Why would you spend money on material databases to generate leads? After all, your company and products are already well-known in your markets and your website already attracts traffic and generates requests.
On the other hand, why would you need a website if you already generate quality leads through material databases like SpecialChem or UL Prospector®?
Actually, BOTH channels are equally critical and complementary in your digital marketing strategy. You will learn why in this post.
1. Understand your buyer’s journey
2. The role of material databases
Understand your buyer’s journey
The buyer’s journey is the path that your leads follow to eventually purchase from you. When applied to the specialty chemicals industry, this journey can be divided in five phases:
- Pre-Project: First, your leads become aware of their pains, problems, or challenges to solve.
- Exploration: Then, they self-educate on the potential solutions to determine which is their best option.
- Screening: Finally, your leads shortlist suppliers and contact their favorites to request samples.
- Test: Your leads will test the sample of your product in real conditions
- Approval: If the test is positive, your product will be approved. And finally, the commercial negotiation phase (purchase!) begins.
Today, most chemical engineers start their journey online, and on their own. They rarely contact suppliers during the Exploration and Screening phases. And when they do contact you, they are already close to their final decision.
And this new way to buy is not only limited to new leads from new customers.
A common misconception shared by many suppliers is that your existing customers will reach out to you at the early stages of their buying journey when they have a need or a project.
But the truth is that most of your existing customers will not contact you. They will go online to find the answers and compare all the viable solutions on their own.
Therefore, listing your products in online material databases is critical to influence the Exploration and Screening phases of the buying process. Your own website will be most valued at the end of the screening phase.
Let’s unravel why.
The role of material databases in the buyers’ journey
Chemical engineers extensively use material databases during the exploration and screening of new products and suppliers for three reasons.
#1 Material Databases are designed for material selection
Chemical engineers primarily use technical data and product datasheets to determine if a product is suitable for their project.
Source: GlobalSpec | 2021 State of Marketing to Engineers
Material selection platforms provide all the information and tools needed to find that technical data to explore and screen products and suppliers. This is not the case on your website. And let’s be honest, most of the time, it is difficult to easily find and access technical data on suppliers’ websites.
On SpecialChem, the technical buyers have access to exhaustive product databases, with standardized technical data. They can use dozens of filters to narrow their product search.
The platform is user-friendly, so they don’t have to navigate to each suppliers’ website to find the right product and then download its technical datasheet and additional documents. They can do it in just a few clicks on SpecialChem.
It is quick and easy for them.
This is why they prefer to use material databases like SpecialChem during their exploration and screening phases.
As a consequence, it is no surprise to see that 42% visits on SpecialChem are related to active projects, based on 35,000 visitors’ feedback.
#2 Technical buyers land on material databases first
When they search for a new chemical ingredient or technical data about a product, chemical engineers mostly land on material selection platforms like SpecialChem.
These platforms outrank results in search engines like Google as they provide the technical data on hundreds of thousands of products, as well as tons of educational content.
This amount of content is the reason why they attract gigantic traffic from active technical buyers on their website: 9 Million visits in 2021 with 70% technical buyers on SpecialChem, and 90% of inbound traffic.
And given the size of these platforms, your website is most likely to fall short in the search engine race.
#3 Your customers even prefer material databases for their new projects
Suppliers’ websites are designed to pursue many goals. And often, too many: branding, news, strategic, HSE and financial communications, plant locations, customer support…
It quickly becomes difficult for engineers to find technical data about your product, or even have a clear understanding of your product and technology offers.
Many of our clients, even the leading large suppliers, have realized that their customers prefer to use SpecialChem to access product technical data for new projects.
Even when they already know the right contacts at existing customers, our clients were not aware of these customers’ new projects until they saw their names on their SpecialChem lead list.
And without this information, they could have missed many of these business opportunities.
This is another reason why material databases are critical to find new commercial opportunities.
The role of your website in the buyers’ journey
Note: Your website may be used for various goals (technical customer support, company news, stockholder updates, etc) but for this section, I will only focus on the generation of new commercial opportunities.
Even though your website can be used by engineers to explore new products, its impact is stronger at the end of the screening phase, especially to tackle the three following concerns that your leads may have.
#1 Are you capable to answer their challenge?
When they visit your website, your future customers want to know if you have already worked on similar cases.
How did you tackle this challenge? What was the result? What can they expect?
And again, they would ideally prefer to get these answers without having to speak with you which is why you must break the ice first with an effective lead follow-up.
#2 Are you reliable?
Your website is your digital identity, and it has a huge impact on your reputation.
If your website is old-fashioned, difficult or confusing to navigate, or is just an empty shell with a contact form, then your leads will not consider you as reliable.
They want to know who you are, the companies you already work with, and where your teams are based.
#3 Are you easy to work with?
Would you consider collaborating (buying from) a company that took three weeks to respond to your request?
There is nothing more frustrating today than having to wait too long to get an answer.
If you are painful to work with, your leads will just run to the competition.
Is the contact page easy to find? Are the contact options convenient? How long does it take a technically competent person to follow-up with this contact request?
These are common indicators that you have to address on your website so that your future customers can see how easy you are to work with.
Material Databases are best to find and generate new commercial opportunities.
As explained, the material databases are the first channels that chemical engineers use in their buying process.
So, if you want to find new commercial opportunities, your digital marketing strategy must be multi-channel.
You need to adapt to the habits of your customers and play by their rules, or they simply won’t find you and won’t consider you.
If I were working for a chemical supplier, I would recommend to:
- Invest in lead generation programs at the best material databases, full force. This is how you will feed your sales pipe with active projects at both new and existing customers.
- Optimize your website to express your reliability, ease to work with, and technical expertise.
- Optimize your lead follow-up to convert your leads into customers and maximize your ROI. Without a proper lead-follow-up, you are wasting all of your investment in material databases.