Do B-to-B Buyers Trust Your Website?

July 22, 2014

Interesting question, isn’t it? I think everyone thinks because they built one, everyone will like and trust what you have up there.

I recently read an article from the Content Marketing Institute written by Dianna Huff entitled, Why 55% of Potential B2B Buyers Might Not Trust Your Website that highlights some interesting findings. These findings were from a KoMarketing Associates usability report and are worth discussing. The key in a B-to-B relationship is that trust and credibility be established up front. The more transparent you are, the better. Here are some highlights:

It’s the little things that can either make or break the next steps in the process. Their study showed that lack of phone number or contact info was the biggest stumbling blocks in building trust (55%). That one made me wonder. The next few were expected – lack of a true message, do it yourself sites and tiny texts were no surprises.chart-elements establish website credibility

Content assets that helped establish credibility were lead by thorough contact and about us page. So I guess we need to carefully look at what we say about ourselves and give them several options on getting in touch with us. Email was the most preferred way (no surprise there) and phone came in second. The reality is vendors source suppliers online and if you don’t have a clear cut message and contact info, you’ll be passed over.

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Remove all barriers from people contacting you
  • Include email and phone number on each page for easy access
  • Include info about the people behind your company
  • Consider the strategic importance of the “about us” page

 

 

 


Why Content Curation is an Important Marketing Tool to Reach the Professional Tradesman

July 16, 2014

What is Content Curation?

Content curation is the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme. The work involves sifting, sorting, arranging and publishing information.

Why is it important to Manufacturers who want to reach the Professional Tradesman?

Chances are you have lots of bits and pieces of information on your products/services. They are scattered all over from catalog, tech sheets installations sheets, presentations, etc. We as marketers are so focused on creating content, and in most cases, your first priority is to consolidate all relevant info on a product or service in one place. Once you see what you have, it will be easier to identify the pieces that are missing and need to be created.

Professional tradesman are always looking for help in solving problems, and it benefits both you and them if they can go to one source and get all their questions answered.

Wouldn’t it make sense for a potential customer who is interested in left-handed widgets to find one source that could:

  • help evaluate your situation and options available
  • give you an independent industry perspective on possible solutions
  • give you guidelines on what products to consider for the project at hand
  • give you tips on installation
  • give you troubleshooting suggestions
  • give you tips on maintenance

So if the number-one challenge to marketers is lack of time, doesn’t it make sense to organize first, then prioritize how you’re going to fill the holes?

Heidi Cohen wrote an interesting article recently, The Top 10 Reasons You Need Content Curation in Your Content Marketing Mix where she outlines her reasons to use content curation.

Here are a few that caught my attention:

  • it provides a variety of perspectives which helps increase its credibility
  • positions you as a thought leader in your field
  • good content will be shared leveraging other people’s audiences
  • builds your brand
  • content can be segmented for social media and drive folks to your curated site with more information that they requested

So don’t take the ready-fire-aim approach to developing content.  Take an inventory of current assets before developing new ones. Also don’t try to do everything at once. If you have products that serve several markets, pick one, do it well, document results and then plan the next one.

 

 


Tips on Making your Landing Pages Better

July 15, 2014

Hopefully, as part of your strategy to move prospects along the selling cycle, you are using  landing pages in order to deliver on what you promised. It’s also a great way to track responses. It could also be a way of losing a potential customer.

Here are some tips that might help results:

  • Keep it simple - Deliver on what you promised to get them there in the first place.
  • It’s not about you - How can you help them with a problem that got them there in the first place.
  • This is not an ad - They’re not looking for a sales pitch, but answers to specific questions.
  • Powerful content - Keep it relevant. Don’t focus on key words. Instead, make what you say useful and valuable.

All too often folks want to talk about 5 different things and give them additional links. It won’t work. Just ask yourself – why did they click on a call-to-action that got them here? Then deliver what you promised.

If you want to learn more, you might want to read:

Are you Using Landing Pages?

Product Landing Pages: Tips on How to Improve Performance


Are Your Sales and Marketing Departments on the Same Page?

July 9, 2014

Sales and marketing must work together to define the ideal client and determine how and what to get in front of them.

Social media and the internet in general has changed the way people buy. Today, research is done online long before the potential customer identifies themselves to a prospective vendor. So what can you do to ensure that when the buyer is ready, you’re on the list to talk to?

This is an issue that continues to frustrate marketers and sales across the board. Both disciplines have insights to offer and neither should be working in a vacuum.

I read an interesting article recently by John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing that addresses this very problem. He states: “My take is that for organizations to take full advantage of the dramatic shift in the way people and organizations buy today they must intentionally blend inbound marketing, outbound marketing and inbound selling a way that mirrors today’s customer journey.”

He offers some suggestions on how they can work together. Here are some highlights of shared responsibilities:

  • Planning - When marketing is creating a plan, involve sales. They have insights that marketing doesn’t. Their insights are invaluable in helping define the customer journey.
  • Editorial - Even if sales people aren’t great writers, they certainly can identify pain points along the way and possible solutions for marketing to write about.
  • Social - Make sales aware of social opportunities, whether it’s LinkedIn or participating in an industry forum that social is a good networking tool.
  • Engagement - Have sales and marketing make calls together or write a proposal.
  • Measurement - Forget quantity and focus on quality of lead and how you can take them down the sales funnel. Focus on creating a profitable customer.

If you liked this post you might like:

Are You Getting Your Sales Force Involved in Social Media? 

How Does Social Media Impact a B-to-B Purchase?

 


Distributor Strategy: What’s Yours?

July 2, 2014

In the B-to-B world that I live in, manufacturers have to balance their time and efforts when dealing with distribution, between the big boys like Grainger ($9.4 billion), Fastenal ($3.3 billion) and MSC ($678 million), and the independently owned small local distributors.

Here are a few facts about the independent distributors (ISA) that you might not have known:

They collectively represent about $153 billion in sales.

AD (Affiliated Distributors) members do about $25 billion and NetPlus Alliance more than 5 billion in sales.

Now I realize they need to sell both. The strategy and support for a big player is much different from that of the local independent distributor. Let’s look at the different personas of both.

Big Boys.

  • Sell lots of stuff.
  • Beat you up on price and delivery.
  • Are more order takers than problem solvers.
  • Most are high maintenance from a customer service perspective.
  • Sales staff turnover high – most use sales as a stepping stone either inside that organization or for a position elsewhere.
  • Because of the high turnover, it’s hard to train and build a relationship with them.

Independent Distributors.

  • Collectively they sell more than the big boys.
  • Usually you can make more margin.
  • Are usually problem solvers not order takers (that’s their value proposition).
  • Lower maintenance from a customer service perspective.
  • More stable sales staff.
  • Have actual relationships with local customers
  • Able to train and build relationships with sales staff.

Logic and sometimes management says that we need to focus more time on the big boys as that’s where the biggest potential is.

Here’s a challenge for you.

Let’s take Fastenal for example. They have over 2,000 branches in North America. Besides calling on corporate, how many of the branches are stocking your product? What’s the average sale per year per branch?

Now look at the number of independents you sell to and what is the average annual sales for those that stock your product?

I think what you might find is that the independents will be outselling the big boys.

Now the next question is, what percentage of your sales teams times are being spent on both groups.

For those of you who do the exercise, I’d be interested if your results are similar to what I’m suggesting.


Manufacturers: Here’s a list of things contractors would like from you

June 10, 2014

men at jobsite

I recently did a series of interviews and podcasts of contractors. The main focus was on what manufacturers could do to better support them in the field. These contractors were electricians, plumbers, HVAC and general contractors. There were some common issues from them that I thought would be useful to manufacturers:

  • Quick response to questions - access to knowledgeable tech people for problem solving.
  • Regular site visits - have your salesman make regular visits. Most contractors say they very rarely see the manufacturers. Great way to build relationships and identify possible product problems or shortcomings.
  • Application training – quick tips on doing a process better/quicker. If not in person, via email.
  • Best way to communicate with them - mobile phone or email.
  • Don’t use/look at social media (Twitter, Facebook).
  • Recognize that they are professionals.

It looks like there are some opportunities for manufacturers to up their game. There wasn’t a contractor I talked to that would turn away a visit from you. That sounds like an opportunity to me.


Customer Loyalty and Retention: What Are You Doing?

May 28, 2014

As manufacturers, we have to serve two masters, the distribution network we sell through and the ultimate end-user. Sometimes we can take these relationships for granted. Remember, they have other options. Here are a few thoughts on how to nurture the relationships:

Distributors

  • Distributors do have a choice in what they carry. Chances are they have your product as well as several competitors on their shelves. So let’s assume for the sake of this exercise that product performance is comparable.
  • What makes their counter guys and sales force sell more of one brand over the other? Yes, you can offer SPIFs, but that at best is a short-term solution to increase sales.
  • I’d say things like ease of ordering and timely delivery might be helpful.
  • What about knowledgable factory people available for product training and troubleshooting?
  • How about making end-user calls with their sales force?

Here’s a unique thought - thank them for their business instead of hammering them to help you make your numbers this month.

Most distributor/manufacturer relationships have a long history. Don’t take them for granted. Sales will come, but distributors are looking for more than a quality product at a competitive price.

My grandmother used to tell me you’d catch more bees with honey than vinegar.

Contractors

Many of the same tactics work at the contractor level.  But here’s a place where you can make a brand difference:

  • If you have their back and they know they can count on you for product/technical support, you’ll make a friend for life.
  • Contractors-like elephants-have long memories, and if you drop the ball too many times, they will find alternative products. Trust me, I’ve seen it.
  • Contractors want to be recognized for the trade professionals they are. Something as simple as sending them an email for example, on National Plumber’s Day, recognizing how hard they work. Wouldn’t you think that would have a positive brand experience?

You know, this stuff isn’t rocket science, it’s more common sense. And it doesn’t have to cost more money, just use good business practices.

My golden rule is to treat people the way you expect to be treated. It works and it makes life a whole lot simpler.


What are you doing to create demand for your content?

May 27, 2014

hourglass

We all are working hard to create content in various forms, but what can we do to create the demand for it? If we build it, it will come philosophy won’t work.

In the b-to-b space where selling cycles can be long with numerous folks involved, you need to address several different issues along the way down the sales funnel, but do you know what they are?

I’ve long been a proponent of sales and marketing working closely together. After all, the objective of both is to sell more stuff.

I’m amazed that folks in the marketing department spend little or no time in the field talking with customers. I always recommend marketing folks spend time with the salesmen in the field, and I don’t mean a day or two. Spend a week or so and you’ll see customers in various stages of the buying process.

More importantly, you as a marketer have the unique opportunity, while in front of a prospect, to ask some really relevant questions that the salesman might not ask.

Questions like:

  • What other types of info would be helpful in your decision-making process?
  • What triggers a buyer to start the process?
  • What kinds of concerns do your colleagues have that we might address?
  • Focus on customers needs and concerns.

Why do I keep harping on getting in front of the customer? Let’s be honest. Most companies don’t know their customers well enough. They don’t know or understand the buying process well enough. They don’t have content framework to communicate with the potential buyer.

I read an interesting article recently by Jay Hidalgo in the Chief Content Officer magazine that outlines 3 steps to create a process to create demand for your content.

His User’s Guide consists of 3 things:

  • Developing a buyer’s persona (know your customer)
  • Define their buying process
  • Developing a content framework  for communicating with a buyer

He takes you through a process that engaged the combined efforts of sales and marketing resulting in a well-thought-out strategy, and content that will be on target that users will want to pass it on. You can read his entire article here.

 

 


Closing the Loop on Sales Leads

May 21, 2014

broken chainDon’t have a plan to follow or nurture leads?

When was the last time you responded to an ad, e-blast or other form of communications about a new product and never heard from the company after they got you what you requested? Or if you did hear from them, it was weeks or months after the original inquiry.

I bet it’s more the rule than the exception, especially in the B-to-B world. What I can’t figure out is why. Unless your product is so unique, wouldn’t you want to let the prospect know why dealing with you is better?

Yet I see many manufacturers still today that have no formal plan to follow and nurture leads. If they are not going to follow-up the lead, then why are they promoting the product in the first place? It’s a waste of time and money.

Many pass the lead on to their distribution network before qualifying them as to what stage in the selling cycle they are.

Wouldn’t it make sense to follow-up with the prospect…

  • to see if they got the info they requested?
  • to see if you can answer any questions?
  • to direct them to a local distributor?
  • to possibly offer them some other help or info once you determine where they are in the sales cycle?

A lead that has been qualified and then passed on to either rep or distributor gives them a little better feel for what the prospect is looking for and the application. The lead doesn’t stop there; it’s only the starting point.

There are several CRM programs out there that can help you manage, track and nurture the leads. What I don’t understand is why folks are using them. One reason I found is that lots of sales folks don’t like lead tracking and nurturing programs because it identifies some weak links in the selling cycle. In the world of ROI, I would think Sales and Marketing would want to know where new business is coming from so you can do more of the same.

It makes sense if you qualify the lead before giving it out to follow-up with.  You’ll get better results and salespeople might even call on them.

The sales cycle is only as good as its weakest link.


Multi-Channel and Marketing Automation for Manufacturers: Are You Using?

May 20, 2014

Today we have a guest post from Jason Schultz, Director of Marketing for Great Lakes Integrated, a strategic  partner of ours.

Multi-channel marketing coupled with marketing automation is a powerful approach for manufacturing companies. Manufacturers have a unique opportunity to create interest and trust for their products by communicating with their customers and prospects through different types of media and employing automated responses to actions they take.

With manufacturer’s customers and prospects being both in the business to business world and also the business to consumer world messaging and responses need to be different. The automated responses need to be different as well.

Using multiple-channels has proven to increase response and desired actions being taken. Consider using any combination of print, mobile, email and landing pages to engage your customers in meaningful ways. The key is to link all messaging to personalized or static landing pages.

Using landing pages then allows you to gather additional information on the customer or prospects, solicit feedback, allow for registration, set meetings or start a conversation just to name a few. By utilizing a digital engagement you can gather information, analytics and automate the marketing process.

An automated response can come in the form of an email, physical collateral or product being sent, a text message or even an automated phone call. The automated response takes the initial follow ups off of sales and marketing and is a way to ensure your company is responding to the actions of customers or prospects in a timely manner.

Taking this process further, you can implement lead scoring to pre-qualify customers and prospects based on business rules and point values determined by their interactions with certain parts of your communication. Then, only the customers or prospects with the most potential get contacted by sales people to garner new or additional business. Time is not spent on those customers or prospects that have not shown an interest in what you are promoting.

Key takeaways are:

  • to utilize multiple channels to increase the likelihood that customers and prospects will take the desired actions you want. 
  • design and messaging need to be appropriate, relevant and meaningful.
  • digital components also need to be in place that allow customers and prospects to interact; allowing you to track those interactions to determine what is working, what is not and ultimately ROI.
  • use marketing automation to efficiently and effectively respond to customers and prospects; increasing the likelihood of your ultimate success in adding or increasing new business.

The notion that a multi-channel approach with automation is difficult to execute and maintain is just the opposite. Today’s technology allows marketing support partners to take your campaign and feed it into the system. The system/technology then handles the deployment and execution of the different types of media and the automatic responses to customers and prospects (not to mention the gathering of all data and analytics). If you are new to this method of marketing, try a small test campaign and compare it with current efforts. Then make the determination for yourself.


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