Companies often spend a great deal of time and energy crafting websites that will appeal to end users, but overlook the importance of creating effective sites for B2B commerce. They may believe that less “marketing” is required when dealing with other businesses than in dealing with consumers, given the perceived expertise of the former.
The truth, however, is that business-to-business marketing these days is looking a lot like business-to-consumer marketing. Businesses are increasingly making purchases online rather than through sales reps, making a top notch ecommerce site incredibly important for generating sales. And, more businesses are making purchase assessments at all levels of the organization, where before such decisions might have been filtered through one or two high-level decision-makers.
Accordingly, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the best B2B websites have a lot in common with effective B2C sites. They provide a compelling and efficient user experience; they speak directly to prospects about the brand’s offerings; and they let current customers do the talking. Such sites provide prospects with the information they need to learn about the company’s brand and its offerings, setting the stage for lead generation.
Just as effective consumer websites are built on a solid understanding of consumer behavior and preferences, good B2B sites rely on an understanding of how customers will respond to various appeals. Marketers can build this knowledge through primary and secondary research, but they also need to develop an in-depth understanding of prospects’ experience during the decision-making journey, to understand why certain prospects ultimately decide to purchase, and why others don’t pull the trigger.
Where can marketers go to find such information? Often, the answer lies right under their noses (or, perhaps, on a different floor of the office)—the sales team. Marketers may understand their customers, but the sales team has a unique relationship with prospects that too few marketing departments are leveraging. Specifically, there are three unique features in sales teams’ relationships with customers that can make those teams effective allies in revamping a B2B website.
- Sales teams know how to put themselves in customers’ shoes.
Seasoned B2B salespeople have a deep understanding of how customers view both the company’s brand and the brands of competitors. They understand how prospects interact with vendor websites, and they know both what kinds of information prospects are looking for and how much detail prospects expect. They also know which questions prospects commonly ask throughout the sales funnel––knowledge that can help to guide choices about which elements should be highlighted on the landing page, for instance, and how an FAQ section might be structured. Putting the right information in the right places makes it easier for B2B customers to navigate the company’s site, gives them a clearer idea of the nature of the company’s product, and leaves them with a positive association of the company’s brand––and could ultimately mean the difference in their choice to either buy your offering or go with a competing vendor.
- Sales teams have two-way conversations with prospects.
While marketers may have a general idea of which communications strategies work and which do not, they could greatly increase the effectiveness of their materials by relying on the knowledge gleaned by the sales team through its in-depth interactions with prospects.
Sales teams hear and address prospects’ concerns and objections along the entire sales pipeline––during capabilities meetings, product demos, negotiations and implementations, and rollouts. Tapping into knowledge gleaned from these interactions can help marketers decide how best to tailor content to prospects. For example, marketers may choose to address recurring issues directly in webinars, white papers, or blogs. A website that incorporates specific knowledge about actual concerns customers is much more likely to be effective than one that merely provides general information that may or may not be relevant to those concerns. And sales teams can often provide the knowledge that allows marketers to craft a website with the requisite degree of specificity.
- Sales teams own the relationship with customers.
Customer testimonials can be a great marketing tool, but getting customers to agree to provide testimonials can be cumbersome, given that it represents a significant investment of time and energy. Marketers would do well, therefore, to seek assistance in persuading customers to offer testimonials from the people in the organization that have the closest relationship with those customers: the sales team. Sales people can help marketers to understand how best to approach customers in attempting to secure testimonials, and in some cases a direct appeal from a sales person may be called for. Marketers should also work with the sales team on testimonials to simply get the team’s buy-in––an important consideration, given the importance of maintaining the sales team’s relationship with the customer.
Marketing teams that are canny enough to rely on their own sales departments can gain critical knowledge that will go a long way to enabling them to make an effective website. It might take a little bit of extra work to get the sales team on board, but the knowledge gained in doing so can be a powerful differentiating factor in setting your brand apart from those of competitors.
Jason Michaels is the chief strategy officer at digital marketing agency Wire Stone.