Increase sales by building a better website Featured

8:01pm EDT April 30, 2011
Increase sales by building a better website

Matt Eggemeyer’s grandfather used to meet potential customers at tradeshows, build relationships and later invite them to the shop before quoting their jobs.

Those days are long gone.

Even 50 years of tradeshow success couldn’t pad Keats Manufacturing Co. from the changing times that accompanied the recession.

“Traditional sales methods weren’t working anymore,” says Eggemeyer, vice president and chief operating officer at the family-owned manufacturer of metal stampings and wireforms. “We certainly live now in an impatient society where people, if they need something, they’re most likely going to Google. … That’s where we need to be.”

Eggemeyer looked online to recapture lost revenue, refill the prospect pipeline and uncover new business. His first website looked fine but failed because it focused more on processes than products.

That’s when Thomas Industrial Network approached the 170-employee company about improving its website’s performance to better connect Keats with industrial buyers. ThomasNet’s first lesson revealed what Keats’ target market of engineers was searching for.

“They want to know what you’re making, not how you’re making it,” a sales rep told Eggemeyer. “So we started all over again and lost some of the superfluous stuff that owners tend to put in their websites, like long ‘About Us’ and histories and ‘Meet the Management Team.’ Nobody cares about that.

“I spent most of my time talking about terminals, clips, wire forms, lead frames, things that I make. Then we enhanced it one step further by adding the specs that are involved in making those parts — how thick are they, what kind of plating do they get, all the different sizes and dimensions — which make my website that much more attractive, especially when it comes to the search engines.”

This was a crucial shift in Keats’ website strategy. Eggemeyer navigated it by understanding what target customers would type into Google or ThomasNet’s search engine.

“I don’t think they’re putting in ‘small family-run operation in Chicago,’” he says. “They’re looking for a tin-plated 006 automotive terminal, or something like that, and they’re going to find me.”

Keats developed a new site to better convey the company’s capabilities, including examples of prior custom work and details like plating specs. The new site is also easy to use — when visitors find sufficient information about materials and machines, they can click to submit a quote request and attach their custom design.

Eggemeyer tracks solutions to analyze traffic and reveal where Keats’ site is being effective. Based on where traffic lands and how long it stays, he makes small adjustments to the site.

“I can’t just drop this website and leave it alone and expect people to come year after year,” he says.

After Keats launched the site in April 2009, it didn’t take long to see return on investment. Sales are up 30 percent and quotes more than doubled in one year.

But the home run, if you ask Eggemeyer, is the military customer that found and vetted Keats online before placing a million-dollar order to develop a metal clip for a plastic bullet.

“Would I have been able to get that customer back with the traditional sales methods?” he asks. “No, because they wanted to see that I could do the zinc plating and that I could hold certain tolerances. And that isn’t on a brochure I’ve ever done, and they probably wouldn’t be asking that of me at tradeshow — and I don’t know if I could have given them that attention to sit down and talk engineer to engineer. But that stuff was on my website, and that gave them the warm fuzzy that, ‘Keats can do it; let’s give them a call.’”

How to reach: Keats Manufacturing Co., (800) 532-8763 or www.keatsmfg.com

Take sales online

You already know how to make your website more effective, if you ask Linda Rigano. You’re already doing it offline.

“A good Web strategy starts with … creating a Web experience that replicates the company’s sales process,” says the executive director of strategic services at Thomas Industrial Network, which connects buyers and sellers through offerings like the sourcing site ThomasNet.com and a Web solutions group that improves website performance.

ThomasNet’s VSET strategy breaks that down:

  • Verify. “The first step in the process is that a buyer wants to verify that you make what they (want),” Rigano says. “(If) I’m looking for a container and I see a big picture of the facility, I see a mission statement, but I don’t see a lot about containers, am I going to spend time there? No.”
  • Search and evaluate. “That might be questions they’re asking that customer service person on the phone; it’ll be questions that customer service person is asking back: How many, what’s the material, what’s the size, what’s the quantity?”
  • Take action. “This is what you want to do when you get off of the phone with somebody. Is customer service preparing a quotation? Are they sending more information? Are they taking an order? … It’s all about making it easier for that buyer to do business with you.”

How to reach: Thomas Industrial Network, (866) 585-1191 or www.thomasnet.com