Let’s imagine you and I were opening a store together. We’ve got the location. We’ve spruced up the building. We’ve upgraded the roads to it and the parking lot around it. We have the advertising in place. The lights are on, and the signs are up and looking great. Our grand opening is tomorrow.

And we haven’t stocked the shelves.

Does this make ANY sense to you? Why would anyone spend so much energy to bring in new customers just to disappoint ’em like that? Do you know how expensive it is to get a turned-off customer back? Yeah, we’d be certifiably crazy to open shop like that.

Well, your Web site is like that. This minute – RIGHT NOW – there’s someone looking at your site. Assuming you have one. And if you’re like many small & medium sized manufacturers, the site that serves your business doesn’t really describe your business. It may describe your shop. It may describe your equipment list. It may describe your products & services. But, in all likelihood, it doesn’t describe what many of those stealth prospects (like the one looking at you right now) want to know about you.

What is it that makes you special? Why would I or my company want to partner with you, plug you into our supply & demand chain, or depend on you when we need you most? And how are you gonna make me look like a rock star?

The fact is, you may have empty shelves in your store, and not even know it.

And even worse, you won’t ever know it if someone finds the shelves bare.

As your Web site goes, this is what channels can and should do to attract acceptable prospects to it:

But in the initial stages of a technical or industrial buying cycle, information is your inventory. Folks involved in research to find acceptable candidates like you are looking for types of information that are different from what’s needed to shop for sunglasses or printer cartridges. It’s a longer, more detailed process. And if they don’t find what they need from you, they’ll find someone who can.

In business, loyalty is simply the lack of something better.

So it’s critical to build your base first and to do it right – stock the shelves with the highest quality products (information) before bringing customers into it. Here are 3 critical issues to begin or re-tune by:

  • Content – It’s what your site says about what you do, not just what you do it with. Buyers and prospects can find plenty of candidates with the same machines or capabilities that you have. And there’s no ‘content’ that’s better for feeding a prospect than examples of what you’ve done for others like them. Give ’em descriptions of work you’ve done in the past for others. Give details – tolerances, materials, frequency/scheduling, process improvements, delivery schedules, quality & responses to new or unique requests FOR EACH PROJECT. List them by industry, application, materials and geography. THERE’S NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT TO YOUR BASE.
  • Accessibility – If content is king, then context is its queen. And we all know who rules the roost, yeah? Don’t just make the examples of your work and the capabilities of your business easy to find, make them easy to find IN THE CONTEXTS YOUR CUSTOMERS WILL VALUE. Do you want to gain work from aerospace customers? Automotive OEMs or high-tier suppliers? Do you specialize in exotic materials? Create ‘buckets’ that contain all your content in areas labeled as your prospects would covet them.
  • Usability – Often when marketers or consultants use this word, they’re referring to the navigation of a Web site. But that’s myopic, because it assumes the entire research event takes place in a moment, and only on the Web site. In the industrial world where those research cycles are much longer, the information a prospect finds on your site is often used offline, shared with groups, or passed on to managers & engineers. Navigation is awfully important – but so is ensuring that your information can be used beyond the initial discovery. Can it be printed? Can it easily beĀ re-purposedĀ into Power Point for presentations to groups? Think beyond your Web site, and you’ll encourage these behaviors and attract more interest. Make your site an advocacy toolkit that turns prospective buyers into ambassadors for your business in their companies.

Getting these 3 elements right and developing processes to create and update them easily are critical before worrying about Search Engines or inbound links or social media or anything that drives traffic to your Web site.

Otherwise, you may be bringing new customers into your store but driving them straight to the competition next door.