Who is browsing your component catalog and what are they looking for?

19-04-2021 Gian Paolo Lodi

The benefits of digital and new technologies is a topic that I’m constantly dealing with, and for two reasons:

  1. Every day I see the results they produce (companies increasing sales through 3D catalogs)
  2. Every day I realize that there are still too few companies that have really understood the benefits they bring (and therefore, so many missed opportunities and lost sales)

Obviously, I don’t live on the moon and I know that paper-based catalogs are an integral part of the life of design studios that clock up 10, 12, and sometimes up to 14 hours every day working on CAD projects.

Just let me have your attention for a moment…

While I admit that paper-based catalogs are “still” being used, designers (and those above them who manage the budget) are constantly looking for solutions to achieve better results for the same investment.

Cutting design times is number one among these priorities because, when it comes to a project requiring thousands of hours of labor, identifying processes that can be streamlined is critical, and the old catalog is certainly on the blacklist featuring activities that devour lots of time.

I don’t want to start preaching about this because it’s obvious that in the Paper vs. Online comparison, the old paper version loses hands down in every respect (browsing, order management, data storage, compatibility tests, simulations, etc.).

Let me make a ridiculous assumption…

Let’s suppose that, for some strange reason, designers have supernatural powers and that, with just a laying of hands, they can transfer the contents of a paper catalog directly into their brain, thus getting one over any online 3D catalog system.

Let’s pretend for a moment that this is the reality of the situation.

Well, at this point I’m daring to ask a question that concerns those who produce components.

Let me help with an example…

Fantastic Components Inc. (it’s a name that I’ve obviously made up) produces mechanical components, specializing in particular in the production of bushings and bearings.

Just as it has been doing for 28 years now, every year it updates its catalog with new specifications, new products, while removing some components that have gone out of production and trying to package in the best way it can what it well knows is the tool that connects the company to its customers.

After dispatching the catalog to existing customers and contacting new ones via the traditional sales channels and at trade fairs, there begins a phase that it cannot escape from: the waiting game.

This is now because the only thing that Fantastic Components Inc. can do is to wait for the phone to ring with an order.

Fantastic Components Inc. obviously manufactures excellent products, invests in R&D, and is well aware that it could sell much more if only it could win new customers or explain to existing customers certain technical features.

Unfortunately, it is unable to do all this, which means waiting (and praying) becomes a daily activity.

Fantastic Components Inc. is saved and manages to survive because the products are really good, but you definitely wouldn’t say that things are going great.

How could sales be given an instant boost?

If the marketing manager at Fantastic Components Inc. knew:

  • what people were looking for in the paper-based catalog
  • what sections they linger at
  • where they stick Post-IT notes as a reminder
  • which components they put in a hypothetical project list
  • which components they look at more often

If they had this information available and also had the opportunity to contact people directly (by email) and in real time (when certain conditions arise), the situation would be completely different and the time currently spent “waiting” would become time devoted to marketing campaigns, an approach that I like to describe as “scientific”.


And that’s the thing. Having exact information that describes customers’ behavior (what they’re looking for, when, and how) completely changes the rules of the game because it allows you to show up at their door* with a targeted, precise proposal.

* by “door” I mean their mailbox, and this can happen almost automatically with an online cataloging platform like TraceParts.

As you can see, “waiting” is not the only thing you can do after producing a catalog. The difference lies in the information you have and the tools you have to manage it to your advantage.

This is exactly what TraceParts does. Therefore, my job is to guide companies by helping them make the most of the latest information offered by the online catalog to change (for the better) their marketing and sales activities and thus achieve steadily growing results. These activities are inconceivable using the old paper-based catalog and cannot be lightly ignored or dismissed “because digital doesn’t work in our sector“.

Easy-peasy or is it too good to be true?

Not really. I told you about a small company like Fantastic Components Inc. that produces mechanical components (bushings and bearings) just like hundreds of other companies operating in the mechanical components sector, but facing the same problems as those that also operate in similar sectors, such as electrical components, electronics, cylinders, valves, etc.

The difference for the companies that have made this move has been in the change of mindset, and I hope I have offered you some tangible elements so that you can make the same move in your own interest (in terms of sales and turnover).

About the author

My name is Gian Paolo Lodi and I work as a consultant for TraceParts Srl.

It has been several years now that I have been communicating with companies and entrepreneurs in the mechatronics sector on a daily basis.

Therefore, I am familiar with the needs and problems that sometimes prompt them to take major risks in an effort to sharpen their competitive edge in the national and international market.


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