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Increase Your Orders With Online Sourcing

By Amy Radishofski, Features Editor, Companies are turning away from China in favor of the Internet for product sourcing. How can you be sure that you are on their radar screen?

Despite what you may be thinking, manufacturers may not be looking at low cost areas like China for their sourcing needs anymore. After a series of high-profile recalls, and even during a recession, there is a growing trend towards using American products.

The economic downturn is impacting companies in all industries, but it is also providing opportunities. Many manufacturers have been adopting a “diversify or die” mentality when it comes to their products and their businesses.

“Companies can either close down and admit defeat, or they can try to reach into new markets,” said Linda Rigano, Executive Director, Strategic Services, ThomasNet. “American products still represent quality and the weak dollar is helping us.”

Moreover, companies are still out there, and they are still buying products.

“You hear about the financial troubles of the big name companies in the news. Those big companies make up about 20 percent of the industry,” Rigano said. “That doesn’t necessarily represent the remaining 80 percent of small companies that may still be looking to buy your products.”

Rigano adds that areas of the food, alternative energy, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries are still growing. You may not be part of those industries, but there still may be an opening for you.

“With the stimulus package, hospitals and schools and alternative energy will get a boost,” she said. “This can provide trickle down opportunities for suppliers.”

If your particular industry is affected by the downturn, try getting creative. Find a way to market your products in another industry.

“Take a look at your products and then take a look at those other markets. Ask yourself ‘Can I serve that market? What can I come up with in terms of research and development?’ One manufacturer made plastic cases, and then branched out by making containers to transport small animals like crickets,” she said.

Maybe you’ve already diversified, but you’re still not getting enough orders to keep yourself out of the red. How can you reach new customers? Is there an outlet you haven’t tried? To reach those customers, try the Web.

“Remember, businesses may be suffering, but they are still sourcing. Now more than ever, they are searching around for the best deal,” Rigano said. “Having a Web site can open you up to a global marketplace.”

You may already have a Web site, but you may still be missing out on crucial opportunities. Evaluate your site to see what potential customers will see when they find it through their favorite search engine. A majority of buyers are looking online and you have to make the best first impression you possibly can.

“Think about your business objectives and think about what other applications your products might have,” Rigano suggests. “Turn those other applications into additional categories on your site to give customers more options.”

According to Rigano, buyers are looking online to research products. Their orders are most likely going to involve customization, which will involve follow up with your company, but they will find you via your Web site.

“Ninety-eight percent of buyers are sourcing online,” she added. “In fact, they spend as much as 25 percent of their work week sourcing for products.”

When it comes to the Internet, you have a very small window of opportunity to get the potential customer’s attention.

“Buyers will spend about 5 to 8 seconds on your site to verify that you have what they are looking for,” Rigano said. “That’s the point where 80 percent of businesses fail.”

ThomasNet uses a VSET test to evaluate a company’s website:
• Verify that you make what I need, or that I can customize my order
• Search capabilities -- how easy is it to find what I’m looking for on your site?
• Evaluate which is the best option for me
• Take action -- how do I reach you to make a request for a quote?

“You can leverage your site to give you an edge over the competition,” Rigano added. “If you improve your search engine ranking, you can get more orders.”

Once you revamp your site to start raking in the orders, you’re not done yet -- You have to track the results.

“Tracking can tell you how well your site is working and how people find you,” Rigano added.

Not convinced? Still waiting for an economic turnaround to bring things back to normal? You’re setting yourself up for disappointment, according to Rigano. The current downturn is forcing companies to be as lean and as efficient as possible. Companies are realizing that they must adapt if they want to stay in business. You can’t go backwards from there.

“There is a sort of creativity now that companies have from being forced to do more with less that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Once the economy begins to rebound, companies won’t exactly be going back to ‘business as usual’ -- there will be no such thing anymore,” she added.

ThomasNet helps industrial businesses improve their Web sites to penetrate new markets, attract new customers, improve efficiency, and ultimately increase revenues. For more information, visit