Much like a handshake, a website is often where prospective customers form their first impressions of a company - making it a critical tool in a marketing team's arsenal.
According to a survey conducted by the Consumer Executive Board, B2B buyers get 57 percent of the way through the buying process before they even contact a vendor. This statistic can be jarring for any business that feels like it is well-positioned to win the work, if it could just get into the room.
Embrace the research-driven customer
Since many buying decisions are influenced by research conducted on the organization prior to initial contact, your reputation in the marketplace and externally accessible resources, such as your firm's website, hold a greater importance.
B2B marketers must think strategically about a website's role in the decision-making journey, which is often a much longer and more involved process than for B2C marketers. The goal of the B2C marketing funnel is to take a large amount of leads and funnel them down to a few sales. This differs from the B2B model. For B2B organizations, especially professional services firms, current clients are just as much (or more) of a target for new business as prospective clients.
When current clients have a new need, they often evaluate whether that need can be satisfied by their current service providers. With this in mind, a more applicable model for B2B and professional services firms is a model called the relationship cycle. This model outlines the buyer's journey and maps the business' responsibilities to further the buyer along the decision-making process.
The most distinct dimension of the relationship cycle is the loyalty loop. Once a relationship is formed with a client, the business should focus on establishing trust and advocacy. Doing so increases the likelihood that when the client identifies a new need, they will circumvent the full decision journey and instead remain loyal to their current service provider.
Focusing on establishing trust and delivering value to current clients also makes it more likely that your clients will act as your advocates in the marketplace. This becomes even more important as buyers increasingly form an impression of you before they meet you.
Ensure the current client is a part of your website strategy
The relationship cycle serves as a guide to think strategically about how your website functions within your marketing mix. Your website can play a role at every stage of the relationship. For prospective clients, ensure the pages on your website satisfy buyers at each stage of the journey. They will want to learn about your company and the services it provides. They will also seek to confirm you've worked in their industry before and solved problems similar to the issues they currently face. Further, they will aim to understand whether you are a good culture fit.
While many websites serve the prospective client well, the current client is arguably more valuable to a B2B organization. This is because you've already created a relationship and proved you can cater to their needs, which builds a cadence when you talk about current and - here's where the real value is - prospective work. Clients can spend less time and money researching who they need to hire, because you've already proved your value on past projects.
It makes sense to consider what value your website can provide to current clients and incorporate that into your strategy. Companies must view their websites as both a recruiting tool for prospective clients and an important retention tool for current clients. Consider what information your current clients value and ensure you provide clear, prominent access to this content on your website. This may include updates about matters relevant to their industry, points of view on topics affecting their business, and tools and training that could help them in their roles.
A great example of prioritizing focus on current clients can be found in the way that Plante Moran, one of the nation's largest certified public accounting and business advisory firms, presents its capabilities for the industries it serves. The website breaks down the content into three segments: Our Thinking, Our Expertise and Working with Us. As a result, content that satisfies users at all stages is available and quickly accessible. Rather than leading with the traditional description of its services, Plante Moran leads with thought leadership content to satisfy the needs of current clients.
Your website can work hard for you at each stage of the relationship. For B2B and professional services organizations, it is important to meet the needs of prospective buyers. However, these organizations cannot afford to overlook the value their websites can provide to current clients. Leveraging your website to address the needs of current clients can play a key role in helping you retain and grow accounts.
About the Author
Sarah Levine Meyer is the Managing Director of Digital Strategy at B2B digital agency One North Interactive. Sarah and the Digital Strategy team partner with clients by advising on the creation and execution of strategic programs to enhance the use of digital for their marketing, business development and knowledge management goals. She is passionate about understanding her clients' unique business landscapes, objectives and challenges.