Although true that B2C and B2B marketing is quite similar, (in that you’re trying to convince individuals of your value proposition), the two are very different in how you capture your audience’s interest.
I’ve found that B2B marketing requires a slightly different set of tactics to consistently generate qualified sales leads. This is primarily because these users behave differently than their direct-consumer counterparts. Because these B2B buyers are typically constrained by a different purchasing calculus, they necessarily behave differently and will require a different digital experience to move them toward conversion.
Business buyers need to build a business-specific case for their purchase. For this case, they need to research and assemble a presentation that convinces a larger group of decision-makers. We, as B2B digital marketers, need to make this process and that case as simple and compelling as possible.
This requires a slightly different approach in building B2B online user experiences.
Business Buyers Need Supporting Documentation
Based on my experience, in supporting several B2B SaaS clients’ lead generation efforts, B2B web visitors use websites quite differently than B2C customers. Yes, of course they’re both individuals and, in both cases, you are trying to engage and convince them, but each has a particular objective when visiting a website.
In the case of B2C, these folks are generally searching for a very specific personal need or want and, perhaps more importantly, they themselves are the decision-makers. They know all of their requirements and they are searching to find a solution that checks the boxes on their list. Then they pull out the credit card and buy. Small business visitors tend to operate in a similar way.
In contrast, a B2B buyer is probably about 60% decided on what solution he or she wants by the time they visit your site. Chances are he/she has already been largely convinced about a given approach by personal experience, third party-produced independent content (this is why content distribution is so critical!), their fellow colleagues, or some combination thereof.
When a B2B visitor lands on your website, they are generally gathering information to build a business case.
B2B Marketing Needs to Understand the Audience is 60% Decided
This notion that B2B visitors are pretty far along in their decision-making process is important to remember when you’re designing your lead generation user experience.
Unlike the classic B2C lead generation pattern of driving traffic into a landing page and motivating them to complete a form–visit any mortgage website for an example, like this one at LendingTree.com–with B2B lead generation, we have found that it’s more important to facilitate the business case development process.
When Kaleidico designs a B2B web user experience, we are always seeking to design pages that provide justification and support to the investments these types of clients want to make. However, that being said, we also try to avoid determining what that specific information or package needs to be–every business makes decisions a little differently.
To maximize conversion, B2B websites must develop content that can be leveraged into a distinct business case or argument. This content should be in a variety of formats (i.e., blog posts, landing pages, presentations, downloadable PDFs, charts and graphs, videos, etc.).
B2B Marketers Need to Support the Decision-making Process
Every enterprise makes decisions differently, but most make SaaS or other technology decisions in a group. That means that someone–hopefully a large percentage of your web visitors–are on the hook to convince the rest of the group that your solution is the best available.
This is kind of cool, because that means you have a generally like-minded salesperson lobbying on behalf of your approach already embedded in the organization. The problem is, most marketing agencies neglect to leverage that fact when they design their client’s lead generation websites!
Your job is to design an experience that provides all the necessary resources and information to make your case better and more comprehensively than your own sales force could.
Here’s a great example from Microsoft Azure.
In this case, they want you to move your architecture to their cloud platform. As you might imagine, that’s a major decision. There’s going to be meeting after meeting, fights between technical zealots and, at some point, a committee that makes a final decision. That means tons of Visio architecture diagrams, PowerPoint presentations, and technical requirements documents.
What does Microsoft do?
They give you a whole icon library, beautiful images of typical patterns and infographics, ready for you to create presentations, ad infinitum. Here is one that I recently did for a client:
B2B Marketing SaaS Software Lead Generation
As sales and marketing professionals, we often believe we know best how to convert a visitor into a customer. Over the years, I have grown to appreciate the user as marketing guide. Analyzing the behavior of my web users, (more than using my own cleverness), optimizes their experiences far better and has always yielded me better results.
This process–letting the business’ actual users lead our marketing tactics–has produced one of our most notable recent successes.
West IP Communications, a Unified Communications-as-a-Service provider, is a well established, industry-leader, (recognized as such in the Gartner Magic Quadrant–a highly influential voice within that business community). There is certainly nothing lacking in their product or their position in the market. However, their website was significantly under-performing as a consistent lead generation platform.
Our initial approach to increasing West’s lead flow from their website was very traditional–better landing pages and optimized lead forms. But this approach only nudged the needle. We needed a much bigger outcome, which led us to dig deeper into our analytics–looking for clues from user behavior.
Here’s what we found (and have subsequently found on other B2B websites)…
There are two, very prominent, patterns that seem to reflect the nature of B2B buying processes.
The first pattern is a visitor that is collecting a variety of pieces of information in order to assemble a business case for the solution they are proposing/championing to a larger decision-making group or committee.
In this case, the visitor is bouncing from page to page on a single day, collecting information. In many cases, they end the process (usually in close temporal proximity to this session) with an inquiry (i.e., web form fill-out) to ask questions and fill gaps in their investigative process.
This B2B lead generation signal looks something like this:
The second pattern is a visitor that continually revisits the same page or piece of content over the course of several days or more, ultimately resulting in an inquiry to engage sales for questions or quotes. This could be indicative of a B2B buying process that is less formal, but does require that internal champion to build consensus around the solution before moving into a conversation with the provider.
This B2B pattern looks somewhat like this:
Both B2B web behavior patterns require a wholly different approach from our traditional ‘landing page and web form’ mentality, in designing a lead generation user experience.
Recognizing that fact, Kaleidico first made the simplest of shifts to include an inquiry form on all content pages and a full-featured “communications center.” This allows the B2B user to reach out to West at any moment, in a variety of ways, to support their investigative process.
Subsequently, we’ve begun the process of reorganizing and re-packaging key content pages into more portable and decision-supporting content (i.e., slide presentations, PDFs, and conceptual imagery). Again, all with the goal of supporting your preferred solution in even the most bureaucratic and tribal of internal decision-making processes.
B2B Marketing Needs to Let the Business Users Lead
If you’re looking for that key takeaway to put in your B2B web marketing arsenal, it is this:
Let the business user lead you to the sale.
These folks know their organizations, bureaucracies, and committees, and know how to successfully navigate their complex buying processes. Leverage their own corporate knowledge for your benefit. Dig into your web analytics and pull out common patterns that you can support with tailored user experiences and content. Then watch with knowing glee as your B2B leads start to increase.