As I mentioned in my previous post, research shows that many business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57 percent of their purchase process is complete. It’s Marketing’s job to influence that 57 percent of the market opportunity before Sales contact, to position your company as a thought-leader and to make sure that customers don’t get locked into a requirements definition that locks you out of the sale. Since the majority of that process occurs on the web – or from colleague’s referrals based on what they have seen on the web, how you talk about your services online makes a big difference in potential sales success.
There are many ways to present your company online:
- Your own website and blog (you do have a blog right?)
- Partner sites and blogs
- Company page on LinkedIn (or Facebook if appropriate for your business)
- LinkedIn Groups for target vertical markets or print procurement
- Pinterest (if you have interesting visuals)
- Comments on news and industry sites
Online content (on your website and beyond) should position your company as a source of answers. Think about using content marketing in the form of articles, white papers, case studies with response metrics, Youtube videos and design tips rather than just posting lists of services and equipment. (See the Advanced Content Marketing Guide by Neil Patel and Kathryn Aragon – it’s FREE.)
Consider how customers and potential customers will use your website. Ideally it should be a draw for prospects while keeping existing customers coming back for new information – thereby exposing them to your new offers. Keep in mind that most real prospects are not going to come to your site due to a web search for your services. Web searches may be common for other industries and products – but research shows that print buyers use printer’s websites to validate a printer based on a personal referral or because they saw interesting content published by that company somewhere on the web. To meet their needs, make sure that your online content does the following:
- Educates – provides interesting solutions to industry problems like reducing customer churn, meeting new regulations or serving different market segments. Provide thought provoking information to ensure that key requirements are included in the customer’s solution definition.
- Validates –shows your ability to deliver services in a quality manner and scale to meet customer demand. This may include information on plant and equipment but should also include information on quality programs, customer service and company culture.
- Activates – provides methods for taking action such as registering to download whitepapers, requesting a quote, or emailing key staff. Consider promoting dialogue by allowing visitors to post questions or share experiences. You can make certain areas for customers only to promote community without exposing information to competitors.
Don’t get locked out of a sale before you even know that a buyer is on the prowl. Make sure your online presence extends beyond your website and that you are talking about the things that matter: your customer’s market, the customer’s needs and your unique understanding of both.
Elizabeth Gooding is the President of Gooding Communications Group and editor of the Insight Forums blog. She writes, presents and provides training on trends and opportunities for business communications professionals within regulated vertical industries.