Okay B2B folks. Time to see the light. Time to challenge your perceptions of industry differences – when it comes to online persuasion, B2B is not substantively different from B2C. You sell; they buy; you’re most effective when your selling process pairs up perfectly with their buying processes. Whatever you’re doing out there in cyber space, you get that relationship right and you’ll persuade brilliantly.
Getting stuck on superficial distinctions you think should define your practice of conversion is a big mistake. It’s a great big Forest of Persuasion out there – every possibly variation on selling and buying – and, believe it or not, every tree I’ve ever brought to your attention has come from the same forest! B2B folks who out of hand dismiss B2C examples as irrelevant truly risk missing the forest for the trees.
If you don’t have traffic and don’t have goals for that traffic, you don’t need to pay attention. Everybody else cosy on up, ‘cause this pertains to you.
It doesn’t matter what you are trying to accomplish on your Web site – whether you want to provide shoe laces to the public or to local shoe repair shops across the country or to shoe manufacturers, whether you want to offer Tonka trucks to Sally’s parents or high-end earth-movers to We Dig It, Inc., or whether you want to promote consultancy services aimed at helping other business do their business better (we’re a part of this picture too, after all) - you are selling. You are trying to persuade someone, or a group of someones, that you’re the best thing going in the market. You want them to do business with you.
Toward which end, you have a sales process - steps you go through to achieve a “close.” Not every business has the same sales process, but every business has a sales process (admittedly some are more effective than others). Only you care about your sales process. It’s internal. It’s about you and your goals. It is NOT about your audience and their goals.
Now, join me as I run around this picture and look at it from another direction.
It doesn’t matter who your audience is – a fun-loving dude looking for the ultimate experience in a gaming joy stick or a street savvy CEO looking to expand telephone services into untapped markets – your Web site has to understand and respond to how your audience buys whatever it is you offer. You must be able to understand their needs, anticipate their questions and provide the information that helps each one make a decision (actually, lots of decisions!).
Everyone in your audience has a buying process - steps folks go through on their way to satisfying their needs and achieving confidence that they made the right decision. Sometimes this buying process happens in the blink of an eye. Sometimes it takes six months. Sometimes it takes only one person to make the decision. Sometimes the decision requires input from a significant other. Sometimes five different departments and a C-level executive have to sign off on the decision.
Now, here’s where it comes together. “They” don’t have to care about your sales process (and everything about your sales process should be designed so they shouldn’t have to care). Remember, your sales process is all about you. But you sure as shooting have to care about how they buy. The trick – and it really doesn’t get more basic than this – is to map their buying processes to your selling process, refining your sales process when it becomes intrusive or counterproductive.
Ever since Day One, we’ve shared with you the three absolutely essential, sine qua non questions you must answer to effectively map the buying process to the selling process. They haven’t changed:
Who do you need to persuade?
What actions do they need to take to satisfy their (and your) objectives? I’m not referring simply to the ultimate conversion goal; I’m talking about every single action these people will take on your site – first click, last click and all the clicks in between. Each click is a point of conversion in your persuasive process.
How are you going to persuade these people most effectively to take those actions? How are you going to motivate them to make conscious decisions to click on the hyperlinks that will take them deeper into your persuasive process?
It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that when your visitors satisfy their objectives, you satisfy yours. In fact, the result is one of the happier win/wins on the face of this planet!
Oaks, maples, birches, sycamores. Calls to action, point of action assurances, hyperlinking strategies, message-is-meat copy. Each an persuasive element, each a tree in my Forest of Persuasion.
Not a one of them exclusively B2C or B2B!
A B2B dude might not need a single “Buy Now” or “Add to Basket” call to action button on his Web site, but he’d better have calls to action, persuasively and meaningfully crafted, if he expects to provide momentum. He might not have to create a qualification scheme to help his visitors locate one among 100,000 products, but he’d better have a way to help his visitors quickly get to the information they require so they feel comfortable making a decision. He may never need to consider the merits of this shopping cart software over that, but he’s going to have to find a way to manage forms and contacts and downloads in a way that makes his prospects feel safe and secure.
Every single business is different. Every single business requires a unique evaluation of these three essential questions. I couldn’t responsibly give you a rubber stamp answer because there isn’t one; around here, we work with principles, not rules. But I know for a fact that you have a sales process, they have buying processes, and you’ll know how best to persuade when you have married your audience’s buying processes to your sales process.
B2C or B2B? Doesn’t matter to us, because our focus is on persuasive momentum – how to persuade folks to make the next conscious decision to click through on a hyperlink that will take them closer to a decision to buy. Shouldn’t this be your focus too?