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Focus on Your Website for Success in 2009

Written By: Susan Orr

Success always starts with a good plan. This is especially true during difficult economic times: More than ever, smaller B2B companies need a roadmap for identifying and capitalizing on opportunities that may exist even with the current downturn. So, start paving the way toward a successful 2009 by carefully mapping your online sales strategies.  

For B2B companies, planning should revolve around your website -- the heart and soul of your online strategy.   Here are a few steps to help you.

Compile and evaluate research about your customers.
Whether you’re surveying your customers and monitoring their activities on your own, or getting feedback from your customer service reps, it’s important to continually learn as much as possible about your clients’ needs and expectations. Their input should include what they like (and possibly dislike) about doing business with you.

In this research phase, you should also evaluate your website’s overall effectiveness in meeting your customers’ needs. A great way to do this is to follow ThomasNet’s VSET concept:

Verify. Think of yourself as one of your potential customers and visualize your website. On your homepage or landing page, will a potential buyer be able to quickly verify that your website has the information they want?

Can buyers quickly search for the exact products and/or services they need? There should be obvious, multiple, and intuitive search paths to your products and services.

Evaluate. Do you provide enough detailed information? Can buyers easily evaluate the information so they can make a buying or specifying decision? If you offer multiple products with different specs (dimensions, materials, etc.), can they compare the products side-by-side?

Take action.Can buyers immediately take action on your website? For instance, do you make it easy for them to request more information or to buy from you right away? Can they download/insert CAD drawings from your website (if applicable)?  Do you provide e-commerce capabilities, complete contact information including a phone number, Request for Quote (RFQ) links, and e-mail links on every page of your website?

Consider your website your company’s “top sales performer.”

Focus on your website as a sales channel for your business. Just as you outline objectives and goals for your salespeople and hold them accountable, you should be doing the same for your website. Consider the experience of Thwing-Albert Instrument Company, a provider of physical testing equipment and services. From the tab on a cough tablet to the seal on a potato chip bag, Thwing-Albert develops products that test a wide range of materials. Management wanted to increase sales 25-30 percent by penetrating new markets and reaching new international business locations such as South America.

Thwing-Albert knew the solution to their growth goals rested on the Web. Their previous site was falling short as a sales resource, with difficult navigation and insufficient content. As a result, they felt that the site was losing customers before they even had a chance to connect with them live.

Thwing-Albert created a new site that could serve as a 24/7 salesperson. The site offers detailed information and immediate worldwide accessibility, and replicates their sales process online. The heart of the site is an online catalog with Thwing-Albert’s testing instruments. Now, prospects can instantly see the range of Thwing-Albert’s products through their homepage; perform very specific product searches by name, industry or test property; drill down into the catalog to compare products side-by-side; and send a Request for Quotation (RFQ) from the site.

This strategy has led to double-digit growth for the company; and in the first quarter of 2008, sales of Thwing-Albert’s Vantage Tensile Tester products rose 35 percent. Thwing-Albert is also seeing at least 10-15 qualified leads a week. They experienced 90 percent growth in search engine referrals from 2006-2007. In addition, they have increased their market penetration across the world, with particular success in South America, and have many new orders across industries from $25,000-$40,000.

Like Thwing-Albert, be sure that your website “measures up.” Include tracking technology in your plans for the coming year—if you’re not already doing so. Use tracking to monitor conversion actions—the positive actions buyers take on your website, such as downloading a spec sheet, which move them closer to a purchasing decision.  Once you understand how buyers interact with your website, you can exploit those success elements to gain more business from your visitors, even during a downturn. This is the time to be vigilant about customer service so you can maintain and expand your relationships with existing clients, who are more precious than ever, while reaching new prospects and converting them to customers. Keep up the habit of checking in to learn what questions customers and prospects are asking your customer service reps. If your website isn’t already answering them, make changes to the type and depth of content you offer, and you will gain a competitive edge.

Susan Orr is Senior Director, Strategic Marketing at ThomasNet, which is devoted to the success of the industrial/manufacturing sector. ThomasNet helps thousands of industrial suppliers create websites to grow their sales revenues. is the leading online destination connecting industrial sellers and buyers worldwide, providing access to over 607,000 industrial companies, indexed by 67,000 product and service categories.


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