“We’re delighted to have you here”

B2B companies are delighted when prospects are interested enough to visit their factory.  The explanation is always something akin to “We rarely lose when we can get in front of them.”

So typically a factory visit includes special treatment from the moment of arrival –

(reserved parking spots, personalized welcome sign as they enter the building, gracious receptionist and a beverage of choice)…

through introductions (“Thanks for visiting with us.  We want to maximize the value of your visit.  Please tell us everything that you specifically want to cover or accomplish while you are with us.”)….

to the activities (“We’ll take a tour of the floor first, then we’ll be joined by the CFO to discuss contractual details, and later the Director of Field Services will have lunch with us to discuss commissioning and after sales support.”)

The hospitality is genuine, and it is appreciated by the visitor.  Naturally it helps to solidify the business relationship by creating trust, credibility and comfort.

“Just read the exhibit signs – it’s all there!”

b2b websites are like museum displays   don%27t touch!But pity the poor fool who decides to visit the same company’s website….

The visitor (not a guest in this case) pulls up to the front of the building with no clear entrance and no available parking.

Pasted around the exterior walls are placards much like a museum exhibit – basically a linear progression of the company’s story as they fancy themselves.  You know the routine – “Founded in”…through “industry leading” gibberish.  Chock full of business babble BS.

They’re obviously pretty busy inside – nary a moment to chat.  So you should keep following the exhibit to find what might match your interests.  Take your time.  Poke around.

And then inevitably….”What?  You’re leaving already?  You must not have known what you were looking for and your probably not a real buyer anyway.”

No hospitality, no comfort and certainly no trust.

Absolutely no opportunity for dialog.

And a completely wasted lead – potentially a customer.

Reconciling the difference

So what’s going through the company’s mind.  How in the world could they be so hospitable and customer focused during a physical visit…and yet so dismissive of web visitors.

Obviously there’s a powerful mindset driving the behavior in both cases.

In one case the immediacy of personal interaction and the instinctive direct sales inclination create an appropriately interactive experience.  In the other, the traditional perception of a website as an “online brochure” creates a “read it and if you have questions raise your hand” linear response.

So where’s the breakdown?  Most companies haven’t yet appreciated the fact that a website’s business development value isn’t as a destination, but rather as a hub.  That’s a subtle (from the perspective of Gen X & baby boom owners) but important difference.

b2b marketing real meetingA website as a digital brochure will fail to produce more than the mediocre results which most assume is the nature of B2B digital marketing.  But a website which is your virtual conference table around which you will visit with potential customers is an enormous asset.

That’s the conceptual leap that many fail to make, and the one which is perhaps most important to successful B2B marketing, particularly for manufacturers of industrial products, in today’s hyperkinetic markets.  And it is critical to a model that adapts to buyer behavior – where nearly 70% of the buying process is complete before buyers will speak to a rep directly.

Better than a conference room

So back to that first scenario – a great prospect has agreed to visit.  One of your first steps is probably to go into outlook to schedule the meeting and reserve a conference room.  After all, by it’s nature, an appropriately personal conference room can’t accommodate more than one important sales conversation at a time.  Just as you can’t directly speak with more than one, nor can the service manager clarify delivery and support, nor the CFO articulate the business justification in “finance speak” simultaneously and personally to more than one prospect.

So the conference table has scope limitations….but a well planned digital marketing program does not!

B2B inbound marketing allows you to concurrently carry on many conversations – each at the very personalized point in the discussion which is comfortable for a specific prospect.  By reflecting on your various prospect interactions you will quickly identify the different topics that typically arise; what excites them; what worries them; where they need clarification or reassurance.

You’ll know which types of prospects want to be guided through a slide deck, which prefer a whiteboard session and which want to skip ahead to a checklist of implementation specifics.  You’ll know which need testimonial or case study insight, and which simply want to take the CAD file to drop it into their layout.

And then you’ll create these dialogs using the right content available through your website (introduction) and nurturing (gradually providing more detailed answers specific to their requirements as the conversation advances.)

It doesn’t replace sales

Obviously at the end of the day this process doesn’t produce a PO automatically for a complex sale.  You still have to engage with direct sales as the dialog matures.  But when you do, the discussion will be like the 2nd or 3rd meeting – you’ll be a valued and appreciated resource, and the discussion will be a collaborative one around how to move ahead.

Here’s a special note to the senior execs, founders and owners reading.  You’re skeptical.  You’ve heard lots of babble about digital, websites, SEO, Pay per Click and other topics that have each sounded plausible but have never produced substantive results.  You’re forgiven for your jaundice toward yet another topic.

Here’s the difference.  This isn’t a “technique” – rather it’s a process.  And it’s the same one you’ve used successfully for years.  We’re talking about leveraging today’s tools for greater reach and efficiency.  Make sense?

Check out our video on the topic here, and download our guide for an overview below.

images – MegaPrint & RDU