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Industrial Manufacturer and Distributor Online Marketing – Top 10 Priority List

How to prioritize your digital marketing depends on what your online marketing has already achieved and your future goals for it?

For the purposes of this discussion we’ll start with the basics necessary for industrial online marketing success and build up to more sophisticated activities. For future goals we know from this blog post (ref: CMI) that in the Manufacturing Industry, ‘Sales’ is a primary goal of 2015 content marketing. Further, let’s assume that the results of this 2015 State of Marketing Salesforce® study apply to Manufacturing too. With these assumptions the top 3 ‘most pressing business challenges’ for our digital marketing to address are:

  • New Business Development/Sales
  • Improved Lead Quality
  • Staying Current with Marketing Technology & Trends

For Industrial Suppliers (Manufacturers and Distributors) to achieve these goals via their online marketing here is our Top 10 Prioritized List of marketing activities and deliverables.

1. Your company’s website is the foundation for all your online marketing. It is the basic requirement, the ‘table stakes’ to even join the game and generate sales leads online. However, it is most definitely not a ‘once and done’ capability. To make and keep your industrial website a digital sales accelerator it must be kept up to date with your customers’ expectations and stay ahead of your competition. For example, B2C websites like Amazon® created user expectations that have transferred to B2B sites like AmazonBusiness®, Grainger® and McMaster® – see ‘Is your website as good as Amazon, Grainger or McMaster‘.

Today the basic level expectations for an industrial supplier website are:

  • Modern design, and behavior (e.g. responsive to different screen sizes and aspect ratios including mobile phones and tablets) with great graphics and SEO.
  • Digital Parts Catalog including intuitive and excellent product faceted search for your organized and normalized product data. The catalog should automatically produce Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of your pages so they are found from both search engines and local on-site searches.
  • Individual product pages for every product – for unique product SEO offer individual product pages for each product rather than one product family page.
  • Q&A and RFQ mechanisms using forms.
  • Incorporated analytics and measurement – the key metrics are sales growth from sales via the website (or sales introduced/assisted by the website), leads generated and conversion rates rather than just traffic counts. ROI can be rapid – see this blog post.
  • Leverage your website to support your traditional marketing and leverage your email marketing to support your website – used effectively email, after search, is the leading provider of clicks to websites (e.g. welcome emails, newsletters, etc.) so measure click-throughs as the primary metric.

Warnings – don’t get this technical issue wrong and avoid these mistakes on your website.

2. Sales Lead Distribution – as important as generating leads is, it is equally important what you do with them. You may distribute them just to your direct sales team (for example via integration of your CAD download system and your CRM system) or distribute them to your distributor or OEM sales partners or both. The important thing is to achieve automated ‘hot’ lead allocation and response.

3. Add Other Content to your Website – CAD models are the most valuable content for lead generation but there are many other types of content to highlight your expertise and knowledge to help customers. White papers, case studies and a Blog focused on answering frequently asked (and searched for) questions all help drive organic SEO.

4. Paid Search Engine Marketing (SEM) for more traffic – having ‘maxed-out’ or at least started to level off the traffic you can achieve with ‘free’ SEO, investigate SEM and start paying for more traffic (PPC). With experience you’ll likely find a balance for organic and paid traffic by measuring conversion results and ROI.

5. Add Configurators if applicable – if your products are configurable, improve the user experience of your website by enabling customers to select their options, view their version of the product and download 3D CAD models. Of course generate leads on the download. If and when applicable add online ordering, pricing and availability.

6. Add e-Commerce to your website – online ordering including customer specific pricing, product availability and order tracking via integration with your ERP system. See this blog post for more detail or talk to us about your best options.

7. Syndication of CAD models to CAD search engines and portals – to this point all priorities have focused on your website because users seeking CAD models look to manufacturers’ sites first (see graph below).

But designers search elsewhere too, so you should ‘fish where the fish are‘ and syndicate your CAD models where users look for them. In a 2014 Survey 276 designers answered the question, “Where do you look online to find CAD models of standard parts” and the chart below shows their answers. The next priority in that syndication is ‘search engines’ including CAD specific search engines such as, then CAD portals such as 3DContentCentral®. CAD Search engines are first because they point traffic back to your website where you can capture leads and the traffic contributes positively to your SEO ranking (‘Google juice’). CAD portals, on the other hand, are ‘destination’ sites that typically use your CAD models to attract traffic that they try to keep on their sites because they fund themselves by selling advertising to companies that want access to that traffic. Naturally you should prefer the traffic to come to your website! Test and prioritize by ROI.

8. Syndication of CAD models to partner (eg Distributors, OEMs) websites – as you can see from the graph above, after search engines (of all types) the next most important place designers look for CAD models is Distributors’ websites. Therefore the next priority is to enable your partners to use your content to indirectly drive their and your greater sales success. See FAQ on this topic.

9. Advertise on CAD Search Engines then CAD portals then elsewhere online – to drive more traffic. Same priority order as above but measure what gives you the greatest ROI.

10. Social Media – to drive more traffic find out which social media your target customers use the most (for example Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) then start to experiment with what gives you the greatest ROI.

In compiling this Top 10 List we drew on the CDS team’s 20 year experience in helping industrial suppliers drive their online industrial marketing from 3 points of view – cost, ROI and measurable success. For example, we propose maximizing natural or organic ‘free’ SEO traffic before starting to buy additional SEM traffic. To keep this post short many links are provided above to more detailed material and two other references may also be pertinent: Website capabilities for distributors (ref: NAW) and Prioritized website capabilities (ref: Forrester data/report). If you have questions, would like our opinion on your situation or want to see an online demo, call or click either button below. You can also read customer case studies here or view videos here.

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