A recent report released by the Thomas Industrial Network found that 90 percent of industrial buying decisions are now researched, evaluated and selected online. As more and more of this activity moves online, it’s important for manufacturers to understand how to capitalize on this opportunity.
Today, most manufacturers understand that they need a website and many are already focusing on building up an online presence. However, having a website and an online presence are just part of the equation. In order to take advantage of the uptick in online research and purchasing activity, manufacturers need a website that guides visitors through the buying cycle typical of manufacturing purchases.
I’d like to share five tips that manufacturers can use to improve their website capture more leads.
1. Make Sure Your Website Mirrors the Industrial Buying Process
One key thing that manufacturers need to understand about building their website is that following the model that eCommerce and online retailers have created won’t work in the manufacturing industry. The reason is that the buying process is an order of magnitude more complex than a retail purchase and many more individuals (CFOs, engineers, etc.) before a purchase is finalized.
For this reason, Jared Fabac of Idea Bright Marketing says that a website should mirror the four steps of industrial sales:
- Discovery - Site visitors are just starting their research process and are trying to find companies that make what they need.
- Research - Visitors are looking for information on product specs, operations procedures and materials used.
- Sourcing - Individuals are ready to see detailed pricing and want schematics to ensure that your product works with what they’re building.
- Procurement - This will usually happen offline.
2. Show Off What You Have to Offer
When visitors first come to your website, they’re going to make a split second decision as to whether you’re able to serve their needs. If it isn’t immediately apparent what you make, they’re likely to leave and look for somewhere (your competitor's website) that makes it easier for them to research. One company that I think does a good job of showing off what they do right up front is Alliance Express. Their homepage immediately shows exactly what they make and gives access to a detailed product catalog where more information can be gathered.
3. Allow Products to be Compared Side-by-Side
Once visitors are browsing a product catalog, they want to be able to see multiple products compared to one another to quickly narrow down their options. At this point, buyers are moving into the research phase and they want basic information about the product’s specifications, material type and other related information. When entering the research process, visitors should be able to use your website to compare roughly 3 to 5 products side by side to help them understand their options.
4. Provide Visitors with Granular Product Information
Providing the right kind of content for Steps 1 and 2 is core and critical as it helps keep visitors on your website. But having them stay on your website does little good if they don’t take any action. As such, it’s essential to meet buyer expectations when they’re ready to source. One of the biggest mistakes that manufacturers make today is not providing enough information about their products.
So what do buyers expect? In addition to be able to see side-by-side comparisons in an online product catalog, buyers want to be able to drill down and get very granular information about an individual item that you make. For instance, if you’re selling clip nuts, they want to know about the panel thickness, what material it’s made out of and the product grip range. They also want detailed measurement and schematics of the product.
Once your visitors are at this phase, you should also place a call to action for interested people to request more information. The benefits of doing this are two-fold. It gives the buyer an opportunity to tell you about what they’re planning to use your product for, and you get their contact information to follow-up with them and let them know how you can help.
5. Provide CAD Drawings in a Downloadable Format
For buyers that want to get even more granular, it’s a great idea to provide downloadable CAD files. This allows the visitor to pull in the most detailed specifications that you have available to see if the part will fit the model that they’re building out. It also helps dramatically speed up the research process (and sales cycle) by saving the buyer the trouble of having to rebuild a CAD drawing from your product measurements.
This information, however, should not be given away without capturing buyer information. The reason: the majority of the time, this person is ready to buy. They’re essentially at the last step before they’re ready to procure so it’s important to make sure that you can follow up with them and nurture the lead.
These are a few of the ways that manufacturers can go from just having a website to having one that can be effectively monetized. If you’re interested in reading more of the tips, or providing some of your own, please visit the Software Advice website, where you can find the original article.