Bought a new car recently? Or a holiday, household appliance, or new computer? If so, it’s a fair bet that much of the research underpinning your choice was carried out online - which carries a lot of lessons for companies wanting to grow the size of their manufacturing business.
Simply put, consumers and business buyers alike are increasingly making their buying decisions - and actual purchases - via the Internet. In fact, according to research from the Marketing Leadership Council, the average business buyer doesn’t contact a supplier until almost 60% of the buying decision is already complete.
Increasingly, it seems, those corporate buyers who buy from manufacturing businesses are bringing into the office the buying behaviours that work for them as consumers: relying extensively on web searches, self educating themselves on the marketplace and product characteristics, checking reviews, and looking for advantageous deals.
The moral is clear. If a manufacturing business isn’t catering for this new purchasing paradigm, then it runs the risk of missing out.
So what should your manufacturing business do?
Grow your manufacturing business: you need a decent website.
The first priority is to take a leaf out of those businesses that market to consumers. In this day and age, an extensive web presence pretty much goes with the territory. So if your manufacturing business doesn’t have such a presence, it’s time to put that right.
At a minimum, that means a website, and fairly reasonable one at that. That said, it’s easy to over-pay for such things, or find yourself having paid for fancy features that you don’t use. So taking advice is sensible.
In our view, before crystallising its website design, a manufacturing business will want to have seriously considered a number of fairly important questions:
- Do we expect visitors to the site to view it on smartphones and tablets, or just desktop computers?
- To what extent do we want to use the website as a means of providing access to our people and our products? In other words, as well as a ‘shop window’, is it also a means of contacting sales and customer service departments for instance, or for downloading ‘how to’ guides and watching product demonstration videos?
- Do we expect visitors to the site to want to see e-commerce capabilities, so that they can buy, there and then?
Grow your manufacturing business: exploit social media.
But the possibilities for a manufacturing business’s web presence don’t end with a website. Social media is another strong tool for creating and building a web presence.
And of special interest to a manufacturing business are the opportunities that social media provides to engage directly with people, as opposed to a website’s more passive ‘shop window’ approach.
What do we mean by social media? Essentially the same channels that we use as consumers: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on.
At its simplest, social media does two things.
First, it provides a means for your manufacturing business to reach out to potential buyers (and existing customers), and engage them in ‘conversations’.
What about? Anything. But at the very least, you’ll want to use social media to brag about any awards you’ve received, tell the world about new products, and let potential buyers know about new promotions and discount deals.
Second, social media provides an opportunity for customers to reach out to you, and to your manufacturing business. It won’t always be praise of course. So it’s as well to monitor the channel carefully, so as to be able to respond quickly.
Why bother? Think about it as vital market research, and better still, market research that your manufacturing business doesn’t have to pay for.
Grow your manufacturing business: blogs are free advertisements.
Finally, think about blogging. Again, why bother? Because blogging allows you to do things that websites and social media on their own don’t permit you to do.
First, a blog is pretty much ‘free format’. So it can be any length that you like, it can include (or not) any images that you like, and it’s possible for readers to subscribe to it, or indeed be sent an e-mail linking to it.
Try doing that with Twitter’s 140 character limit.
Second, a blog can attract visitors who know nothing of your manufacturing business, and indeed, who only found your blog months after it was first posted.
How? Because its content was indexed by Google and other search engines, so leading visitors searching for a particular subject right to your blog, and therefore, to your manufacturing business.
So think of a blog as being like an advertisement - only one that remains in the public eye in perpetuity, and which is effectively free.
Grow your manufacturing business: the bottom line.
Convinced? If not, perhaps you ought to be: the world is changing, and a web presence is as vital to a manufacturing business today as is a telephone and e-mail capability.
Of course, naysayers once dismissed those as fads, too. But we rather suspect that such naysayers are no longer in business.