Manufacturers have long depended on traditional marketing tactics — cold calling, word-of-mouth, print catalogs and trade shows, among others — to find sales leads. These are still effective ways to sell in the industrial world. But the times, they are a-changin’.
Take Marketing Masters, a composite clip and insert manufacturer. CEO Jacques Gauron used to rely entirely on traditional marketing for sales. A few years ago, however, Gauron decided to focus all his marketing efforts on his website.
The result? In the last year, Gauron’s website helped grow revenue by 30 percent. While all this growth is not directly attributable to his website, Gauron says he’s “regularly contacted by companies — RV, automotive and electronics makers — through his website that he never would’ve spent time cold calling before.”
To help other end product manufacturers understand what goes into building an effective website that converts visitors into leads, I recently caught up with a few industry experts to discuss:
- Why having a quality website matters;
- What industrial buyers expect from a website; and,
- What types of content generate sales leads.
Industrial Buyers Are Now Researching Online
A recent Thomas Industrial Network report found that 90 percent of industrial buyers research, evaluate and select suppliers online. With so much activity taking place on the Web, manufacturers that aren’t investing in their online presence stand to miss out on a major source of leads.
This fact is not lost on the industrial community. In fact, a separate report found that 80 percent of industrial businesses plan to revamp their website in 2012. This is great, but there’s a catch: you need the right content and strategy to convince your website visitors to work with you. Here are five tips to help you do that.
1. Model Your Website to Support the Buying Process
The first thing manufacturers need to understand, says Linda Rigano, Executive Director of Strategic Services at Thomas Industrial Network, is that their website needs to support the complexity typical of manufacturing purchases.
Jared Fabac, Lead eSystem Architect of Idea Bright Marketing (an industrial marketing agency), thinks your website should mimic the four steps of industrial sales:
- Discovery – Site visitors are looking around to see if you make the type of product they’re sourcing.
- Research – If so, visitors want to know about your operations procedures, materials used, and product specifications.
- Sourcing – Individuals who are ready to engage want pricing and CAD drawings to see if the product fits their design and budget.
- Procurement – This step usually occurs offline and is the result of effective customer engagement.
Research on the content industrial buyers want shows that buyers indeed value what Fabac outlines in his buying framework.
Source: Thomas Industrial Purchasing Barometer
Below, I’ll give a bit more detail on how you can meet those expectations.
2. Showcase Your Facility and Processes
When a buyer first comes to your site, it’s important that they immediately understand the products you make and the level of quality you can deliver. Rigano believes that manufacturers have only five seconds to achieve this. It’s thus important to communicate what you make, along with examples, right up front. Alliance Express does a nice job of showcasing this on their homepage.
Source: Alliance Express
It’s also a good idea to show how clean and modern your facility and equipment is. This can be done either by posting images on your site or, even better, filming a video. One video that does this well is the facility tour CARR Machine & Tools put together to showcase their order fulfillment process.
3. Make a Product Catalog With Side-by-Side Comparisons
Once a visitor has confirmed you make the right kinds of products, they need more detailed information. At this point, they’re moving into the research phase and want to see basic product specifications. Marketing Masters makes it easy to view and compare their products side-by-side.
Source: Marketing Masters
4. Offer Detailed Product Specifications
Once a buyer thinks they’ve found the right part, it’s important to provide in-depth specifications to help them determine whether the part will suit their needs. According to Fabac, providing only limited product information is the biggest error manufacturers make.
In the example from Marketing Masters below, a buyer interested in purchasing this specific product can now see a high-definition image and download a product schematic with detailed measurements, product grip range and material specs. At the bottom, there’s also a call to action for the buyer to request even more information.
5. Provide Downloadable CAD Drawings
A final element to include in your website are downloadable product computer-aided design (CAD) files. This allows the buyer to simulate using your product to ensure it’s a good fit. Rigano thinks that providing a CAD file (such as below) greatly speeds up the buying process since it eliminates the need for a customer to recreate a file based on product specs and dimensions.
Source: Thomas Industrial Network
However, it’s important that you don’t give this away without capturing buyer information. Why? As Gauron of Marketing Masters notes, “Once you get someone requesting a CAD file, 80 percent of the time that person is ready to buy and you’re talking to the right person.”
A Final Thought on Capitalizing on the Online Opportunity
Creating a website that achieves all of this is an ambitious undertaking that requires time, developer resources and money. As such, manufacturers shouldn’t expect to accomplish everything overnight. Instead, many manufacturers may prefer to take a piecemeal approach and roll out these elements one at a time.
For instance, you can add downloadable CAD files first and then work on developing a product catalog — which may take months to develop with side-by-side comparison functionality. Of course, while you’re waiting on the fully functional product catalog, you’ll at least want to have sample products viewable on your site.
Meanwhile, it’s important to understand that creating a manufacturing website that meets buyer expectations requires giving away more information than you may typically share without making contact. Manufacturers that focus on their online presence must become comfortable with making contact later in the buying cycle. The reward, however, will be coming into contact with much more highly qualified leads.
Thumbnail image created by Pacific Northwest Safety and Health Center University of Washington.