Manufacturer Web sites should include FAQs to answer common product sales, performance and tech questions. The more honest this content is the more respect it will get. For the supplier, it may also cut down on tech support calls and thereby reduce overhead. photography ©istockphoto.com/laflor
As I finish my 11th year with SSI and Tech Talk I thought I would offer a little treat to our readers. Recently I posed the question to fellow industry colleagues, “What are your favorite manufacturers’ Web sites?” I thought it would be interesting and fun to share some of their suggestions. I hope you enjoy this valuable trade feedback.
‘Must Have’ for Manufacturer Sites
I am sure that as I and many others, you have found the Internet a valuable resource for gaining new and extra knowledge, or as we sometimes call it “subject matter expertise.” At the same time, as Web sites have become more robust and full of valuable content, I am also sure you have had many moments when you searched and expected to find certain material that far too often failed to be present in many manufacturers’ sites.
Before we look at some of the more highly rated online destinations, I want to take a moment and review some of the areas of a trade Web site I feel are important. Additionally, I am hoping some manufacturers and distributors will pick up on these constructive ideas and make sure to incorporate them into their sites. Many of these suggestions are my expectations of a great trade Web site.
For Web sites, content is king. However, in delivering this content it is surprising how many manufacturers still miss the potential marketing and informational opportunities. Following are some site design areas I believe are important for manufacturers to include and what the dealer/integrator should look for when deciding if one is bookmark worthy or not:
Company summary and history — Who are they? Where do they come from? What is their staff’s background? What do they have to offer me that set them apart?
Product information — This is the heart of most good, general content. However, it is often too limited in helping the dealer or integrator feel truly comfortable and confident with the prospect of reselling or using that particular product. More must be done.
Press news — This area should be kept fresh and active. Manufacturers need to realize that if nothing has been posted in a year or more, visitors are left with a very bad first impression.
Awards — What awards has the manufacturer received? Acknowledgement by others within the industry or trade publications builds more confidence in the product. These accolades should be prominently displayed and not just buried in a press release.
Whitepapers/Knowledge base — This information will take one hopefully to the next level of knowledge about that manufacturer’s products.
Case studies — Nothing speaks better than an article that both educates and endorses actual proven applications of the product. It is not always easy to get customers to talk about security, but it’s worth it for the manufacturer to make the extra effort.
Restricted access — Not everything needs, or should be available, for public access. On the other hand, when everything is behind such walls it can be a pain and may deter curious industry prospects as well. There is a delicate balance that requires constant scrutiny and supervision.
Specifications/CAD renderings — All information should be available and handy for an architect/engineer (A/E) or specifier who stops by to research products.
Training material — Only a manufacturer is truly intimate with and knows what is needed to understand and master its products/services. There should be an easy online training program to incrementally instruct site visitors about the products. Needed skills should be specified along with how to obtain them.
Certification — Often for a manufacturer, product certification indicates that a dealer/reseller has achieved a certain level of competency in their product. This can be as little as techs and sales personnel undertaking online testing after they have completed various levels of training. Manufacturers should be motivated to take this extra step. The more knowledgeable the dealers and end users are, the less tech support and handholding and use of valuable resources by the manufacturer.
Video content — Once a novelty, now a necessity. All the products should have video demos of application, installation, sales strategies and troubleshooting. And video sales and promotional content should be available via major Internet resources such as YouTube.
Photo galleries — A choice selection of both low and high resolution product photos should be present. This ought to also include application shots of products being installed, serviced and used. There is often not enough photos and video content available that displays how products can be used and installed. You never know what prospects or media researchers (hint, hint) may be stopping by a manufacturer’s Web site doorstep.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) — These should answer common product sales, performance and tech questions. The more honest a manufacturer is with this content the more respect it will get. For the supplier, it may also cut down on tech support calls and thereby reduce overhead.
Mobile device optimization — The rise in smartphones and tablets has made this essential especially when needing to access information in the field. Often a standard site will not display or function properly on one of these devices.