Did you catch President Trump’s comments to the Department of Transportation on June 9, 2017?
In his 18 minute presentation, he laid out his vision for replacing America’s decaying infrastructure. His main goal is to speed up the permitting process — namely, reduce it from 10 or more years to two years.
If you haven’t listened to his remarks — do so. The best part (7:00 min mark) is when he showed what an actual environmental report looks like for a small road: the report consists of three oversized binders, weighs 70 pounds, and cost $24,000 per page! (Or as President Trump said, “Millions and millions of dollars.”)
The President’s remarks put in my mind those of another president who had a great vision: John F. Kennedy. His vision was to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade (1960s).
At that time, American industry rose to the challenge: people in companies across the U.S. were part of making the vision a reality, notably Thomas J. Kelly of Grumman Aircraft, who designed the Lunar Excursion Module, or LEM, for the Apollo missions.
Whether or not President Trump will achieve his vision remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: he’s deadly serious about removing the obstacles that impede American business.
What this means: More business — especially for industrial manufacturers
Business pundits disagree about whether President Trump’s plans to bring jobs back to the US will work. Many cite the fact that our supply chain has been decimated, and to a certain extent, that’s true.
Authenticity 50, a manufacturer of organic cotton sheets, for example, has them woven by the only remaining US plant that specializes in wide sheeting. 1888 Mills is one of the last domestic manufacturers of towels. Sherrill Manufacturing is the only domestic manufacturer of stainless steel flatware.
But, the story that’s not being told is that it’s small manufacturers who are thriving — due to innovation and process improvements (including automation), local and state investment, and sheer guts and perseverance.
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, in 2014, there were 251,901 firms in the manufacturing sector, with all but 3,749 firms considered to be small (i.e., having fewer than 500 employees). In fact, three-quarters of these firms have fewer than 20 employees.
What I see, from my perspective, is that companies are ready and want to work — and work hard. “Someone wants to give us a huge order or two? That’s a great problem to have. Bring it on!” (I actually had a client say that.)
But, is your manufacturing website ready for this new business?
In my latest Search Engine Land article, “Three Ways B2B Manufacturers Can Capitalize on ‘Made in the USA’ Searches,” I talk about how small manufacturers source products from other manufacturers. The last of a three part series about capturing “Made in the USA” searches, this article covers how buyers, such as Alex Hawthorne, Executive Vice President of Maine-based Mathews Brothers (a window manufacturer) and Brandon Acker, CEO of Titan Abrasive in Pennsylvania, search for vendors.
Suffice to say, a vendor’s website plays a crucial role in helping manufacturing buyer teams research and source new products. I’ve written plenty of articles on this topic, so I won’t repeat myself. Just download and read the 2015 B2B Website Usability Report I did with KoMarketing. The data is still relevant.
But, your website needs to do more than simply communicate you manufacture a specific type of product or provide an industrial service.
The number one problem I hear and read about is jobs — as in, “We can’t find enough skilled people.”
It’s beyond the scope of this article to discuss all the challenges inherent in our existing educational system and worker training pipeline. Lots of really smart people are working on solving this challenge — from organizations such as state MEPs (Manufacturing Extension Partnership) to local partnerships between manufacturers and civic leaders.
But, you don’t have to wait for long-term solutions to take effect. You as a manufacturer can take action right now — by creating a website that will attract younger workers.
To prepare for EASTEC, a manufacturing tradeshow, my colleague Rachel Cunliffe and I went through all the websites of just about every single exhibitor — approximately 500 of them.
At one point I told her, “I can’t look at another poorly designed manufacturing website.” She agreed. It was exhausting. And a little disheartening when viewed from the perspective of potential new hires.
The fact is, if you want to attract today’s younger workers — your website needs to communicate a few things:
So many times, I walk into a manufacturing facility and am blown away by the innovation and the work being done. The feeling of excitement is palpable.
But then you go to the company website, and it’s outdated, clunky, and let’s face it, downright ugly. The outdated website in no way reflects what’s going on inside the company. Worse, it detracts from it.
On top of that, it’s lacking a careers section or any method of applying for a job. And, worse, it’s not mobile-friendly — a must for younger workers who live on their phones.
Result: Potential workers — and buyers, too — head off to another website because the message being communicated is “we’re old, we don’t like change” — when in fact, that message is far from the truth.
Another story that isn’t told is how diverse manufacturing is. Walk into just about any production facility, and you’ll see older and younger people working side-by-side. You’ll see women and men running complex CNC machines or performing other highly-skilled tasks. And yep, you’ll see people of all ethnicities.
At one plant I visited, the company had hung flags representing the countries of their workforce. It was quite impressive.
This diversity is one reason I’m forever advocating that small manufacturers show the people in their building versus showing the building itself.
You can communicate so much by including your employees on your website — without having to say a word about “inclusion,” “gender equality,” “diversity,” or my least favorite, “Our people make the difference.”
“What we do is pretty cool”
Whatever you make, your story is probably pretty amazing. I know, because I see “amazing” whenever I walk into a factory. Yet too often, a manufacturer’s story of innovation, pride, and craftsmanship isn’t being told on the website.
Take for example, our client, Brandon Acker, CEO of Titan Abrasive, who manufactures blast equipment.
At first glance, what he does seems pretty mundane. Blast equipment can be used to prep the surface of metal — for something as high-tech as a jet turbine engine — to removing paint, like from the side of a building. Titan’s old website wasn’t bad, but it didn’t tell the company’s story well, either.
When I visited Titan’s facility in Ivyland, PA earlier this spring, I spent close to six hours listening to Brandon tell me about the business.
He gave me a tour and explained how all the blast equipment components were manufactured. He described the innovations he and his team had made and his plans for the future.
In the middle of him talking, I interrupted him: “Brandon,” I said, “your website doesn’t even begin to tell your story!” I was so excited and so blown away by what Titan was doing and what the company had achieved.
When Rachel Cunliffe began designing Titan’s new website, she read my copy, along with the notes from my visit and said to Brandon, “We need a hero shot of one of your bigger projects.”
The result is this exciting new home page that shows the blast room Titan Abrasive manufactured for a multi-national aerospace company — the largest system Titan has built to date. When Brandon first saw it, his reaction was simply a stunned, “WOW!”
Whether or not you agree with President Trump (or even like him), he is on a mission: to bring back jobs and manufacturing, and to make it easier for companies to do business in America.
While this new activity may not affect your business overnight, I’m predicting that it will in 6 to 12 months.
If you’re a small manufacturer, and your website is outdated, clunky, and not mobile-friendly, now is the time to change it so that you’re ready for this new business activity — both in terms of capturing new business and hiring the best of the skilled workers looking for work.
Your first step to ensuring your website is ready to MAGA is to contact me and Rachel Cunliffe. We have our own mission: Make American Manufacturing Websites Great Again. And we’d love to help you.
To book your free consultation, simply fill out our easy (mobile-friendly) form at https://www.huffindustrialmarketing.com/winning/ and we’ll get back to you promptly.
From Earth to the Moon — HBO mini-series (Highly recommend buying the Collector’s DVD set — fabulous)
Authenticity 50 — Manufacturers of organic, Made in the USA, cotton sheets
1888 Mills — Manufacturers of Made in the USA towels (they have an organic cotton line, too)
Sherrill Manufacturing — Manufacturers of Liberty Tabletop flatware, made from recycled US steel
National Association of Manufacturers — 20 Top Facts about Manufacturing
Search Engine Land — Capturing Made in the USA Searches (a three-part series)
Manufacturing Extension Partnership — A public-private partnership with Centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico dedicated to serving small and medium-sized manufacturers
Titan Abrasive — Manufacturer of American-made blast equipment