In the past, requesting a demo or contacting the company was seen as a mainstay of B2B commerce. Today, however, modern B2B customers have shifting expectations when it comes to their purchasing journeys, and B2B websites must keep up if they want to turn traffic into leads.
Customers have increasing expectations around self-education when it comes to the research phase of the B2B buying cycle. In fact, research indicates that more than half of B2B buyers will finalise a shortlist of potential vendors or criteria based on digital content alone – without ever having spoken to a sales rep.
So, how best can you optimise your digital offering, and ensure it caters to these changing needs,
Sam Martin-Ross, Founder and Director of digital marketing agency, Digital Uncut provides some answers.
Engage your visitors
Those tasked with sourcing B2B products or services for their companies want to be able to quickly understand who you are, what you offer, and whether you are a good fit for their needs, and they want to do this from the second they land on your website. A good B2B website, therefore, must be clear and easy to navigate, while actively assisting potential customers with locating the information they need to make a purchasing decision.
Ensure you place the problems you solve and solutions you offer at the very forefront of your website. An easily navigable site with clear segmentation of relevant categories, such as products, solutions and industries you serve, helps possible leads straightforwardly find exactly what they are looking for, while reducing any possible friction in finding that information.
It is useful to bear in mind that any visitor to your site is looking for information in as quick and painless a way as possible. This consideration should be applied to every design choice you make on your website. Avoid design elements that serve only to “jazz up” your site rather than convey a meaning, such as generic stock images, or text/image layouts that make it difficult for people to easily scan for relevant information. If it has no meaningful reason for being on your website, get rid of it.
Data collection and anonymity
The research phase of B2B buying is incredibly important, and here, potential leads value their anonymity while they collect the information they need to form a list of candidates or criteria.
While it is understandable that as a company you want to collect valuable data on qualified leads, many B2B websites make the mistake of doing this through lead generation gates. Hiding useful digital content such as whitepapers, ebooks or webinars behind these kinds of gates can have the opposite effect – not only can it lower the conversion rates of these materials, but it can also completely sour the impression a potential customer forms of your company.
Research has indicated that many B2B researchers will simply resort to filling out a lead generation form with fake data, or using a personal email address in place of a business one, to gain access to the desired resource, then simply unsubscribe from your mailing list – perhaps even blacklisting your emails in the process. So, while the point of offering these resources in the first place is to increase your competitive advantage and create a positive, helpful first impression, failing to respect the anonymity of B2B buyers during the critical research phase can undo all of these good intentions.
Buyers are waiting longer to reveal who they are, and as a B2B company, it’s advisable to respect that or risk losing a potential lead altogether. Lead generation is undoubtedly important, but should not be done so aggressively as to turn a customer away.
Another relatively normalised practice in the B2B sphere is to hide pricing. While common, it is one of the major conflicts between B2B websites and customer needs.
There are often many legitimate reasons for not including pricing information on a website, but doing so immediately creates a hostile environment for your potential customers, with B2B buyers citing pricing as the top most needed piece of information when they are conducting their research. Depending on your business model and the products or services you offer, it is not always possible to display detailed pricing information in a straightforward way. However, displaying price ranges for possible product/service configurations, features typically available for different sized companies such as startups versus midsize or enterprise, or including a price or savings calculator are good compromises, and show a potential customer a willingness to operate in a transparent way on the part of your business.
Websites that opt to take an open and transparent approach to their pricing information are far more likely to make it to a shortlist of possible candidates. Customers are able to quickly obtain the information they need, while your company creates an instantly positive impression of being honest and upfront – a win-win situation.
It can take a lot of hard work to drive qualified traffic to your website, so it is important that poor website optimisations don’t drive them away once they get there. Taking the time to understand the motivations and needs of your B2B buyers, and doing your best to accommodate these through openness, honesty and transparency is key to turning those leads into paying customers.