Manufacturers Face Unique Search Marketing Challenges

For readers of this column, the last thing I need to do is explain the value and importance of search advertising. According to recent statistics, more than 1,000,000 companies advertise via Google's AdSense program. And, obviously, those companies range from Fortune 500 to individual entrepreneurs.

However, some companies, such as manufacturers, face a unique set of search marketing challenges. Some manufacturers routinely sell tens or hundreds of thousands of technical parts or products -- with individual SKUs for every part. These companies often place high level ads to create some brand awareness and drive some traffic.  However when it comes to taking advantage of their prospects' online habits and measuring results from their on-line ad spend, these companies face a complex problem needing skilled resources and out-of-the-box thinking to measure conversion.

Realistically, most manufacturers don't have the resources to do proper search campaigns for all the products they want to promote. As a result, the manufacturing industry is a late adopter to search marketing compared to most other industries. 



A recent McKinsey study, "How Companies Are Marketing Online," shows that while American companies in general are very positive about the impact of online advertising, there are barriers to doing more of it: "Although marketers expect to rely increasingly on digital-advertising vehicles, they recognize barriers that could slow the adoption of these tools," the study reads. "The lack of sufficient capabilities at companies or their agencies is the most significant concern, (for both those that are advertising and those that aren't); among online advertisers, for example, about 60 percent of responses indicate that insufficient capabilities are a barrier. Even among respondents at companies that frequently use online tools for all marketing purposes, a full 50 percent of responses highlight capability barriers to advertising."

If many companies have these barriers, then it is a double whammy for manufacturing because:

1. They are already late adopters of the Internet, and they're behind on the learning curve and staff skills for SEM and SEO.

2. The problem of reaching out to an online audience to promote thousands or hundreds of thousands of technical products is far more challenging.

Manufacturers are beginning to understand that vertical search sites can deliver customers who are more qualified than visitors from broad search engines and more likely to be in the process of making a purchasing decision. Vertical search also provides more market tailored capabilities than other online marketing tools.  Particularly in B2B search marketing, user conversion is not clear cut like short-funnel B2C e-commerce.   Vertical sites are created to match the conversion steps supporting B2B decision-making.   For example, for electronic components finding deep information, getting evaluation kits and samples, and getting up-to-date datasheets are strong conversion steps in the decision-making process.

With the traffic generated from vertical or broad engines, a lot of the market isn't prepared for the traffic increase. While manufacturers such as TI have full-service Web sites, some other major players have not defined conversion steps, web analytics tools, or e-commerce capabilities to complete the virtuous circle.

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