Category: B2B Internet Marketing

Does your Website fail to deliver these 3 basics?

Helping a newly formed B2B company create their first Website spurred me to visit dozens of sites in search of examples I could show them from their industry that follow best practices.

Web Basics Photo 2In the process, I made a sad discovery. Not one followed what I know are the most basic rules of good Web design.

The rules (that is — what should be on the page and where) are the ones I learned from Amy Africa of EightbyEight. Her firm specializes in helping e-commerce companies maximize online sales. They have conducted hundreds of hours of research that monitors how people’s eyes move through a Web page, how they navigate, and even how their pulse reacts to what they see. The rules are built on the results of this research.

The way people interact with Websites does not change even if the site is a B2B company with no e-commerce involved (although Amy has reported that experienced visitors interact somewhat differently from novices).

A Website is important. It should be a strong part of every company’s integrated marketing program. It is often the first place prospective customers go to find out if the company that has contacted them or that they’ve heard about is real and legitimate. Companies conduct Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) for the sole purpose of driving prospects to their site.

But what does the viewer experience at most sites? Hard work and confusion. What visitors want is information that they can gain without effort. So here are just the very basic rules for a B2B company to make its Website a strong player in its integrated marketing programs:

Rule #1:
The first 50 words of copy on the landing page must convey what the company, service, or product is about and hopefully its unique selling advantage. The page must instantly answer the question “Where am I?” Pages with no written message but only links to other pages force visitors to work to find answers to this question. Visitors should never be made to work.

Rule #2:
Navigation must be clear and instantly imply what kind of information will be found on the linked pages. If the navigation says “Services,” the page had better list the services available from the company. Marketers should look at their navigation and make sure it is clear and correct.

Rule #3:
Every page must have at least one call-to-action. Just like a meeting with a sales person, after prospects learn something, you must ask them to do something. The call-to-action can be “Learn more,” “Contact us now,” “Download FREE content,” “Request a bid” or many other options. A Website is no different from any other B2B marketing effort. It needs to respond to the prospect’s inquiry of “What’s in it for me,” then get the prospect to act.

There are, of course, dozens of other Website best practices. However, if B2B marketers can achieve just these three, they’ll be putting their site way ahead of most others.

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My “duh” moment on the vital need for both inbound AND outbound B2B marketing.

A colleague of mine who is a commission salesperson flew back East yesterday after an invitation from a prospective customer to make a presentation to his company. The prospect has a problem that my colleague’s company can solve.

DuhThis invitation didn’t follow a referral. There wasn’t a formal request for proposal (RFP). The prospect didn’t find my colleague’s company through social media. It wasn’t a B2B lead generated by SEO, SEM or a banner. In fact, it wasn’t even a lead generated by B2B email marketing, direct mail marketing, a trade show booth visit or an ad.

It was generated by a cold call that my colleague made to the company.

I’m not pooh-poohing the value of any of the above marketing channels. But this cold call — that led to an in-person presentation — was my “duh” moment on the difference between inbound and outbound B2B lead generation.

Companies have problems. There are so many aspects in the operation of a successful business, or even in a given department of that business, that the most painful problems are addressed first. Inbound marketing benefits when a company is pursuing a solution for its most painful problem. It is then that prospects actively research solutions on the Web, follow experts on social media, visit Web sites, read paid search ads, ask colleagues for referrals and send out RFPs.

But those companies that have problems they’ve pushed to the back burner because of more urgent ones are not actively pursuing a solution. Then, voila , an email or direct mail letter appears. Some are likely to think “here’s a white paper addressing that other problem we have. I think I’ll ask for it and see what it says.”

The company making the white paper offer will have then generated a lead that can be nurtured until that company says “this pain is big enough that we have to fix it now.” Low and behold, the company that sent the outbound marketing is already engaging with that prospect and has a huge edge.

In fact, the company my colleague is seeing was not seeking a solution. But his call alerted them to a smart way to solve a problem they knew they had. When a solution appeared, they jumped on it.

In rare occasions, perhaps, a B2B marketer knows about the pain a particular company is suffering from at that moment. Most of us in B2B marketing won’t. That’s why we have to reach out via outbound marketing AND make sure we’re reachable when the time is right.

All channels are vital. Cold calling works, too.

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Two simple B2B marketing ideas I wish I’d thought of.

Sometimes I find the simplest things the most impressive. Maybe I’m just surprised that, because they are so simple, I hadn’t thought of them before.

the idea!I’ve come across two simple marketing ideas lately that I thought I would pass along as others may not have thought of them, either.

Simple Idea #1:
I discovered the first one when I was doing some online research and came across the Delivra site. Under “Getting Started” on the top navigation bar is a drop-down menu. One of the items on that menu says “Everything in one PDF.” When you choose that menu item, you are taken to a page with this headline:

Everything you want to know in one download.
Save it. Print it. Share it.

Then there’s a link entitled “Download the Delivra All-in-One Fact Sheet (PDF) >>.” This is so smart and so simple, it’s brilliant. I wrote a white paper about “Reaching Purchase Influencers” and suggest providing influencers with a one-sheet they can pass along to help influence decision-makers. But this 5-page PDF is significantly more powerful because it is not only well written, but it delivers a full sales story in one convenient package. Plus, Delivra tells just what to do with it — Save it. Print it. Share it. This device is not an afterthought deep in the Web site. It’s there up front, right on the first navigation tab.

I’m not personally familiar with Delivra, so this is not an endorsement of its services. But I think this one device shows excellent insight into how a marketer can make it easy for business people to get and share information, and I applaud them for it.

Simple Idea #2:
Many apologies to whoever wrote about this on a blog post or on LinkedIn, but I read this idea over a month ago and didn’t make note of where. The idea is to put an FAQ page on a BtoB Website to enhance SEO. FAQ’s are more typically used on consumer product Web sites to present product information in an easy-to-use, accessible format.

FAQs are not as frequently used in the B2B world, but offer two strong benefits to business:

  1. FAQ’s provide a long, copy-heavy format that allows for the insertion of keywords that might be awkward or too repetitive on other informational pages.
  2. The questions on an FAQ page can be answered in a friendlier, more casual tone that adds a personal touch to a B2B Website and makes the company seem more human.

My next Web site enhancements? The addition of FAQs and a “Save it. Print it. Share it.” doc. They’re both great, but simple, ideas. I wish I had thought of them.

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6 tips for B2B landing pages that land business.

In the history of the human race, information has never been so readily available. There’s hardly a subject in the world that isn’t discussed and accessible online — from the genealogy of Goofy to what Brad Pitt orders when he goes out to dinner.

If one is looking for a business solution — software, consulting services, ink cartridges, training materials or thousands of other products and services — it is easy to find, right from the desktop. Then there’s a ton of advice for those businesses selling those products and services — to which I am very happy to contribute.

With this plethora of advice and ease of getting it, I am baffled when I see emails, landing pages, websites and other marketing tools that do not follow best practices.

A landing page has the attention of a prospect for so little time, it’s important that everything works. So what set of tips should be followed? Those that have come out of multivariate A/B split testing in the real marketplace. For those not familiar with multivariate testing, the subject is nicely covered by Mona Elesseily in “Getting Multivariate Landing Page Testing Straight!” on Search Engine Land.

Companies should do their own testing with their own message to their own market. But lacking the time, budget or willingness to test, the next best thing is to implement the findings of those who have tested.

Here’s what the marketers who have tested landing pages have found:

  1. Message Presentation: Assume the prospect will not read the copy but give the page a once-over. So the core of the message must be communicated through headlines and subheads.
  2. Visuals: Include a photo or two if possible. Photos of people make a company seem personal and approachable. Use captions with pictures. Captions are a great way to emphasize an important point, and they actually get read.
  3. Focus: Focus the message and the call to action on responding to the offer being made. Any navigation options that take prospects away from getting them to accept the offer on the page will diminish response. If you want to provide more info, such as testimonials or product details, turn the landing page into a microsite and put that information on secondary tabbed or pop-up pages. But don’t send prospects away from the offer.
  4. Flow: Look at your page and make sure the headline and message flow easily from one point to another. Companies like eyetracking.com actually measure how the eye moves through a message. If a message does not follow the natural flow, that too will diminish response.
  5. Offer Placement: Make sure the offer and call to action are the first things seen when the email is opened. Then they can be repeated several more places on the page.
  6. Response Form: Put the response form and fields on the landing page. Every additional time prospects are asked to click-thru to another page will reduce response.

For those who test landing pages, the marketplace has spoken. There’s no reason not to maximize click-thrus by following the practices they have found to work best.

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Another valuable Internet marketing tool.

Back in 1980 I entered the field of direct response marketing as an independent copywriter in Denver, Colorado. In those days all my clients were local businesses. Projects were assigned in person and documents were shared via fax or mail. Gaining the ability to transfer documents electronically opened up a whole new world of opportunity, and I picked up my first out-of-town client Mouseas far away as San Francisco. That was pretty exciting.

The Internet transformed my business and has done the same for all but the smallest local service companies. For B2B marketers it has added valuable new channels, enhanced CRM, and produced a medium that can deliver almost immediate data on the effectiveness of their marketing efforts.

In his excellent article “Online market research takes off,” in BtoB Magazine, Michael Fitzgerald makes a case for another important way the Internet has advanced a task critical to marketing — research.

With easy, cost-effective online tools such as SurveyMonkey, ConstantContact, Zoomerang, and many others, there’s no reason any marketer, in any size company, cannot learn about the pains, objectives, attitudes, considerations and all the other insight necessary for crafting marketing that is on target and effective.

I encourage you to read this informative article now, and learn how online surveys can be a valuable addition to your marketing success.

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