This blog is a part of a series on the topic of ‘B2B Online Excellence’ where I have partnered with Industry experts and provided insight, strategies and tactics into what it takes to execute a successful program for B2B technology products. So if you are a product marketer, involved in your company’s web initiatives or simply interested in marketing products online this series may be of interest to you..
B2B marketers continue to shift focus towards digital strategies to acquire and engage customers. The share of online spend has grown considerably over the years, and the recent economic downturn has increased online’s share in the marketing budget of B2B technology marketers.
Your website and online strategy, if done right, can provide exceptional ROI. However, we at edynamic continuously see B2B marketers are not implementing key elements that are essential for the success of their web strategy. Strategies are being implemented in isolation and are quite often not integrated. The weakest link often leads in an overall program. We see ineffective conversions of traffic to leads, not providing insight on leads to close them and leads not being nurtured amongst other issues that ultimately leads to ineffective online programs and low ROI.
This blog is meant to identify key elements of an online strategy that a marketer should consider. Other blogs that follow will consider some of the following elements in more detail.
Drumroll please..ok so it's not all that exciting..but here it goes anyway..the key elements of a successful B2B technology product website are:
1. Lead Generation
You can have a beautiful house but without a road to it no one gets to see it. You need an integrated and cohesive online marketing strategy led by your objectives and tactics around SEM, SEO, Display and Social Network Marketing.
Driving traffic to your website has to be a key objective of your strategy. Marketers are using multiple strategies to drive traffic to their websites. Banner advertising and Search Engine Marketing strategies have now become ‘traditional’, social strategies are gaining favor due to their ability to reach target audiences most effectively and giving high ROI.
Twitter marketing is a good example of B2B marketers experimenting with social networking. However, quite a few social marketing strategies are not really strategies, but simply forays with a lack of focus, as there doesn’t seem to be a clear objective to those strategies. There are some companies simply pushing all kinds of information without sound objectives or strategy….’throw it up..and hope it’ll stick’
B2B companies like Sun Microsystems, Dell and Oracle are good examples of companies who have well executed social networking strategies. Twitter can be used for product updates, version releases and new wins. They are building a community of ‘followers’ to continuously engage. If you are looking for a quick and easy to understand Twitter strategy, email me and I’ll send a Mind Map that should get you started.
Be careful in executing your social networking strategy, pro-active bloggers and reviewers will have a say in the reputation of your product.
To execute a successful online marketing plan that leads to high quality leads, we advise our clients to clearly define their objectives first, the target audience they would like to reach, and then define a clear plan to increase awareness, engagement and conversion. As part of your strategy, create an integrated marketing plan to target your audience through various channels such as Search, Display and Social Media Optimization cohesively. These strategies are quite often interlinked.
2. Target Audience Analysis and Segmentation
Segment your target audience and prioritize them, and define needs and a plan for each audience.
Marketers need to identify and prioritize their target audience – this has the biggest impact on how the online program will function and the structure of the website. Invest your energy in clearly defining user needs. Interview users across the target audience segment if possible. A word of caution .. these interviews can be a waste of time without a well-defined process to elicit requirements and gather feedback. Simple questions such as ‘what would you like’ may not get you the information you need. You’ll have to craft open and specific questions.
Once you’ve clearly segmented the targeted audience and have created a targeting strategy, you will find that managing an integrated online marketing strategy becomes a lot easier. Your decision making in creating your website will be based on target audience segmentation and prioritization.
Marketers often make the mistake of simply focussing on only a single audience group. Marketers need to ensure that focus is not only on the end customer, but other groups as well. B2B products are quite often sold through partner/VAR channels, so besides the end customer, they are an important channel to consider.
User segmentation helps bring clarity to web initiatives. With a clearly segmented user base, you’ll find it easier to identify user needs and utilize different online channels to target the audience with specific strategies.
3. Make them Buy, don’t just sell
Don’t sell, but make them Buy!
How many websites have you seen that simply throw up their products on the home page and hope that customers would buy? This does not lead to customer acquisition. It is important to understand and analyze the process customers go through to the point of purchase. This ‘Buying Process’ will have a large determination of how you structure your website whether you sell direct or through VARs.
Buying processes for different industries can be unique, but a typical process for a B2B Technology Product company may be Product Awareness ->Research and Compare -> Value Proposition -> Purchase -> Engagement
Once you understand the buying process the prospect will go through on your site, define the criteria which moves the prospect from one stage to another. A tool that helps to capture this information is a Process Map. Armed with this information you can create use cases, information architecture and a messaging strategy, for each phase of the lifecycle.
Effectively tackling certain steps in the buying process are covered in more detail in the sections that follow.
4. Enabling research and compare process
Allow prospects to get to the information they need efficiently.
A good website isn’t simply a bunch of pretty web pages, but one that allows prospects to find the information they need efficiently. Most prospects engage in a research and compare process prior to procuring a product. Enabling this process efficiently will have a big impact on your ability to convert traffic to leads.
Technology websites often simply provide a list of their products by name and leave it to users to find the product appropriate to them. Most users don’t think in terms of product names, but have criteria in mind, based on which they select a product they need. Lenovo.com, for example, allows users to find laptops by price, screen size, weight and other criteria. This allows users to choose the criteria that is important to them and find the product appropriate for them.
With complex products, consider providing a wizard which allows users to get to the right product.
5. Prospect Engagement and Value Proposition
So, how do you engage a prospect during their journey through your website? You need to have a clear strategy to target messages for each step in the buying lifecycle to move the prospect from one phase to another.
Once the prospect is considering a product, you need to clearly communicate the value proposition of the product and make your company credible. Some products have key differentiating features so it's easy to emphasize the features of these products and engage prospects. iPhone marketers have focused on marketing the product with ease of use through not only TV advertisements but also using rich media on their website to showcase the product. However, most technology products play in commoditized markets where feature differentiation doesn’t work. In such scenarios different strategies need to be applied, which have to be aligned with the customer acquisition process. Some of the tactics being used include:
6. Effecitive Conversion through M&Ms
Seize the moment
No, I don't mean get leads by giving candy away, though that does work for Credit Card marketers at airports! You need to create moments through a prospect’s journey through your website Meaningful & Memorable (M&M). By M&M moments, I mean moments that build trust, credibility and emotional linkage … the starting point of a meaningful relationship. These moments typically lead to the prospect tipping over and converting to a lead and move closer to the point of purchase.
..and, it could happen at any time on your website.while they are reading a case study, listening to a testimonial or reading thought leadership material; and when it happens, you have to seize the moment..this is where calls-to-action comes into play. These are messages that get prospects to become a lead.
You should consider having several levels of calls to action depending to cater to all levels of prospect commitment. A lower level of commitment requires a give and take relationship. You will have to give something to your audience for them to start engaging with you. Techniques include providing whitepapers, thought leadership material and case studies as gated content, i.e. behind a registration process. At a high level of commitment, you need to provide prospects the ability to ask the company to sell to him.
Your calls-to-action process can be very sophisticated, but some simple rules should always follow – the user should know how to get in touch with you, your phone number should be available, your lead forms should have linkages on all pages of your website.
Best of breed sites integrate the lead management process with CRM systems. Pushing high-quality lead data into CRM systems such as Salesforce.com enables the sales team. This efficient process allows the sales force to act on leads immediately. Time is of the essence as the prospect is out researching other products, and the experience around first offline contact with the prospect will have an impact on how successful you are at earning their business.
For the sales team to be effective, Leads should be scored and the scoring mechanism could align sales people with the appropriate leads (though this can contentious). B2B leads can be quite expensive, so identifying high-quality leads for your sales force is important. Further, getting an insight into the prospects journey (example: the list of products the prospect looked at and how much time was spent on each of those sections) is important. Analytics and some content management software provide this insight.
At edynamic we provide a free assessment specifically to improve calls-to-action thereby improving conversion..don’t be shy to reach out.
7. Effective User Experience /Look and Feel of the Website
The look and feel of the site conveys a brand perception to users. With many technology product companies, the website is the only window for prospects to form their opinion about the product. It's important that the website design and branding conveys your brand perception appropriately.
The User Experience of the site should consider the industry and target audience. A sonystyle.com experience for an insurance website may cause problems.
We recommend that you create a brand guide for your site that has deep insight into what you want to communicate through your website and how. This guide is used throughout the existence of the website.
8. Lead Nurturing
Most prospects don’t buy immediately
Most leads will not close right away. A lead nurturing program that takes a lead to fruition by targeting the prospect with effective communication is critical. Eloqua and Marketo are market leading products that can help you manage and automate your lead management program.
9. Marketing Insight and Continuous Track and Measure Processes
Iterate, Iterate, Iterate..
Marketers need to gather deep insight into customer behaviour in order for them to continuously iterate and improve their website. Business intelligence and analytics platforms can provide excellent insight into user behaviours to marketers.
Like Content Management Systems, selecting analytics software has been becoming increasingly difficult as products are not only becoming more specialized but ecosystem products, like Content Management Systems, are now offering the same capabilities. So you’ll find a range of products that offer analytics capability to choose from, including
- Pure play Analytics software such as Google Analytics and Clicktracks
- Marketing automation software such as Eloqua and Marketo
- Web Content Management systems such as SDL Tridion and Sitecore: They provide analytics as well, where the analytics is tightly integrated into content management and can provide deep insight into how content is used.
Each of the above has its benefits, and the choice of the appropriate solution will depend on your needs. Marketing Automation platforms, for example, allow you to perform true Lead Management where you can gain insight into your leads and drive, whereas analytics software just focuses on insight. Your solution might require more than one capability depending on your needs.
10. You need the technology to enable your website – Content Management Solution
Managing content is critical to the success of your website.
Most websites are managed by Content Management Systems. We highly recommend Web Content Management software like Sitecore, Ektron, Open Text Web Solutions to manage content.
ok, so i added one more, 10 sounds better than 11… Finally..but first..if you’re planning to kick your website initiative now create a Strategy and a Roadmap first.
Know where you’re going before start
If you’ve been a part of website initiates, you may have experienced a frustrating pattern. The direction keeps changing..a new stakeholder or an idea move the project down another path than first agreed to. This is because you are throwing darts without knowing where the bullseye is. A clearly documented Project Vision document, a Website Strategy and a clearly defined roadmap will help you keep on track and focussed.
The elements covered above are important to most B2B websites. A combination of these elements and a healthy dose of continuous iteration can make your product websites successful.
Please feel free to reach out to me with your comments.
Look out for upcoming blogs on the topics above.