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5 Surefire Ways to Increase B2B Online Leads and Sales

b2b increase leads and sales

You understand online marketing has a big impact on your industrial business. But if you’re anything like most distributors or manufacturers today, you limit your success with clunky e-commerce catalogs and passive online brochures.  However, you want to take your online marketing efforts to the next level to increase leads and sales.

In working with B2B and industrial marketers over the past 20+ years, I’ve uncovered tried and true methods to transform a website from a meager marketing initiative into a powerful online marketing machine.  Here are five surefire ways to help you achieve this same success.

1. Help B2B Customers Find You

A tremendous generational shift is occurring in the marketplace.  Every single day 10,000 Baby Boomers reach retirement age and leave the workforce, and 10,000 Millennials turn 21 and enter the workforce.  This younger and digitally-savvy generation is making your online presence more important now than ever before by changing the B2B buying process. Today, in 80% of B2B transactions, the customer finds the supplier – not the other way around.

To help this new customer base find you, embrace search engine marketing and social media marketing.  Search engine marketing aims to increase your website's presence within the search results of major search engines, like Google, to attract potential customers to your website.  Search marketing is important because, according to research, over 80% of customers begin at a search engine when researching products and services online.  Effective search engine marketing begins with a thorough understanding of the keyword phrases your customers search most often. The next step is to leverage a combination of search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click advertising (PPC) to help your website be found for those searches.

Social media marketing involves leveraging social networking websites (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to share relevant and interesting content with your network of connections.  Social media marketing campaigns typically focus on creating compelling content that attracts your readers’ attention and encourages them to share it with their connections.  I think of this tactic as the new form of public relations.  However, instead of pitching the media, you pitch your peers.  By sharing useful, relevant content with members of your professional network, your message can achieve a tremendous reach as they share your content with members of their networks, who share it with members of their networks, and so on.  This tactic, executed effectively, will help you attract motivated B2B buyers to your website.

2. Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

Having a mobile-friendly website has become extremely important for two reasons. First, in 2014, mobile access to online content outpaced traditional desktop computers.  Many customers and prospects access your website from smartphones and tablets, and your content needs to be easy to read on all screen sizes. Second, it has a strong impact on your search engine ranking.  Recently, Google decided to place an increased importance on a website’s mobile-friendliness in determining how high a site should rank in search results.

There are a couple ways to make your website mobile friendly. The first, and best way, is to create a website with a ‘responsive design.’  A responsive design allows you to have one website that automatically resizes itself and reformats the content depending on the device it’s viewed on.  If you're going through the website redesign process in the future, ask your web designer "Will you create a responsive website?"  If they don’t know what you mean, find another web designer. It's crucial that all websites created now have a responsive design that looks good with content is easy to read on all devices.

The second, simpler way is a band aid fix, but it will get the job done. Services like DudaMobile create a separate mobile version of your site to automatically pop up if it’s accessed on a mobile device. This is a quick, inexpensive way of offering a mobile friendly website; however, the best approach is to have a responsive website.

3. ‘Amazonify’ Your B2B Online Storefront

I made up this word to stress the importance of a consumer-friendly online shopping experience.  ‘Amazonifying’ your online storefront means just because you are selling B2B, doesn’t mean you can get away with a clunky e-commerce site.   Virtually everyone has bought something online as a consumer, and they're used to first rate buying experience. Consumers are accustomed to certain features, layouts and a customer-focused experience. You need to adopt the same consumer-friendly features many of the great B2C online storefronts leverage.

Make sure your homepage features products, educational content, and customer service features that can also be found deeper within your website.  You want to communicate you're a dynamic and active company, and the best way to do that is with a dynamic and active homepage. In addition, make sure your product pages are compelling, offering more than just a product/item number and product name. Customers prefer detailed descriptions and attributes. They expect photos. They expect videos. They expect downloadable specifications and other guides.  Often this involved aggregating product data from suppliers may not be native in your current ERP system.  However, it is important product information that consumers value when making a purchasing decision.  Finally, make your checkout process fluid and intuitive.

I work with a lot of distributors, including many STAFDA distributors, and they are often overwhelmed by the concept of selling online.  Many find aggregating product data for the tens of thousands of SKUs they offer daunting.  I advise them to consider the 80-20 rule – meaning 80% of their sales comes from 20% of their product offering.  If this applies, they can start with the top 20% of product sellers to satisfy 80% of the customer base, and then grow from there. 

4. Make a ‘Call to Action’

E-commerce is certainly important in the online experience.  But often you need to go above and beyond to attract first time buyers, especially if you sell a complex product offering that requires a sales discussion.  To achieve the most of your website’s sales potential, you need to include a ‘call to action.’  According to research, only 10% of people on your website have a purchasing intent in mind. The other 90% are kicking tires, performing research, or on your website for some other reason.  To attract this 90% to reach out, you must provide calls to action that speak to the needs of prospects at different stages of the buying cycle.

A call to action is basically a relevant offer, packaged engagingly on your website.
There are many characteristics of great B2B offers. First, there is a high perceived value that makes the call to action highly desirable. It's something customers value and want to take action on right now.  Next, it is uniquely yours. It is something they cannot gain from visiting any other website or company.  Also, it’s related to the value of what you're trying to sell.  The offer should be easy to respond to and does not require a lot of steps.  Finally, if possible, it minimizes the risk or obligation of ultimately doing business with you. If there's some type of guarantee or other assurance you can provide, this will entice people to take advantage of your offer.

5. Improve Your B2B Email Marketing Strategy

Email marketing has a bad name because most companies use it as a prospecting tool instead of a nurturing tool. You should only send marketing emails to people who have given explicit permission to receive your communications. To do this, you need to continually ask for prospects and customers to subscribe.  Visitors to your website, as well as visitors to your branch location, should be asked to subscribe to your valuable email communications. 

How do you make sure your emails are valuable?  First, create a weekly or monthly educational email newsletter with useful educational, ‘how to,’ content. Useful educational articles can help your customers become more effective and profitable.  In addition, you want to compliment your email newsletter with very targeted promotions based on prior purchases to cross sell products and engage that customer a bit further within your product line.

Customers like to receive communications from people, not companies. Personalize messages from the sales rep each customer normally does business with so emails appear more familiar and ‘human’ in the inbox. You can accomplish this with most email campaign management systems, and it will make your customers more likely to open and read the emails. Want more tips on email newsletter strategy? Check out our article on creating a successful email newsletter. Or, take a look at our B2B email marketing guide.

Ensure your company’s online marketing success by putting these ideas into action.  Which ideas are you going to start with?

Looking for more B2B online marketing resources? Check out our Essential Online Marketing Checklist. A $49 value, this ‘how to’ guide will put you on the path to online marketing success. It contains four checklists with 60 questions that will help you focus your thinking and approach toward producing measurable business results online.

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Bob DeStefano

President, speaker, consultant, author, my mission is to lead industrial marketing into the 21st Century. Full bio

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