So, remember the last time you bought something from Amazon? (Other massive online retailers are available). Without thinking you probably did the following; checked out the product features, technical specifications and read numerous customer reviews – after all these can be entertaining in their own right (Check out the BIC ‘for her’ ballpoint pen reviews for example).
Here’s where we might be missing a trick. Putting it simply, buyer behaviour in e-commerce is generally short and sweet with easy to track user funnels and measurable ROMI. One reason for this is online shoppers in the majority tend to know what they are looking for, have a budget in mind and will seek out trust signals in products and companies before making a purchase – all in as little as a few minutes. Easy right?
What can we learn from this in B2B? Time and time again, we see so many following that well-trodden path where content is gated, technical data is never fully disclosed and there is a lack of independent opinion to build trust from. Many vendors operate in a ‘you give me some info and I’ll give you some info’ environment. Imagine if you had to deal with that every time you tried to buy from Amazon?
We’re all cut from the same cloth, B2B buyers are also consumers – we often forget that. Yes, the buying process will have a different perceived risk and more complexity, but most of the unconscious, instinctive and emotional behaviours we’ve picked up will be the same. Whether you’re buying a new cloud solution for the business or an ill-advised big screen TV for home – there will always be other stakeholders in your life who may want to guide you differently.
Let’s look at the beginning of the sales funnel, in the ‘research stage’ 72% of buyers will turn to Google for information on potential solutions. Upon choosing a suitable result, many interactions are then with a purpose built landing page for that solution. Let’s stop there, we already have a problem…
- Lack of credible independent unbiased information. 99% of IT pros search for product reviews when researching new products and services, but it’s rarely provided early in the buying journey.
- Gated access to whitepapers, content and product resources. Think about it, why are you hiding vital product details all in exchange for an email address? It’s off-putting, with 79% of IT pros unwilling to complete a form to get past the gate for fear of the inevitable sales call follow up.
- Incomplete or inconsistent technical data. If you’ve hidden the tech data away from a prospective buyer, it makes for a frustrating battle for them to establish whether your product solution is even viable for them.
You will notice that these three issues are ones that B2C doesn’t struggle with. Customers have no trouble finding advocacy for a product and the best e-commerce sites don’t hide product information or technical data. So why do we do this in B2B? Well here are two reasons for consideration:
- Fear of bad reviews. Yes, it can happen – but it’s also rare (you handle it properly when it does), especially for those who have true confidence in their solution and customer satisfaction.
- The precious e-mail address! So many marketers are trapped in a routine where the capture of an e-mail sets off a chain reaction of nurture and drip campaign activity. Technology has moved on (well it did ages ago!). We can lead score and monitor customers in other ways, without holding content to ransom as one of their first interactions with us.
So, what are the conclusions to draw here? Well, customers want transparency, proof your product works and access to information without a doing battle with forms or salespeople. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not debunking gated content and the methodology so many rely on completely. It’s more about being brave enough to test something new and importantly making sure the journey is right for your customer.
The old adage is that, “fortune favours the brave” and the potential rewards for those that break the mould are great. We’re increasingly becoming a self-serving society, it’s time B2B caught up.