By Bob DeStefano

Industrial marketing is moving online — are you?

According to the SVM “E-Business Trends in Manufacturing” report, 79% of manufacturers increased their online marketing budgets in 2007 — in some cases at the expense of offline marketing activities.

Do I suggest that companies scrap all of their offline efforts and move their entire budget online? Not at all. Rather, I recommend taking an integrated approach to marketing — integrating the best of online and offline marketing tactics — to maximize the return on your marketing investment.

If you have yet to take the plunge, here are five ideas you can use to help your company boldly enter the new world of online marketing. If you already have a Web site up and running, use these tips to help you make your site as effective as possible.

1. Design your Web site for your customers, not for you.
This may sound silly, but all too often manufacturers do not design their Web site for their customers and prospects. Rather, they take an egocentric approach to Web design and are more interested in talking about themselves and their products instead of solving their customers’ problems.

If your Web site does not serve your prospects and customers, then it is not serving you, either. Make your site customer-focused by offering content and interactive features that speak to the needs of your customers and help them solve their problems. If your customers and prospects do not find your Web site relevant, trustworthy and satisfying, they will leave. Remember, your competitor’s Web site is only one click away.

2. Integrate ‘search’ into your marketing mix.
If you are not engaging in search engine marketing, you are absolutely leaving money on the table for your competitors to scoop up. Simply defined, search engine marketing helps to ensure that your company’s Web site is presented at the top of the search results when people search for products. Prospects who find your Web site through a search engine are actively looking for information on your products, and they will be motivated to take action when they land on your site.

The pay-for-performance model of search engine advertising requires you only to pay when a qualified prospect clicks on your ad to visit your site. If you learn only one thing from this article, let it be this: Search engine marketing must be part of your marketing mix.

3. Increase the value of your print advertising.
For many manufacturers, print advertising in magazines is important for creating awareness and building their brand. You can increase the value of your print ads by including a compelling Web component. Print ads also can be used to drive the reader to action. If a print ad can pull someone to your Web site, you have the opportunity to communicate in an extremely targeted fashion. This means the ad and your Web site must work together — the ad must entice prospects to visit your site with a compelling offer, and your Web site must deliver targeted information that will compel the prospect to take action. This approach can significantly boost the ROI of your print advertising.

4. Outshine your competition at shows.
If your company participates in any type of trade show or home show, you can use online marketing to get maximum impact from those efforts. By leveraging personalized online marketing, before, during and after the event you can maximize the number of qualified sales leads you generate.

For example, prior to the event you can send a personalized e-mail to targeted registrants or attendees, inviting them to stop by your booth by providing a compelling offer. After you speak with people who visit your display, don’t wait until the event is over to follow up. Instead, immediately send each person a customized e-mail including information on the specific products you discussed, as well as links to a customized section of your Web site designed specifically for the event.

5. Nurture relationships with e-mail marketing.
Business success is all about building long-term profitable relationships. E-mail marketing with a monthly e-newsletter offers you an opportunity to build an ongoing, interactive dialogue with your customers and prospects on a measurable, cost-efficient basis. By sending timely articles that solve current business problems, you show your customers that you understand them and their needs.
By embracing these trends and implementing successful online marketing programs, manufacturers will be poised to thrive in 2008 and beyond.

Bob DeStefano is president of SVM E-Business Solutions, an online marketing agency. Its Web site is www.svmsolutions.com. DeStefano will conduct a workshop, “How to Build an Online Marketing Machine,” at the National Cabinet Conference & Woodworking Expo in Schaumburg, IL, in March. For details, visit www.cabinetshow.com.

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