What Are They?
Online Marketplaces are Web-based platforms that bring buyers and suppliers together to discover, collaborate, purchase and partner more efficiently. They can best be described as the natural evolution from directories and search engines by providing the environment (industry) and the tools to enable those efficiencies. Online Marketplaces for manufacturing combine the power of search and directories for discovery phases with tailored industry- or application-specific categories, unique tools for collaboration & messaging, requests for quote (RFQs), intellectual property protection, and other tools unique to the manufacturing buying cycle.
Why Are They Important?
Unlike other marketplaces for the consumer markets (like eBay, for example), manufacturing-focused marketplaces naturally attract the leads that are looking for the machining and manufacturing services you provide. Therefore, you can market your business to buyers with very specific needs. Once a connection is made with a prospect, you can collaborate, discuss prints, exchange information and portray your expertise throughout the sourcing process. All of this is done within one platform. Simply put, Online Marketplaces make it easier for you to meet qualified leads and prospects for your business. Online Marketplaces have driven efficiencies into the sourcing and award processes for both buyers and suppliers. Because they are more efficient, they attract large numbers of buyers looking to save time and lower costs associated with locating new suppliers and traditional RFQ award processes. Like Social Media platforms, Online Marketplaces for manufacturing markets like yours offer one of the best platforms for developing new relationships with companies and buyers. But unlike facebook and LinkedIn – with their broad audiences and behaviors – Online Marketplaces attract the right audience (your prospects) with the right intentions (looking for companies and services like yours). Buyers and prospects you meet on industry-focused Online Marketplaces identify themselves at the moment in time that they need your services most, making them very valuable.
Key Elements & Considerations:
Like all successful marketing efforts, success in an Online Marketplace takes work – they won’t win work or customers for your business simply by joining. You will still have to create quotes, communicate with buyers, and develop relationships
Focusing only on an RFQ reduces the odds of success in an Online Marketplace. It’s best to combine the information within an RFQ with intelligence you can gather about the buyer and the company’s behaviors. Do they typically go with the lowest cost? Do they typically award to low-cost countries? Do they have a low online award rate? These characteristics will help you identify poor matches for your business, and save you work by reducing the number of quotes you create for work you’re unlikely to win
Completing a thorough, accurate company profile in a marketplace is critical – not only to educate prospects that are researching you within the marketplace but also as a valuable outpost leading to your Website. Creating a profile in an Online Marketplace with free membership can be very effective, if only for the search engine optimization (SEO) value to your Website alone. Before joining, ask if the marketplace optimizes your presence for SEO prominence
Many mature Online Marketplaces provide ratings systems for buyers to rate suppliers, as well as for suppliers to rate buyers. This feature can be extraordinarily effective for suppliers with high ratings to attract and win future work from buyers within the marketplace
Online Marketplaces can also be used to support your business even if you prefer face-to-face, ‘traditional’ selling tactics. Locating and creating lists from an industrial marketplace of active leads in your area can be very useful for identifying local prospects for direct contact
Like on the Web, losing an award in an Online Marketplace can be an opportunity – you’ve made a contact that values the specific services and applications you’re expert in. Follow-up with that prospect can often lead to work in the future
There are Online Marketplaces for manufacturers that operate under varying business models. Some are free, some charge for time-based subscriptions, and others charge a percentage of each awarded RFQ/job. Before joining any Online Marketplace, it’s best to assess its value from the number of buyer and supplier members, the number and value of RFQ activity for the applications you provide and the industries you serve, and your specific business objectives before joining
Examples of active Online Marketplaces for machining & discrete parts manufacturing:
GlobalSpec (a directory that also enables discovery and collaboration between buyers & suppliers)
B2GMarket (a marketplace to collaborate with government agencies & departments)