If you work with B2B companies and do business with them, you've probably been frustrated by the lack of interaction, in-depth content and product information available on their websites. I don't know about you, but I'm busy. I don't want to have to talk to a sales rep when I'm doing research. Frankly, I don't have the time.
Depending on what stage my project is in, I may not have formed a sufficient plan to be able to discuss it intelligently. Especially if it's something new for me or for my company.
I want to be able to do at least the following:
- Find out what the company does - not a bunch of rhetoric, but what they do, without all the posturing and jargon that makes understanding a lot more work than it should be.
- Find out what products I have to choose from and what capabilities they have and what options and extensions are available. I want some kind of price levels so I know if I can afford to even have an exploratory conversaton with the company.
- See how their products have impacted their customers and learn what value the customer derived from using their products.
- Learn something I didn't know that will help me with my research and tell me if I'm on the right path.
- Even better, drop in on a discussion forum or read articles generated by the company and see how they share their expertise and discover what kind of thinking goes on. Will they be able to help me strategically or just sell me a product?
- Get an idea of what kind of support I can expect if I become a customer. The ongoing relationship is quite often more important than the initial purchase. And don't just tell me unparalleled support available 24/7 - because everyone says that. Give me something meaty.
- Have an easy way to find out how to contact someone or request more information. And let me tell you how I want to be contacted. Don't give me an auto-response if you're not going to follow up like it says. Because, if you don't do that, you've already lost my business.
- Be able to download the information I want to have without fearing I'll be besieged by phone calls and emails.
- Lastly, I want to know where the company is located. Sure, give me a form to fill out for contact, but post your address and phone number too. When I'm thinking about a purchase, I'm also thinking about how hard it will be to contact you if something goes wrong.
Now, really, this isn't asking that much. Most of it can be done with content. I think the difference between a brochure site and an effective interactive site is tone and focus. Brochure site is the old way and is focused toward the company. An interactive site is focused on the customer and the tone generates an emotive response. I want to feel engaged and know this company is interested in doing business with me. More than they are interested in themselves.
Destination CRM's article, B2B Websites are Dropping the Ball, references the Nielsen Norman Group's study, "B2B Website Usability: Design Guidelines for Converting Business Users into Leads and Customers." There are a couple of good takeaways you should go read.
In addition to what they say, consider adding some interactive tools to your website. Things like simple calculator tools, requirements surveys that lead to further information, expertise forums, reseller locators and a way to request a conversation with a customer to get their insights on doing business with you. Or perhaps a way to submit a no-obligation question to an expert and get a timely response.
I'll leave you with this quote from the B2B article to think about: "Companies are still designing for themselves rather than for their customers. They place serious barriers in the way of prospects who use the Web to discover companies to put on their shortlists."
How effective is your website?