The Value Of Thomasnet In Manufacturing
With so many online tools, marketing platforms and media options, the resources available to manufacturers to market their company and generate leads is greater than ever. However, as options expand, so do the performance metrics that need to be evaluated to identify which marketing dollars are leading to return. Most veterans of the manufacturing space know about Thomas Register®, now ThomasNet®. This former “yellow pages for manufacturing” has been around for decades, and their promotional tools and packages have struggled to evolve alongside today’s marketing and sales technology. Despite a revamp of the ThomasNet® platform in 2019, a quick search online shows that many manufacturers are frustrated with the limitations and trappings of the ThomasNet® system. Often, businesses report spending more and more money while not increasing their ROI.
In recent years ThomasNet® enlarged its platform and expanded its offerings to include more services. From online business listings to website design and even content development, ThomasNet® offers packages to handle these activities on your behalf. But time and time again, our clients report these services are highly templatized. In the world of B2B marketing a stamp-and-repeat approach simply does not work, and can ultimately leave you with a website, search engine optimization, content, and marketing materials that don’t work effectively together.
While ThomasNet® has worked to position itself as a marketing and advertising agency for manufacturers, it is important to understand that agencies like Stifel Marcin are not ThomasNet® competitors. Stifel Marcin offers a holistic approach to your marketing, customized solutions, and expertise that ThomasNet® and its competitors simply cannot. We apply our team’s B2B marketing expertise to your company, your products, your services and your marketing goals. Our plans are tailored to your needs, and there is no “one size fits all” mindset in anything we do. Our B2B digital, content, marketing strategy and SEO capabilities are run by people who work like an extension of your company – your in-house marketing team that happens to not be “in” your house.
Please note, there are times that ThomasNet® can fit well into a marketing strategy, and for some companies they can generate leads and sales. This article is intended to provide insight and transparency, and we’ve compiled a series of tips to help you evaluate the value of ThomasNet® in your marketing.
1. Agency Website Development Services Build for Total Ownership While ThomasNet® Database Can Limit Owner Control
Manufacturers can sign on with ThomasNet® to build their website and take care of updates and changes. ThomasNet® develops and integrates its websites into their backend databases, templates and network of directories. Often, this means they are building your website, but the backend is driving to their web properties. Most lead generating forms go through their system, placing ThomasNet® as an intermediary to your leads.
While this approach may make sense for some, it leaves you with a build that is highly-reliant on staying with ThomasNet®. Often, working with another marketing partner to make changes or updates may be difficult – or even impossible – to do. There is virtually no option to move away from ThomasNet® as your website relies on your platform. If you use their website development services, you cannot download your site and move to another platform, without extensive rebuilding efforts.
With Stifel Marcin’s website design services, your site – it’s text, images, optimization and databases – are all yours. These are tangible deliverables you control.
Some ThomasNet® customers reported that they feel as if their site is “trapped”. They must pay their ThomasNet® fees in order to retain limited control of the site and the lead generation from it – no matter what the ROI is on that spend, or what other outside business factors that may be affecting a company’s marketing budget.
Stifel Marcin has built our operations to act like your partner. Our marketing, SEO and web development teams collaborate with you to understand your business. We digitally-position your brand to maximize your return on the project and align your business for growth for years to come.
2. The ThomasNet® Directory vs. Organic SEO Services
Organic search engine optimization (SEO) has changed how everyone does business. It levels the playing field in a way, favoring the relevance of your page content in the rankings. If your website and its content are developed correctly and include the right search keywords and phrases, you can place alongside competitors – and even surpass them in rankings. The beauty of SEO is that, when done well, you continue to reap the benefits of it long after you put the work in. Web pages, blog posts, educational content, and more can all continue to generate relevant traffic to your website if you have a thoughtful SEO strategy employed by experts who know what they are doing.
ThomasNet® claims it will help you rank on Google or Bing for keywords most relevant to your business and your offerings. But many companies find that, more often, their system ranks and drives traffic to their own web properties – listings on ThomasNet® Directory – as opposed to your company’s website.
At Stifel Marcin, our search engine optimization is focused on enhancing the organic visibility of your website and its pages. Our experts work to ensure the copy on each landing page is aligned with a comprehensive keyword strategy. We create clear sales funnels and user experience paths. The goal is not only to increase traffic, but to increase the quality of that traffic, and to drive leads for your business. Our track record is proven – with almost two decades of industrial marketing and web development expertise.
3. A Data-Driven Marketing Approach Over ThomasNet® Directory Placement
ThomasNet® directory pricing is usually based on the competition in your category. Often, there is little choice on what you will spend. Some of our clients have reported an approach like this: If you are one of the only manufacturers of hot pink rubber bands, there may be little competition in the space, and the cost can be low. But if you manufacture a wide variety of rubber bands, paper clips and staples, and you have a lot of competitors, you can expect to pay inflated costs to “play in the sandbox.” This gives an unfair advantage to larger competitors in your space who may be able to pay those inflated costs to list on ThomasNet® more easily.
If you do decide the ThomasNet® directory fees will generate leads – or are worth trying out – it is critically important you track the ROI. The only smart way to do this is to rely on your own data tracking solution, for example a platform like Google Analytics™, to provide insights.
An integrated marketing agency will work with you to develop a plan that focuses on your unique competitive landscape with the goal of gaining a greater share of that market. At Stifel Marcin, our industrial marketing pros evaluate your space and recommend specific efforts and opportunities to optimize your marketing efforts, and help you promote your company’s key positions. From Account Based Marketing to focused digital, content and SEO campaigns, we work to get your brand in front of your target customers. We craft clear calls-to-action and strategic content to separate you from competitors and generate leads that go straight to you.
4. Undercutting Your Bottom Line
Because it’s virtually impossible to effectively illustrate the unique value of B2B and industrial products, as well as your company’s services, in the short paragraph that appears in a ThomasNet® directory profile, often companies are set up to compete on price. Listing your business alongside your competitors gives prospective customers an easy opportunity to get multiple bids, and then to leverage those bids against each other, creating an environment where suppliers must lower their costs. This can have a negative impact on the ROI – and is likely the exact opposite result of what you are looking for when signing on with ThomasNet®.
Studies show that most purchasers – even in B2B – first look to a standard search engine, like Google®, when conducting a supplier search. Focusing your efforts on organic search engine listings, and driving the leads directly to your sales team, ensures you are competing on value and the key differentiators that make your business great. Your SEO and your website development should be focused on your company and goals, and not limited by the ThomasNet® directory and its templatized website restrictions.
Moral of the Story:
Marketing budgets run lean in manufacturing, and ThomasNet® can often require a sizable monthly commitment. To get the most bang for your buck, consider an industrial marketing agency in your planning process. An agency with no conflicts of interest, with marketers who are experts in manufacturing, and that have a variety of integrated capabilities they can put to work for you. ThomasNet® could be part of that marketing strategy, but its critical to be sure the marketing plan is holistic and based on optimizing the return on investment.
ThomasNet® and ThomasRegister® are Registered Trademarks of Thomas Publishing Company.
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