How to Use Product CAD Models to Radically Increase Manufacturing Sales - Part 6

Executive Summary

In this 6 part series of blog posts we’ll present an up-to-date overview of how to use product CAD models to radically increase manufacturing sales.

The 6 parts are:

  • Part 1: Changing Sales and Marketing Trends Create High Impact Opportunity for Industrial Suppliers
  • Part 2: Who Should Use this Opportunity & What Benefits Should You Expect
  • Part 3: How to DO IT RIGHT – The Role of Search (Catalogs, SEO, SEM)
  • Part 4: How to DO IT RIGHT – The CAD Models (Obtain, Maintain, Present, Syndicate)
  • Part 5: How to DO IT RIGHT – The Business Model (including Partners and eCommerce)
  • Part 6: How to DO IT RIGHT – Common Mistakes to Avoid

Typical Industrial Products that benefit from online marketing with product CAD models

Below is Part 6 - the final part of this series of blog posts.

Part 6: How to DO IT RIGHT – Common Mistakes to Avoid

1. Not Recognizing that CAD Model Marketing is Selling

Most modern sales research we’ve seen indicates that buyers are at least two thirds through their journey before they contact a vendor. That changes Sales and Marketing's roles and we all need to adapt.

Marketing is sales now because it is Marketing, not sales, that usually guides buyers through the early stages. To do that Marketing needs to engage customers across an expanding array of channels, efficiently and quickly at every stage of the buyer’s journey. The three mechanisms for Marketing to do this are Content Marketing supported by Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and measured with Analytics.

The only reason not to do this is if your management team thinks your buyers aren’t researching online, in which case where do they think your customers go to find the parts they need?

Recognize that CAD models are one component of your Content Marketing, one that is very early in the sales funnel and usually long before any contact with you sales team. Your CAD models, with good SEO and the support of other content, such as product detail pages, and a faceted search catalog can generate sales and sales leads. For maximum effect, treat your CAD model downloads as a component of the user experience you offer, not as an isolated service.

2. Poor Online Catalog Design or Functionality

Many industrial suppliers add CAD drawings, CAD models, and 3D viewers to their web site without giving enough thought to the organization of their online catalog.

Paper catalogs have been refined over many years to optimize the product search and PDF catalogs are often exactly the same layout as the paper catalog though perhaps in multiple files. We can navigate a 300 page paper catalog very efficiently after only a few minutes. Paper catalogs are very useful when they are current and available. However the minute a paper catalog is printed, it is typically out of date and engineers don’t have days to wait for a paper catalog to arrive via the mail.

For many their initial digital catalog was a PDF file or files equivalent. This could be kept up-to-date more readily but compare the usability of the paper catalog to visiting a company’s web site and having to navigate 1 or say 100 PDF files. Users don’t have the time to wait for PDF files to open, never less attempting to navigate and search them.

Although URLs for CAD downloads can be added to any PDF file or website the best solution is to use an online digital catalog, well designed for easy navigation and search for your products. For more on Catalog design and functionality see this page.

3. Poor Online CAD models

Whoever you choose to build and maintain your online CAD models ensure:

  • They are highly trained in CAD systems and can build models for full functionality in all the CAD systems you customers are likely to be using
  • Allow for motion control, relational and parametrically driven parts as well as derived 2D dimensioned drawings if required by your customers
  • Your CAD models protect your intellectual property (IP).

Probably the best solution is to use a service that can build, host and maintain your CAD models, Catalog, Configurators in a 'one stop shop'. The second best solution is to use a 3rd party CAD factory, but you then have the difficulty of managing and coordinating the 3rd player. Building your own models should be the last choice, unless you have spare engineering capacity. However, once the CAD models are created, it is important to ensure that the associated attributes (Manufacturer, part number, etc) are consistently and accurately included because this helps ensure that your components are ordered when buyers later process the design. It is usually preferable to ensure that your downloadable CAD models are only promoting your brand - ensure that file names aren’t promoting the CAD supplier.

4. Configurable Products but NO Online Configurators Available

If your products are configurable let customers configure them online and link their completed and validated configurations directly through to your ERP system. See more on online configurators here.

5. Poor or Non-intuitive Local Search

Digital Catalog Design and Search Capability matters tremendously! If we are saving people time by downloading instead of building CAD models, then it has to be much quicker to find the CAD models than to build the CAD models. The success of Google is based on helping users quickly find items relevant to what they are looking for (even if it’s 50,000 web sites). An Industrial Supplier's web site needs to accomplish this same goal but with higher relevance pertinent to the part and attributes the user is seeking. Bottom-line: your catalog search capability must appropriately address the needs of your product lines in a solution that intelligently addresses your customers likely search needs. Probably this solution should include keyword, part number (including competitors' part numbers) text, parametric and faceted search supported by graphical image selection and attribute sorting navigation.

Think though the most common types of searches of your customers. For example, here are two:

  • The user knows the part number. Should be straight forward but what if the part number they know is a competitor's number? Will your equivalent part be found? Or some manufacturers’ part numbers are represented by ’smart part numbers’ that detail the selected configuration - in this case the search needs to include a check validating the part number entered by the user is indeed valid (representing a valid configuration). Look at this award winning industrial catalog site as an example.
  • The user doesn't know the part number but knows the attributes or some parameters of the product they need. This is where things get more interesting - some products lend themselves very well to an image-based search if images distinguish one part from another. But what happens though when two parts have the same exterior image, but very different internal features? Image search can be combined with parametric or attribute-based search (for example see the Gates Industrial Fluid Power catalog, www.gates.com/designconnect - after a free registration users are presented with three search options for each product category). The coupling locator search is the next evolution of Gates Fluid Power’s online catalog. Similar to filtering columns in a spreadsheet, users can quickly filter any of the 6 attributes to find the right coupling for their engineering design. The locator search has built in side-by-side product comparison for efficient part selection, and once you select the coupling you need you can immediately see a list of hoses that work with the coupling you selected (or visa-versa).

6. Poor Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is a fast changing field as explained in Part 3. We recommend that unless you have in-house SEO skilled individuals then hire or out-source to an expert. For one fairly simple example that shows how easy it can be to get less than effective SEO, take a look at this blog post. Always ensure that your online marketing solution accrues 'google-juice' to your company URL, not to some other company's URL!

7. No eCommerce

We, and a lot of others, have written many blog posts about the acceleration of eCommerce in general and in the industrial space in particular. We've also written about our eCommerce recommendations for industrial suppliers, such as in this post.

8. Ignoring the Costs of In-house Software Development

Do it yourself (DIY) Software Development, using Boxed Software, using Open Source Software and Customizing Software can all be extremely expensive mistakes as this Four Horsemen of eCommerce Apocalypse blog post explains.

9. Using the Wrong CAD Viewer

To enable and encourage correct product selection the 3D CAD Viewer within your industrial website Catalog or Configuator needs to enable fast CAD model manipulation and viewing (pan, zoom, rotate, etc.) of fully rendered and 'lifelike' 3D Product CAD models within the browser!. It needs to provide all that effortlessly and seamlessly to users. A common software mistake is to rely on downloadable CAD viewer software that might be blocked for simple security reasons. Therefore use a 3D Viewer that doesn't require installing any additional executable, activeX or flash software.

Users are often justifiably fearful of downloading and installing new software and as a result industrial B2B websites can lose control of the user experience or give a poor one. Not requiring any additional downloads is the obvious answer. The CDS 3D Viewer delivers it using WebGL technology available in most modern browser versions!

Part 6 completes this Blog post series for industrial suppliers. If you have any questions please comment below, call us to discuss them, see this FAQ or click either button below

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