B2B internet marketing has lagged behind B2C marketing on the Web, mostly because in the business space a purchase has a longer and more complex sales cycle: it is less likely to be spontaneous and usually involves more than one buyer in the decision process. However, this is quickly changing as B2B technical buyers’ primary influence is now from online information rather than offline. Over 80% of prospective business customers get their first information on your company from their own internet activity, not from vendor push marketing. And about 50% of potential buyers start their search with the major search engines, with second being vendor websites, and third distributor websites.
Understanding The B2B Purchase Process
Awareness – first learn about needs/opportunities, learn about pain that needs solving
Research – data gathering on possible solutions, creating short list
Negotiation – reviewing details of vendor short list, negotiating specific proposals to decide on the best option
Purchase – approval of purchase & completion of paperwork for procurement of solution
The other consideration is that your B2B marketing must influence not just a single buyer as in B2C, but 3 or 4 different types of buyers all for the same purchase:
economic buyer – controls the budget,
technical buyer – responsible for identifying and evaluating the right technical solution,
user buyer – the actual end user of the product who evaluates the business usage,
The internal coach or champion – someone within the customer account who has a vested interest in the purchase of the product.
My Seven Top Tips for Successful B2B Internet Marketing
As a result of this trend toward online marketing being the primary influence of B2B buyers, to be successful in the world of B2B internet marketing it is important to follow these seven key tips:
Tip #1: Search engine marketing is critical for your website success… the is the #1 source of data for B2B technical buyers today.
Tip #2: Have detailed company and product information easily available on your website: Technical buyers are looking for meat (product specs, vendor comparisons, whitepaper downloads, pricing, case studies, testimonials) and not sales information. Buyers now are gathering this information from the web and making vendor short lists before even connecting with vendor sales people. If you don’t have it on your website, you might not even make the first cut.
Tip #3: Testimonials are an important influence on your website. But don’t “hide” them on a Testimonials page only. In addition, weave them throughout your site on the pages where the particular testimonial is the most relevant.
Tip #4: Stay on top of the online reputation of your company. Use the various web tools available, such as Google alerts (Google.com/alerts) to monitor your company name & variations, your product/service name, names of key employees, and names of your competitors.
Tip #5: Piggyback your distributor websites. Since distributor websites are a close third to your website and the search engines, pay attention to ways you can take advantage of distributor websites in your marketing strategy: ensure a consistent message about your brand and products, provide distributors with marketing materials such as press releases, testimonials etc to use on their website, consider co-hosting a webinar.
Tip #6: Social Media are not very important, yet… Despite the current hype around social media, this was not a large influence for B2B technical buyers yet. However, the use is growing, and I expect this to become more important over time.
Tip #7: Sponsor or encourage reviews and testimonials in 3rd party publications or sites. As the technical buyer is short-listing vendors in the Research phase, secondary influences also become important: online trade pubs, business pubs, etc. They are looking for independent validation of the information they have found on your website, and third party reviews or testimonials on your product or service.
Focus on these 7 tips, and you can develop a comprehensive B2B internet marketing strategy that will provide the key information to the technical buyer at each of the four stages in the purchase cycle, hopefully allowing you to influence their decision in your favor.
B2B marketing strategies must consider the internet as a primary point of influence for customers, not only for demand generation for offline sales, but throughout the four stages of the purchase cycle.