Tangled Web of B-to-B Marketing
Web marketing has come a long way since the early days of the Internet, but many businesses are still figuring out how to adapt to the ever-changing demands and "rules" of creating a website that helps build their brand and lead to sales.
Every company should use its website as a "front end" of its marketing process to build credibility. But what does it mean to build a "credible" looking website in the current environment, where customers are more sophisticated than ever before, where people can do their own research, and where your website needs to deliver the right level of detail but without trying to do "too much?"
Here are a few of the biggest mistakes B-to-B sales organizations are making with their websites. See how you can learn from these mistakes—or avoid them altogether—and strengthen your sales with a more credible, effective website:
1. Too Vague - or Too Detailed
We all know that websites are selling tools. Your company's website should serve as the "front door" to your organization—this means that your website needs to effectively introduce your company and explain what your company does best, but without delving into every tiny detail.
Unfortunately, many companies make the mistake of having a website that has no sense of unique character—the website might talk in vague terms about "solutions" or "professional services," but without any real details about what the company does or even which industry it's in. If your customers go to your website and can't figure out immediately what your company does, that's a problem—you're going to lose people before you even get to talk with them.
Many companies are afraid to say what they actually do. It's natural to be sensitive about confidentiality, especially if you sell a proprietary technology, but some companies are too cautious. It's fine that you don't want to give away the "secret sauce," but if you don't list any ingredients, you will lose the attention of your audience. Trust your audience enough to let them in—even a little bit—to the larger story of what your business does and why it's important.
The opposite situation is also far too common: Some companies clutter their websites with every imaginable detail about what they do, technical details about their products, elaborate descriptions of the company's mission and values, etc. There's no need to bore prospects with every little detail. If your website has too much clutter and too much text, it will be overwhelming to people and they'll want to look elsewhere.
2. Too "Salesy"
Sometimes it's hard to know where to draw the line between "effective sales tactics" and "overly aggressive sales tactics," but many companies' websites are coming on too strong.
The early days of web marketing were full of lengthy sales pitches exhorting the reader to "BUY NOW!" This might have worked in an earlier era of the Internet when people were less jaded and there were fewer people selling online, but today people are more sophisticated and cautious. If your website reads like an infomercial, and you're expecting people from Fortune 500 companies to read that overblown text and get excited by it, you need to re-evaluate the way you present your company online. Your audience is too smart for overly "salesy" website copy.
If your website is trying too hard to sell, your customers will know, and they will ignore you. The best way to build credibility is to respect your audience's intelligence and recognize that that they are well-informed and aware of their options.
3. Lack of Focus
There's a quote from Bill Cosby that, "the key to failure is trying to please everyone." In the same way, many companies' websites are making it look like they want to serve every person and every business.
For example, your website might say, "Any client that has either a media budget or any type of marketing budget may utilize our services." This is a bit too broad. Most B-to-B companies serve a specific industry or a specific niche of businesses; if your website makes it sound like you can sell to absolutely anyone in the world, in any industry, for any situation, that might (ironically) make lots of people think you are not the right fit for them.
This kind of unfocused website writing is often an extension of a general lack of market focus within the company. If you try to serve everyone, your lack of specialization will make attracting and converting customers extremely difficult—people want to trust that your solution is the right fit for their specific challenges, not "just anyone."
For example, if you are a custom software company, and your website promises that your company can help with "any custom software," you are not allowing the prospects to envision your solution. Instead, make sure your website offers different landing pages for different verticals. You can show manufacturing inventory solutions or custom dashboard features—anything you can do to help the client visualize multiple applications of what you sell, in a way that suits their specific needs.
4. No Testimonials or Case Studies
Too many companies' websites make promises without any evidence to back them up. If you're selling a complex, high-value business solution, you need to show detailed case studies or client "success stories" to prove that your solution can deliver what you promise.
Get permission from previous clients to include real testimonial quotes—with full names and job titles, if possible—to share the positive results they achieved. The more "real" and specific, the better. (Of course, you don't want to compromise any sensitive details or violate confidentiality agreements, but try to get permission from some previous buyers to share their success stories.)
Testimonials and case studies are a simple but highly effective way to build credibility and get prospects interested to hear more from you.
Your website needs to build credibility and open up the possibility of developing a larger conversation with prospects in a way that will lead to sales. The best way to do this is by educating prospects, informing them about your solution and showing trustworthy examples of what you can deliver—backed up by proof (case studies and testimonials) to demonstrate that it works. Don't make the mistake of chasing after short—term sales with shortsighted aggressive sales copy, and don't be afraid to "give away too much" by sharing some of the ingredients of your solution's "secret sauce."
The most effective sales websites often don't seem like "sales" websites at all. Instead, they open the door to further conversation, longer-term business relationships and bigger sales.
Gregg Schwartz is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing, an industry-founding lead generation firm based in Connecticut. His company helps technology companies and various startups and small-to-mid-size businesses in the B2B sales category generate sales leads and improve their sales processes.