The Web is the preferred channel where manufacturers, prospects and purchasers go to research sources and partners to build and develop their products. If you think it ain’t, you’re smokin’ rope.

But many manufacturers miss opportunities for new business because they present incomplete or insufficient information on their Web sites. Let me explain.

The people you want to talk to use the Internet to research potential solutions. They have specific purposes, and they collect information on people like you that can provide those solutions based on your specific, technical specifications and business needs. And they report back to someone.

Today’s prospect is a stealth prospect: in control and anonymous throughout the research cycle until they chose to reveal themselves. Their online behaviors aren’t very different from yours when you’re researching a capital equipment purchase. Simply put, they’re on your Web site now. What are they seeing?

What they find online about your company – or don’t – can strongly influence who they’ll engage or investigate. If you’re deemed worthy, they’ll engage you. If not, you’re done.

To attract, influence and motivate prospects to add you to their short lists of potential suppliers or partners, an online strategy to maximize exposure AND effectively capitalize on prospects’ behaviors should include:

  • Presenting Your Core Strengths – Your equipment and facilities are important. So are the industries and companies you’ve served. But the primary purpose of any successful Web presence for manufacturers is to differentiate you from your competition. And there’s nothing that differentiates you like describing the details of projects you’ve worked and the parts/products you’ve made. Present the technical features of each part you’ve mad, the materials and equipment used, the improvements made to the part/product during the design-life of the project, and any problems encountered and how you solved them.
  • Start A Blog – Seriously. They’re inexpensive (many are free), they’re relatively easy to set up and you don’t have to be a geek to update them. And best of all, a Blog is an effective means of communicating what your company is doing, what projects you’re working on, company news and anything those stealth prospects may find interesting about you as a potential partner. Easy, inexpensive and effective – you just can’t beat that. And here’s a tip: you should post to your Blog regularly, but you don’t have to post frequently. It doesn’t have to kill you resource-wise to be effective.
  • Participate On The Web – Find related forums for manufacturing professionals and answer questions, offer suggestions and contribute to the dialogue. Each post acts as an organic reference for you and your company. And remember that once the discussion has faded into the background, your posts will remain in perpetuity – legacy posts are often found by prospects searching for suppliers, and these “breadcrumbs” can be very effective at putting your company in a prospect’s view – LONG after the discussion has been forgotten.

Think for a second about how some of your best business relationships have come about – often, they’ve come to you based on word-of-mouth or through channels that you didn’t expect.

The Web works the same way. But you have to plant the seeds that will sprout later, and construct the messages you place on your site or on the Web to outlast the conversation taking place now. Otherwise, you’re focusing only on the now, and leaving future opportunity – and profits – on the table.