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Case Study: How a Manufacturer Increased Sales 30% by Using the Right Vertical Search Engine

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Company: RUD Chain, Inc.
Contact: Greg Luerkens, President and Managing Director
Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Industry: B2B
Annual revenue: $18,000,000
Number of employees: 30

Quick Read:

A Web site isn't much of a marketing tool if your target audience can't find it. Officials at RUD Chain, a manufacturer of high-end industrial chains, discovered that access to a quality vertical search engine was the missing link to getting its Web site in front of key customers.

Until a few years ago, RUD Chain advertised primarily on general commerce-oriented Web sites and in trade magazines. But those avenues produced few sales leads. Moreover, potential and existing customers told the company they had trouble finding its Web site.

Greg Luerkens, president and managing director of RUD, said he was looking for a new marketing strategy when he was approached by GlobalSpec, a specialized search engine for engineers. Because engineers were his key customers, and GlobalSpec offered a range of support services, Luerkens gave it a try.


RUD says its government business has doubled since it started promotions through Global Spec, and it predicts sales of products it advertises on the site will grow 40% this year, versus an estimated 10% rise without the search engine.

The Challenge:

RUD Chain, Inc. based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is a subsidiary of RUD Ketten, a privately held German manufacturer of chain products such as tire chains, industrial and lifting chains, and high-end steel hooks and lifting points. Many of its components are used in government and military products in more than 100 countries.

Unlike other manufacturers and service providers, RUD Chain does not want to market its products directly to its final consumers, because that strategy would be counterproductive.

"If we get in front of the final customer, he always will say our products are too expensive, that there are cheaper alternatives," said Luerkens. "But the engineers see the value and functionality that goes into our products, so they are the people we need to reach."

Engineers aren't easily influenced by advertising, so RUD Chain needed a more comprehensive marketing strategy. It needed a conduit to help direct qualified engineers to its Web site, and then a way to generate qualified sales leads from those visits.

The Campaign:

In the fall of 2004, RUD Chain turned to GlobalSpec, which at that time was just establishing itself as a major vertical search engine for engineers. Now the site has more than 3.5 million users and offers several dozen monthly email newsletters for specialized segments of the engineering world.

This specialization is attractive to RUD, which particularly targets two categories of engineers—industrial and mechanical. Many industrial processes involve lifting and transport of material, and many mechanical processes involve lifting mechanisms that get designed into final products.

By making use of GlobalSpec's marketing tools—e-newsletters, catalogue programs, and product announcement billboards—RUD found itself right in front of the audience it had been looking to draw. This was especially appealing for a company like his with no internal marketing resources.

Luerkens found that paying top dollar for placing articles about his products in GlobalSpec's newsletters paid off. "It was better to pay more money for fewer articles that reached a higher-level audience. The sales leads they generated were better."

The sales leads were better, Luerkens said, because all GlobalSpec leads came with a minimum amount of useful information, such as the person's name and email, the company name and address, a list of RUD products he or she viewed, and usually a phone number. That gave a RUD salesperson the opportunity to promptly make a follow-up phone call and offer to answer questions about the products the person viewed.

As opposed to other sales leads, several GlobalSpec leads turned into valuable repeat customers. Many government and military contractors use the site, and RUD has had success in reaching this audience.

Through GlobalSpec, RUD lifting products have been designed, or spec'd, into the final 31,000-pound Cougar armored fighting vehicle now being used by US troops in Iraq. "That is a huge advantage because once you are spec'd into a final product, it's very difficult for the competition to come in," Luerkens said.

The Results:

RUD has seen its government business double since it began working with Global Spec in late 2004. It expects this year to post 40% growth in sales for its industrial products that are advertised on Global Spec (it advertises roughly 25% of its product line on the search engine.)

An added benefit is that about 30% of the leads come from outside the US, and RUD can hand them off to its foreign subsidiaries.

Finally, RUD has been able to use GlobalSpec for educational outreach efforts about its products. For example, Luerkens said a dealer wrote an article about safety and tied it to one of RUD's products. The company kept the article posted on GlobalSpec, which resulted in "more hits on that product than anything else after a year."

Lessons Learned:

  • Acknowledge when you need to change course. Although RUD Chain was advertising on one of the largest commercial search engines a few years ago, it wasn't generating enough sales leads, and it realized it needed a new strategy.

  • When marketing online, specialize as much as possible. One of the big advantages in using GlobalSpec is that it specializes within the engineering world, allowing RUD to target its core engineering audience.

  • Take advantage of all channels an online partner may offer. RUD has had much success by utilizing all marketing venues GlobalSpec offers, paying extra when necessary to get products highlighted in catalogs and specialized newsletters.

    RUD has established such a good relationship with its GlobalSpec representative that the rep often suggests new marketing avenues to try and potential customers to contact, Luerkens said.

Related Links:

Note: Number of employees and annual revenue based on RUD Chain's North American operations only.


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