by Bob Grant
A recent white paper by Frost and Sullivan distributed through GlobalSpec addresses how and why the marketing landscape has been shifting from traditional methods of marketing to online marketing methods, and the process buyers and engineers currently use to locate suppliers and make purchasing decisions.
While I agree with the paper’s premise that looking for products and vendors online has lagged behind how consumers use the Internet to make purchasing decisions and purchases, the mental process of industrial buying has not changed for decades. The buyer or specifying engineer, when determining that he or she has a need for a product, would begin a search for the right product and company. For years most manufacturing companies invested in sales people, manufacturer reps, trade shows, and advertising, to generate sales. However, once industrial buyers recognized a need, the buyer sought out the seller. This is the selling premise that Thomas Register, now Thomasnet, was built on since 1905. That is 115 years ago. At one point, Thomas Register had more than 20,000 manufacturers marketing this way. So, what has changed is not so much the process, but the medium.
Buyers can now search more easily for manufactured products on Google, Yahoo, Bing, or more vertical industrial sites like Thomasnet and GlobalSpec. Thousands of manufacturers are aware of the importance of the Internet to the buying process. What separates the successful from the not so successful manufacturing marketer is the content of the website and the visibility on the Internet. Industrial buyers need information and they want to be able to retrieve that information quickly and efficiently. Companies with websites that grab attention and provide resources and content to solve the buyer’s needs are more likely to get the order.
The next advance in industrial marketing will be social media. Like the Internet, consumers are leading the way in social media, and it is almost a requirement that online and offline merchandisers must provide a platform and community for consumers to review, compare, and comment on products. I think we will see a growth of online social media networks for industrial and b2b buyers over the next several years.