I have recently been reading articles and advertisements from web developers stating the case that there is very little difference between B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer) web audiences. The point being that the two audiences can be served using the same strategy — a highly graphic site with limited information and a strong push to e-commerce or purchase. Is this methodology really beneficial to the specific client’s needs, or is it just a way to broaden the sales potential with a ready-made one-size-fits-all set of templates?
The truth of the matter is that B2B clients are significantly different than B2C clients, and assuming one strategy /design can accommodate both types of clients is both naïve and dangerous. B2C companies are usually targeted to one specific audience/user type and generally have short sales cycles including direct purchase. B2B companies are generally selling to other companies or manufacturers, thus have a longer and more complex sales cycle that includes multiple audiences and more steps in the sales process.
It is important to understand that many B2B companies and manufacturers either make products that are designed for other businesses or do not make any products at all but offer manufacturing services like machining or contract manufacturing. The target audiences for these scenarios include engineers, product development specialists, buyers, and owners who are looking to solve a need or requirement with specific situational factors involved. The difference is not the person but the context of the search involved; an engineer, manager, or buyer is generally looking for information and details relating to a business or manufacturing solution and not for the emotional and visual entertainment of a website.
In fact, using a one-size-fits-all strategy can actually turn away potential customers because using a consumer-based sales approach may be viewed as less professional or wasting a user’s time rather than getting to the point and offering information and solutions. Have you ever had a salesperson come into your office and talk endlessly about their kids or vacation and never really get to business? You likely just want them to leave. The same is true of a website that is visually superficial and doesn’t get to business. Most business professionals are searching for items that meet their time schedule and business needs. They will use keywords in a Google search and gravitate to websites that address their needs clearly and professionally.
So yes, B2B and B2C are both targeted at “people,” but it is important to understand what your target customer is looking for and how to follow protocol in getting their business.
Tips & Considerations
- Don’t use stock images that are not directly related to your message. Flowers and puppies are cute but not if you’re selling machining services.
- Don’t believe that only images sell. Websites with lots of graphics may look great, but in the end they may not offer enough information to convert a prospect.
- It’s about your audience not you. First rule in sales: listen to your customers and they will tell you what they want to buy.
- State meaningful benefits; don’t confuse the message with superficial features and worthless benefits. You need to point out why you are better and why it is important to them!
- Offer content; offer information that provides value to you reader and subtly frames your company as the solution outlined in the article. Don’t use the infomercial approach; it generally doesn’t work. Learn to use social media and blogs as vehicles for your content.
- Balance your content with images and white space. While information is important, no one wants to read an 800-word paragraph block.
- Keep navigation simple: Drop down navigation is bad for small sites, but sites that keep expanding all over the content are both cumbersome and may cause SEO errors.
- Put your phone number and address on every page. Studies show that people trust sites that clearly state their phone and address. Plus, most people use your site as a phone look up, so make it easy for them to find.
- Be direct about what you offer. Too many companies don’t want to pigeon hole themselves by listing their capabilities and thus offer an overly general description or place the focus on “our people, quality, and on time delivery.” Being direct results in more sales.
- Branding is important but you are not Nike or Ford. I chuckle at companies that do branding and believe they can achieve what Nike and Ford did in 6 months with a budget or $10,000. Branding is important, but understand your limitations and set realistic expectations.