Friday, April 26, 2013

The Sixth Man: Tips to Help Your Website Work Better For Your Business.

Industrial buying activity is moving online. A Thomas Industrial Network survey of more than 3,000 industrial executives and managers found that 90 percent of industrial purchases are now researched, evaluated and selected online. The uptick in online activity means that manufacturers need to step up their online game.

These days, many manufacturers understand that building an online presence is becoming increasingly important. But just having a placeholder website isn’t enough. To truly capitalize on the online opportunity -- and generate more leads -- manufacturers need to build-in website elements that meet buyer expectations.

Here are five tips that manufacturers can use to improve their website and capture more leads, letting your website work for you.

1. Structure Your Website to Mirror the Industrial Buying Cycle
The first thing to understand about building a website for the manufacturing industry is that the eCommerce model popularized by online retailers doesn’t work in the manufacturing industry. This is because the industrial buying process is an order of magnitude more complex than a retail purchase -- and there are many more individuals (CFOs, engineers, etc.) involved in the purchasing process.

For this reason, Jared Fabac, eSystems Architect of Idea Bright Marketing, believes that a website should mirror the four steps of industrial sales:

1.     Discovery - Site visitors are just starting their research process and are trying to find companies that make what they need.
2.     Research - Visitors are looking for information on product specs, manufacturing operations procedures and materials used.
3.     Sourcing - Individuals are ready to see detailed pricing and want schematics to ensure that your product works with what they’re building.
4.     Procurement - This will usually happen offline. 

2. Immediately Communicate What You Do
When visitors first come to your website, they make a very quick decision as to whether you’re able to serve their needs. Linda Rigano of Thomas Industrial Network believes that manufacturers have roughly 5 seconds to communicate what they do. If it isn’t immediately apparent what you make, then they’re likely to leave and look for somewhere that makes it easier on them to research.

3. Allow Side-by-Side Product Comparisons
Once visitors have browsed the product catalog, they’re likely to want to compare multiple products to help narrow down the field of options. At this point, buyers are moving out of the discovery process and into the research phase. As such, they’re looking for basic product’s specifications, material type and other related information. At this point in the process, visitors should be able to use your website to compare 3 to 5 products side by side to help them understand their options.

4. Provide Detailed Information at the Product Level
Providing the right kind of content for Steps 1 and 2 of the buying process is core and critical. Getting this content right is what keeps visitors on your website. But having them stay on your website isn’t the same thing as turning them into a lead. This means it’s essential to meet buyer expectations when they’re ready to enter the sourcing stage. One of the biggest mistakes that manufacturers make today is not providing enough information about their products or processes. Failing to provide the right level of detail can make the difference between a visitor and a lead.

So what do buyers expect at this phase? In addition to wanting side-by-side comparisons in an online product catalog, if applicable, buyers want to be able to drill down and access granular information about individual products. For instance, if you’re selling clip nuts, they want to know about the panel thickness, what material it’s made out of and the product grip range. They also want detailed measurement and schematics of the product.

Once your visitors are at this phase, you should also place a call to action (CTA) that allow visitors to request more information. This gives the visitor an opportunity to tell you about what they’re planning to use your product for. It also gives their contact information so you can follow-up with them and let them know how you can meet their needs.

5. Allow CAD Files to be Downloaded
It’s also a great idea to provide downloadable CAD files. Providing this information helps attract visitors that are even further along in the sales cycle as it is some of the most detailed specifications that you have available. The visitors that request a CAD file are generally trying to double-check whether your product will fit the model that they’re building out.

Making this information available helps dramatically speed up the research process (and sales cycle) by saving the buyer the trouble of having to rebuild a CAD drawing from your product measurements. This information, however, should not be given away without capturing buyer information. The reason: the majority of the time, this person is ready to buy. They’re essentially at the last step before they’re ready to procure so it’s important to make sure that you can follow up with them and nurture the lead.

These are a few of the ways that manufacturers can go from just having a website to having one that can generate leads. If you’re interested in reading more about these tips, and seeing a few examples of effective websites, please visit Software Advice where you can find the original article.
 
Guest Blog by Software Advice out of Austin Texas. Helping buyers find the right software for the job In just fifteen minutes, the experts at Software Advice can help you narrow down the right software for your organization.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Increase Customers by Obtaining Quality Certifications


If you’re a manufacturer in Michigan, there’s a pretty good chance you’re looking for ways to appeal to new customers and increase sales. A lot of this has to do with your position in the market and your audience’s perception of your credibility. You need to demonstrate that your company is reliable and manufactures products in an efficient and safe way.

A key way to prove your company’s credibility and commitment to best practices is to obtain quality management certifications. When manufacturers meet strict standards and achieve respected and well-known certifications such as ISO, AS and OHSAS, it sends an important message to possible and current customers: we provide quality products and services through safe practices and procedures.

Obtaining industry certifications is important, especially if you’re a small or medium-sized manufacturer in Michigan – certifications can put you on par with the bigger businesses! You can show that you can keep up with your competitors…critical to increasing sales. In fact, your target audience prefers to conduct business with manufacturers with certifications… it can actually damage your brand if you don’t have respected certifications!

ISO: An Example of a Recognized Manufacturing Certification

In a nutshell, ISO certifications (one of the most commonly recognized manufacturing certifications) signify that a manufacturer is in compliance with standards that relate to quality management systems. Just by going through the certification process, manufacturers are provided with a guide on how to improve safety and quality… all while changing a company’s culture to achieve sustainable results. Benefits of certifications include:

  • Improved branding abilities to attract new customers
  • Reaffirmed commitment to quality and safety to strengthen relationships with current customers
  • Increased new and repeat sales
  • Improvements in productivity and processes
  • Increased productivity
  • Waste reduction and elimination
  • Buy-in from employees to ensure sustainability

Start the Process Today

MMTC provides Michigan’s manufacturers with a cost-effective approach to take the necessary steps to achieve certifications. This includes preparing your staff (developing, managing and maintaining a quality system to comply with appropriate standards), preparing for the formal registration and documentation process and implementing training programs. MMTC can help with the following certifications:
  • ISO 9001 (CEU Credits: 2.1)
  • ISO/TS 16949 (CEU Credits: 2.1)
  • ISO 13485 (CEU Credits: 2.8)
  • AS 9100 (CEU Credits: 2.1)
  • ISO 14001
  • ISO 17025
  • ISO 50001
  • Nadcap
  • TL 9000
  • OHSAS 18001

Want to see a success story? Click here to read about how Michigan manufacturer, Visioneering, experienced a 30% increase in revenue because of retention with its aerospace customers due to AS9100 certification.  This is just one story from the over 300 Michigan companies the MMTC has assisted in achieving and maintaining certification to industry quality standards.

For more information about MMTC's Quality Management programs, please visit our Quality Management System Preparation and Implementation page or contact us at 888-414-6682 or via email at inquiry@mmtc.org.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hand Out, Hand Up: The Revitalization of Manufacturing

On Monday, April 15th, as many scramble to finalize last minute tax returns, manufacturers from across North America will be gathering in San Antonio for the “Revitalization of North American Manufacturing Conference,” sponsored by the Association for Manufacturing Excellence. AME’s literature indicates that manufacturing is ‘facing a critical period in domestic history’.

Everyone these days seems to be talking about manufacturing reform, renaissance or revitalization. We have transitioned from an environment where manufacturer requests for assistance were ignored to a time when everyone thinks they have THE answer for its woes. We don’t think there is just one answer.

As the experts in understanding issues surrounding small to medium sized manufacturers and as part of the national Manufacturing Extension Partnership, we’ve had our ear to the ground on many issues and potential solutions from all over the country. It’s still unclear how many are really listening and how many are simply posturing, but here in Michigan, we’re making progress.

Delta College's offering is just the latest in a series of courses from community colleges and regional partners that re-engage with job seekers to provide accelerated raining on CNC machines and other skills coveted by manufacturers. In Grand Rapids and other areas local MichiganWorks! Agencies are putting on a series of Ready NOW! Events providing participants with help on resume writing, interviewing, branding and team building, and securing interviews with participating employers.

Because we believe that small business owners are America’s job creators we’re focusing on Family–Owned businesses to ensure that those job creators stay in business to the fourth and fifth generation. Along with our own experts, we’re compiling a group of industry leaders who can speak to the unique challenges and opportunities for succession planning and business valuation to create a successful transition strategy.

The MEDC’s Pure Michigan Business Connect program has been working to connect qualified Michigan manufacturers with needs expressed by large Tier OEMs like Ford, BAE, and Boeing. MMTC, SBTDC, Economic Developers and other partners actively refer companies for these opportunities and MEDC is working diligently to arrange these as requests come in.


Another initiative is the Innovation Realization: Building and Supporting an Advanced Contract Manufacturing Innovation Cluster in SE Michigan, sponsored by Innostate. MMTC and its partners are scheduling visits with manufacturing companies that specialize in bringing new ideas to market. We believe that a strong contract manufacturing base with a propensity to transition from idea to prototype in quick succession is a key to technology transfer and growth.


Buy American Provisions have created a lot of buzz, resulting in new opportunities regularly. The most recent Make it in America Supplier Scouting opportunities have come from the Department of Energy and Edison Nation. We expect these opportunities to continue to come as successful matches are made.

As our national leaders focus on tax reform, investing in infrastructure, and monitoring our international trade issues, things that can only be tackled at that level, we and our partners continue to focus on creating jobs, strengthening Michigan manufacturers, resulting in the innovation and production of more goods in the United States either by improved processes or local procurement, and preparing highly skilled workers for the next generation of manufacturing.

Instead of manufacturers standing empty-handed, MMTC and our partners stand ready to lend a hand. Together we can build a stronger, flexible, innovative Michigan economy.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Green Manufacturing: From Trend to Cornerstone


If you’re a manufacturer in Michigan, you’ve probably heard the phrase “going green.” Going green used to be a trendy thing for celebrities to talk about, but this is more than a trend for the manufacturing community. By implementing more environmentally sustainable practices and green manufacturing initiatives, Michigan’s manufacturers can:

  • Improve their brand and appeal to more customers
  • Better manage energy costs
  • Reuse materials to reduce waste and save costs
  • Improve processes and efficiencies during production

Green manufacturing is no longer simply a “nice thing to do” – it’s becoming an increasingly important business strategy for the manufacturing community. Customers and suppliers now consider how “green” a company is when making a purchasing decision. It could be the deciding factor between your product and a competitors in an increasingly competitive market for green products.

Many manufacturers once equated “going green” with “more expensive.” Now, they are realizing that there are simple, yet effective ways to go green with their existing products and practices. I mean, if you’re a manufacturer, why pass on the opportunity to reduce waste, preserve energy and make everything more efficient? Let’s be real – energy, water and labor costs aren’t going down anytime soon. The reuse, renew, recycle aspects of green manufacturing initiatives help businesses control these expenses. Often, the realized improvements are annual savings rather than one-time cost-reductions.

While those efficiencies improve and costs shrink, manufacturers can also sleep better at night knowing that their operation is reducing emissions and its 
carbon footprint. This is a key driving point for a manufacturer’s marketing team. Marketers can promote their green practices to attract new customers and enhance their branding image. Furthermore, a company’s staff becomes engaged during green initiatives – employees are educated on critical factors such as increasing efficiencies. This fosters a culture of continuous improvement.

Sustainability can energize innovation as well. Challenged to reduce product packaging materials by a %, recycling more waste, such as micro filtering to extend the life of fluids used during manufacturing processes, or modifying those same processes to reduce material scrap, your engineering and machinists could surprise you with their ideas for improvements, cost savings, and reducing defects.

Overall, making the effort to convert to green practices is worthwhile for any manufacturer in Michigan. It improves your public relations efforts and has tremendous potential to reduce waste and harmful emissions.

According to the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association International, Ford, General Motors and Freightliner are all making sizable investments in equipment to reduce energy usage and waste:
  • Ford Motor Company uses solar panels to generate approximately 500 kilowatts of electricity at its plant in Wayne, Michigan.
  • General Motors facilities are working toward landfill-free status, meaning that more than 95 percent of waste is reused or recycled. Its goal is to achieve 100 landfill-free manufacturing and 25 non-manufacturing sites by 2020. As of most recently published data, GM’s totals were 84 and 16 respectively, with on average, 97% of waste recycled or reused and 3% converted to energy.
  • Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation now dumps zero solid waste into any landfill with the use of reusable packaging, product redesigns and by identifying recipients of solid waste for reuse.
If you are interested in transitioning your company to green operations, MMTC can help. Our experts can help your company be more efficient, environmentally safe and more sustainable. For more information, contact us at 888-414-6682 or via email at inquiry@mmtc.org .