The leadership for the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) was abuzz last week at the 2014 CSIA Executive Conference over the new community they have built for integrator services. The Industrial Automation Exchange is a directory of system integrators designed to help manufacturers find integration services and products, but it is also an online community geared toward exchanging information and resources for industrial automation.
“This is a project that we believe will have a tremendous impact on your industry,” said Derek Rector, president and principal consultant for Diamax, which implemented the solution for CSIA. Rector presented the Exchange to integrators and others in attendance at the conference in San Diego. “Over the next few months, we’re going to continue to work with you to build this.”
CSIA currently has a Find an Integrator tab on its website that functions as a system integrator directory, but Lynda Patterson, CSIA president, calls the new Industrial Automation Exchange site “Find an Integrator on steroids.”
CSIA is pitching the exchange to its members as a valuable lead generation tool. “It’s much more than just a directory,” Rector said. “This is about social selling.”
In fact, the functionality of the new site offers integrators a way to get back to traditional selling, where colleagues talked to each other on more of a social basis to find the services they needed.
“If somebody knows they need an integrator, they’ll be able to find an integrator. But it’s about much more than that,” Rector said.
Integrators have several options to upload materials to the site such as articles, white papers, slide presentations, videos and more.
Rector pointed in particular to the Find an Answer section of the site, encouraging integrators to participate. Manufacturers looking for an answer to their integration questions will likely first look for similar questions that have already been answered. “This is what really happens most of the time online. An engineer is trying to solve a problem. They have no idea what answers might exist; they just want to find an answer,” Rector described. “If you find a question that matches yours, and you find an answer that seems good, you get a link to the company and also to that specific person who answered. We’re using your employees as a pathway to you. There’s no other system out there doing that right now.”
CSIA is calling on all integrators to get into the site over the next couple weeks to initiate or complete their profiles. All integrators are eligible to submit a basic profile for free, whether they are CSIA members or not.
However, CSIA members will be given some preferential treatment. For example, to fill the site out more completely closer to launch, CSIA members will be given a bronze-level profile for free in the first year. This level gives integrators the ability to add a description and add to the basic number of categories they can be searched on, and the ability to be contacted directly through the site (users are presented with a contact form they can fill out).
More advanced profiles offer other contact action options. At the silver level, integrators will not only have a main contact, but other individuals can be listed as well. “The idea is to make it as easy as possible to get past the front desk to the right person in your company,” Rector said.
Besides contact options, the levels vary in terms of what content can be posted, what metrics are available, and the order they appear in search. Gold members appear first in search results, followed by silver, then bronze, then basic. Within each level, search results are randomized, rather than alphabetical.
Another differentiator for system integrators is certification listings. CSIA members and CSIA certified members are differentiated as a start, but companies can also list other certifications that they have. Although integrators can list their certifications as text, partner suppliers have the opportunity to give those integrators certification badges to call more attention to, for example, a Rockwell Automation Recognized System Integrator or a Siemens Automation Solution Partner. Those suppliers can buy those certification badges for those integrators they deem worthy.
Supplier partners can also have listings in the Exchange. A supplier who might have more than one level of partner could create tabs in its listing for each partner level, creating a “mini directory” to link back to integrators, Rector explained.
Rector didn’t bother showing CSIA meeting attendees how to edit their profiles because “it’s so simple, I think it’s self-explanatory,” he said. “Anything you want to add to your profile, it’s incredibly easy to do it. It’s going to enable you to build a qualitative impression, not just quantitative. It’s about building a relationship with a customer.”
How to get started:
- Go to www.csiaexchange.com.
- If you’re a CSIA member, you should already have a username and password. If you can’t remember it, contact Eric Huemmer, Exchange community manager, at [email protected].
- Find your profile and start updating it.
- If you’re not a CSIA member, you can still create profile, but CSIA will verify that you are a legitimate system integrator before the profile is posted.
- There are opportunities to upgrade the profile once you’re in there.
“Then submit articles and answer questions,” Rector urged. “If this is really going to work, we need content. Even if they already exist somewhere else, we want them here too.” Although CSIA content typically ranks high in search engines already, Rector said, they are hoping that the increased relevant content will give the Exchange even more visibility in search results.
One audience member expressed concern about having yet another place to keep a profile up to date. CSIA has thought about that concern, and is considering a partnership with LinkedIn to help with that. Nonetheless, Rector emphasized the value in the Exchange. “This is about context. You have a lot of places you’re maintaining profiles, but there’s no context. It becomes a needle in a haystack,” he said. “All of this content is specific to system integration as it relates to industrial automation. We create our own concentration of content that ranks highly in search engines and draws people in.”