Tools of the Trade: Industrial Directories

Most industrial directories offer free listings. Take advantage of them.
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If you work in the industrial sector (and even if you don’t), you know how important it is to give the right people the right tools so they can maximize their productivity and profitability. This truth is apparent in the B2B digital marketing world as well.

In this quarterly column, we look at important tools for every aspect of your digital marketing mix. This installment focuses on a very important component of online marketing in the industrial sector: industrial directories. These directories have been staples of the online marketing mix for industrial marketers for a long time, but most people don’t know the extent of the opportunities they provide. Let’s explore the eight major industrial directories together.

The “Big Eight” Industrial Directories

1. ThomasNetThomasnet logo

Even if you knew nothing about industrial directories before reading this article, you’d probably heard of ThomasNet (or Thomas Registry). Their “big, green books” were staples of the manufacturing and industrial sectors for decades.

Begun in 1898, the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers was a multi-volume buying guide that offered sourcing and company information on products, services, specs, and companies in the U.S. manufacturing sector. In 2006, the company ceased printing books and moved their database online.

ThomasNet is easily one of the largest industrial directories. Since moving online, it has expanded to include online catalogs, CAD drawings, news, white papers, press releases, and blogs.

For current manufacturers, they offer a good set of opportunities:

  • Free supplier profiles (higher-rankings listings and priority placements not included)
  • Product/supplier sourcing
  • eNewsletter inclusions ($)
  • Advertising opportunities ($)
  • Basic marketing services ($)
  • Request for Information (RFI) functionality ($)

2. Mfg.comMfg.com logo

Mfg.com describes itself as a “global online manufacturing marketplace.” It was founded in 1999 by Mitch Free, who saw an opportunity to use technology to improve business for manufacturers.

Sourcing companies use Mfg.com to connect with buyers, engineers, and purchasing professionals at no charge (think of it as LendingTree.com, but for industrial manufacturers). Job and machine shops and contract manufacturers pay an annual subscription to use Mfg.com and gain access to all the RFQs issued by purchasers.

Major opportunities within Mfg.com for industrials include:

  • Free account creation
  • Free sourcing
  • Request for Quote (RFQ) bidding ($)
  • Banner advertisements ($)
  • RFQ management ($)

3. IQS Directory

IQSDirectory Logo

IQS Directory includes many of the same functionalities as the directories mentioned above. A cross between an online search engine and a directory, their tagline is “Find leading industrial manufacturers, suppliers and distributors.” 

Started in 2000, IQS Directory hasn’t extended itself into the monthly newsletter and banner ad markets like some of the other directories. Instead, they’ve focused on adding value to their paid standard and premium listings.

Unlike search engine–based directories, IQS Directory lists companies according to their level of engagement with IQS Directory. Companies that pay for premium listings show up on the first page of search results for their chosen categories while companies that pay for standard listings show up on pages two and beyond, which is common practice among industrial directories.

IQS Directory’s main offerings include:

  • Free online listings
  • Standard/premium listings ($)
  • Rollover banner ads for premium listings ($)
  • Basic marketing services ($)
  • Video/article/press release housing ability on profile ($)

4. IHS Engineering360IHS Engineering360 logo

IHS Engineering360 (IHS GlobalSpec, until recently) is the result of the merger between IHS and GlobalSpec Media. IHS has been around since 1959 and started mainly as a catalog product database for aerospace engineers. Through expansions and acquisitions, IHS grew to encompass nearly all of engineering. In 2012, it acquired GlobalSpec, which acts as an online search engine that indexes specifically industrial products.

Like the other directories on this list, both IHS and GlobalSpec have been respected sourcing services for industrials for a long time, so their merger created a single, strong outlet for industrial companies looking to be found online.

Here’s a summary of some of their most beneficial opportunities:

  • Industrial search engine
  • Free online listings
  • Industry news and analysis
  • Standards and reference libraries
  • eNewsletter advertisements ($)
  • Banner advertisements ($)
  • Basic marketing services ($)
  • Custom webinars ($)

5. ZyconZycon logo

Zycon’s functionality does not differ greatly from any of the others on this list, but it is one of the most affordable directories when it comes to premium listing opportunities.

One thing your online marketing team should keep in mind with Zycon is that while they do offer site links for their free profiles, all links not associated with a premium account are “nofollow” links, which means that your site won’t get the maximum SEO benefit.

Here is a breakdown of the opportunities available to you through Zycon:

  • Free listings
  • Premium listings (one-time $100 fee)
  • Category specifications (up to 3 for standard and 5 for premium)
  • Company news posts
  • Basic marketing services ($)

6. MacRAE’s Blue BookMacRAE's Blue Book logo

Crediting itself as “America’s original industrial directory,” MacRAE’s Blue Book was founded in 1893, five years before ThomasNet. Focusing exclusively on North America, MacRAE’s boasts over 2 million product listings and 1.2 million industrial companies in its database.

Like most of the directories on this list, MacRAE’s is optimized not only to provide accurate search results on their website, but also feeds their listings to major online search engines.

Here are some of the things MacRAE’s offers industrials:

  • Free company listings
  • Premium listings ($)
  • Advertising opportunities ($)
  • News distribution ($)
  • Basic marketing services ($)

7. ProcessRegisterProcess Register logo

The big appeal of ProcessRegister for industrial marketers is the site’s traffic. Nearly 20,000 unique visitors browse the directory each day. That’s roughly 7 million visits per year. Couple that with their free company listings, which include links to company websites, and it’s clear that ProcessRegister is a good directory to add to your mix.

ProcessRegister’s offerings include:

  • Free listings
  • Enhanced listings ($)
  • Banner ads ($)
  • Product images ($)

8. KompassKompass logo

While Kompass may not be as large as some of the other directories on this list, it’s one that unapologetically focuses on the global B2B marketplace. Functionally, Kompass works the same way as the previously discussed directories, but it really makes an effort to branch out beyond North America.

Here are some of the major opportunities Kompass offers for industrial marketers:

  • Free listings
  • Enhanced listings ($)
  • Online advertising ($)
  • News, video, and picture publication ($)
  • Limited product profiles
  • Unlimited product profiles ($)
  • Full product catalog inclusion ($)

Industrial Directories Should Be a Part of Any Industrial Marketing Mix

This article is not meant to compare and contrast industrial directories, but rather to explain why industrial directories should be a part of your industrial marketing mix, giving you a summary of the opportunities provided by each of the big eight. Since most offer free listings, there’s no reason you can’t have some presence in all of them. For our part, we make listings with industrial directories a standard part of our Marketstrong® Communicator plans, which provide turnkey integrated digital marketing solutions for industrials.

There is no shortage of tools out there in the market for nearly anything you can dream. We hope this column will help you stay on top of them and point you in the right directions for your business. If you have any tools you would like us to cover in future editions of the Tools of the Trade series, please email them to us at social@marketstrong.com with the subject “Tools of the Trade,” or contact us directly.

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About the Author

Joey Strawn


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