you consider using it? Contractors like visuals and are wanting to learn more of how or why to do things a certain way.

It’s a great way to market your business, and showcase your expertise as an industry leader. Not only can you put up Power Point presentations and white papers, you can upload videos by using SlideSharepro  and have a way to repurpose your webinars or online training options.

If you’re worried about sharing your information with the world, you can upload content that you can make available to select audiences (by invitation only).

The most important reason for using SlideShare is to generate leads. Peg Fitzpatrick wrote a great post on Social Media Examiner on ways to capitalize on getting leads.

She focuses on ways to collect emails from viewers, how to use links in slides, why you should add visual calls to action and lastly, why the description. It’s a good quick read.

Heidi Cohen outlines 10 actionable marketing tactics to get the most out of leads.

Here are some tips:

  • Are slide titles and text consistently placed and aligned?
  • Other than the title slide, are they numbered?
  • Does your presentation title appear at the top of each page?
  • Did you add your firm’s name, URL and contact info at the bottom of each page of your handouts?
  • Did you convert presentation files to Adobe Acrobat to preserve text formatting?
  • Did you check each link after uploading to make sure they work?
  • Did you create links between SlideShare and social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter?

Don’t miss out on this valuable tool that will help you not only become a thought leader, but generate leads at the same time, so make sure you put a good strong call to action in it.


Are Your Sales and Marketing Teams Working Together to Reach the Professional Tradesman?

July 26, 2016

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter

It may be time to reflect on ways we can do better moving forward to better identify ways to reach contractors and professional tradesmen. I have found one of the biggest issues and one of the easiest ones to correct is communications between sales and marketing. As you can see in the chart below, most companies see room for improvement.

Sales and marketing must work together to define the ideal client and determine how and what to get in front of them. They need to share information and have a plan in place to hand off a lead from marketing to sales.

Social media and the internet in general have 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. Marketing’s role is to provide qualified leads to the sales team so they can more effectively close more sales.

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 in 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?


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.


5 Key Metrics for Measuring Trade Shows

June 15, 2016

Trade show season is upon us and for those of us that are still going to them, you know that the costs to play aren’t going down. That’s why ROI and documented metrics are so important. I talked to Vince Tricomi recently to make sure his post from a year ago still was appropriate and he assured me it was, so I thought I’d remind us all of these metrics.

Today, we have a guest post from Vince Tricomi, VP, New Business Development at PFI Displays on ways you can maximize your efforts. Enjoy.

Most of you participate in various trade shows from time to time. If you do, you know that they can be very expensive and management is always looking for a ROI. That’s why it’s important for sales and marketing to work together to make sure they get the best bang for the buck.

Except for a lucky few who still write orders at trade shows, most exhibitors can’t tie a specific revenue-generation figure to their trade shows.

That’s OK though. Consider how marketers tie sales figures to a magazine ad:  They can’t, and that’s why they measure things like impressions, reach and awareness.

Trade shows offer plenty of measurement opportunities for the savvy event marketer. Some of these metrics are firm, others are calculated estimates, but they can be combined to create clarity into the effectiveness of any trade show program, large or small.

Here are a few of our suggestions:
1. Leads: 
a. Let’s get this easy one of out of the way
i. Don’t mess around with collecting business cards
ii. Renting a lead retrieval machine that loads your lead data on a flash drive is money well spent
b. SAVVY TIP: Break these leads down into A, B, and C categories for better insight into the show’s quality.

2. Cost Per Lead:
a. Take the total cost of your exhibit investment and divide it by the total amount of leads collected
b. Compare this to other marketing efforts to see how your show stacks up
c. SAVVY TIP: If you exhibit at multiple shows, this metric also shines light on the comparative effectiveness of each show.

3. Demonstrations:
a. If you’re launching a new product, consider giving one-on-one or group demonstrations
b. Count how many demonstrations you give and how many audience members listen or interact
c. If you’re doing multiple presentations each hour, you’re having a great show
d. SAVVY TIP: Find out from the VP of Sales an average cost of a trip for a sales person to give a demo at a prospect’s office. Compare that with the show’s average cost per demo, and suddenly trade shows look like a bargain!

4. Website Traffic:
a. Know the average visitors to your website before the show, and compare that to the visitors during and immediately after
b. Pay special attention to the pages for the products and offers you featured at the show
c. SAVVY TIP: Don’t forget that trade shows are about face-to-face interactions. Generating web traffic is a great metric, but for most exhibitors it shouldn’t be the main goal.

5. Press Mentions:
a. These hold special appeal, and therefore more “weight” as a viable metric, for all classically trained marketers
b. SAVVY TIP: With the abundance of trade magazines, writers, and bloggers at every show, if you’re not getting mentioned, something is wrong; try setting up interviews and press walk-throughs well before the show.

6. Post Show Appointments:
a. In today’s hectic, time-starved business world, one of the hardest challenges faced by every salesperson is securing a face-to-face appointment
b. Commit the sales team to informing you of every show lead that generates a follow-up appointment
c. SAVVY TIP: You’ll have friends for life if your shows facilitate setting post-show meetings. Think creatively about a space in your booth dedicated solely to this endeavor.

Whoops; did that headline say “5 metrics?”  Consider the last one a bonus.  As you can tell, these suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg.  Please share some of your favorite, and most effective, metrics with us.

In closing, leading full service exhibit companies, like PFI Displays, offer innovative, easy to use software tools that will help you measure your shows—and do a lot more, too.

I’m sure you can add to the list and I’d like to hear ways your company is measuring the effectiveness of trade shows.

If you like this post you might like:

5 Ways to Improve your Trade Show ROI

New Study Shows Best Way of Reaching Manufacturing Professionals


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