The Thomas Register of American Manufacturers has been a mainstay on industrial buyers’ desks, and in manufacturers’ media plans, for more than 100 years. The first part, at least, is about to change. Following the 2006 edition, Thomas Industrial Network will cease publication of the “Big Green Books” and Regional Buying Guides, instead making the database available exclusively online.
“It has been our strategy for the last 10 years to eventually eliminate the print properties. It was just a matter of how long it would take,” said Linda Rigano, director of strategic alliances and new business development at ThomasNet, the business entity formed last August to house the online versions of the Thomas Register and Regional Buying Guides.
Rigano said that Thomas performed extensive research to determine the best way to serve its advertiser clients and the buyers who used the information in the company’s databases. “The timing of this move was dictated by the users. All of the factors were staring us in the face saying all of our buyers are online,” she said.
ThomasNet provides free listings to any industrial business, with enhanced listings and placement available for a fee. About half the traffic to the database is from direct-to-site visitors, while the other half is driven by Thomas’ search engine marketing efforts. Last year, the company bought more than 10,000 keywords for industrial product searches on Google, in addition to its search engine optimization program.
In recent years, the company has shifted its business model from simply selling traffic to manufacturers’ sites to providing content services to those manufacturers. These services include online product catalogs, e-commerce capabilities, and a library of CAD drawings that buyers can download. Thomas also holds multiple marketing seminars for industrial manufacturers around the country to teach them how to benefit from Internet marketing opportunities.
“We found that driving traffic to their site would only get them so far. We had no control over what happened once they got there,” Rigano said.
The company begins each engagement with marketing consulting services, analyzing a manufacturer’s existing online strategy — if it has one — and then determining the best way to get the company’s information in front of the right industrial buyers.
While that strategy will include advertising on ThomasNet, it will also include other vehicles, including Web site development, search engine optimization and search engine marketing campaigns. Costs vary by client, and are based mostly on CPM and conversion-based payment models.
“Our focus is on the conversion of visitors to their site to customers,” Rigano said. “If a client doesn’t have a good Web site, it won’t do us any good to sell them a traffic-based program, because they’re not going to be back next year.”
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