CAD models as a new(ish) type of ‘sticky content’ for manufacturers

by Jeff Drust

The buying process for manufacturers of components (e.g. bearings) or engineered products (e.g. motors) has changed. Potential customers of industrial suppliers now research and select products online, often before even talking to a supplier. To adapt to this change and remain in contention, industrial suppliers’ websites have to be more engaging and efficient than ever before. These websites are now frontline sales tools so the sale is won or lost online.

The crucial role of websites in industrial decision making today cannot be overstated. Web sites are now ‘table stakes’ for industrial component suppliers. In the new way products are now searched for online, if yours aren’t found you’re not even in contention, let alone competing for the sale. And the way to improve your odds of success is to have really intuitive catalog/configurator supported by downloadable CAD content of your products on your website.

Websites must enable customers to quickly find the ‘right’ product easily. And product presentations must “stick” to the prospect, capturing their interest and showing why they are the right solution. Smart industrial part and component suppliers are realigning their selling processes to this new buying process by using online product catalogs (maybe configurators too) and CAD downloads of product models on their websites.

By offering CAD downloads of their components (eg gears) or engineered products (eg motors) industrial suppliers:CAD models as a new(ish) type of ‘sticky content’ for manufacturers

  • save CAD designers time – download rather than draw from scratch
  • get their parts/components included in new designs by the real decision maker – what could be stickier than being included in a new CAD design by the designer
  • get in front of the traditional buying process – rarely do buyers challenge what designers have spec’d in so often the CAD model leads directly to one or more sales.

As with other content types, requesting registration in exchange for downloads attracts sales leads – but because of the extremely high relevance of CAD models (i.e. the product selected and included in a design) these leads that have proven to close faster and in much higher proportion than other leads. If you’re interested in case studies on the use of this type of content look at, in particular the jwwinco.pdf (a distributor) and the tompkins.pdf (a manufacturer) case studies.

A final point about the use of content to build and nurture customer relationships – this is a very symbiotic process that provides good value to both parties. The designer saves considerable drawing time and is assured of an accurate/error free model from ‘the source’. The supplier of course wants to sell their parts/components and in return may just ask for an email address which could be a very qualified lead. The supplier may additionally use that email address to keep designers informed.

For example, if the downloaded part or model gets updated the supplier could send out very useful notification emails to whoever has downloaded that part. Essentially the ‘trade’ is a design productivity boost for an email address – seems fair to me and far more symbiotic than most business sales processes.

Author: Jeff Drust is  VP Marketing at CDS(Catalog Data Solutions), a leading provider of software for product search, configuration and online CAD solutions.

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