Commercial and Industrial Sites Need Advertising, Too

Advertising big brands may be more exciting. Direct response advertising may be more challenging. But there’s another market segment for which Internet visibility is equally important: the commercial/industrial (C/I) sector. Most agencies may never deal with a C/I client, but for those who do there are multiple advertising opportunities out there.

According to a recent joint study by C/I directory ThomasNet and Google, 9 of 10 C/I buyers start with the Internet to source products and services, and one of three says the Internet shortens the sourcing process. After mainstream search and specific company Web sites, buyers next (71 percent) look to industrial destination sites.


The ThomasNet Web site offers two primary advertising opportunities: fixed-cost Enhanced Listings and the Industrial News Room. Enhanced Listings give greater product category visibility, a contact link plus a longer company description, and more detail in the company profile page. To further improve visibility, advertisers can purchase “ranking points.” The more ranking points purchased, the higher up the list the advertiser appears. Enhanced Listing advertisers can also buy a large display “Preview Ad” within their company profile page.

The Industrial News Room republishes companies’ new-product press releases for free but supports the area with ad-sponsored RSS (define) feeds and display ads. Full Story Display ads, a separate offering, are based on a news story or keywords. Sponsorship opportunities of emailed Product News Alerts are also available.

ThomasNet offers a few content solutions C/I supplies can integrate into their own sites to make them more valuable for buyers. Its Catalog Navigator enables suppliers to rather inexpensively get their catalogs online. Its Custom Navigator product allows suppliers to more easily generate request for quotes (RFQs). And its CAD (define) solution enables a site to deliver universally downloadable and readable two- or three-dimensional CAD drawings.


Kellysearch, another C/I search engine, originated in the United Kingdom but now services a global database of industrial companies. Kellysearch is a clean, uncluttered site, which I like. You start with a Google-like search bar on the home page. The initial search delivers matching product categories, along with the number of suppliers in its database matching each category. You can then drill into the results. Kellysearch sells a single display ad shown to the right of this first set of search results under which other search engine Sponsored Links appear.

Within category results, Kellysearch sells top positions on an annual fixed-price basis to advertisers and rotates them weekly among the rest of the advertisers. These advertisers get a direct click-to-site benefit (otherwise users are first taken to the Company Details page) and an Enhanced Profile within the Company Details. Enhanced Profile also entitles an advertiser to a more detailed company description, company logo and banner, and a home page screen shot. The advertiser can also buy an upgrade to have its entire product catalog uploaded to and searchable on Kellysearch.

From the Company Details page, anyone can view how much traffic the advertiser has received from Kellysearch over the past 12 months by clicking on View Traffic Statistics. It’s an instant way for advertisers to see how their Kellysearch advertising may be affecting their site visits. It’s also a nifty competitive intelligence tool for us agency folks.

Three More Opportunities

Kellysearch’s parent company, Reed Business Information (RBI), for whom Kellysearch powers its sites’ OEM Supplier Search, also offers electronic advertising opportunities, in both on-site display advertising and email newsletters sponsorships, Webcasts, online Q and A sessions, and other offerings. The RBI site lists its properties separately. There’s a list of its email newsletters, too.

Cygnus Interactive is another B2B publisher with C/I online advertising opportunities. And a newcomer to the space is, recently launched by a group of former ThomasNet executives.

Though the advertising opportunities are out there, the supplier market hasn’t really caught up to buyer demands. The ThomasNet study uncovered significant gaps in how supplier Web sites meet the needs of the buyers. As Eileen Markowitz, president of Thomas Industrial Network, Inc. states, “Industrial marketers need to address the quality and specificity of the information they make available — so they can start to turn more of their Web site visitors into customers and gain a real competitive edge.”

Related reading