B-2-B Agency Gains New Business from a Narrow Niche and Social Media

Social media can end the anxiety of creating a niche and differentiation for ad agency new business.

John Sonnhalter, CEO of Sonnhalter, a B2B ad agency located just outside of Cleveland, OH, shares an example of an agency that found a way to finally “draw a line in the sand” and openly declare his agency’s area of expertise for a particular market.

John was able to first ‘test the waters before jumping in’ by creating a ‘niche blog’ clearly targeted to a very specific audience.

Sonnhalter’s primary ability was knowing how to reach the professional tradesmen better than most. John was able to show that knowledge by creating a blog, Tradesmen Insights.

This was blog is different from most agency blogs. It had its own unique URL and stood alone, apart from the agency’s website. It didn’t include any of the agency’s branding. It was John’s personal blog instead of a team blog approach and allowed him to become the face of the agency.

Here are John’s first steps:

  • Selected a title and subtitle that clearly reflected his intended audience.
  • He wrote a bank of 50 post articles within a few weeks before adopting a more realistic writing schedule of one to two posts per week.
  • He also rapidly grew his Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn followers from among his target group.
  • He leveraged a database of previously collected email addresses from his target group to share content through an eNewsletter that he sent every other week.
  • By paying attention to his blog’s analytics, John polished the appeal for his blog. He simply wrote more content in the areas his readership liked the best, the post articles that produced the most traffic.
  • Following a number of new business successes, driven by his social media effort, John was then willing to merge this narrower focus into the branding and positioning of his agency.

John Sonnhalter:

“We call our specialty B2T marketing. Business-To-Tradesman. We know the manufacturers that sell to tradesmen. We know their businesses. Their distribution channels. And the media they use to deliver their messages.”

We are in the B-to-B space, and typically, our clients are slower adopters of new technologies and trends. If you think back to 2008, there weren’t many agencies, big or small, that was participating in social media.

Our agency went through a re-branding process three years ago. Social media became an important part of this effort by allowing us to become focused on a specific audience, manufacturers who were trying to reach professional tradesmen. It also helped us sharpen our point of differentiation and appeal.

I can’t tell you how hard it was over the past few years to turn down opportunities because they were outside of our specialty. But it’s beginning to pay off!

Social media became a great way to generate new business opportunities.

It’s been almost three years later and here’s where we stand:

  • 2011 was our biggest year for new business wins in several years thanks primarily to our social presence.
  • Our Blog, Tradesmen Insights,  is the center of our promotions. We’re almost to 500 posts and we generate more page views on it than we do on our website.
  • We’re now recognized as an “Industry Expert” in the field of marketing within our space.
  • We get requests to do interviews, guest posts and take part in industry-related workshops and seminars.
  • Most our agency’s new business leads now come from social media.
  • When someone inquires, now it’s because they have followed our blog and like what they are hearing.
  • We don’t participate in any RFQs from these leads because they have already qualified us as experts.

Social media not only has been a good way to generate new business through thought leadership, it also helps us with current client relationships. It’s difficult to aid a client in the use of social media if you haven’t used it effectively for yourself.

Bottom line is that if your agency isn’t on board with a social program you will be missing many opportunities. We’re all trying to set ourselves apart. Social media, especially a blog, will help you do that.

John Sonnhalter

Check out our agency blog, Tradesmen Insights: Marketing to the professional tradesmen in Construction, Industrial and MRO markets

Have questions? Click here to send me an Email. I also invite you to connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Steve Phillips says:

    Michael…excellent post! Loved to read about a firm who selects a specific niche and sticks to the plan! It’s so hard to turn down work (especially in our current economy), but become a niche firm brings credibility and expertise to the table every time. Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks Steve.

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