There’s no question that the economic slowdown has taken an enormous toll on the industrial and manufacturing sectors. But despite the downturn, the glass, in my view, remains half full for industrial businesses, including the many firms that we talk with every day. Companies are telling us they’ve been able to keep sales level with last year’s — or even increase them — by diversifying into new markets, and attracting more overseas clients. They’re making better use of the Internet to extend their reach, and it’s working.

How can your company, too, stay “recession-resistant” during the downturn, and position itself for new growth? As a first step, take stock of your unique selling proposition (USP), and how that translates into a unique value proposition (UVP) that will appeal to new buyers. Then, make sure that your Web site reflects these differentiators. Research shows that 50 percent of industrial buyers choose suppliers based on what they see on their sites.

What Sets You Apart?

To identify your USP, ask yourself:

  • What are our core competencies as they relate to meeting customers’ needs?
  • What do we offer that is integral to our customers’ ability to do business?
  • How can we deliver added value and turn our customers’ ideas into reality? In answering questions like these, you will identify new ways that you can differentiate your company’s products or services. And along with differentiation comes discovery of your UVP. Think about repositioning your core competencies as UVPs in terms of solving problems for your customers. These may include:
  • Delivering cost efficiencies.
  • Delivering products faster.
  • Offering customized products for unique applications.
  • Enhancing customer service benefits.

Taking Your UVP to the Web

When you understand your company’s UVP, you are in a position to more effectively communicate it over the Web.

Industrial Specialties Manufacturing of Englewood, CO — which supplies miniature pneumatic, vacuum, and fluid circuitry components to OEMs and distributors all over the world — has successfully followed this strategy. The company offers 150,000 individual products for a broad range of markets — from medical, laboratory and research to automotive. Its UVPs include an exceptional focus on the customer, as evidenced by its ability to fill large and small orders, including those with highly customized requirements, on time and with tremendous accuracy. By enhancing its site with a comprehensive online catalog, complete with parametric search, item comparison, and RFQ capabilities, ISM increased sales 15 percent from March 2008 to March 2009, and improved penetration in key markets.

Use VSET to Maximize Site Impact

In addition to reinforcing their UVP, Industrial Specialties Manufacturing used a ThomasNet strategy called VSET to improve the effectiveness of its site. VSET involves four “steps”:

  • Verify – Ensure that your site makes it easy for prospects to immediately determine that you have what they are searching for. Research demonstrates that companies only have 5 to 8 seconds to do this before prospects hit the “back” button.
  • Search – Give buyers the flexibility to look for your products in multiple ways.
  • Evaluate – Provide enough detailed information for prospects to make buying decisions, such as side-by-side comparison capabilities and downloadable CAD drawings.
  • Take Action – Offer multiple ways for buyers to request additional information or make a purchase, from a phone number on every page to shopping cart technology.

UVP + VSET = Momentum

As history has demonstrated, companies who take leadership positions and create high profiles in their respective markets during times of economic uncertainty are the ones who ultimately move up in a downturn. Let your UVP help build your momentum over the Web.

For more information, contact Susan Orr at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit .

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the August, 2009 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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