If you have a business-to-business (B2B) Web site, you're probably tired of all the trite advice you see out there from experts who are clearly speaking to those in the business-to-consumer (B2C) industry. I mean, each time you read these opinions about what you should do, do you find yourself asking, "How is that realistic in my B2B business?" And you might be wondering where the really smart B2B marketers look for their new ideas. And the answer is...those crazy B2C Web sites. Let me explain why.

No matter that all of your customers are businesses themselves, each person you sell to is also a consumer, and they spend far more of their time online being a consumer shopper than a business shopper. What that means is that every time they come to your site, they bring all the sensibilities of a consumer to your business interaction. They expect you to be just as easy as Amazon.com—being a B2B company doesn't change what they expect.

Print Shop

Image by dailyinvention via Flickr

So, when you are trying to figure out how to improve your B2B experience, look to B2C for your inspiration, because they probably got there first. Which of these things wouldn't improve your Web site?

  • Providing customers the choice of buying online or offline
  • Making products easy to return
  • Providing chat or phone support for those unable to understand your Web site

Now, not all of these things are affordable for you, but you might be able to do something better than you are doing now. Don't believe me that your customers want what they get as consumers? Take a look at the history of B2B experiences:

  • It wasn't long ago that most B2B companies did not accept credit cards, requiring credit checks and paper billing at the end of each month.
  • B2B sites didn't offer any form of sign-in or other means of personalization, but now several do.
  • B2B sites never posted ratings and reviews, but now a number of them do.

If you expect that B2B user experiences will remain wholly unaffected by B2C experience improvements, you haven't been paying attention to what's been happening. Your cheapest market research on what's next in your business might be to look at businesses that you aren't in.

Just a note to regular readers. I am disappearing for the next few weeks for my annual August vacation, but I will see you in September.

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July 26, 2010

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > How Good B2B Marketers Cheat