Manufacturing firms often present a paradox; there’s a long history of innovation in manufacturing to open new markets, but at the same time many manufacturers are using sales and marketing platforms that are well past their sell by date. (Think overseas sales agents and trade shows). It’s important to remember that the big deals are no longer solely being won by face to face meetings and a shake of the hand. The manufacturer’s website now plays a big role in the manufacturing purchasing process.
Let’s look at the figures:
This isn’t surprising – just like their domestic counterparts, B2B buyers are using their smartphones and tablets sat on a sofa at home as much as their desktop or laptop at work. The internet is the first place you go to research your next purchase in work, as well as out of the work setting.
Time and efficiency are an issue here. Why take a half day out talking to a sales rep when you can find all the information you need straight away from a well provisioned supplier website?
Because this web portal can be so important to your business, as a manufacturer you should seek to continually refine your web design and content through iterative change or complete overhaul.
The content on a manufacturing website will vary wildly, but they can generally be broken down into three types:
A reference-driven website will primarily contain information which acts as an on-line brochure (and even as a user manual) for a distributed sales force and customers. They might contain dense walls of text and technical specifications, but will lack anything to engage the potential customer. Because of this, they’re more suited to be used as reference by customers who already know about the products or services, or when they’re used as reference during a sales meeting.
A brochure style reference-driven website will be the most common amongst manufacturing companies starting out online. It is useful to an extent, but lacks the ability to engage with a wider audience, or to convert a suitable prospect into a customer. The most important result of a reference driven website is that the keywords and industry terms will be discovered by Google and the other search engines, and the company will start to rank for industry relevent terms.
A sales-driven website will build upon the reference material used on the former type of website, but it will aim to engage the potential customer with calls to action on popular pieces of content. Such user actions can be measured, so the value of the content on a website can be shown as successful or otherwise. A standard metric of success might be a number of requested quotes, or leads that have come through the website.
Analysing the existing website to show how it is used by customers is all important here. There should be clear data available about what it is that makes people call or email, which pages they come from, which search terms they’ve used to get to the website and which calls to action have worked whilst others haven’t.
Looking back at the information we gave you about buyers at the start of this article, you’ll see that almost a third of buyers are using the internet to research 90% of their business purchases (with two thirds of them making big purchases every month). So it makes sense that if a buyer is drawn to your site by content which is other than directly ‘salesy’, then they’re going to stick around or revisit you to research YOUR products once the need arises.
Relationship-driven websites target to visitors throughout their lifespan with a company. Whether a casual browser, existing customer that needs maintenance or student looking for educational opportunities, relationship-driven sites deliver content that engages the company’s entire industry. A website that is more than medium for commerce has two distinct advantages:
Creating the content required for a relationship-driven website is time-consuming. But, as long as the website is bringing in new leads, the marketeer can analyse the sales funnel on the website that they came through. Which page did they enter the site on? Which page was it that they sent a contact request through? Which types of content engage customers and have them clicking to the ‘prices’ page? Looked at this way, content can be created in an efficient and effective way to targeting motivated potential clients.