Create An Internet Marketing Strategy

It should be no secret that the Internet is where buyers of services go when they look for new suppliers.

It should be no secret that the Internet is where buyers of services go when they look for new suppliers. I believe it's imperative that we understand what these buyers are doing online and what you need to do to position your company in the center of the online paths buyers and engineers are pursuing. Buyers and engineers love the Internet. Why? Because it is fast, efficient and makes their jobs easier.

The days of an engineer handing off a drawing to a purchasing department are quickly fading. The ferocity of competition, the reality of just-in-time manufacturing and the drive at all levels toward lean manufacturing with its basis in eliminating all waste (read: time) from the value stream have dictated a paradigm shift in sourcing focused directly on the Internet.

In order to intercept buyers in their online quest for new suppliers, the critical first step is to create a great Web site. In a previous column, I emphasized the need to differentiate your shop from your competitors. Your Web site should illustrate, in words and pictures, what makes your shop stand out among the rest.

The biggest mistake many job shops make is putting pictures of equipment all over their home page. How logical is that? Are you selling equipment? No, you're selling what you can do with that equipment as well as the systems, processes and expertise you have developed. Your Web site should tell that story in words and pictures. Further, your Web site needs to be more than a digital brochure. It needs to allow buyers to request quotes from you and ultimately check the production status of an order. Buyers are more likely to complete an online RFQ on your Web site than they are to call you.

On the Internet, buyers are using search engines such as Google; online directories such as ThomasRegister.com; and online sourcing management systems that have a network of suppliers such as MfgQuote.com. In my column over the next several months, I will discuss the pros and cons and how to participate in each. To have a balanced marketing strategy on the Web, you need to have a listing on a search engine, a directory and a sourcing management system.

Let's start with search engines. Hardly anyone would dispute that Google is the search engine preferred by savvy business people. Buyers use Google every day to search for manufacturing service suppliers, but as they become more sophisticated in their use of the Web, they quickly move on to options that offer more value.

For example, if a buyer were looking for a shop in the Cleveland area with a particular process and industry expertise that has ISO certification and capacity next month, he would be sorting through a lot of search results and calling or e-mailing a lot of shops to find a shop to quote his job. And to complicate matters, search engines don't always produce the right results. If someone is searching for castings, the search engine can't decipher if they are looking for a casting talent agency or a metal caster. This is one reason many buyers become disenchanted with search engines. Further, search engines do not allow for attribute-based searching, nor do they facilitate one-to-many communication and collaboration, which are important parts of the sourcing process.

Nonetheless, buyers are using search engines to discover new suppliers. Therefore, your Web site has to be listed. There are a number of ways to have your site appear in the search engine results relevant to the services you provide.

Next month, we'll explore ways to get your Web site to the top of a search engine's results. In the mean time, make sure your site tells your unique story and doesn't look like you sell hardware (machine tools). Also, do a little competitive research. Pretend you are a buyer looking for a supplier like yourself, and go to Google to search for terms a buyer would use if they were looking for you. Are you there? If not, read more about how to get there in next month's column.

Mitch Free is president & CEO of MfgQuote.com, Atlanta, Georgia. He can be reached at (770) 444-9686, ext. 2946 or at mfree@mfgquote.com.