Websites are Still About Relationships

Every business owner asks me “how do I can get new business” and the answer is always the same “become more effective with sales prospecting and B2B lead generation (Business to business). If you’re a successful business owner, you already know that the success of your business depends on the relationships built with customers. This is twice as true when doing business online. Business-to-Business selling (B2B) is much more successful as you build trust and establish relationships.

Websites are for B2B Lead Generation

Yet there are millions of websites out there that do nothing to cultivate customer relationships or generate sales leads and opportunities. Time after time, this is what you’ll find:

  • Ego – All about the company: We have this, we did that, we said, we, we, we… The truth is that nobody cares. If a visitor doesn’t see something that’ they value they’ll be reaching for the back button.
  • Brochure – A replica of the company brochure, with product and service information, photos, driving directions, and contact information. Just like millions of other websites.
  • Buy Me! – There’s no shortage of websites selling products and services. The problem is most of them don’t offer anything else – no useful information, no free trial, no coupons, nothing. Just an opportunity to separate the visitor from their cash.

Just as in real-life, online relationships take time to develop. The constant barrage of sales pitches and hype has made many web surfers hold on tightly to their wallets. Until they get to know the person behind the website, you are tarred with the same brush as every other greedy marketer trying to pick their pocket.

So how do you begin to develop customer relationships? Two words: relationship marketing. But what is “Relationship Marketing”?

As an independent professional, a freelancer or a small business owner one of the most challenging tasks is marketing. Michael Gerber’s book “the e-Myth” points out that most individuals know their trade or profession well. They know what their customers value and what to offer them. However they just don’t know how to locate people (prospects) and convince them to use their services or products (become customers).

One of the most powerful techniques in marketing is to step into the shoes of your ideal client and brainstorm how they would find your business. Sales Prospecting and B2B Lead Generation starts by thinking how your customer could find you, the places they’ll look and the kind of information they’ll need to get their attention only YOU. This helps to refine the exact target market looking for your product or service. It also helps figure out what would be the best marketing methods and the messages to communicate your message to them.

Relationship marketing (B2B Lead Generation) is about having a dialog with your customers over a period of time. It can also include gathering customer information and analyzing their behavior. You may not have the financial resources of Best Buy or WalMart, but as a local business owner you can do something they can’t – have real person-to-person relationship with your customers.

You do that by providing value to your customers, usually good information and value packed offers. Remember, people don’t go online looking for something to buy. They’re usually seeking information. So your strategy should be to use the information your customers need to build and maintain relationships with them.

There are 2 critical components to making this strategy work: a value-packed website and the consistent use of email to stay in touch.

Value-Packed Website

The relationship marketing process starts when a visitor arrives on the website. Make sure it’s a wonderful experience. Offer value – articles, content and interesting visuals – reasons to stay around and read more and click to other pages on the site. This is called “stickiness.”

Your main goal is to get the visitor’s email information. Only by having their email can you initiate a dialog. The number of people who visit the site compared to the number that sign-in (also referred to as an opt-in) is called the conversion rate. This is an important metric. It indicates if the website is interesting. If the website fails to motivate a visitor to opt-in it isn’t very likely to produce any business either. Don’t confuse the opt-in conversion factor with another important conversion factor: the conversion of leads to sales. Both should be watched and improved.

Remember it doesn’t matter how many website visitors you get. If they leave your site without giving you a way of keeping in touch with them then your B2B lead generation tactics have failed. You cannot build a relationship with someone you don’t know about and who spends very little time on your website.

There are many techniques to get opt-ins. Some sites use what is called squeeze pages. Squeeze pages don’t allow the visitor to get any more information until the visitor opts in. However I find this irritating and leave the site. Many people put in false email information. The best strategy is to incentivize the visitor by offering something that they will value – a free report, a discount coupon, or a membership to an exclusive service. Be creative. Whatever you do this step is crucial to success. Get it done on the first visit because there may not be another.

What else characterizes a value-packed website for successful B2B lead generation?

Free Information or Service – Give before you get marketing. Some examples are:

  • FAQs – Make it easy for people to find the information they need by providing online help files. Make a note of questions you’re asked repeatedly and compile them into a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).
  • Put service and operational manuals on the website. Customers often loose the documents that came with their purchase. This is a constant source of frustration. Remove that frustration.
  • Put ‘how to’ guides on the web. A landscaper could put instructions on how to layout a yard. When I bought paving stones for my driveway I had to drive to the rock yard to learn how to figure out to compute the materials I would need. A good website would have made the purchase much easier.
  • A hardware store could offer project ideas and instructions on a website. Anyone wanting to do the project would have to buy the materials to complete it.

Another important component of a website that you want to use for B2B lead generation is allowing customers to help themselves. Can a product be purchased in different colors? What would the product look like? Can they order online? See a menu? Initiate a service call? Comment on purchases and the company? Can they set their own appointments? Allow these kinds of actions on a website and the interaction becomes a two way relationship. What can a customer do to prepare them for a sale?

Other important factors in providing a value-packed B2B lead generating website include:

  • Two-way Dialogue – You want a two-way dialogue between you and your customer, so make it easy for customers to contact you and encourage them to do so.
  • Personalize the site. Allow your personality to come through. Be human – life is in the details, share some.
  • Timely Response – When your customer does “raise their hand”, respond quickly! There’s nothing more de-motivating than an unanswered email to someone who claims to want my business. Use an autoresponder (if you’re unfamiliar with autoresponders check out the articles about them at <
  • Community People want to feel a sense of community, which is why discussions boards are so popular. Give people a place to gather, swap tales, and build a community. Message boards, mailing lists, polls – the more chances you give your customers to express their likes and dislikes, the better. Give them their voice and they’ll tell you exactly what they want (and will pay for).
  • Ask Questions – Ask customers what they want. They’ll tell you. If you find out what your customer wants and become a friend, you will beat most of the competition hands down.
  • Community Related Announcements or a calendar. Don’t do it if you’re not willing to keep it current.
  • Frequent Updates – If you want people to visit frequently, you must give them a reason – new content, a fresh look every how and then, information updates. A website is never finished. This is why Blogs are so popular. People (as well as search engines, directories, and other websites willing to link to a business’ website) want fresh and original information. Provide it.
  • Free Tools or Services – Another way to draw people back to your site is to offer free tools such as a mortgage calculator, or free services such as email. You could offer free advice about your industry, for example an “Ask Andy” column.
  • Money-back Guarantee – If you’re selling something online, you must offer an ironclad “no questions asked” money-back guarantee! Then honor it.

Above all, show your customers that you’re in it for the long haul, not the quick score. No flashing banners screaming “Buy Me!” Tone down the hype. People have become very cynical because of the over inflated claims being made by businesses – online and offline. Solid content backed by a solid company builds trust and gets more sales than does carnival barking. B2B Lead Generation is based upon providing value and building a customer’s trust and relationship with you over time.

Under promise and over deliver. Remember the goal isn’t to get a single sale but to develop a long-term customer relationship. The goal is to increase the lifetime value of new and existing customers because they purchase more from our business. The only way to accomplish that goal is to have satisfied customers. Don’t disappoint by promising what can’t be delivered.

Keep your word. Do what you say. Don’t make false or misleading offers – like deadlines that never really expire. No pressure to hurry up and buy before midnight – unless the offer really does go away at 12:01. Don’t have a clock that resets every time a customer comes back. Credibility will suffer when those kind of tactics are employed.

In addition to a value-packed website the consistent use of email is required. There are many good articles in the directory about emailing – from content generation to tips on building an email address list. However lets touch upon some important points here.

If you are emailing your local customers, sending offers, coupons, and useful information about the business, you are more likely to get their business than a stranger. If you’re sending out a newsletter, you’ll be light years ahead of all of your competition, local or not!

Here are a few ways to use email to create ‘brand’ awareness within your local community.

  • Email your customers and prospects on a regular basis, at least twice a month. Any less than that and they may forget you. Again, use an autoresponder to automate this process. Write one email – get it distributed to everyone. Create separate categories based on the buying habits or preferences of the business’ customers. Use specific emails to target their specific needs.
  • Send an electronic newsletter to customers and prospects with useful information, news about the company, related articles, notice of new content on the website, new product announcements, etc.

The goal is to keep in touch so that when they need your products or services you’ll be the one they call. The more they identify you as someone who wants to help them the more likely they are to contact you when the need arises.

When customers purchase a product or service, use email to help them get the most out of it. For a book or publication, it could be an email ‘walkthrough’ series highlighting important topics. Put audio or video excerpts on the website and let buyers know about them. This could motivate someone to actually read the book they’ve bought – and buy another.

Here are some B2B Lead Generation Ideas

Send a personal email note to select local customers without a strong sales pitch. Keep it simple and friendly. It could be a Happy Anniversary note or card if the customer has been with you for a year. If you have birthrate info, you can send an electronic birthday card.

Become a frequent contributor on local message boards with helpful information. Let the community get to know you. There are many directories that will list local businesses on them. Most local governments have a website as do most chapters of the Chamber of Commerce. Get free listings on their sites. Send out Press Releases, announcements, even special events that your business is doing. There are many free promotion and advertising opportunities on the Internet. These community sites need local information to keep themselves relevant and people visiting. They want your information.

If possible, you should do joint ventures with neighboring businesses. If you do this, make sure you control the mailings, and that your company “introduces” the other business. Never give out anyone’s email without their permission or if you haven’t disclosed the intention to do so in the company’s privacy statement.

Another joint venture idea is a coupon exchange. Band together with other non-competing businesses and regularly exchange coupon offers with each others email lists. The email could have an ‘electronic coupon inside or links to a webpage where the offer can be found. You send out your partner’s coupons and they send out yours. That way email privacy is maintained and you get the credit for providing savings and more value to your customers.

Summary

Having a B2B Lead Generation website and the consistent use of email you can build lasting relationships with your customers. The Internet offers many ways to build the trust of customers and build a local brand. Great websites and consistent email campaigns will become the backbone of a business’ marketing program. Motivating customers to find you and search out your business is far easier and far more profitable than traditional prospecting and off-line growth methods.

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