web site hurting your sales effort?

by Pete Monfre

When many companies talk about marketing, they inevitably end up focusing myopically on their company web site.  Do a search in any search engine for “marketing” and the vast majority of topics will be on-line marketing. It’s as if the web has become the singular representation of  of marketing and sales tactics.

While your web site is important, it is a mistake to consider it as the only factor in reaching prospects and converting them to customers. For most companies the web is a critical focal point during the early stages of your sales process for prospects. The trouble arises when the we attempt to make the site everything to everyone. I’m not saying there are many different uses for a corporate web site (service, support, education, social interaction, etc.) but most of my clients expect their site to primarily help drive sales. Whatever you are trying to achieve with your site, the key is to have a clear understanding of what it the end game is and then focus your efforts accordingly.

If you want your site to contribute to successful sales, you have to understand how it functions in the sales cycle, align the content with how you sell,  and take into account customer evaluation and buying criteria.

This is not as easy as it sounds. One thing that makes this idea difficult to implement, and indeed one of the main reasons most sites are deficient in this area is that the wrong people control the content on the site. Most companies put the marketing or I.T. department in charge of the company’s web site. Neither of these groups typically have any incentive to collaborate with the sales team so the content of the site often conflicts with how sales functions. A better method is to assign someone who can lead a cross functional team in a strategic process to determine the optimum approach. My process creates a collaborative environment between sales, marketing and I.T. to first establish a foundation of requirements and desired outcomes. Then, we work to align these requirements with how prospects typically use the web to vet potential suppliers.

In the majority of B2B and B2C selling environments, the web site is the primary tool a potential customer uses to decide if you qualify for their business. Once a buyer is aware of your company (either through search engines or via referral or other demand generation work) the first thing they do is check your site. My research indicates that customers visit potential suppliers sites initially with three primary questions in mind:

Do your company’s capabilities match my needs?
Is this company capable, credible and trustworthy?
Should I include them on my short list of potential suppliers?

If you pass these initial tests, you will make the short list. If you don’t, you’ll never know because the prospect won’t inform you of your failure. They will simply move on to your competitor.

The typical B2B buyer spends only minutes at your site with the vast majority never making it past your home page. You need to make sure you’ve at least answered the above questions and offered some incentives to invite the visitor deeper into the site or to contact your sales team. One way you can do this is to offer special reports or other valuable information in return for revealing the visitor’s identity (usually in the form of an email address or other contact information). Many of these people won’t be ready to buy yet, so offering a subscription to an electronic publication is effective to maintain an ongoing conversation with people who have shown some level on interest in what you offer.

At the same time, your site must be attractive, professional and easy to navigate. Visual organization is key – if the visitor is presented with a chaotic layout of graphics, text, widgets and other elements they will simply determine that it is too much work to evaluate your company and with a click of the mouse, they are gone. This is where a professional designer is worth his or her weight in gold.

If your site aligns with your marketing and sales processes and delivers the right messaging at the right time, you will pass more buyer’s tests, make more short lists and, ultimately, more sales.


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