In the world of website design, usability and loading times rule supreme. Whether you're designing for the B2C or B2B space, you have just a few seconds to capture the interest of your website visitors.
That's where the similarities between B2B and B2C end, however. Marketing to a business client is vastly different to marketing to an individual. If you're trying to reach those high-value business clients you'll need to rethink your approach.
Forget Those Customer Personas
The concept of buyer personas is well-known in the B2C world. Buyer personas are useful for helping you to understand what motivates your customers and how to reach them. They don't work so well in the B2B world, though.
Instead of marketing towards individuals, B2B marketers are aiming to reach groups. This means a B2B website must cover more information while still being concise. There are a few ways to approach this:
Allow persona self-selection, so visitors can identify themselves on the website and be taken to tailored information pages.
Offer high-level copy on the website, with the option to download more detailed specs, whitepapers and terms.
Present your company's value proposition prominently on the main website.
Use data visualizations to convey key information at-a-glance
Don't Persuade, Educate
Many B2C purchases are made on the spot as impulse buys. If you're used to designing websites for consumer goods you've probably put a lot of thought into making product pages aspirational, adding a sense of urgency to purchases and using every trick in the book to persuade customers to open their wallets right now, you will find that those marketing techniques don't work so well in the B2B world.
If B2C buyers are motivated by "fear of missing out", B2B buyers are motivated by risk aversion. There's even a saying based on that risk aversion: "Nobody gets fired for buying IBM." That saying sums up the idea of people making "safe" choices in business, over choosing innovation or the unknown.
While B2C websites can be edgy, quirky, or quite simply different, in the world of business it is often better to lay it safe. Present the facts, and cater to the decision-makers.
Business buyers are in a hurry. They don't want to be wowed by animations or to watch auto-playing videos of the founder of a company talking about what makes the business 'cool'. They want to see features and benefits laid out clearly, and to have access, in a click or two, to more detailed datasheets. That doesn't mean your site must be boring. It does, however, mean that it should be streamlined.
Be Prepared for a Long Conversion Pipeline
In the consumer world, it's normal to expect people to see a "must-have product" and buy it almost immediately. With bigger purchases, a consumer may do some research on one device, read some reviews, and mull the purchase over before making a final decision; however, the length of time this takes is not long.
In the business world, the time from identifying a need to making a purchase can be several weeks or months. Purchases may be debated by department heads and managers and then presented to a board before completion. The initial information gathering may include looking at offerings from several vendors.
Of the initial list of vendors, two or three may be added to a shortlist. Those vendors will then be asked for detailed quotes. The final decision may take a month or more after those quotes are given.
It's crucial that companies feel respected throughout the conversion process. If your initial user experience is sleek and sophisticated but later contacts are less pleasant or the experience becomes less polished, this will not help to win clients over. The CRM pipeline is just as important as that "first contact" for winning conversions.
Be Clear About Your Value Proposition
Coming back to those "consumer types", designing websites for the B2C space tends to focus on selling a product or experience. There may be some upsells - such as selling a phone case and some insurance with a phone, or pushing microtransactions in an online game. Upselling can greatly increase profit margins in the B2C world, and getting repeat custom is cheaper than acquiring new customers.
This is one principle that can be, to some extent, cross-applied to the B2B space. However, instead of promoting a fixed price product and then pushing for add-ons or for a subscription to replace consumables, consider taking a different approach with your presentation:
Focus on conveying information about what your product says and does
Pricing information does not need to be prominently displayed - B2B pricing is often tailored to the client
Include several CTAs, including live chat, email, download product sheets, phone numbers, etc.
Encourage visitors to make that 'first contact' so you can personalize future interactions
Use explainer videos, white papers and testimonials to highlight your product or service's value
Offer some information about your pricing model, perhaps in the form of a calculator, for indicative pricing
Encourage visitors to attend webinars where they can learn more about your product or service
The B2B world is not about getting that initial first sale of a single product, but about forming a relationship and netting a larger order. This requires a slower and more deliberate approach.
B2C marketers need to tone down the glitz and rethink their calls to action to succeed when dealing with the more thoughtful and measured B2B audience.
If you're unsure whether your approach is suited to a business audience, consider working with a B2B marketing agency to learn more about your target audience and get some invaluable marketing insights.
Originally published October 14, 2020, updated October 14, 2020.
Let's Get Rolling
Are you ready to take your company to the next level?