One of the beauties of the internet is that a company no longer has limitations to its geography and, when done right, it can increase a business’s productivity. There are many advantages for a company to start doing business online and reach potential customers globally. However, a business must also be able to harness traffic that is ultimately driven by search engines. So how does a company go from traditional sales to eCommerce? Lermit Ramon Diaz of SCTools, an industrial cutting tool distributor, hosts this week’s #USAMfgHour on Twitter to address just that.
Time for Transition
Diaz first asked the group of manufacturers and supporters how their sales strategy is structured, whether it is the conventional way or online. Not all manufacturers sell products, and those that sell services or have large-scale production are finding creative solutions online. It’s also a hard, yet strategical, pivot for some companies amid the global coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).
“Sales had mostly been traditional, but we’re making changes to eCommerce in midst of the pandemic,” said Shannon Simpson of DuraTech Industries. “We sell services as we do not sell off-the-shelf products either, but it still has been traditional, but in the last year or so, going more eCommerce.”
“Many companies are transitioning from conventional to digital with some facing many issues due to the lack of understanding in the digital hemisphere,” said Nigel T. Packer, a digital consultant at Pelatis.
“We are traditional as we do not sell products. We sell Plastic Injection Services,” said Dan Bigger of Chenango Valley Technologies. “We can design plastic parts, design molds, Build mold, and eventually #manufacture the plastic parts for our partners. We are working on lead generation. We have been building our name recognition for the last year or so. we are getting there. However, leads are beginning to go up.”
“We use both online and traditional to gather leads and create sales,” said J.D. Allen of Cleveland Deburring.
“In our case, it's more of online. The conventional way didn't work for me,” said Ruby Rusine of Social Success Marketing. “I tried networking. I tried doing my own Meetup group. I have been getting better leads from my site, search, and referrals.”
“Currently, our sales are structured via eCommerce,” said Kristina Ingersoll of Ideaman Magnets. “We manage both a B2B and B2C store.”
One of the ways to propagate sales online is by establishing a sense of value for customers on a broad level. Diaz then asked the group to share how they are making a unique value proposition (UVP) online.
“As a marketer, I'm well aware of a USP. But I'm ashamed to admit I'm just now learning about UVP... *frantically writes notes*,” Ingersoll said.
Dondi Scumaci, an international speaker, author, and expert in leadership development, said businesses should ask themselves: “How can you make it easier for people to do business with you? How can you become a greater resource to the people you serve?”
“Here is a great book recommendation: ‘The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann’,” she said. “Value is the theme. A very inspiring read. Many of my clients have shared this with their employees. too.”
“UVP (Unique Value Proposition) is a new phrase, but it makes sense with how we have been hammering about ‘providing value’ for years,” Rusine said.
“We are probably not, but we could once we fine-tune our messages a bit,” said Bigger. “We mainly focus on education at the moment. Relationships, we are great at. Our relationships with last a long time. We are a higher-end. Our services can range in cost from a couple of thousand to over 100k.”
“Education is important, especially with a more complicated or higher-end service or item,” said Kirsten Austin of DCSC, shipping and supply chain solutions for distributors and manufacturers. “It also helps develop relationships! Yep, we sell WMS and Shipping Software!”
“We think we are,” said Allen. “We're offering a niche product, to begin with so for us the value prop both online and off is we're #FamilyOwned, #MadeInUSA, and we deliver and train our customers' personnel in the use of our machines.”
“I believe narrowing down our niche market to manufacturers and showing that we have the experience and understand their challenges gives us our unique value proposition,” said Paul Kiesche of Aviate Creative.
Value in Being Valuable
Once a company is online and establishes a solid value for online consumers, it needs to provide a structure that guides the process of problem solving and process improvement. “What are the key metrics that tell you how your eCommerce store is doing?” Diaz asked.
Some businesses said they we just starting with eCommerce, or have an interest, but that learning more about how to measure success and attract quantifiable leads was a concern. However, tools such as GoogleAds and responses, website analytics and page visits, contact forms, and social media were high-value. Others affirmed this strategy and offered encouragement.
“We monitor Google Analytics and Google AdWords to ensure our conversion rates for online leads (contact submission form, info request) is performing well,” Allen said.
“We are getting there too,” replied Bigger. “We have just completed our new website. We hope to be able to review this information closer in the future. No eCommerce here. Maybe this is something we will tackle at a later date.”
“Yes, not every product is ready for, but I think it will be, at least partially, I mean a portion of the sales cycle,” Diaz replied.
“When working with our manufacturers that do eCommerce... We primarily look at sales. We also look at reviews, entry pages, bounce rates, user flow, lead sources, etc.,” said Kiesche.
“That's what we do, we are capturing also new business through the platform, and serve them the conventional way, that it is hard to measure,” Diaz said.
“Conversion rate is an important one,” said Mike Womack of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program. “If we see a page with high traffic but a low conversion rate %, it might be time to rework the UX of the page and/or reposition the CTA. A few A/B tests to achieve incremental improvements help boost that conversion rate.”
“In terms of measurement, look for lead and lag indicators,” advised Scumaci. “What will you notice right away (lead) and what will take some time to show up (lag).”
“Social media is a long game! Continue to engage with users, interact, post, and put just a little bit of $ in,” said Ingersoll. “You'll see growth, I promise! Once you see growth, you'll be able to better understand what does/doesn't work.) We love to look at our Google Analytics. I enjoy looking at daily order #, daily revenue #, as well as my acquisitions #s to see what platforms are driving traffic to the site.”
“I just started eCommerce because of the (social media) tools that I am selling now,” said Rusine. “Metrics for now: warm leads Eventually: sales then retarget them later.”
Each way a customer comes into contact with a business or service, directly or indirectly, is a channel.With new technology and multiple engagement platforms and devices, most sales these days are not linear. Diaz then asked the group what sales channels they use, whether direct, indirect, or multichannel.
“We are multiple,” said Bigger. “Direct, social, trade shows, word of mouth, and a hell of a lot of networking.”
“Multi-channel,” said Allen. “Organic search, paid search, social marketing, a couple of industry directories, and trade shows.”
“We run a multi-channel strategy,” said Womack. “The easier we can make it for a client to engage, the better. They can sign up online, give us a call, complete an RFI form, whatever is easier for them! Convenience is key.”
“We have Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and of course our retail site and our Wholesale site for B2B,” Ingersoll said. “We also use our social media as checkout areas as well, but still diving into optimization there.”
Competition widens as businesses go online for sales. How a business can stand out in the fray says something. Diaz then asked the group about their company’s tactics to showcase their brand’s persona for eCommerce.
“We are still working on our personas,” said Bigger. “We sell to big companies and startups. Not even in the same ballpark. Then the companies have Purchasing, Engineering, Quality, Owners, etc. We are going to start getting this in line soon.”
“We have SO been wanting to implement something like this, but it's still in the works,” said Ingersoll. “Also, implementation is a big question on ‘How’?"
An example of a company that is known for its personality is DCSC, the group affirmed. “I would absolutely look to them for some advice, or watch how they have implemented their personal,” said Womack. “@wireclothman does it well, too!”
“We have done some really fun mascots for brands and have seen amazing results,” said Kiesche. “It can really add personality, increase interest & trust. I'm curious about using a different persona. We'd typically recommend keeping the persona consistent in your marketing.”
With all the information and buzz from the chat, Diaz asked the #USAMfgHour chat group what their takeaways were and how they can use the information to improve their business strategy.
“Listening to our customers’ feedback is priority 1 but we also need to continue to innovate with new machines in our product line and not get distracted from the positive path we're on despite all the current distractions in the world,” Allen said.
“We're always trying to learn, adjust, improve & get better results. There is never one answer that achieves all your goals. It's the combination of so many efforts,” said Kiesche. “Our goal right now is to build on our reputation & become better known in manufacturing.”
“Is this a loaded question? Smiling face with open mouth and cold sweat #jk,” Ingersoll replied. “Continuing to engage via socials has been working, so just keeping up with these channels! Also diving into Google Ads... #scary #USAMfgHour Also, long-term marketing plans vs. the short-term we have been implementing!”
“It can be big and complex - overwhelming even. I like the idea of tiny experiments. Don't wait for all to be perfect. Get in there and try stuff,” said Scumaci.
Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.
Are you interested in hosting a #USAMfgHour chat? Contact organizers @CVTPlastics, @DCSCinc, and @SocialSMktg.