The staff at The American Ceramic Society has just released a fantastic new online “marketplace” tool— the “ceramicSOURCE‘— for anyone looking for raw material suppliers, testing and evaluation equipment vendors, material handling equipment, etc.
ceramicSOURCE also goes beyond supplies and hardware, and features a comprehensive listing of “soft” services such as consultants, research groups, engineering services, education institutions and other associations.
I’ve been testing the operations of ceramicSOURCE for several days and I can guarantee you its is one of the best specialty directories found online, delivering the live linking, email features, social networking tools and search functions that individual ACerS members, businesses and institutions have been asking for.
Although it might not necessarily be obvious, there are really two sides to an online tool like ceramicSOURCE: One side contains search and sharing tools aimed at users; the other side contains the tools for listers to create an account and then manage and update their information, and learn about ways to enhance their marketing opportunities in ceramicSOURCE.
Let’s take a quick look at each side. First, for users, when you first go to ceramicSOURCE opening page, you have several search options: “Search by Keyword” (like a Google search), “Search by Location,” or “Browse by Product Category.” Users also have access to an “Advanced Search” option that allows them to combine search words, locations, proximity parameters (e.g., if you are looking for a supplier within 50 miles of your location), etc.
So, for example, if a user wants to find suppliers of alumina, just enter “alumina” as a keyword. The resultant search might look something like this (please note, I have included just the first few of the 126 companies that were suggested by the system):
Users can scroll through the listings, and if they find an entity they are interested in, they can click immediately on the links to the entity’s phone number, fax, website or email. Users can share their find with others and create a “favorites” list to keep track of organizations they may contact frequently.
Users can access even more information if the lister has a “showcase” listing. Showcase listings include a Google map locator, photo galleries, a contact form and, possibly, videos and news releases from the entity. Here is a sample of a single expanded ceramicSOURCE showcase listing:
The listing may also indicate if the lister is an ACerS Corporate Member, an MS&T Exhibitor, etc.
If users find something they like, they can post a link to their Facebook page or wall, on a friend’s wall, to a group or send to a group. Likewise with Twitter.
Now on to the listers side of ceramicSOURCE. For new listers, access begins by clicking on the “Add Your Company” tab, which will take them to a page showing listing options, including free, “premium” and “showcase” choices. Next, they pick their listing options and then click on either the “Add Listing” or “Contact Us” links.
My suggestion is to begin with the free option, and the “Add Listing” link will lead new listers through the process of setting up their free account and company/organization information. Here is what the top of the new account page looks like:
New listers should make sure they click on the “Continue” button on the bottom of the page — this will trigger the process of getting the free listing approved.
ACerS will be eager for any feedback from either users or listers on ways to make the system even more useful.
One final note: As it does every year, ACers still will produce a printed version of ceramicSOURCE Product/Service/Company directory in the December 2011 issue of the Bulletin.