For more than 100 years, the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers — widely known as “The Big Green Books” — helped buyers and engineers connect with industrial manufacturers.
However, just as manufacturing has changed over the last century, so too has Thomasnet. Today, the company’s directory of 500,000+ suppliers, 6 million+ industrial products, and 10 million+ CAD drawings is exclusively online at Thomasnet.com.
If you only know Thomasnet from their days in print, or if you are looking to review the company in order to do business with them today, you may have some questions. This article will clear things up.
The History Of Thomasnet
1898: With the rise of Industrial America, companies required accurate, up-to-date sourcing information in order to keep pace. At the same time, manufacturers needed a way to showcase their capabilities beyond their backyards and take advantage of the growing network of railroads and shipping options. With that in mind, Harvey Mark Thomas founded the company and published “Hardware and Kindred Trades,” the precursor to the Thomas Register.
1905: The first edition of “The Big Green Books” was published. Titled “Thomas Register of American Manufacturers and First Hands in All Lines,” the pocket-sized publication was 1,228 pages long. It featured traditional agricultural products, such as carriages, harnesses, and wagons, as well as industrial products like valves, castings, and pulleys.
1920s — 30s: The Thomas Register continued to expand, reflecting the burgeoning American industrial landscape. New categories included automotive, aircraft, and communication. In the 1930s, the company debuted a new publication, “Industrial Equipment News” (IEN). IEN was the first product news magazine, which reported exclusively on new and improved products.
1940s: With industrial production ramping up to support the Allies in World War II, new companies began springing up throughout the country. This growth was reflected in the Thomas Register, which added oversized volumes.
1960s — 70s: The infancy of computers and the internet spurred the creation of new industrial products, such as microchips and circuit boards. The need for product information became ever-more urgent for buyers and designers. Thus, the Thomas Register began adding phone and fax numbers to company listings. The company also debuted a new publication, “Thomcat” (short for Thomas Catalog File), which allowed manufacturers to showcase detailed product information.
1995: The Thomas Register made its online debut.
1996: The company began producing digitized versions of the Register on CD-ROM.
1998: On the company’s 100th anniversary, the Thomas Register was still going strong. The company published produced a massive 34-volume Register — the largest edition ever. It provided buyers with 60,000 pages of information on 23,000 manufacturing companies.
2006: The company published the last printed edition of the Thomas Register. Recognizing the new way buyers did their jobs, the company shifted its entire focus — and all of its information — online to Thomasnet.com.
2010s: To further help manufacturers grow their businesses, Thomasnet’s solutions expanded beyond company listings. Just a few of the new offerings included website design, online catalogs, CAD drawings, data syndication, email marketing, and other digital marketing services.
As the leading provider of product sourcing, supplier selection, and actionable information for industry, Thomasnet has always evolved to meet the needs of buyers and manufacturers. That evolution continues today.
In 2017, Thomasnet — still a privately owned company — welcomed a new leader, Tony Uphoff. Tony, who serves as President and CEO, is an award-winning digital media executive who has led media companies such as Business.com, InformationWeek, and VNU Entertainment Media Group, which published The Hollywood Reporter and AdWeek.
Just as it was in 1898, the company’s singular focus is making it easier for buyers and engineers to find the right suppliers. In fact, this focus is one of the company’s guiding principles. From their website:
Thomas lives, breathes and serves the industrial/B2B world.
From the small job shop to the Fortune 100 giant, we exist to connect the right buyers with the right suppliers, and to equip everyone involved with the knowledge and information they need to thrive in their constantly evolving marketplace.
New Look, New Name
In keeping with its mission, the company unveiled a completely overhauled and optimized version of Thomasnet.com on January 31, 2018 — the 120-year anniversary of the company’s founding.
The new Thomasnet.com simplifies the buying process, giving buyers easier access to the information that they need to perform product sourcing and supplier selection.
In addition, the new version of Thomasnet.com features the all-new Thomas Insights, which offers more than 300,000 articles, videos, and white papers to provide both buyers and suppliers with actionable information.
At the same time as the company unveiled its new platform, it also unveiled a new name — Thomas. The change brought the company’s many different solutions and product lines under one unified brand, making it easier for buyers and suppliers to connect with the company and, in turn, connect with one another.
Today, the buyers, engineers, and purchasing decision makers who use Thomasnet.com represent the most active and powerful network of buyers on the planet. In fact, every 2 seconds, one of these buyers visits the platform to source products and services or to find a new supplier.
All of this activity produces petrabytes of buyer behavior data, which the company regularly analyzes in order to spot trends in the industrial landscape. The information is also used to fuel data-driven advertising and marketing solutions for clients.
Along with all of this data, the company communicates in-person with buyers and suppliers, and they recently hosted a series of in-person conferences dubbed “Together For Industry” that drew thousands of industry professionals to locations throughout the country.
Lastly, in 2017, the company commissioned one of the most comprehensive studies of industrial buying behavior ever performed. The study provided insight into 15 steps, made up of more than 225 individual tasks, that buyers perform on a day-to-day basis.
All of this data and insight gives the company an unparalleled understanding of the habits and processes that drive today’s buying decision makers.
Expanded, Integrated Capabilities
While the company is proud of its 120 year history, it has evolved far beyond a traditional publishing business. Today, Thomas is a data, platform, and technology company — not to mention the leading resource for the industrial marketplace.
The company offers four core solutions areas to help manufacturers attract new buyers and grow their companies. These Thomas solutions are engineered to work together throughout the buying process.
These solutions include:
The Thomas Network At Thomasnet.com
More than 12 million buyers, engineers, and other purchase decision makers visit Thomasnet.com every year, making it industry’s largest and most active buyer/supplier network.
Here are some other facts about Thomasnet.com today:
- 93% of the Fortune 1000 sources on Thomasnet.com
- 75% of Thomasnet.com users represent SMBs
- 40% of Thomasnet.com visitors are Millennials
- There is more than 3.5 million pages of industrial content
- Thomasnet.com reaches more buyers in two days than the “Big Green Books” reached in a year
Thomasnet.com is often compared to a search engine. However, there are distinct — and important — differences to keep in mind. While a search engine is open to anyone — existing customers, accidental traffic, researchers and college students, etc. — Thomasnet.com is built specifically for B2B and industrial buyers. This means that members of the Thomasnet.com audience come to the platform with a specific intent — to source suppliers and products in the industrial space. These are serious buyers interested in serious conversations, not generic traffic.
Speaking of traffic, more than half (52 percent) of all traffic on the web today is driven by bots. In fact, there has been an unending wave of headlines recently highlighting the problems that companies are having with fraudulent traffic. This challenge costs companies about $18 billion annually.
Here are some recent articles about the issue:
One in five ad-serving websites is visited exclusively by fraud bots
A growing part of the internet is devoted entirely to fraudulent advertising. According to a new report by White Ops…
Report: For Every $3 Spent on Digital Ads, Fraud Takes $1
As digital spend continues to reach landmark highs -- it hit $27.5 billion for the first half of 2015 - so does ad…
Google to Give Full Refunds for Ad Fraud on DoubleClick Bid Manager
Google plans to give bigger refunds to marketers who lose money to ad fraud on its platform. Customers of DoubleClick…
To combat this problem, Thomas has made significant investments — in terms of time, technology, and talent. Here are some details:
- Thomas uses a proprietary analytics platform that strips bot traffic out of activity reports for clients, giving them a clear, accurate view of buyer behavior.
- Thomas validates all user data on Thomasnet.com through The Alliance for Audited Media, and cross-references and validates this data via partnerships with leading technology providers.
- The company also shifting Thomasnet.com to a registration-based user model in May 2016, and today there are 700,000+ active registered users, with 10,600+ being added every month.
Thomas Marketing Solutions
Thomas Marketing Solutions (TMS), formerly known as Results-Powered Marketing or RPM, is a full-service digital marketing agency exclusively dedicated to manufacturing and industrial clients.
Their solutions include:
- Website Development
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Social Media
- Conversion Rate Optimization
Product Data Solutions
Thomas Product Data Solutions helps manufacturers connect with design engineers through advanced CAD/BIM creation and data syndication services.
For design engineers, Thomas Product Data Solutions makes it easier to find the CAD and BIM models they need to complete their designs. In turn, this makes it easier for product manufacturers and building product manufacturers to get spec’d into designs.
Thomas’ eCatalog solution, called Navigator, offers advanced search and configuration capabilities, helping professionals find products by keyword, individual part numbers, performance characteristics, and detailed dimensions.
Most importantly, users are able to download specs, drawings and CAD models in over 25 industry standard formats, generated instantly.
Leveraging data from the platform and insights from its clients, Thomas Insights delivers original content that helps marketers and supply chain professionals make better decisions.
Thomas Insights is home to the Thomas Index, which is generated by analyzing the B2B and industrial buying activity taking place on Thomasnet.com. Through the Index, Thomas is able to spot trends, connect dots, and inform buyers and suppliers alike.
Here is a recent Thomas Index that focused on changes in Custom Injection Molding sourcing:
So that was a lot of information to digest, and hopefully it answered most of your questions about Thomasnet. However, there’s probably still one major question on your mind: Does Thomasnet actually work?
To help answer that question, and to give you a better idea of Thomasnet’s ROI and whether or not it’s worth the investment, I culled a few reviews from Thomasnet customers from around the web (for more Thomasnet reviews, check out this page, this post, and these stories). Here’s what they had to say, in their own words:
“My Thomasnet.com program continuously brings me new leads, and I convert about 20 percent into new business.”
Olympic EDM — Waterjet, Inc.Custom manufacturer of precision parts using wire EDM, waterjet cutting and CNC machining, New Jersey
“I know bearings, but Thomasnet.com understands the buying process that the engineers and purchasing agents we want to reach go through. I want us to be in front of someone when he chooses to look for an item and is ready to buy. With Thomasnet.com, we’ve had access to new customers on a national and international scale.”
Emerson Bearing, Distributor of precision bearings, Massachusetts
“Thomasnet.com opens doors to large organizations that have tremendous potential as long-term customers. The company responsible for maintaining the Golden Gate Bridge found us on Thomasnet.com, when they needed a quick turnaround on a custom replacement fastener for use throughout the bridge. We met the need, and now provide these fasteners for the constant refurbishing and maintenance of the bridge.”
Chicago Nut & Bolt, Inc, Custom manufacturer of high quality fastener products, Illinois
Need To Know More About Thomasnet?
Hopefully, this article cleared up any questions you may have about Thomasnet. However, if you still need more information, you should consider signing up for a account to see firsthand how Thomasnet works.
If you are a buyer, you can sign up for free here. If you are supplier, you can actually list your business on the platform for free as well. You can also reach out to Thomasnet directly through their website.