From These Organizations:
The idea of selling through the internet is quite obvious when you have a product that lends itself to unassisted sales model – commodity product that can be provided in volume, where using the technology reduces cost to serve and thereby enables a low-cost model for extending sales reach.
From the strategic perspective, that can help businesses grow, opening new sales channels, or as businesses emerge from recession, where a well crafted website can allow you to capture increased volume without having to increase your sales staff in proportion.
Whilst it can seem an easy ‘to do’ to add to the list, some caution is warranted. Websites do not spontaneously combust into business, and especially if your product is one where there is high direct competition, or competition for share of wallet, it can take longer to deliver the expected ROI if you ignore the wrap around of how you will drive traffic. A common problem for e-commerce sites is that they do not perform well on search engines like Google – they don’t have the same textual content as informational or brochure sites, they need a carefully considered structure, a friction-free sales process (the ‘conversion architecture’), a more holistic, integrated marketing plan that covers both offline and online channels, and an ability to give the increasingly techno-savvy customer what he or she wants. Otherwise, they simply won’t buy from you purely on the basis that your website experience let them down.
But what of the B2B world? Whilst the use of the internet in B2B can be a bit less obvious than it is for B2C, in some senses the principles remain the same – of using technology for the role it can play in supporting the marketing strategy of the business, played out against the ‘buying cycle’ of your potential customers. They may not actually buy the product online, but even with specialist, niche products used in a narrow set of circumstances or industries, the technology can play a role in helping you to market yourselves and sell.
For a very technically orientated sales process, where specialist Technical Sales Representatives spend significant amounts of time with potential customers to understand the end application, other aspects of the technology can support you:
- Customers spend a lot of time at the front of the buying cycle identifying what exactly their problem is, let alone quantifying it, assessing different alternative approaches, working out what to do, as much as who can help. Does your brochure style website really help your potential customers to get to grips with their problem? Does it give them the support that can mean that when they do understand what the problem is and how to address it, that you are the people to help them? Are you giving them all the information they need, not just what you want to provide? How much can you help them before they even call you?
- Can they see that your company contains people who are credible technical experts in the subject in question? Not simply a case of buying the right equipment, but also of buying the right after-sales care, support and true technical expertise that can help when things don’t quite go according to plan. Are you using all the opportunities that social media provide to showcase your people as experts in their field?
When it comes to technical knowledge, internet technology actually helps a B2B manufacturer to embrace some new principles around which to build a marketing strategy:
- It gives you greater reach to put a controlled, consistent quality message out over a larger distance, technologically and geographically. True, you don’t need to rely on people ringing you up, you can build valuable relationships through the technology. Thinking of that another way, they won’t ring you up whilst they are in research mode, they will do that under their own steam, unless they happen to see something that causes a phone call.
- It gives your people a voice. You can take the opportunity to ‘humanise’ the face you put to the market, and adopt a stronger ‘people buy from people over product and service’ strategy. It gives you an opportunity to ‘get out more’.
- It changes the dynamic between buyer and seller in that the seller is no longer the ‘functional expert’ when anyone can find out whatever they need across the internet instantly, and feels they are in a position of some expertise before they speak to you. That means you can help them to understand how to use your product and open up new applications, new selling opportunities, instead of spending your time educating them on the basics.
Giving them the correct information in a way that you control means that they are more likely to be better informed when they do come to you, with the message you want them to have, not one they have made up for themselves. Not giving any information at all, or information that they find inappropriate or out of context may mean they don’t come to you at all – the downside of greater reach is, well, greater reach, and if you’ve nothing to say (or stay silent on the subject), that will travel just as far and as fast as having something to say.
Now, does your brochure site really give them what they need?