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13 February 2012 12:24 PM

I have a mechanical engineering degree and worked with industrial machinery before getting involved with e-commerce, and it kills me how few manufacturers and industrial suppliers are using the Internet for marketing and distribution. Many still think that over 2 billion Internet users are only good for t-shirts and books and are not worth the investment. Why?

Here is a typical comment I hear when talking to industrial business owners and managers:

“Right now we are selling products only through dealers and sales people. It works for now, and if we ever expand to selling online, it won’t happen for another year or two.”

Well, there are two problems with this approach:

1) Google and other search engines take time to find and index your pages. After your store is built, it may take months before your product pages will appear in the search results. Also, when deciding who to show first in the results, Google gives a lot of weight to the age of the page, so the longer you wait, the harder and more expensive it will be to get to the top results.

2) Even with your current business model, you are not using the power of the Internet to support existing dealers and customers and attract more dealers and leads.

Here is a plan you should consider. I’ll use our solution as an example, but there are many other systems you can use. Anything is better than a one-page website that exclaims, “We are the best widget manufacturers / dealers in the Chicago area. Call us now!”:

- We setup a full featured online product catalog, divide products into categories and set up a separate page for every product.

- If you do not want to sell in retail at this time, we remove the pricing information and “buy now” button from that catalog (this is an easy thing to do in our system.) We simply integrate a “Contact Us” link instead.

- If you want to attract more dealers, we’ll include a “Become a dealer” link, which takes visitors to a form they can submit to apply. Information will reach you via email and you can process that request as usual.

- We post as much information as you have for each of your products.  Here are some ideas:

  • Detailed description
  • Detailed specifications
  • Detailed photos
  • Cut outs to show why your product is superior
  • PDF schematics with dimensions
  • PDF user manuals
  • Maintenance tips
  • Installation, repair and maintenance videos
  • Installation examples

Some companies who does it right:

  • www.jamestowndistributors.com – check introduction video, link to User manual, and Related products. I would add more specification and dimension data.
  • www.garmin.com – tons of information about a product, links to manual, software update, accessories. I would add introduction video and users video or text testimonials at least to the most popular or leading products.
  • www.mcmaster.com – excellent and easy to use search section and presentation even for such simple products as screws – product description has all the details you need, like material, tensile strength, hardness and benefits (for a screw!); you can even download CAD or PDF drawings. If you are an engineer designing a unit, who would you recommend to purchasing as a supplier? Company where you’ve got all the dimensions or their competitor and hope dimensions are the same and will fit your unit?

- Do not forget to post your customers’ testimonials and examples of the installations. This will be used for your social marketing campaigns, if you decide to add this strategy later. Video testimonials with examples of use are the best for some expensive products or large sales volume items. Text testimonials are an excellent way to boost your sales as well.

- In time, search engines will index every page of your catalog.  If somebody searches, for example for “mining battery repair in Utah” or “industrial battery charging,” your pages will begin appearing in the search results. To get them to appear on the first page of the results will take a bit more than just posting an online catalog, but setting it up now will make it much easier, faster and less expensive to get to the first page later if you decide to add search engine optimization (SEO) to your marketing strategies.
 
- When you are ready to sell retail online, only a simple adjustment will be required to show prices and a “Buy now” button. You’ll be equipped to take online orders overnight.

- For the second phase of this project, we will replace prices for each product with a “Login” link, and create a separate login account for each of your dealers or existing customers who often places orders with you.

- After a dealer logs in, he/she will see your prices, will be able to place an order online, and print an invoice. We support online credit card payments as well as phone, check and PO payment methods.

- We will integrate your new store with your existing inventory and orders management system, so those dealers’ orders (and future retail orders) will be automatically added to your internal system for processing.

This way, you will :

- Provide much better “automatic” online support to your existing dealers and customers, and decrease the number of calls to your customers service department.

- Attract more dealers because there is a good chance nobody else is doing anything like this in your industry yet.

- Start getting indexed by the search engines.

- Start using social media marketing initiatives so people will be able easily share information about your products with co-workers.

Best of all, there won’t be much for you to do during this process. This is not DIY software; we offer managed turn-key solutions so everything will be done for you, for a far smaller cost than many people imagine. Because we already have the system which supports everything I mentioned above, there is very little extra development required outside of integrating it with your internal system.

In conclusion, if you are a manufacturer or industrial supplier, make sure you consider the consequences of missing the Internet train. Every month of delay will cost you dearly in trying to catch up later.

Best regards,

Anton Pachkine
FinestShops E-Commerce Management
Hosting | Customizations | Design | Marketing
www.finestshops.com | 1(800)675-0162

P.S. Do not forget to follow me on Twitter and let’s connect on LinkedIn.


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