Finding and keeping new customers is difficult enough in today’s competitive business world; a poor website that repels customers can make things even more difficult.
Irrelevant content, long loading times, content that’s not mobile-friendly, and too many hoops to jump through can all push customers to find better places to spend their money online. Consider your last B2C shopping experience, for example. If the site wasn’t well organized, didn’t meet your needs, and/or wasted your time, you probably ran away as fast as you could by tapping your phone screen or clicking your mouse.
Well, your distributorship’s B2B customers are doing the same thing. “Your website is oftentimes your potential customer’s first impression of your company, and that makes it a pretty powerful marketing tool. Having a great website can win you customers around the world without any effort from a salesman,” Jerome Collomb writes in 5 Things That Drive Your Visitors Away. “However, if your website isn’t created with the right things in mind, it can send the wrong message to thousands of people, and eventually lead to a big loss in business.”
Citing poor content; unclear directives that aren’t concise and user-friendly; a lack of credibility; looking “cheap” and unprofessional; and too much information as the primary customer repellants in the online world, Collomb tells companies to strive for the right balance between providing easy-to-understand information and maintaining a professional image online. Ignore this advice and you could wind up driving existing and prospective customers away for good.
Is Your Website Up to Snuff?
According to Forrester Research, B2B e-commerce transactions will reach $1.2 billion by 2021 and will account for more than 13% of all U.S. B2B sales at that point (up from $889 billion in 2017). Increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.4% annually, these B2B sales frequently kick off with a customer using a mobile device or desktop computer to visit a distributor’s website. And if that experience isn’t up to snuff, he or she will go elsewhere to find the right product, information, and data.
“If you’re not continuously improving your pages and appropriately updating as trends change, you could be driving customers away in droves,” writes Megan Prangley in 10 Ways Your Website Could Be Driving Customers Away. She sees outdated design, not being mobile friendly, complicated navigation, grammatical errors, and a lack of CTAs (calls to action) as the primary culprits. A lack of social media links and too many pop-ups can also hurt a distributor’s chances of retaining eyeballs—and making sales—online.
“If your website has so many pop-ups scrolling around that your leads can’t read your copy, that is a huge turn off to modern web-users,” Prangley cautions. “CTAs are great, but annoying and spammy links will drive traffic right to your competitors.”
Let Your Reps Loose on the Web
Having worked with many industrial distributors over the last few years—helping them improve their e-commerce presences and grow their online sales—Justin King, co-founder of the DigitalBranch, and senior partner at B2X Partners, says there are a few tricks that companies can use to buck the bad website trend.
For starters, King says having good, accurate data is paramount in the B2B world, where customers want to know what the product is, how it solves their problem, how much it costs, and when they can get it. Past that, he says electrical distributors should utilize descriptive product titles (ideally those that speak to a specific application or customer problem), product attributes, and detailed descriptions.
And who better than your own inside sales reps to develop those descriptions? “Have your inside sales reps, or maybe someone who is retiring from your industry, write the descriptions,” King says. Start by giving those scribes an Excel file of 50-100 top products and have them develop write-ups that mimic how they would describe the products to their own customers in person, on the phone, or via email.
“Pay them by the hour or the SKU, and task them with coming up with write-ups that actually speak to your customers. Tell them what the product is and how it can be used, and suddenly you have unique content on your website.” That unique content can really help distributors stand out online, says King, and namely because “about 1% of companies are doing this right now.”
The Video Secret
It’s no secret that videos help to keep people engaged online. In fact, where both video and text are available on the same page, 72% of people would rather use video to learn about a product or service, according to The State of Video Marketing in 2018. With 81% of businesses already using video as a marketing tool (up from 63% in 2017) and 99% of those firms planning to continue doing so this year, the push to augment text with moving pictures is on.
King says electrical distributors are in the perfect position to leverage the video trend, given the high number of “demonstrable” items that they sell, and the fact that many of their products require additional customer education and support. “Make a video detailing how your product is actually used or installed inside of a selection of different applications,” King suggests. “Focus on the marketing side of the equation, with bulleted descriptions that are exciting and engaging, and make customers want to take action.
“Even a 30-second video shot on an iPhone X of a product being used in the field can go a long way in helping to enhance a distributor’s website,” says King. “It takes literally zero money to do it; it’s just about being smart and taking the initiative.”
Going a step further, King encourages electrical distributors to experiment with advanced web content techniques like “unboxing,” or the unpacking of products whereby the process is captured on video and uploaded to the Internet. The item is then also explained in detail and/or demonstrated. (View three examples of product unboxing here.)
“Any distributor can create an unboxing video in just a few minutes,” says King. “It’s a simple and extremely effective way to show customers what’s in the box, what the different pieces and components are, and how big it is (i.e., by using a ruler right in the video).”
A central focus of your distributorship’s digital presence, your website has to be top-notch in today’s B2B world, where customers have come to expect the same experiences that they have in the B2C environment. By providing relevant information, publishing accurate data, and getting “creative” with advanced web techniques, distributors can avoid the “bad website” trap and begin attracting (and retaining) more customers online.