ThomasNet is an information and technology company that connects buyers and sellers in the industrial B2B commercial space. But does this connection still work in 2019?
What is ThomasNet?
ThomasNet is the domain name of Thomas, an online platform that merges product search technology with information-rich company profiles so that users can make educated decisions when choosing a supplier. Users such as engineers, plant managers, procurement managers, and MRO buyers can search the Thomas Network for the supplier that best suits their needs.
These suppliers include manufacturers, distributors, and service providers. Thomas also works with suppliers to provide strategic website development, tools, and technology to help them manage and share their product and service data internally and externally. They have a variety of marketing services available for clients.
In the first stage of starting a new industrial project, a buyer is defining the requirements of the products or services that their company needs, whether it be CNC milling services, packaging materials, or a custom valve. It’s crucial for potential suppliers to identify the total available market for their products or services, and to have their shipping policies and options on their website and the Thomas Network, in addition to promoting their business information through advertising and sponsored content to reach these prospects.
Thomas also has a news platform, Thomas Insights, that posts articles on industry trends, manufacturing innovations, engineering and design, industrial sales and marketing, supply chains, company news, and new products. Suppliers also post white papers and press releases. Thomas Insights has a newsletter that can deliver Industry-focused news by email each day.
Does Thomas Work in 2019?
Thomas’s main client-base is small businesses, often companies who may be using the newest manufacturing technology, but have outdated websites and marketing strategies. After being a Thomas client for five years, a 100-year-old glass fabrication company in New York average 200 more orders a day. They had been trying for years to get a contract with a medical imaging company, and after one week with Thomas, they received a request from one.
A family-owned custom plastic extrusions company in California was having a hard time competing with overseas manufacturers until they became a Thomas client. In 2016 they averaged 4.1 new customers a month. Thomas revamped the company’s website and has now become their largest stream of leads.
In Florida, a deep drawn metal stamping company outsourced their website development and marketing to Thomas and started to notice a difference in the quantity and quality of work that came in. They snagged a million and a half dollar contract with a new customer that they attribute to Thomas. They expect to break their annual sales record this year.
Thomas’s website has customer testimonials that show how becoming a Thomas customer has helped their businesses. One raw metals distributor in Florida says, “I would not have a business today if it weren’t for Thomasnet.com.”
History of Thomas
Thomas started as Thomas Publishing in 1898. The founder, Harvey Mark Thomas, published the first Thomas Register in 1905. It was called Thomas Register of American Manufacturers and First Hand in All Lines and was 1,228 pages long. It became known to manufacturers and engineers as “The Big Green Books,” and contained listings of industrial suppliers. From there, Thomas Publishing continued to expand the Register and debuted a new publication, Industrial Equipment News in the 1930s.
In 1995 the Thomas Register was debuted online, and the next year Thomas started to produce digitized versions of the Register on CD-ROMs. This eventually led to the last printed edition of the Register in 2006, when they shifted their resources to Thomasnet.com. Since then, they have added a variety of new products for suppliers and buyers alike. They overhauled their site in 2018 and shortened their name to simply “Thomas” to unify their brand. They now have over 700,000 active registered users and are still growing, according to a ThomasNet review on Glassdoor.
Thomas Marketing Services
Thomas ‘s marketing services for suppliers include content marketing, website design, pay-per-click/SEM, social media marketing, email marketing, and SEO. Content marketing is a marketing method that focuses on creating and distributing valuable content to attract targeted customers. Thomas’s marketing specialists work with clients to create content such as videos, blogs, eBooks. Website design involves SEO specialists building client sites on the WordPress platform and creating eCatalogs for clients.
Pay-per-click, or PPC, is a model of advertising where clients pay specifically for engagement on links, typically with Google Adwords or a social media campaign. Social media marketing is often ignored by manufacturing companies, but Thomas claims that when fully optimized, companies can use social media to increase their traffic by up to 300% and boost lead generation by 150%.
Thomas uses HubSpot for email marketing to boost lead generation, reduce cost-per-acquisition, and improve retention. SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it helps to make companies appear further up on search engine results pages. In the digital realm of websites, internet only won’t just help you. There has to be a lot work that needs to be done on the web marketing. Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms, so Thomas’s SEO analysts are constantly monitoring clients’ programs. Thomas clients can use one or more of their marketing services to attract new business.
The Thomas Network is industry’s largest and most active buying community. On ThomasNet, you’ll find a supplier discovery platform with over 500,000 suppliers, over 300,000 articles and whitepapers from those suppliers, product catalogs for over 6 million industrial products, and over 10 million downloadable CAD models.
Suppliers can get listed on Thomas for free, make their own changes to their profile, and upload certifications and diversity information. To take full advantage of Thomas’s services, they recommend becoming a client. Paying listers can buy ranking in various categories so that they show up first in the user search for a heading such as “metal fabricators.” They can also upload press releases to their Thomas profiles, and begin to take advantage of Thomas’s other marketing services. There are many different contracts at different price points that suppliers can purchase to become paying listers.
Suppliers can use Thomas’s WebTrax to track their site’s users. Webtrax lets suppliers track in-market buyer activity across various digital marketing efforts. It tracks, stores, and presents the data in one dashboard. It follows buyers visiting the supplier’s website, their Thomasnet.com profile, viewing their eCatalog, downloading their CAD or BIM files, or even calling them by phone. WebTrax can be customized to let the supplier choose the characteristics of their ideal customers and tracks these users to see how they’re interacting with the website. It also has advanced bot filtering. Many suppliers qualify for a free WebTrax account, and Thomas’s analytics platform so far has over 11,000 users.
WebTrax lets its users see their total and targeted sessions across their site and their Thomas Network profile. It tracks visitors by organization name at the individual page level and reviews their activity over time. It gives suppliers access to analytics such as average visit duration, average pages viewed, bounce rate, white page search terms used, amount of sessions, top pages, top entry pages, and top exit pages. Thomas employees can help with WebTrax setup, and a support team is available should questions or issues arise.
Thomas Connect is one of Thomas’s newer products. It’s a simple way for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to deliver approved product data across various sales channels. Thomas’s clients can create and maintain that data, publish it online, give it to their distributors, and put it their Thomasnet.com profile. In doing so, Thomas Connect makes it easy for distributors to populate their websites with real-time, OEM-approved data.
Product data is uploaded with a comma-delimited format onto the Thomas Connect platform via their online interface. If the data hasn’t been digitized yet, Thomas can quote a price for converting and uploading it. It’s free for the first connect with the partner OEM or distributor. Adding more partners activates an annual $850 base license fee, plus a fee of $600 per every additional partner.
Thomas Navigator is an online product catalog that Thomas offers to clients. It’s designed for complex industrial products and allows suppliers to provide potential customers with CAD models and product specifications. It has advanced search and configuration capabilities, which helps professionals find products by keyword, individual part numbers, characteristics, and dimensions. Users can also download specs, drawings, and CAD models in over 25 industry standard formats, generated from the data in the Navigator database.
The Thomas Navigator can live on Thomasnet.com or the supplier’s site. Thomas employees work with clients to build a catalog customized to the client’s unique products or services. Since many manufacturer’s don’t have an in-house technology department, outsourcing a product catalog can be a new way to reach potential customers in an increasingly technology-based world.
Thomas may be a 120-year-old company, but it has constantly been adapting to new technologies, and in 2019, its customers still see growth and success. Industrial suppliers who are struggling with marketing themselves can use Thomas services and products as a way to update and strengthen their business.