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How manufacturers use Web 2.0 applications to get ahead

Supplier: Industracom By: Lena Zak
16 April, 2010

Web 2.0 is not a new technology, but a shift in seeing the internet as simply a place to receive information from a specific source, to a place where information is constantly being created and updated by the users themselves.

The term Web 2.0 misleadingly suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, when in fact no actual update of technical specifications has occurred. Instead, there has simply been a change in perspective to the way users communicate online. Rather than being an inactive spectator, users are now able to apply their knowledgebase to become a valuable for others internet users.

What this means for business, is that companies are given an opportunity to interact with their customers (and potential customers) in a way that has never before been possible. Manufacturing companies can become part of online communities, share their wealth of knowledge and become an invaluable source of information for those seeking answers to their manufacturing dilemmas.

Let's not beat around the bush: today's economic climate is challenging, and as a result, every dollar counts. When it comes to marketing, these dollars need to bring visible results. Therefore, using every opportunity becomes a must. While traditional marketing methods have certainly worked for decades, and continue to do so to some extent, focusing on advertising alone is no longer enough.

According to Adam Boyden, President of Conduit, a US based web publishing company, "Your audience needs to know that you are there – or you are in danger of being forgotten. Luckily for today's entrepreneur the Web 2.0 tools available can help companies connect with customers and improve retention rates."

Creating a bi-directional communication channel allows customers to feel at ease with your company, and to place trust in the brand through a richer customer-engagement experience. At the same time, this allows businesses to obtain quality data and analysis on customer activity.

Through this analysis, a company can begin to understand where their customer base stands when it comes to the intricate balance of 'nice to know' versus 'need to know'. This means truly engaging the customer, and giving themselves the ability to take advantage of every conversion opportunity.

When it comes to truly engaging with customers online, finding a forum where your target market is available may seem like a daunting task. Fortunately for Australia’s manufacturing industry, such a forum does exist, in the shape of IndustrySearch.

IndustrySearch is Australia's leading online information and advertising resource for the business and industrial sector; helping businesses make informed decisions by delivering trusted content, up-to-date industry news, and comprehensive information, on suppliers of machinery, equipment, products, and services.

IndustrySearch users are decision makers in the business and industrial sectors who visit the site for exactly two reasons: to find out what's going on in the industrial sector, and based on that, to find suppliers specific to this industry. With over 50% of the site's audience being senior managers, engineers and technical buyers, in areas such as manufacturing, mining, construction, agribusiness, and logistics, the site gives access to one of the highest concentrations of business decision makers in Australia.

However, simply having access to the users of a site like IndustrySearch, is not enough. Creating interesting, relevant and valuable content, that educates your audience and offers solutions to their problems, while helping their businesses, must be the ultimate goal for any company when creating articles for their Web 2.0 space.

Today's business people are inundated with endless amounts of useless information, which they must wade through to get to the good stuff. To get through, you must stand out. You must communicate in a different way, and do more than just sell products and services. Providing real information is exactly where that point of difference lies.

Forrester Research, a technology and market research company that provides advice to global leaders in business and technology, conducted extensive research of business buyers as early as 2007, and found that 90% of all business purchasing decisions begin online. This means that in most cases, before a potential buyer has made any contact with a company, they are already well aware of the services that company provides, and how that company positions itself as a business.

This provides businesses with a golden opportunity that must be embraced. By providing information online – information about your industry, its challenges, innovations, progress and opportunities – you can create an image of your business as a powerful information source; and therefore a source to be trusted when purchasing decisions are finally made.

Unfortunately though, the majority of businesses are set up to sell products and services, not to create and deliver consistently valuable editorial content. This is where IndustrySearch, with its extensive experience of assisting the manufacturing sector with creating relevant and informative user-generate content, can help.

With so many sources of information available, buyers look everywhere for the knowledge that will enable them to make smart buying decisions. They search for content that makes them smarter and the businesses that provide that content win when purchases are finally made. Although in the past we were all sceptical of information that didn't come from unbiased media sources, today's reality has created news readers that are able to quickly sort good content from bad, without necessarily being wary of the information actually coming from a business, rather than a traditional media source.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to be a large company to create quality information for your audience. Nor do you have to have a huge budget. By working with the talent that you already have at your disposal, and with a little outside help, even the smallest companies can do a fantastic job of providing targeted content to their current and future customers.

What's often forgotten by those starting out on the path to content generation, is that you can easily take advantage of what’s happening in and around your business.

For example, do your employees speak and give presentations on a regular basis – to clients, at conferences, or even in meetings? If so, why not record them through video or audio, and quickly create a piece of important, engaging, multimedia content.

If your engineers or personnel create industry documentation, you can also rework it to create valuable articles for your customers and prospects.

The goal is to look at what is already happening in your company, which is undoubtedly full of potential sources of content, which can be reworked and reproduced, to become original and valuable online articles.

What IndustrySearch specialises in is building brand awareness. By using the latest web technologies, IndustrySearch builds your brand online and helps it to stay in front of your competition. This is done through a number of new media tools, including media release publishing, video sharing and eNewsletter distribution – which provide the tools that businesses then use to create awareness, engagement, and ultimately, to create demand for products. After all, IndustrySearch is not just a business directory where each listing is buried amongst thousands of others. Instead it is a large online marketplace where every business can present itself the way it wants, and therefore truly stand out.

The final question any reader must now ask themselves is how will you know if it's working?

The answer is simple. Advertising on IndustrySearch is different to advertising in traditional media such as magazines and directories. With the power of the site’s online measurement tools, businesses are able to track exactly how many people have seen their ad, how many people read their media releases, how many people visited their website, and how many sales leads they generate through IndustrySearch. With this knowledge, businesses can then quickly tailor their information to ensure its conversion into sales.

When it comes down to it, creating great content is vital. But after it has been created, gaining editorial visibility is what's truly priceless. So while you work hard to write editorial that is interesting for more and more customers, IndustrySearch makes it easy for them to find you.