The business-to-business segment of ecommerce is huge; in 2014 alone it banked $1 trillion in sales, and it shows no signs of slowing.
To take advantage of this ever-growing sector, we’ve pulled together our brightest minds from Volusion’s Marketing and Creative Services departments to share tips to help B2B stores stand out and earn new customers. No matter what marketing tactics you’re using, you’re sure to find some B2B marketing strategies that will help your store attract more shoppers.
Create thorough landing pages
B2B buyers tend to do a lot more comparison shopping. It’s rarely a quick sale, as these purchases are often larger in scale. This means it’s important to make sure your landing pages are very thorough. Be sure to include a lot of helpful information, including testimonials from other businesses, phone numbers clearly displayed for easy contact, FAQs with answers and details regarding bulk purchases (if relevant).
Tailor your calls to action
Make sure the ads clearly speak to a business. The “buy now” or “order today” call to actions aren’t ideal for businesses. You’d be better served with phrases such as “best in class,” “award winning,” “contact us” or “see what we can do for your business.” Also, mention price points if you’re able. It will help businesses know more information about what you sell, and will increase the quality of the buyer who clicks on the ad.
Add on business modifiers
Use keywords with a business mindset. So if applicable, use the “bulk” terms or phrase add-ons such as “for business,” “for companies” and “corporate.” Additionally, businesses typically know exactly what product or service they want, so make sure to target those specific keywords. Use the correct acronyms, part numbers, model numbers, etc. Customers may have some idea, but businesses know and will search for those exact things.
Run ads during work hours
Monitor your ad schedule. Maybe businesses are only shopping for products and services during the week from the hours of 7am-7pm, so you’d omit other hours and weekends.
Remarket to stay top of mind
Finally, remarketing is a great tool for businesses. As noted, B2B products and services tend to have long buying cycles, and remarketing can help close those deals.
Make product names and descriptions specific
Include part numbers in your product titles and descriptions – Most B2B consumers know exactly what they’re looking for, so you can be specific when naming and describing your product. If you’re selling ink for a specific printer, for example, include all relevant identifying information in the description.
Ad scheduling is your friend
Keep an eye on when your sales are coming in, and if it makes sense, be sure to either lower your bid or turn off your ads completely during non-business hours and holidays. This can help you use your budget more effectively by only advertising when your B2B customers are actually shopping.
Display items in bulk
If selling items in bulk, try to have your product pictures communicate that fact. Having your product title contain the word “bulk” isn’t always enough, since people are drawn to product images over text. If you have a picture of a single item, a shopper may click on it thinking they can purchase it, and you'll be wasting your budget. Make it obvious to shoppers what they would be buying if they purchase your product.
Know the differences between B2B strategies and B2C strategies. The goal of a Business-to-Consumer website is to make a sale when the prospective customer visits the page, whereas B2B websites are designed to build long-term relationships with companies who will consistently return to that supplier. This means that immediate sales are unlikely; the goal should be to initiate a conversation and start the selling process.
Know which metrics are important
When we run Analytics reports for B2C websites, we focus heavily on conversions with regards to how many people have made a purchase. For B2B websites, conversions often take place offline and are not as reliable an indicator of success as B2C conversions. More relevant Analytics indicators would be factors like Time on Site and bounce rate, both of which indicate how interested prospects are in learning more and forming a partnership. You can also set up custom goals that track, for example, how many people download a whitepaper or enter their contact information to request a quote.
Choose keywords relevant to your B2B market
Perform market research on your target audience so you can know how to speak to them, and then select the right keywords. Beware of the keyword “wholesale,” which is often used by B2C websites that sell in bulk or offer discounts, which leads to a misuse and saturation of that keyword. This doesn’t mean you have to throw it out altogether, but do supplement your strategy with keywords that are highly relevant to your target market, like “industrial machine equipment suppliers” or “material handling systems supplier.”
Consider other avenues for communicating information
Website content is especially important in the B2B world, as your prospects will be looking for as much information as possible prior to making their decisions. Consider the B2C consumer, who can look at a photo of a product and make a purchase. Now contrast this with the B2B consumer, who will be interested in price points, the efficacy of the product, supporting options and maybe even specifics like engineering techniques or a commitment to environmentally-friendly practices. White papers, resources pages, Slideshares, product videos and infographics are all especially helpful forms of content for the B2B market.
Don’t forget the fundamentals
Of course, best practices for SEO continue to apply. This includes keyword-rich metadata, technical optimization, high-quality on page content and white-hat link acquisition strategies. B2B websites also have a relatively untapped opportunity to use Schema markup to their advantage. You can read more about Schema markup for B2B companies here.
Design for trust and credibility
You want your customers to know that you are a trustworthy, credible company that they can feel comfortable doing business with for the long run. Building that trust is one of the most important jobs of your website. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to make sure they get the message loud and clear:
- Professional, Updated Design - Nothing lowers the credibility of a website more than an outdated, ugly design. In fact, 75% of customers make judgements about a company’s credibility based solely on their website’s design. A professionally-designed website can make a huge difference in building trust and can be a big differentiator between you and your competition.
- Customer Testimonials - If you have some great customer testimonials, make sure you show them off. It’ll put your potential customers at ease knowing that other people have had great experiences with your company.
- Brand Logos - If you’re an authorized distributor or seller of brands recognizable by your target audience, let them know. Not every business can carry those brands, so that fact that yours does holds value.
- Show Your Humans - People like to know they are purchasing from real people. Show some photos of your staff or founder. Simply knowing there are real people putting their reputation behind a product goes a long way.
- Seals and Industry Credentials - Having an A+ plus BBB rating or carrying certifications within your industry builds a ton of trust. Be sure to let your customers know how great and more importantly, how trustworthy you are.
Go for a clean and organized design
Many B2B customers are looking for specific things. Maybe it’s more information about a particular product, or maybe it’s your company phone number. Either way you want to make it as easy as possible for them to find what they’re looking for. Having a clean, well-organized website is one of the best ways to entice customers. Think about what a potential customer might be looking for, and just keep it simple. This allows your important information and content to stand out.
Choose easy-to-read typography
Since many B2B customers are researching and looking for specific information, you want the fonts on your website to be easily scanned and read. For example, cursive fonts might carry a lot of character and personality, but they can also be difficult to quickly read and consume. More so than B2C websites, it’s important for B2B websites to help customers get what they need quickly. Clear, sans serif fonts are probably the best choice for most B2B websites. Additionally, sans serif fonts tend to evoke feeling of trust and professionalism, which make them a win-win.
Use color and consistency to build your brand
B2B customers are also B2C customers: the only difference is that they’re shopping as part of their job. They’re accustomed to shopping on consistent, professionally branded sites, and their standards for B2B websites are no different.
Select a few colors that match your logo or portray the right message about your company, and use those same colors throughout your website. The same goes for typography: you don’t want a ton of fonts throwing off the look of your site. Just select a few “on-brand” fonts and use them throughout. This will help create a cohesive, professional brand customers have come to expect and can have a huge impact on repeat business.
Balance photos with information
Just because many B2B customers are more interested in researching information, getting the specs and checking the facts doesn’t mean you should completely forego quality imagery. Obscure equipment parts may not make for the most photogenic images on the Internet, but humans are visual creatures and nice photos are still important. Making sure you have the spec sheet or a PDF of the product manual on your site is good, but if you accompany that with some nice photography you’ve got a powerful design.
Make it Easy for Your Customers to Find What They Need
Reducing the friction a potential customer feels when searching for information can be the difference between making and missing a sale. There are a few design tweaks you can implement to make site navigation as easy as possible on your customers:
- Large search - Sometimes people know exactly what they want. They have an SKU or part number and just want to get right to business. Having a large, in-your-face search box will get those customers to the page they want in the shortest amount of time.
- Clearly Defined Navigation - Think about how your customers shop. Are they looking for a specific product based on the brand? Are there large groups of categories they can drill down into and find what they need? Or are they looking for a very specific item based on its size or weight? Chances are different customers will shop in different ways. All you have to do is have a clearly-defined, easy-to-follow path, and guide them down the road to making a purchase.
- Make it Easy to Get in Touch - Sometimes a customer just wants to talk to a real person. B2B sales can be a little more complex and expensive than B2C sales, so wanting to speak with a customer service or sales representative is more common. Having a large, easy-to-find phone number, contact page or live chat button can make a world of difference.
Define the goal of your email marketing
What is your goal when you send emails to your customers? Do you want to provide discounts? Promote yourself as an authority? Release new products or catalogues?
Defining a goal will help direct each newsletter template, layout and what the primary callout is. This will give your email marketing strategy a cohesive feel instead of seeming disjointed. This will also help in design, where the primary calls-to-action are based on email goals.
Test the frequency of email launches
Use the data from your efforts to determine the best time and day to send your newsletters.
- How many emails should you be sending?
- Determine what qualifies as a reasonable turnaround for your company.
- Weekly, bi-weekly, once a month, quarterly?
- Make sure you’re reaching your subscribers when the timing is best for them.
Consider running a second pass newsletter to capture subscribers at a later date who didn’t open the first one.
Create an email marketing calendar
As soon as possible, create a calendar for showcases, promotions, holidays, seasonal trends and so on. This can be quarterly, bi-yearly or mapped out for the entire year, and will give your email marketing efforts direction and a full strategy. Your calendar should reflect your seasonality, and you can use metrics year-over-year to grow and refine your efforts.
For example, Black Friday/Cyber Monday should be already considered for this year. As the year progresses you can modify those efforts, but all the newsletters from now until then should be considered when preparing for the biggest email week of the year.
Focusing on your market and what makes them different from a B2C one can help you achieve success as a B2B ecommerce business. Volusion offers all the performance marketing services mentioned here, along with an array of other features that will help your site convert.
Have additional tips for other B2B businesses? Share them in the comments!
Authors include: Ryan Noonan (PPC), Adam Kirsch (Feeds), Wes Asbell (Design), Meaghan Nanson (SEO), Natalie Stambro (Email Marketing) and Julianne Coyne (Editing)