Let’s take a look at the evolution of marketing communications over the past few decades. In the past, all that marketers had to equip their sales teams with, was printed material (brochures, white papers, customer testimonials, etc…). Since then, internet usage has grown by leaps and bounds. Currently, nearly 1/6th of the world has internet access and in North America alone, 70% of the population are internet users (Source: Internet World Stats). This shows that your target audience is gravitating towards the web by leaps and bounds and with the current broadband phenomenon the usage is poised to grow. The reason I bring this up, is that your website has become an increasingly integral & focal part of your marketing communication strategy and as a marketer you need to make sure its pretty darn easy for your prospect to get what they want.
Now, here are the facts….according to research by the Nielsen Norman Group, most business-to-business (B2B) websites are still stuck in the 1990s. (Ouch!)
The results showed that B2B sites earned a mere 58% success rate (measured as the percentage of time users accomplished their tasks on a site). In contrast, mainstream websites have a substantially higher success rate of 66%.
This statistic is all the more interesting because B2B sites have more to lose than B2C sites. I’m going to let you read more on that web usability report here. If you don’t have the time for it, check out a summary below:
Research Methods employed: Focus groups, User testing, and field studies
Number of B2B websites tested: 179 (more than the usual number)
What are B2B sites used for?
(1) Pre-sales: B2B prospects look for credible information that helps them take make a purchasing decision (from a marketers point of view – a great opportunity to generate leads)
(2) Post-sales: After sales support (from a marketers point of view – a great opportunity to generate loyalty)
What customer’s expect from a B2B site?
(1) The stakes are much higher here, since the customer is often “buying into a long-term vendor relationship that includes support, follow-up, and future enhancements and add-ons”
(2) Customers expect more complex and a wider range of information than they look for in a B2C site
(i) For the early prospect; keep things really simple and easy to find
(ii) For the well-researched prospect; they look for in-depth info like white papers fine-tuned to their needs
The paper concludes that the major reason for neglect of a B2B site’s usability thus far is because there are no proper measurement tools. I did a little digging into the latest web 2.0 applications and voila, I was able to find a great new service that could be the start of better things to come. Without further ado, I present to you….Sales Genius
We do have a tons of web analytics tools that empower you to track-and-measure your website’s activity but none of them, thus far, had been able to match that to your prospecting and sales cycle. Sales Genius would change all that with just the power of a plug-in. What’s better is that it requires no IT integration whatsoever.
How does Sales Genius work?: It provides you with a plug-in URL that you send to all your prospects via email. Once the user clicks that URL to check out your website, you can track their click-throughs from that moment onward. You can then follow up with them and complete the last part of the sales process – closing the deal!
Pros: It offers the bridge between a site’s usability and the critical components of prospecting and sales.
Cons: Privacy Issues related to tracking your prospects click-throughs!
You be the judge but the question remains…Is your B2B site stuck in the 90s?