The. Online Marketing. in shipping. A ShipServ ebook for Maritime Suppliers

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1 10 The Essentials of Online Marketing in shipping A ShipServ ebook for Maritime Suppliers

2 introduction If you sell things to shipping companies, you re selling to an industry in transition. Orders that used to come in like clockwork are now up for bid. Buyers who used to be on the phone every day are on now. Even more of them and a lot of the biggest ones are doing almost all of their business online. One thing is clear: if you re not good at marketing, selling and servicing shipping companies on the Internet, you re going to lose more and more business to suppliers that are. This ebook is a quick summary of the ten most important things you need to at least be exploring online today. If you re new to Internet marketing, some of it may seem a bit daunting. If you ve been doing some of these things for a while, you know that they re actually incredibly powerful tools and surprisingly easy to learn. 02

3 we re shipserv and we re here to help. We re ShipServ, the e-marketplace for the ship supplies market. We ve helped over 27,000 suppliers just like you market themselves to the global maritime buying community, acquire new customers and fulfil orders. All via the web. As you might expect, we think all this online stuff is a very good thing. Not just because it s how we make our money, but because we ve seen thousands of marine suppliers benefit from the reach, efficiency, accuracy and transparency of e-commerce. Yes, we re Internet evangelists. But we do understand that a lot of companies in shipping are justifiably suspicious of anything that claims to be the next big thing. So this guide is intended to help you make up your own mind. We ve made it as neutral and independent as we can but hope you ll forgive us the odd promotional moment (we just can t help ourselves we love this stuff). Good luck online and do let us know if, when and how we can help. The Ten Essentials of Online Marketing in Shipping 03

4 1 Get your keywords right The Internet has profoundly transformed the way people learn about and locate products. Today, buyers start their purchasing experience with search engines. When somebody uses a search engine, they type words into the search box, such as MAN Diesel or anchor chains. The most popular of these search terms are called keywords or keyphrases. You may not know it, but 84% of people who use Google, the top search engine, never make it past the bottom of page two of the results. Being outside of the top 20 is like having your store in a hidden, backstreet basement. Only really determined shoppers will ever find it. Being in the top 20 listings on Google is like being on Main Street. The closer you are to a #1 search listing, the greater your chances of attracting buyers. The process of getting to the top of the search results is called, in the jargon, Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, and it s all about making it easy for searchers to find you by boosting your position in the listings. Identifying the keywords and phrases that buyers are using to find you is absolutely central to getting a high listing - in both ShipServ Pages (www.shipserv.com/pages), our maritime search engine, and in Google. If you don t describe your products in terms that buyers are searching for, you stand less chance of being found. A powerful keyword tool There are lots of web-based services that can help you decide which keywords to use. But the easiest is to use is Google s AdWords Keyword Tool. 04

5 You need to identify the words and phrases your buyers are using most frequently. If you re a ship s chandler in Hong Kong specialising in the LNG market, your keyphrases are obviously going to be very different than those for a diesel engine parts dealer in Southampton. Try doing some sample searches in Pages and see what comes up. Are your competitors in the results? And if so, how are they describing their business? What can you do to beat them? Once you ve decided your keywords make sure everything you do on-line uses these important phrases. Don t go mad but you ll soon see the benefits! The Ten Essentials of Online Marketing in Shipping 05

6 2 enter the conversation Shipping industry people tend to stick together. That s as true on the Internet as at the industry exhibitions. As a supplier, it makes sense to participate in these emerging online communities. Find out who s blogging about shipping issues. Read the blog posts and comment when you ve got something to add. Our own blog is gaining readers every week. Join the maritime groups on LinkedIn, the business networking website, and participate in the discussions there (you need to create a profile on LinkedIn to join, but it s free). The ShipServ Maritime Trading Network Group, is host to all sorts of interesting discussions. Other blogs and forums we like: N gcaptainforum Sea Fever blog MonsterMaritime 06

7 3 explore banner advertising Your website isn t helping you if nobody visits. Banner ads on leading websites can be an effective way to generate traffic. Look for websites that are tightly focused on the shipping industry and that have done the work to build a large visitor base. ShipServ Pages, the maritime search engine, generates thousands of searches every day and offers some extremely cost-effective advertising options (if we do say so ourselves). We also advertise on the International Marine Purchasing Association website which has the added benefit of supporting the association that works so hard for us all! The most effective web banner ads are the ones that follow these tips: Make the ads distinctive they need to jump off a crowded web page. Make an offer people need a reason to click. Make a special discount or offer a free piece of literature that will help buyers do their jobs. Click through to a landing page just sending people who click on your ad to your Home page may not be the best thing. You might want to create a special landing page that delivers the offer quickly. Remember, click-throughs are the main benefit of web banner ads but they re not the only benefit. You also get the exposure and awareness-building benefits of just being seen in the right places by the right people. The Ten Essentials of Online Marketing in Shipping 07

8 4 make it easy for people to find you Business buyers use search engines to source suppliers. For the shipping industry, there are two that matter: Google The biggest search engine but a general site (put chandler into Google and see what you get!). ShipServ Pages The leading maritime search engine that lets buyers search by product, brand and port. Pages is used by over 12,000 maritime purchasers every week and it s growing fast. The good thing is that by maintaining your supplier listing on Pages, your Google ranking also improves dramatically. We spend a small fortune to maximize our performance on every search engine. So our search results are far better than any single supplier s. In short, maintaining an up-to-date profile on ShipServ Pages not only gets you the targeted traffic from active buyers looking for your solutions; it also improves your Google search performance. Best of all you can get started at very little cost with the ShipServ Supplier Suite. Check it out here: lp.shipserv.com/suppliersuite.html Over 85% of visitors come to Pages via Google search results! 08

9 5 be easy to do business with online We talk to shipping companies every day about e-commerce and their single biggest complaint is that too many suppliers are too difficult to work with online. Many buyers have laid down the law: get online or don t expect to do business with us. The good news: it s simple to serve these customers, win new business and cut your cost of sales: become an approved supplier on ShipServ TradeNet, the industry s trading platform for ship supplies. Yes, this is blatantly promotional but you can t ignore the facts: As of August 2009, over 130 top ship owner/managers and yards use TradeNet every day for their operational purchases These buyers manage over 4,600 ships spending over $1bn per annum by far the largest buying community in the world! They do it because it saves time, money and effort If you re TradeNet-ready, you re more likely to be on the short list Climbing the e-commerce ladder It starts with a Pages listing and progresses to a full catalog upload (so your catalog becomes searchable online). Then, when a TradeNet buyer wants you to submit a quote, you re already a Start Supplier and you receive RFQs and orders by . You manage your RFQs, quotes, purchase orders, confirmations and acknowledgements on the web. Imagine how much paperwork and chaos that eliminates Finally, becoming an Expert Supplier on TradeNet lets you integrate your sales order system for automated quoting, fast fulfilment and in-depth reports on all your activity. The bottom line: your customers and best prospects are doing business online now. Do you want to be easy to do business with or difficult? Let s get you going, shall we? The Ten Essentials of Online Marketing in Shipping 09

10 6 offer helpful content As a supplier, you hold a lot of knowledge about ship supplies and best practice in operations and purchasing. Why not capture this knowledge in a simple white paper or guide that could help purchasers do their jobs better? You can always share this on your Pages listing. Creating and offering useful content is one of the most powerful tools in online marketing. But it can t be all about selling. You need to add real value to the issues people care most about (then you ve earned the right to slip in a sales pitch or two). Once you ve got some valuable content, let people know about it so you can generate traffic and interest from buyers. Use web banners, and newsletters to promote your stuff (we ve got a slot on Pages that s just perfect). Do you have ideas about how buyers can write better RFQs? Or advice on buying spare parts? Share it! 10

11 7 explore social media Social media is just a fancy term for websites where communities share information. Your kids are probably on Facebook (ask them to show you around). It s early days for social media in the shipping industry but it s coming. So now is a good time to get familiar with it. A few ways to do this: Get a profile on LinkedIn and join the right maritime groups (like The ShipServ Maritime Trading Network on LinkedIn: Use Google Alerts: to monitor who s talking about your company, your products, your competitors and any key issues in shipping. Okay, you can spend a lot of time doing this kind of thing but the idea makes sense: start listening to the online conversation and you ll learn about what your prospects care about. Search Twitter (the micro-blogging service that s taking over the world) using using keywords to find out who s out there sharing ideas and links (and while you re at it, why not follow ShipServ? The Ten Essentials of Online Marketing in Shipping 11

12 8 publish your content to social networks Putting your content on your own website or Pages listing is essential. But there are other ways to distribute it that can be even more effective, using the social media sharing sites such as: YouTube; For that corporate video These sites get a lot of traffic. If you publish your content on them, you can earn a share of this traffic and spread the word further than your own website. Scribd; For sharing papers Slideshare; For powerpoint presentations Online Press Release distribution services such as Pitch Engine: and PR.com: 12

13 9 Every you send out during the course of business can carry a promotional message at the bottom. It doesn t have to be crass but it s a great place to tell people about: An upcoming event you re attending Your latest white paper A special offer A resource on your website Your TradeNet ID don t forget the footer of your business Sounds like a small thing but you d be surprised. The Ten Essentials of Online Marketing in Shipping 13

14 10 test everything The beauty of online marketing is that you can test everything, improving your marketing over time. Some of the testing tools and methods are sophisticated but many are very simple. Here s a sample: Google Analytics: is a great way to analyse the traffic to your website where it s coming from and what pages are being most visited. You need to put a little piece of code on each web page but that s easy for your web geek. Link monitoring tools like Link Diagnosis: can show you who is linking to your site. The more backlinks you have, the more traffic. Social media monitoring tools like Xinu: can show you what kind of footprint you re leaving on the social media sites. Keyword tools like RanksNL: can show you who is using what keywords and how many people are searching for them. Dedicated landing pages can be the easiest way to test a campaign. If the only way to reach the page is via a campaign, you know where all the traffic on that page comes from. marketing tools all have built-in reporting so you can see how many people opened your last and who clicked through to which links. Essential insight. Again, some of this may feel a bit advanced but the principle is simple: that which gets measured gets managed. If you test your online marketing efforts, you ll improve over time, spending less for better results. 14

15 so, What next? Online marketing is an incredibly powerful tool for anyone selling products and services to the shipping industry. Yes, it can take some time to learn the ropes but once you do, you ll see the results. As ship owners and managers migrate their purchasing processes online, the suppliers who are there to meet them will win the business. We hope this guide has helped focus your thinking about online marketing. Most importantly, we hope it s shown you that you don t have to go it alone. ShipServ exists to bring buyers and sellers together online and we re very, very good at it. Thousands of suppliers win and fulfil new orders every day using ShipServ Pages and ShipServ TradeNet. Tell us what you think If you ve got any questions, comments or ideas on this ebook, here s where to find us: Post a comment on our blog: Join our LinkedIn Group: Send us an Send us a letter: Just kidding. If you re not using them, you re missing an opportunity to sell more things to more ships. So, why not give us a call? The Ten Essentials of Online Marketing in Shipping 15

16 about shipserv ShipServ is the leading maritime e-marketplace, helping the buyers and sellers of ship supplies to reduce the costs associated with doing business together. In 2008 ShipServ helped its members save an estimated $350m and transformed the way they do business. Whether a Buyer needs to streamline its purchasing operations or a Supplier wants to reduce the cost of attracting or retaining customers, ShipServ is unique in helping businesses of all sizes to find each other easily, connect cost effectively and trade efficiently. Today the ShipServ community numbers over 130 buying organisations, 4,600 vessels and 27,000 suppliers. For more information visit ShipServ; shipserv offices Europe, Middle East, Africa Phone: Asia & Pacific Phone: Japan Phone: Americas Phone: Copyright 2009 ShipServ Limited. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.

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