Established in 1898 in printed form as Thomas’ Register named after founder of the company, the name soon changed to Thomas Register, and formerly, the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers, and sometimes also called “Thomas Registry,” and was a directory of industrial product information and manufacturers consisting of over 80,000 categories. The Thomas Register grew to 36 volumes and in 1998 was 100% paid circulation that was quickly diminished by the online market. The Thomas Register was widely available and publicly known as “the big green books” by buyers which many considered the “bible of industry” since it was the only national publication that had a comprehensive list of companies in alpha order. The Thomas Register consisted of hard bound books measuring 16” high, 10” wide, and 4” thick and would need a large bookshelf area.
As the print demand started crashing in the early 2000s, and Linda Rigano, their marketing directory declared in 2003, “All our buyers are online”, the print circulation plummeted and was given away at no charge. Even at no charge, buyers wanted to be online and the last print run was 2005. The same circumstance was happening to their sister regional publications knows as the “Thomas Regional Directory”. Around 2005, the Thomas Regional Directory and Thomas Register combined their sales forces and databases and created Thomasnet.
In the current online format of ThomasNet, B2B suppliers bid points to be listed in each particular product or service category on ThomasNet in their respective categories. The highest bidder gets first position, second bidder gets second position, etc.
For example, a supplier of balsa wood may pay to be listed in the balsa wood category, and we need to know from the sales rep how many points it needs to be the top bidder and thus beating out the rest of the competition as far as visibility is concerned.
ThomasNet listings contain information on each company, including their size, amount of annual sales, history, product information, and so on. From a company’s ThomasNet listing, a buyer can send an email, request a quote, or visit the company’s website.
ThomasNet does not charge one set price per year for a listing on its website. Instead, the company charges an annual investment for each product category based on the level of competition in each category. This variable allows Thomas Net to turn its profit.
In the example we gave above, there are only a handful of balsa wood suppliers. The cost to appear as the top balsa wood supplier may only be a few hundred dollars annually. On the other hand, there are more than 2,000 suppliers of washers. How much do you think it costs to be listed in the #1, #2, or even the #3 spot for “washers?” In addition, there are many types of washers such as materials—metal, plastic, applications--structual, industries—automotive washers, and technologies eg lock washers.
On average, the cost of an annual listing on ThomasNet costs between $5,000 and $15,000. However, for competitive industries, the cost may range anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 and beyond.
ThomasNet has been a trusted resource for buyers looking for manufacturers and suppliers, and it has served as such for many years. However, recently Thomasnet has allowed many of their advertisers to list in unrelated categories for SEO reason unfortunately for its users. In addition, there are some further downsides to listing on ThomasNet.
The most obvious drawback to ThomasNet is their product category structure that allows a manufacturer to miss on many related searches to its products and capabilities. Google provides hundreds if not thousands of related keywords in its ranking algorithms. Picking and choosing a small group of categories to bid on Thomasnet creates many lost opportunities.
Another major drawback is the high cost. If you find yourself competing with many other bidders, you may have to gain a large number of sales or high quality leads to justify the annual expense of claiming a top listing on ThomasNet. Also, you may find yourself having to frequently outbid a competitor to retain the top spot, which can be very costly especially compared to Adwords which is much less expensive.
ThomasNet’s reporting is also not as robust as some other platforms. Their proprietary analytics program, WebTraxs, can report the number of views, clicks, and leads on your listing, but the metrics are not very detailed. WebTraxs also requires a fee to use, while programs like Google Analytics are free.
As long as it is not too expensive, there is certainly value in retaining a listing on ThomasNet. The ROI can be very high, especially if there are commonly searched products or services. It is important to keep in mind that Google is the leader in the field and many potential buyers or B2B lead will use ThomasNet. There are many potential sales gained through other channels, like more competitive directories, organic search, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.