In the B2C world, customers can rely on experts for tips on complicated, expensive, and infrequent purchases. Buying a house? A realtor and mortgage broker will guide you through the process. Shopping for a car? You can check consumer reports on safety records, and Kelly Blue Book for purchase or resale value. If it is a used car, check CarFax for its accident record, or even have an expert like a mechanic take a look for any pre-purchase issues. Looking for a new TV? Read reviews right on Amazon before that CyberMonday’s purchase. B2C businesses support buyers with information that helps them feel like they are making the correct choice for their needs.
That kind of support on purchasing decisions is rare in the B2B world. Whether you sell SaaS technology, refractory furnace repairs, or CNC machines – you know more than your buyer. You are an expert at the solution your company creates and how it helps customers. Which means knowledge that is old hat for you is brand-spanking-new information to your customers.
Potential customers may not know how to budget a purchase like your product/service, or what costs to expect. They may not know comparative costs in the industry. They may not understand the steps required to implement your solution, or what is a reasonable timeline for either the sales process or for implementation. They may not be aware of the product’s customary maintenance needs or the service you offer. That’s a lot of informational ground to cover for your potential customers!
How do you assist their knowledge journey? With marketing. In its simplest form marketing is communication, and communication is how you support potential customers with information to make educated decisions.
Today’s consumers self-educate as they evaluate products and services. Most people start with digital searches and educational materials – websites, podcasts, YouTube, etc. – based on the issue they have or vendors they know for what they think they need. They use these tools to “level up” and prepare for interactions with organizations that sell what they need. Are you present on these knowledge platforms – podcasts, social media, YouTube and the like? Is your website clear about what you offer? Does it explain your process and answer frequently asked questions for purchasers? The presentation of information on your own platforms is a great place to start supporting potential customers with knowledge that makes them feel like experts.
What information should you communicate to potential customers? Start by considering customers’ journey through your sales process. From the first moment they realize they have a business concern or issue, through signing a contract and on to installation or implementation – can you map that journey for your customers? Each question or decision point in the process is an opportunity to educate customers, to help them become experts at buying what you offer.
Your website should be free of jargon, even technical jargon, and limit feature bragging. (Someone will always have one more feature, I promise, and you will lose if all your potential customer knows is to count features.) Simple, value-focused messaging that shares your knowledge makes you a leader in your industry and a trusted information source to potential customers.
There is another opportunity to educate potential customers that you’ve likely not considered. When was the last time you reviewed industry information about your type of product or service? Industry information is your benchmark, not your own materials. The amount and type of information available about planning, purchasing, and using your product or service is the education your potential customer is receiving about what they think they might need.
It starts with evaluating who and what the knowledge sources are in your industry. Are they your competitors? Are they industry experts? Are they industry associations? Finding out may start with an incognito search (so your personal searches aren’t included in the search algorithm) or asking buyers how they found your solution. It may involve reviewing the Google Analytics on your website to see where people leave the site and researching where people searched for better answers after leaving your site. Solving what other information sources potential customers might use will allow you to spot opportunities to improve discovery of your product or services.
Your potential customers are not yet experts about what you provide. They are looking for a solution to their problem – which means they are motivated to solve the problem and looking for the right information (communication = marketing) to guide them. Curiosity is an advantage that beginners have over experts. It’s time for you to get curious, to serve your customers better.
Alexandria Trusov is the Global Marketing Director at Alpha Resources and a B2B marketing consultant to manufacturers and other B2B companies. Contact her at [email protected] or visit www.truinsightsconsulting.com.