The Value of ThomasNet®

Nowadays there are a number of online tools and resources available to manufacturers to help them better market their company and generate leads. While these tools can be an important part of your marketing strategy, it’s important to understand their inherent limitations so you are able to select the right tools and resources for your specific business needs.

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. But unfortunate limitations and trappings often arise when manufacturers collaborate with ThomasNet®, and businesses can wind up spending more and more money on unrealized promises.

The issue stems from a lack of expertise. From online business listings to website design and even content development, ThomasNet® claims expertise in all of these areas and offers packages to handle these activities on your behalf. But time and time again our clients have found these services to be highly templatized. The ThomasNet® sales team and staff take a stamp and repeat approach to your business, leaving you with a website, search engine optimization plan, content, and marketing materials that don’t work effectively together.

While ThomasNet® claims to act 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, and expertise that ThomasNet® and its competitors simply cannot.

So, as you evaluate whether ThomasNet® is right for you, keep these four things in mind…

1. Understand Your Level of Ownership of Your ThomasNet®-Built Website

Manufacturers sign on with ThomasNet® to build their site and take care of updates and changes for them. ThomasNet® offers this service and integrates your website into their network of directories and backend databases. They build your website as a traffic driver to their web properties. Most lead generating forms go through their system and not directly to you, placing ThomasNet® as an intermediary to your success.

Want to work with another group to make changes and further develop your website? Unfortunately, that may be difficult – or impossible – to do. Many ThomasNet® customers have reported that they feel as if their site is being held hostage, while the bills just keep coming. Each year ThomasNet® can increase their annual fee. This fee covers your listings and ability to retain limited control of the site and the lead generation from it – though that lead generation performance is another disappointment our clients have experienced with ThomasNet®.

When working with Stifel Marcin’s award-winning web development team, we collaborate with you to fully understand your business. We digitally position your brand in a way that will maximize your return on the project and align your business for growth for years to come. While most Stifel Marcin clients stay on with us for many years and growth phases, if you do so choose to work with another agency, you are not tied to our services or platforms. We’ll give you your web files you paid for.

2. The ThomasNet® Directory vs. Organic SEO

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.

Thomas claims it will help you rank on Google, Yahoo or Bing for keywords most relevant to your business and your offerings. But it doesn’t. Their priority is driving traffic to their own web properties – the listings on ThomasNet® Directory – and so they work to optimize the search engine rankings of those pages, not your website.

At Stifel Marcin, our search engine optimization is focused on enhancing the organic visibility of your website and its pages. Our experts dive into your site 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. Unfair ThomasNet® Competition in Directory Placement

ThomasNet® directory pricing is based on the competition in your space, not a standard monthly charge. There is no choice to participate with them at silver, gold or platinum levels for example – as with many other monthly service providers. Some of our clients have reported an approach like this: If you are one of the only manufacturer 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 fastener types 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®. But even if you do shell out the funds to do so, many have found the return on investment to be disappointing.

An effective 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 position your company’s benefits and key marketing positions. We develop clear content that emphasizes what separates you from competitors, and we work to generate leads and contacts that go straight to you.

4. Undercutting Your Bottom Line

Because it’s virtually impossible to effectively illustrate the unique value of your services and products in the short paragraph that appears in a ThomasNet® profile, your company is set up to compete on price. Listing you alongside your competitors gives prospective customers an easy opportunity to get multiple bids, and then to pit those bids against each other, creating an environment where cost wins over quality. This can have a negative impact on the ROI you are looking for when signing on with ThomasNet®.

Most purchasers first look to a standard search engine, like Google, when conducting their search – not ThomasNet®. 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 should be focused on your web site, not the ThomasNet® directory.

Moral of the story: In evaluating your needs and developing an effective marketing strategy for your business, consider an industrial marketing agency in your planning process. An agency with no conflicts of interest, with expert marketers, and that is looking at you as an individual client – and not one of many listings on a page – will likely provide a better return on your investment.

Read more about Stifel Marcin’s industrial marketing solutions, or about specific client complaints and industry reviews of ThomasNet®.

ThomasNet Is A Registered Trademark Of Thomas Publishing Company.