Changes in communications technologies have enabled a host of new ways to reach your customers and for them to reach you. Most prevalent among them is the Internet, which offers many marketing opportunities through the design and functionality of your website as well as its content. Is your website doing as much for you as it could?
During the past 100 years, technology has changed the way in which forging companies do business. In fact, it has changed the way almost all companies do business. Each year brings new and improved processes and technologies. Some technologies improve productivity, some enhance a product or its quality and some may help keep our processes environmentally sound.
Among the more obvious changes technology has brought us in the last few decades are modifications in communication. Modern technology enables us to reach out to a customer or supplier in an instant with a full description of the products and services we offer – including high-definition video demonstrations. In this regard, two of the biggest changes to the forging industry are the computer and the World Wide Web. The rise of the Internet and its easy accessibility have shattered old business marketing models in favor of more flexible and sophisticated communications tools to reach your customers and vice versa. When customers need to reach you for information, they can often have it instantaneously.
To put things into perspective, a very telling statistic is offered here. It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million customers; it took TV 13 years; it took the Internet just four years; and Facebook only two years. As a related aside, it took only three years to sell 50 million iPods.
It is no secret that some of the basic metalworking industries, while on top of the technologies that improve their products and processes, are not as proactive with products and services that enhance their marketing capabilities. The intent of this article, therefore, is to offer forgers some insight as to how they can better use the Internet to gain more sales leads and business.
The Difference Between Advertising and Marketing
First, let’s differentiate between advertising and marketing. According to dictionary.com the definition of advertising is “the act or practice of calling public attention to one’s product, service and need etc., especially by paid announcements in newspapers and magazines, over radio or television, on billboards ... to get more customers.”
Forge shops do not advertise to the general public, so what I am proposing is that forging companies examine the way they are marketing themselves on the web to be highly visible and create leads for potential new business. This brings us to the definition of marketing as “the total activities in the transfer of goods from the producer or seller to the consumer or buyer including advertising, shipping, storing and selling.”
Previously, your marketing effort may have relied solely on a sales pamphlet, an ad in industry magazines, direct-mail marketing, networking and your sales staff. All these activities are valid marketing tools today except now you also have a website to use and manage as a marketing tool.
About Your Website
Your website is a dynamic interactive extension of traditional marketing tools that reaches out to hundreds, and globally thousands, of current and potential clients. At minimum, most websites have three important parts: About Us, Products and Services and Contact Us. Many sites also have a form to Request a Quote or to gain More Information.
Take a moment to think about your website. First of all, do you have one? If the answer is yes, what were the hopes of the website when you built it? Having a website gives you credibility. It allows out-of-market customers the ability to see what you are about, what services you offer, and the ability to contact you for more information or a quote. How does your website show up on a Smartphone or tablet? Is it thumb friendly? Can you easily see the phone number or click to call? Does it load quickly? Why is it important to have your website easily viewed on all types of devices? This year, smart phones will outnumber desktops.
Anatomy of an Internet Search
The next step is to understand the anatomy of a search. Before the invention of the World Wide Web, a company wanting to find a forging company would pick up the forging company directory. The problem with a directory is that it doesn’t say much about you, there is no call to action and you are listed with all of your competitors. When a potential customer is in need of a forging company, they may already know who you are and just type your name into the search bar when they don’t know your web address. Most times, if they don’t have a specific company in mind, they might search with keywords or keyword phrases. For example, they might type “steel forging,” “forging dies,” “aluminum forging” or even something more specific to their needs. When Google (for example) responds to a search query, it brings up the most relevant websites to the area you are located in. Google brings those businesses up in Google Maps or Google Plus in the middle of the page. They also bring up paid ads designated to come up either locally or nationally. The ads appear at the top of the page (no more than three) and at the right hand side of the page (no more than eight).
Directly under the maps is the organic search. When people search, they are likely to click on a paid ad when they are in the purchasing phase. They generally click in the maps section when they are looking for the phone number. They use the organic section when they are in research mode. Your objective should be to come up in all three places to help you dominate the page and push your competition further back in Google search. If you have video attached to YouTube, a Facebook page or LinkedIn, these also come up.
Although I have mainly talked about Google searches, the same rules apply to other search engines like Yahoo and Bing. You should definitely claim your business listings for Google, Yahoo and Bing. They are free and get more traffic to your website.
I mentioned the ads at the top and down the side of a page, which are paid advertising, referred to as “pay per click” or “search-engine marketing.” I have spoken to a few forging companies with regard to their level of participation in paid search. Some companies are doing a very good job and getting great results with it. Others believe the forging industry is too specific and that they know who their customers are and their customers know who they are. The fact is, companies are searching for you online in the research stage and in the buying stage. Paid advertising is like having a lead generator working for you. Customers knock on yourdoor. Also, search-engine marketing is very transparent since you will know how many clicks and how many calls you received and where they came from.
When you market your company online, you want to come up on the first page in the paid section for those customers wanting information now. You want to be in the maps section for those customers looking for you specifically. If you haven’t claimed your company listing, please do it today. Be aware that if someone in Texas is searching nationwide, a company in Michigan will not come up in the maps section. Utilize social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Silly as it may seem for you personally, those social-media pages will also come up in a search. The more information about your company that comes up in a search helps potential customers find you. Every site that links back to your website makes your company more credible. Visibility equals potential for action.
It’s a competitive world out there, and companies are looking for suppliers online. New businesses and new inventions are created daily. They are searching for your company right now online. If you don’t believe me, do a search for your company – not by your name, but by the products you manufacture or the processes you use. You’ll be surprised by what comes up.
Author Jenny Olszewski is a digital account executive with LocalEdge, a Hearst Media Services Company that offers multimedia lead-generating solutions for large and small businesses nationwide. She may be reached at (800) 695-5295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.