Maker Of Cleanroom Supplies Credits Online Strategy For Growth

When the phrases ‘East Berlin’ and ‘global trade’ appear in the same sentence, the word Germany is usually nearby. That is no longer the case, thanks to a small manufacturer with a big Internet marketing strategy. For about 40 years, Liberty Industries Inc. has been making cleanroom and contamination control supplies and accessories. The company, which has more than 2,000 products in its inventory, has built a solid reputation for catering to industry-specific innovation. Its two dozen employees kept busy custom designing and building modular cleanrooms, air showers and specialized lab equipment for the pharmaceutical, electronic and automotive industries — among others.

That was before the Internet gave Liberty access to the world and a new way of conducting business. Now orders are coming in from buyers around the globe. A Mexican car manufacturer, for example, recently placed a $60,000 order for goods without ever talking to a Liberty representative on the phone or face-to-face. The decision to buy from Liberty was based on the company’s website, which offers an online catalog, product descriptions, photos and user-friendly interactive tools that let customers request a price quote and ask for other information related to the product. That kind of success is what President Bob Kaiser had only dreamed of when he decided to overhaul Liberty’s sales approach.

During the 1990s, Liberty had to figure out a way to tap into new markets and industries that it never knew existed and at the same time, anticipate prospective buyers’ needs and their approach to locating contamination control products. Customers were increasingly turning to the Internet for their information and relying less on costly trade shows, magazines, large catalogs and direct mail material for industry information, according to Liberty executives. “Today customers leverage manufacturers’ websites to get the information they need about a product or service. Companies like Liberty Industries need to convey to the buyer what they offer and how it will help them.”

“Our prospects aren’t waiting for us to come to their door. They need to be able to find us on their terms when they’re ready for our products,” said Kaiser. Kaiser said his customers expect more than just an online product showcase. Buyers are looking for interactive tools that mimic the sales process that once took place on the phone or in person. “We know most buyers want to be anonymous when searching online and we let them.,” said Kaiser. “We just give them the information they need at the time they need it.”  

Liberty turned to ThomasNet, a website developer for industrial companies, to revamp its online presence. ThomasNet moved Liberty’s entire product catalog online, added user-friendly navigation and included strong keywords that quickly ranked the manufacturer high in the search engines. Since moving its catalog online and enhancing the purchasing process, Liberty Industries has steadily built a robust pipeline of new business, said Cathy Albano, the company’s distribution product manager. “Our website has become a powerful player; it now represents 40 percent of all our annual sales,” said Albano. “It’s our best salesperson and largest sales channel.”

Kaiser believes the company would have collapsed by now if it had not developed an online strategy for reaching new customers and connecting with existing buyers.  Company officials anticipate business to jump this year by at least 15 percent over last year. Liberty markets itself as a one-stop-shop for maintenance professionals and distributors; in fact, 30 percent of its business is as a supplier to customers like NASA, who depend on the company’s laminar flow benches. Tacky Mats sales account for another 25 percent of business.

The company’s new marketing strategy is also paying off for Liberty’s distributors. On a recent Sunday night, company officials added new products to the company’s main website and online catalog at ThomasNet. Albano received a call early the next day from one of the company’s distributors who already received two inquiries and a $1,200 order on the new products.

Reprinted from  Hartford Business Journal Online

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