e-Steel, an online marketplace for steel buyers and sellers, was founded in 1998 but didn’t go live on the Web with until September 1999. What did the company do during all that time? Sherry Sigler, e-Steel’s Senior Director of Marketing and PR explains, “In B-to-B , you need a feet-on-the-street start mode prior to brand presence on the Internet. That’s when you gather up all your domain expertise and all your industry contacts.”
Speaking engagements were a major pre-launch activity, according to Sigler. “We’re lucky that we our CEO is such as strong speaker. In the Internet world – where all these twenty-somethings are running companies - it’s very important to have somebody with a long business career creating the image.” This is especially true in the B-to-B landscape, she adds.
The company made its first announcement in July 1998 at a major industry show in New York, where e-Steel is based. The company ran ads in trade pubs to promote its presence at the event, where, “we showed demos of our site and our CEO explained our plans and sources of funding. This got us plenty of trade press attention at the time.” (Sigler suggests that new B-to-B marketplace announcements shouldn’t expect as much attention from today’s dot-com saturated media.)
Networking, in general, was a major contributor to e-Steel’s pre-launch marketing. “We approached high-level, senior management at major steel companies,” says Sigler. Looking to build a balanced base of partners and users, e-Steel management specifically targeted players across the board,“not just mills and not just end-users either,” she says.
Currently, e-Steel has 2,600 companies registered from 85 countries. 35% of members are outside the U.S., Sigler tells us.
e-Steel’s currently markets across a wide variety of channels. “Starting with direct sales efforts,” says Sigler, “we also do ads in trade pubs, trade shows, direct mail and general PR.” The company has also done some online advertising, “but it’s less effective than the others,” Sigler tells us, because entering into trading relationships for industrial procurement of metals isn’t usually a point-and-click impulse decision.
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