I am currently trying to buy a couple pieces of technology (true story). I won’t tell you what kind of technology (to protect the innocent). But I will tell you that I am learning how much it sucks to be a b2b buyer. I wrote a little about my experiences and recommendations on the Savvy b2b marketing blog.
It’s really eye-opening to go through the process of trying to buy something in a comparable industry. As I live through my pain, I will chronicle our experiences. (I am including my partner-in-crime Lori Janjigian as she helps me in the buying process and is supplying me with her observations, aka complaints, about the process.)
Here are some important points:
- “The biggest innovation Marc Benioff made was to allow b2b buyers to buy complex software with a credit card.” (via Scott Albro) I have a couple of witty quotes from Scott on the issue of “ease of purchase.” This is so true ‑ think about how hard it was to buy enterprise software before the Salesforce.com/SaaS cloud revolution. It was big and complicated, and still is for many companies. Now, many “smart” companies make their pricing transparent; you can order without a salesperson or if you do, it’s easy. Here’s one: I just talked to my buddy who works at at a major software vendor where he sells business applications. He told me that he has to wait for legal to approve his contracts and it can take 30 to 60 days. Not exactly “easy to buy”
- Create “buyer-helpful” content, but don’t forget people also need to be able to actually buy your product. I am the biggest advocate for content that buyers want ‑ particularly third-party content. If you have read this blog in the past, you should know this. On the other hand, the goal here is sell people stuff (sorry, it is). A tip that you can act on right now is to ask yourself one thing: “If someone wants to buy from us, what do they have to do?” I know everyone is going to say “but b2b is so complex.” Sure, but most products are going the other way. Google Apps costs something like $50 per year per user. Pretty complex? I don’t think so. Guess what, there are times when we want to talk to the sales rep and we want to know that this part of the process will not be painful.
- “A perfect example of a complex product made simple is automobiles.” (via Scott Albro) Scott likes to say, “There is more technology in cars than a data storage box.” He’s right. Consumer marketing is so refined that it’s both marketed and packaged so you and I can understand what it is we are going to buy. Consumer sales is such that I can walk in and walk out with a car in a couple hours, even though it is a gigantic piece of technology and engineering.
- Oh, and the “contact us” box sucks. I see that, and I just think black hole. The dropdown you provide doesn’t make me feel like I am going to go in the right direction. When you walk into a good store, someone asks, “How can I help you today?” How about taking that methodology to the “front door” of your buying process? As you consider what it’s like to buy, “How do I get started?” is a good question to answer.
Let’s call this my take-away: If someone wants to buy your product, what must they do? Remember that this is not a question about downloading content and so forth, this is about buying. Is it frictionless, easy to understand, easy to find, easy to figure out? That is the question. More on this in upcoming posts.