Manufacturing Bliss: 5 Ways To Make a Manufacturing Website More Customer-Focused
What does a manufacturing website look like? In my post today, I look back on how I took a brochure-ware website and made it more customer-focused.
Recently, a developer asked me what could you possibly add to a manufacturing website to make the site more interactive instead of simply brochure-ware?
Every, and I mean every, company website (including manufacturing websites) should be constantly evolving where a customer can glimpse into the world of <insert industry here> and consider it valuable and fun to visit.
Yes, I said it...fun to visit.
Of course, Coca-Cola and Pepsi are entertaining drinks, so by their very nature, they should be holding your eyeballs for as long as possible. Heck, it's their job!
But what can you do with a manufacturing and service website to where your customers love coming back and consider it a hub in their everyday life.
This was the question asked to me by a fellow developer.
My response was "I built one a while ago."
How was it built?
When I was asked to build up the company's manufacturing website, it was a challenge.
Questions were asked, answers weren't given, and priorities shifted (don't they all) ;-).
I worked with the owner of the business, a designer, and a software specialist to get an understanding of their business. Each one had their own perspective as to what to deliver and how the website could benefit the company as a whole. All three were truly professionals.
After gathering all of the information, I thought of categories for this particular type of website.
Even though I came up with a handful at the time, I think back, look at all of the new technologies now, and wonder, "the website could do so much more."
Determining the Categories
The goal of the website was meant to sell a particular service along with continuing to provide leadership in their field with specialized manufacturing software.
So the site would be service-based sprinkled with features specific to the company's manufacturing goals.
The website consisted of the following categories:
Of course, it doesn't matter if you were selling a service or a product, you need a blog.
As I mentioned above, the site required a primary presence of their services and offered products, but have a number of other customer-focused modules.
For example, a blog.
The blog was meant as an add-on to update and inform the customer as to what the company has in store to help the customer even more. This makes their experience all the better.
The possibilities are endless when you have a blog. You could:
- Provide a survey to find out which version is the best
- Announce new services
- Provide tips and tricks in the software on a weekly basis
It would also send them deeper into the site depending on their needs.
Also, when a blog post was written, they could subscribe to the RSS feed and receive the latest news from the company.
A download area was created to assist the customer with any software issue.
The downloads of the site provided a centralized area for:
- The latest versions of their software
- Training materials, documents, and guides to assist if they had questions
- Sample projects to kick-start their own projects
While this wasn't absolutely necessary, this download module gave the customer a "one-stop shop" for pulling down any software update, tutorial, or sample project.
When these downloads were uploaded, there would be a blog post created to let the customer know about the update.
Another customer-focused module was the Events and Training. The classroom is onsite and they scheduled certain events and training for a number of people who signed up for the class.
This was also custom-built back then, but nowadays, they have plug-ins for this type of work (although I haven't seen one lately).
Again, an announcement could be posted on the blog (which was on the home page) and the customer would see the schedule, head to the training section, and schedule a class.
While this feature wasn't included in the primary release, it was discussed, but never implemented.
A FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page (and administration section) was added to the site as well. It's also extremely easy to add question and answer items into a website dynamically so this was a no-brainer.
This feature was for the easy softball questions, but for anything that required "more meat" was added to the library as a document download.
Based on the features included on the site already, it still has value based on these customer-centric, quick-win modules, but how could you add more value for the customer?
For a manufacturing site, possible features include:
- Forum - A community-based section for your die-hard customers to discuss their own software tips and tricks.
- Social Presence - Your website can be the hub, but others will want to chat on other social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Directory - This could be a directory of partners, recommended manufacturing websites, or directory of reputable manufacturing business owners.
- Job Board - Provide a board for not just your company, but for the manufacturing industry (and possibly charge $?)
- Videos - Provide a videocast to show how to use your software better.
- Podcast - Create a podcast to interview industry leaders, talk about news occurring in the industry, or give software tricks regarding your software (or have all three in the podcast).
This is just a tip of the iceberg, but you can create a large number of features to make your customers LOVE coming back to your site.
The funny thing about this list is it doesn't have to be just for the manufacturing industry, these are used across multiple industries. It just depends on how you use them.
If you build a passionate website, you'll have passionate customers.
What features would be good for a manufacturing website? Is there a better feature? Post your comments below and let's discuss.