IMC Intuition

Thinking out loud about all things IMC

New Media in Industrial B2B –If Not Now, When?

with 4 comments

There are few examples of the successful application of emerging media in industrial B2B, however one of the most surprising and effective examples is ThomasNet, owned by Thomas Publishing LLC.  Not familiar with ThomasNet?  From their Press Room, “ThomasNet ( is the leading online destination connecting industrial sellers and buyers worldwide…ThomasNet provides access to over 607,000 industrial companies, indexed by 67,000 product and service categories.”

 Harvey Mark Thomas founded the original media property, the Hardware and Kindred Trades, in 1898.   The original book was later renamed the Thomas Register Directory, and when I started working in the industrial furnace business in the 1970’s, Thomas Register was the all-inclusive source for industrial suppliers that was an essential part of any purchasing or design library. 

 I do not know whether or not Thomas invented the “pay for position” business model now used for Google AdWords and other internet advertising, but they had perfected it in the 80’s and 90’s when most industrial companies had 5-6 figure advertising programs. Around 1995, Thomas saw the future of the internet and embarked on an ambitious program to use this new media to expand.  They offered free websites for their small customers and packaged media deals for both print and on-line.  They viewed on-line as an additional revenue stream, because the billings could not compare to the print version.

 By 1999, no one wanted the books or the CD’s because by then, Google was mainstream – people cancelled the books, and the website lost its appeal.  Why go to Thomas when you could use Google to find what you are looking for? Thomas lost clients in the droves.  They did their research and re-invented themselves, keeping the best from their legacy brand, and expanding their website from a print catalogue on-line, to a highly interactive resource where buyers can download CAD drawings, do e-commerce, participate in discussion forums, download RSS feeds, watch videos, read white papers, post press releases, receive topic specific newsletters, download gadgets & games and link to the ThomasNet My Space, Facebook, Twitter and Linked In sites.

ThomasNet took a huge hit in billings during the transition from a print + on-line to a new media business model, nonetheless, they have re-invented themselves making a 100+ year old brand relevant. 

ThomasNet competitor, Global Spec, in their <Marketing Maven® Blog> says not so fast because engineers and technical staff are not there yet.  In their article, “What Role Should Social Media Have in Your Marketing Mix?” they state, “Social media such as blogs, podcasts and online networking sites are getting a lot of attention, both in the consumer and business-to-business world. Does this mean it’s time for suppliers and manufacturers in the industrial sector to add social media to their marketing programs?  The short answer is: Maybe not yet. However, it is time to learn more about social media and how you might effectively use it as part of your online marketing strategy in the near future.”

 I disagree.  Now is the time to begin to experiment with new media, not just sit on the sidelines – there is a whole new generation of engineers and technical people coming into the work force that will expect to find information via new media channels.  As Gen X and Boomers come to realize the effectiveness of new media tools, they will become ubiquitous. 

What enhances your brand?  Being the first adaptor or the last?


Written by Beth Ryan

May 25, 2009 at 9:37 pm

4 Responses

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  1. […] Original post by MissMarketing’s Blog […]

  2. I tend to agree with the above statement. Just a short decade ago one could hardly imagine the impact of the internet on B2B market. The extreme demand for instant information has driven the growth of the internet. Each new day brings added functionality and capabilities to the web. To this point, users have adapted to countless new techniques that enable them to access more complete information faster, easier and in more user friendly formats. I believe the B2B market will utilize nearly any tool to do business in a more efficient manner. Companies like ThomasNet that provide a multitude of Social media options will be winners in the long run, as it is the market that will decide what works not the publishers. The internet moves forward at an astounding pace, those that dare stand still for very long will be lost.

    Bill Kirdahy

    June 8, 2009 at 7:43 pm

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