6 Reasons Metal Suppliers Need Digital in Their Marketing Strategy

Ben Smye
on May 2, 2019

These days, people do everything online. From checking the weather to buying a new car, there’s very little that can’t be done via the internet. Yet in the industrial world, many companies still lag behind. They lack a way to engage new potential customers online.  

Simply having a website is no longer enough: you need digital marketing as a core part of your strategy if you want to reach your customers online. And the way you employ it is also key; by using the right mixture of channels and tactics, you can reach customers at all stages of their journey online (from research to purchase). 

Here are 6 reasons why digital needs to be a core part of your marketing strategy. 

1. Engage with customers earlier in the decision-making process 

As the process of selecting and sourcing materials increasingly moves online, suppliers have an opportunity to reach a wider audience. Perhaps most importantly, it’s possible to reach product developers who are in the early stages of deciding which material to use. 

This is crucial as it’s where you’ll find the largest pool of potential new customers. These are the people you need to influence if you want to expand into different industries and grow your business.  

Let’s take a simple example – an automotive company designing a new car. Imagine that the goal is to make it more fuel efficient than its predecessor. One of the ways fuel efficiency can be improved is by reducing the weight of the car, so the automotive company is likely to be considering materials that help their lightweighting efforts. If your company produces a strong, lightweight material suitable for automotive applications, this is exactly when you want them to find you. 

But too often, companies focus on addressing customers at the bottom of the funnel – that is, people who have already decided what they want to buy. Let’s be clear – these people are important. Serving these customers has a direct impact on revenue today. But if you are only addressing them, your potential market is severely limited.

For long term growth and sustainability, you need to instead think about how you can attract potential customers who aren’t yet aware of your company or materials

2. Cost effective engagement 

The ‘Mad Men’ days are over. You don’t need to spend huge money on a TV or print advertising campaign to reach your target audience. Via digital channels you can engage with a lot of people at a relatively low cost – and quickly. 

In B2B marketing, of course, things are a little different. Rather than huge TV ad campaigns, many suppliers spend big money on trade shows. For a small booth at a large trade show, you can expect basic costs of at least €5000 (that really is the starting point just to get a booth; companies with large booths can spend in excess of €1,000,000 on a single show). 

So, let’s imagine you have a budget of €5000 ($5600). Here’s what you could expect to achieve with that budget across various channels: 

Channel Potential reach Cost per potential visitor (€)  Estimated cost per actual visitor (€)  
Trade show with 30,000 attendees 30,000 people €0.16 / $0.18 (1) €16 / $18 (2) 
Banner ads on industry website 280,000 people €0.017 / $0.02 (3)  €1.78 / $2 (4)  
Google Ads 200,000 people N/A (pay per click model) €2 / $2.24 (5)  
Full page ad in industry magazine 10,000 people €0.50 / $0.56 €5 / $5.60 (6) 
Listing on Matmatch* Over 2.5m €0.002 / $0.0022 (7) €1.18 / $1.33 (8) 

*Note that there are various Matmatch packages, so the cost of listing will vary. 


  1. Trade show potential visitor cost: €5000/30,000. 
  2. Trade show actual visitor cost: €5000/300. 
  3. Banner ads potential visitor cost: Based on $20 CPM – $5600/20 = 280. 280×1000 = 280,000 impressions. Cost per impression – $5600/280,000 = $0.02. 
  4. Banner ads actual visitor cost: based on clickthrough rate of 1% – $5600/2800. 
  5. Google Ads actual visitor cost: estimate for a pretty general steel-related keyword – prices can vary widely from $0.10-$20 per click, but commercial-intent keywords are generally more expensive. 
  6. Assuming 5% of people who see the ad in the magazine act on it.
  7. Based on 2.5m users on Matmatch in 2020 (thus, this is the cost per unique user).
  8. Based on an average of 4225 unique users on your material pages and supplier profile.

Each of these marketing channels has its own benefits, of course. And each can have a role in an effective marketing strategy. But when it comes to reaching more customers at scale, digital channels can be particularly cost-effective.

3. Access a large new audience 

As mentioned at the start, the world is moving online. You can reach many new people via digital channels that you wouldn’t otherwise reach via traditional/offline channels. It comes down to simple maths – for example, at a very large trade show, there might be 100,000 visitors. So, even there, you can only reach a fraction of the people you are able to online.

Again, that’s not to say traditional channels are dead – trade shows are still very popular. They also offer the benefit of meeting people in person. But you can reach a much larger audience via digital channels, and you can reach them throughout the year. 

4. Measurable results 

John Wanamaker, an American merchant during the late 19th/early 20th century, famously said that “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” The sad thing is, even today the same thing holds true for many companies. But it needn’t be the case with digital. 

Nowadays, there are many ways to track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts online. From free web analytics tools such as Google Analytics, through to attribution tools such as Bizible, to CRM tools like Salesforce, it is possible to measure all your marketing in one way or another.  

For example, with relatively little effort you can set up Google Analytics and use it to see how people are getting to your website. With a bit of extra work setting up goals, you can see which channels are most effective at driving users to complete certain actions on your site (such as filling in your contact form). 

You can, of course, get much more sophisticated than that too. With modern CRM tools like Salesforce, HubSpot and Pipedrive, you can track leads from when they first engaged with your company through to a purchase. Thus, you can see which campaigns or activities helped turn them into a customer – from meeting with one of your salespeople to reading one of your blogs. 

5. Better targeting 

Digital offers more ways to reach precise, targeted audiences. For example, you can use Google Ads to only target people searching for very specific things (e.g. ASTM A182 Grade F6a Steel), or LinkedIn Ads to get in front of a specific demographic (for example, design engineers working at large automotive companies in Germany). 

There are also many ways to reach specific audiences via industry websites and platforms like Matmatch. Such sites have an existing audience of qualified visitors, so you know you are paying to reach people who could be your future customers. 

Many traditional marketing channels do not offer such precise targeting options. As a result, you end up paying to get in front of people who are never likely to be your customers. And given that traditional channels can be expensive, that can lead to a lot of wasted marketing spend. 

6. Gain competitive advantage 

If you’re the first company to bring a new product to market, you gain the first-mover advantage. The same theory applies when it comes to digital marketing. 

By now, most companies in the materials industry know that digital is important and are taking steps to take advantage of it. But many others still aren’t or are moving slowly, and as a result, there’s a clear opportunity to gain an advantage over your competitors.

At this stage, if you can get the fundamentals in place, you’ll already be ahead of some of your peers. That means a user-friendly, SEO-optimised website with at least one analytics tool to help you track the performance of your site. Plus, you should at least have started to invest in digital marketing initiatives that improve the presence of your company online. 

Are you already doing digital marketing? What benefits have you seen from it so far? Drop a comment below to share your thoughts. 

And before you go, we have an exclusive offer for materials suppliers. For a very limited time, we’re offering a free digital marketing diagnosis. For this, we will look at your website and digital marketing efforts and provide actionable advice. We’ll help to show what is working and what could be improved. To get your free diagnosis, fill in the form below and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.

Materials suppliers: Request your free marketing diagnosis now

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