The preferences of your prospects, engineers, sourcing professionals and purchasing reps at businesses looking for your services have forever been changed by the Web as a sourcing tool. The amount of time it takes to assess potential suppliers, compare and research their capabilities, and create short lists of candidates now takes hours or days instead of days, weeks or months. Also, your potential customers can now conduct this research without you knowing they’ve visited your site at all.
In the past, buyers and prospects had to contact you to get the information they’d need before continuing their research of sources. Today, that equation has completely reversed—they now collect the information they need, and then make contact. This simple, but crucial shift makes your website’s message, how your site is found, and the context of the information presented, especially important in the extended sourcing and research efforts to support technical, industrial and manufacturing projects.
Use the following advice for building a new manufacturing shop site, to do a site makeover, or for a simple review and tune up.
Most contract and custom manufacturers’ websites focus on company history, equipment lists and facilities information. Buyers can find anyone with a Mazak or Okuma—but what they’re looking for are examples of what you’ve done with that equipment for others—it is your greatest online asset. Include examples of the work you’ve done for others. The more, the better.
Don’t just include pictures of parts you’ve made. Complement photos with related information—specs, materials, cycle times, project highlights and qualifications required. Not only will these characteristics elevate your stature with prospects, but you will naturally add the keywords and phrases they search for when seeking suppliers or solutions.
Get a good URL (uniform resource locator or website address) for your business’ Web site. A good URL is as short as possible, imparts the name of the company or, at the least, plainly portrays what your company does. Too often, small businesses overlook the SEO value of a URL with the company name, and the overall value of a prospect remembering it for future use. An excellent site to search for and buy a URL for your site is godaddy.com.
Include your company’s contact information—email, phone, fax and mailing address—on every page of your site. You may be shocked by how many manufacturers fail to follow this simple rule.
Include an easy-to-use request for quote (RFG) with an option to upload prints and a prominent link to it on every page of your site. At the least, a simple email form beats nothing. Again, include access to this attribute on every page.
Your customers and prospects go to the Web to work, not to read—at least, those that you’re looking to connect with aren’t. Long narratives do not play well online, especially for technology sourcing professionals with problems to solve. Be brief.
Include full navigation to all sections and items of your website on every page. Often, the vast majority of visitors into an industrial website enter via subpages from search engines because they will contain the more specific descriptive information that they’ve searched for in the first place. Make it easy for them to learn more about your company’s strengths from every page.
Don’t get fancy with the design. Manufacturing professionals don’t like fancy—they like functional. Use a white background with black or dark print, in an easy-to-read font. And yes, they will often print your website pages to share with colleagues or include in reports. Keep it simple – professional is important, but simple is better.
Avoid splash screens – those annoying greetings screens, often with animations, that require another ‘click’ to enter your Website. They are speed bumps to the value of your company.
Try to avoid clip art or stock photography of people not affiliated with your company. It looks fake and implies deception.
What your website says is much more important than how it looks. A professional look is important, but what a prospect learns about your business is paramount.