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Online returns given credit for Keats' revival

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Wheeling, Ill.-based Keats Manufacturing Co. is a custom maker of small metal stampings, wire forms and assemblies for most major industries, including aerospace, automotive, construction, electronics, medical and military. The company has 170 employees and operates additional manufacturing facilities in El Paso, Texas, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Keats, which has been family owned and operated since 1958, experienced a significant drop in revenue during the economic downturn, when many longtime customers were forced to cut spending or went out of business. To recapture that lost revenue, the company in 2009 set out to generate new leads by expanding into new industries. Keats also wanted to update its sales and marketing strategy, which relied on print advertising, direct and event marketing, and cold calling, said Matt Eggemeyer, VP-COO at Keats.

“We felt strongly that the Internet was the best way to reach new potential customers and markets,” he said.

Though Keats had a website, it served as more of an online brochure and wasn't easily found by search engines. “We knew that our old site was not creating the traffic we were hoping [for].”

To move its marketing efforts online, Keats hired Thomas Industrial Network, New York, which provides Internet marketing solutions for manufacturers and operates ThomasNet.com, an online destination for industrial buyers and sellers.

Thomas Industrial began by rebuilding Keats' website, with content focusing more on examples of the company's custom work and less on its process, Eggemeyer said. The new site also has more details about products, including information such as alloys, thickness, width and plating specs, which helps Keats' search engine rankings. Products are organized into six main categories, which lead visitors to information about material types, shapes and machining capabilities. The new site also allows users to easily submit a detailed request for a quote)to Keats.

Since the new site went live in April 2009, Keats' sales have increased 30%, with the number of quotes more than doubling to 1,400 in one year from 600.

Keeping the sales pipeline full is critical to the company, Eggemeyer said, because its sales cycles tend to be long, ranging from six months to two years. Many recent quotes have converted into significant accounts, he said.

“It has been a smashing success,” Eggemeyer said. “We are reaching far more potential buyers than [with] any of the other older, traditional methods including brochures, mailers and trade shows. We almost completely abandoned those efforts and are looking to expand our Internet presence.”

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