As the Web channel widens in marketing scope, manufacturing companies have a growing opportunity to leverage their Web sites to generate more business, build customer loyalty, create brand awareness and gather market intelligence.
Limited marketing budgets can be used much more effectively in this medium than in almost any other, says Komarketing Associates President Andy Komack, so long as you take the time to be strategic about your decisions -- and follow through on them.
According to Komack, the following are three of the most important steps for manufacturers to consider:
1. Use SEO (or Lose SEO)
Since search engines form an essential part of the provider research and procurement toolkit, manufacturers that use search-engine optimization (SEO) effectively can steal away market share from competitors with not much effort, says Komack. "If you search for hydraulic presses' today in Google, the top three results come from Kempler Industries, Phoenix Presses and Beckwood Hydraulic Press Company," he notes. "However, another of the top hydraulic press companies, Greenerd, isn't even in the top 30 results in Google. Greenerd is missing a huge opportunity to generate leads and build its brand online," he says.
2. Content is King
Great content on a Web site is very much aligned with SEO efforts, in terms of adding pages that can be found in search engines and attracting links to that content. Unique and valuable content also provides users new and old with a reason to return to the Web site, which increases brand exposure and loyalty.
Examples of content that can be effective in bringing return visitors include how-to demonstrations, product design tools, productivity calculators, service manuals (including retired model manuals), position papers and market analyses.
As examples of content done correctly, Komack cites Hewlett Packard's large format printer group, which features how-to videos showing users how to create banners, signs and retail displays. Dresser Instruments' Masoneilan brand uses free online training to help users understand their control valve products better, use them effectively and build brand loyalty. He also points to shed manufacturer Post Woodworking's Build Your Shed application, which allows users to play with various shed specifications to create the ideal fit for their yard. This final example leverages the "a la carte" advantage of product customization that allows the Web to be integrated as an essential part of the production and customer-relationship processes.
3. Pay-Per-Click Pays Off
Not only does pay-per-click (PPC) advertising allow your company to tie advertising spend directly to visits and leads, but the advertising messaging is quickly and easily modified, and that spending can be managed in real time so that you can raise or lower your spending levels as market conditions change.
According to Komack, Google AdWords is the first -- but not the only -- stop on the PPC tour for interested manufacturing managers."If you don't have a consumer focus, you should keep away from Yahoo and MSN AdCenter until your Google AdWords campaign is fully optimized and yielding large incremental returns," he says. "Manufacturing companies should also consider using Business.com as a PPC platform. Thomasnet.com also offers a PPC platform, but it is more than likely that you will get higher returns for your effort via Google AdWords."