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Matthew Karge

WordPress Practice Director & Business Development Manager

Matt is the WordPress Practice Director and a Business Development Manager at Northwoods. He works with clients in many different industries, helping them to pursue a digital marketing path with the greatest amount of return. He’s always happy to meet over a cup of coffee (either in person or virtually!) to listen to your needs and provide as many resources as possible to help you succeed.

Should Manufacturers Consider WordPress?

January 31, 2022 | Matthew Karge, WordPress Practice Director & Business Development Manager

5 Minute Read

In the world of manufacturing, an endless war rages between two mortal enemies: Marketing and IT. It’s like WW1, with entrenched lines and a wasteland in between.

Both sides consider the website a key organizational strategy. Marketers want it to accommodate quick, easy changes. IT wants software that meets their stringent security guidelines (and, let’s be honest, their opinions about what software to use).

The two sides fight many a battle over WordPress and its suitability for manufacturers. Marketers love its flexibility. IT hates its open source code. The managers charged with making website platform decisions are almost like UN negotiators: They face the daunting task of finding solutions that satisfy warring factions committed to diametrically opposed points of view.

We at Northwoods have opinions on this. We’ll reveal them as we consider the main arguments we’ve heard from both sides.

IT Argument #1: WordPress Is Just a Blogging Platform

This argument has a grain of truth. WordPress was just a blogging platform – in 2003. WordPress has evolved into something entirely different in the intervening 19 years.

Blogging did not make WordPress the most common content management system on the planet. Businesses have turned en masse to WordPress because it offers the widest array of available technologies of any platform. WordPress works so well for so many businesses because it can be molded into a tool that serves every industry.

But it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. Molding WordPress into a reliable, flexible site that works for a particular business isn’t easy. Good implementation is everything. A manufacturer must find the right development team to create a website with a strategic technology stack.

Takeaway: WordPress can be powerful and serve your business well, if implemented properly.

Marketing Argument #1: WordPress Is Really Easy to Use

Marketers hear a lot of positive, anecdotal evidence from both colleagues and friends about WordPress. It’s easy to use. Need more functionality? Just add plugins. Tired of your old design? Wow, check out all those prefab themes!

WordPress can be easy to use – if the developer and the marketing team devise and follow a strategic plan to build and maintain the website. WordPress websites that lack a strategic framework (i.e., stable technology stack and theme) can become just as heavy a burden as sites built on any other CMS.

WordPress works best when the development team avoids custom development. Custom themes and/or plugins create unnecessary headaches when the WordPress core receives routine updates. Instead, use Page Builders for the theme and add only consistently supported plugins that win rave reviews.

Takeaway: WordPress is easy – if it’s built strategically and maintained routinely.

IT Argument #2: WordPress Can’t Handle Our Product Catalog Data

The next IT team grenade: WordPress can’t effectively handle large databases of product information. This notion can be explosive, since many manufacturers’ product or parts catalogs have thousands of entries.

Prevailing IT opinion holds that such catalogs require a massively complex, expensive, and proprietary CMS, because WordPress lacks the horsepower to consume and display data in a way that provides user-friendly search and filtering.

It turns out that WordPress is no slouch in this department.

WordPress offers more than one choice when it comes to managing data. Some manufacturers choose an ecommerce-like route, by adding WooCommerce to their WordPress technology stack. WooCommerce is developed by Automattic, the same team that develops WordPress. It comes with a wide array of templated tools to create a taxonomy and structure for your data. Features for pricing, payment processing, and shipping are at the ready, should you decide to go full e-commerce.

Several other available third-party tools can help you manage your product data like WooCommerce, but without the commerce part added. You can create custom posts within WordPress. Custom fields and facets added to the content give administrators the power to upload entire catalogs of data.

Within WordPress, manufacturers can create highly customized experiences for their users. Again, it’s all based on how the website is developed to make the most of available tools.

Takeaway: WordPress can handle your product catalog just as well as expensive CMS platforms.

Marketing Argument #2: WordPress Is Really Easy to Integrate with Third-Party Applications

Marketers tend to think that WordPress means easy integration with any third-party application that can provide content to the website. Their argument rests on the fact that an army of WordPress plugins stand at the ready for installation. It’s merely a matter of finding and installing the right one.  

That’s true … up to a point. But this belief ignores the minefield of variables that affect how a website integrates with a third-party application. WordPress has achieved impressive market share growth because it opened its source code to everyone. This means that anyone with some software development skill can create an application that works on WordPress.

Some of those apps are great. Some of them aren’t. All plugin developers are not created equal. WordPress constantly updates, and plugin developers must constantly adjust to these updates. Some developers provide exceptional support and make routine updates. Some don’t. (Read What Every Business Should Know About WordPress Plugins to learn more.)

Failure to recognize the difference gets marketers into trouble with third-party integration. Mere existence doesn’t make a plugin good in the first place or current in the moment. Integration with an ERP or CRM or any other third-party tool requires a plugin that effectively communicates between WordPress and the tool. Large brands often have an up-to-date plugin, but smaller brands may rely on the market to create plugins that integrate with their software.

The key is to research and review all plugins and third-party applications before attempting to integrate them into your website.

Takeaway: WordPress can integrate with most third-party business systems, but it’s important to review and update the plugins that complete the integration.

WordPress Can Be a Great CMS for Manufacturers

Split the difference between IT’s skepticism and marketing’s optimism to get close to the truth about WordPress in the manufacturing sector. WordPress can be an excellent CMS for manufacturers if it’s built strategically and maintained by a solid development team.

Do that, and your IT group will see the benefits and your marketing team will stay engaged. Let a well-considered truce lead not only to a lasting peace between IT and marketing, but also to a productive, prosperous alliance that advances your business.

Interested in building a website on WordPress or need assistance with your current WordPress site? Northwoods can help! Learn more about our WordPress solutions.