In Part 1 of this two part article, we talked about the need for a strong and well-crafted web presence for connecting with potential customers or with the “Customer as Buyer”. OK – Buyers have found the software vendor’s website…
SMB / Mid-Market buyers of B2B software generally want a wide variety of information about the products and solutions, input from communities and forums, clear pricing and other information that will guide them to making a buying decision.
Content Sought Out by Software Solution Buyers
Anything provided on the vendor website should be authentic, high quality content that answers real buyer questions. “Real” content engages buyers, so invest in subject matter experts who can write relevant, sharp and interesting documents, articles and posts. Vendors should provide links to industry writers, influencer blogs and communities and to analysts who contribute insight regarding the vendor’s solution space and the competitive landscape.
When significant negative content is published about the vendor, it’s smart to deal with it head-on through a vendor blog, as well as through any external social sites that are relevant -- be honest and focused, always responding with the buyer’s POV in mind.
Content that buyers would like to see on the vendor website
Products and Solutions Information
- White papers providing orientations for both technical and business problems
- Product and solution datasheets
- Technical specifications
- Best practices / company approach to solving problems with the vendor solutions (lots of details)
- Case studies with real meat
Incorporating social media in the vendor website further provides the opportunity to create a more personalized customer experience. The website should provide vendor-sponsored social media sites and links to external social sites. Buyer-friendly social media include: communities, blogs, wikis, forums, RSS, self-serve webcasts and podcasts, video sharing sites, social networking sites.
As with findability and usability, social media requires real commitment, constant nurturing and responsiveness to anyone participating in the vendor’s social sites. Social media offers a fantastic venue for building relationships with “customers as buyers”, for collaborating with them on the future direction of the vendor’s offerings, and to respond quickly to questions and issues.
External Content from Influencers – Which Include Current Customers
- Communities, forums, blogs – the ones external to vendor website
- Coverage, reviews by industry writers and influencer blogs
- Analyst coverage – especially from analysts that specialize in software for SMB / Mid-Market
For SMB / Mid-Market buyers, pricing should be published on the website, should be straight-forward, and always up-to-date. These buyers are not interested in drawn out sales cycles – they will simply move on to another vendor if the clock has been ticking too long.
Many buyers would like to make most software purchases via the website, whenever possible. SaaS, cloud, OSS software options are changing how SMB / Mid-Market buyers expect to purchase software, or software services.
RFP Q&A – Standardized Answers
The more likely initiators of RFP requests are the upper tiers of the Mid-Market, rather than “classic SMB”. Most RFP/RFI documents follow a basic format widely used in software industry, with a large majority of questions repeating from buyer to buyer. So it might be a good idea to build out an engaging presentation of RFP Q&A on the website, utilizing newer media including podcasts and video.
If done well (findable-usable-engaging), buyers could find answers on their own, satisfying buyer desire for self-service. Also providing online RFP Q&A could eliminate the time-wasting situation of the vendor being used as “column fodder”. Online publication of RFP Q&A demands constant updating and refinement to be useful to customers.
There are potential hazards for publishing online RFP’s:
- Relevance to buyer needs is not always supported by the usual RFP structure unless multiple RFPs are mapped to various buyer solution scenarios
- Validity of vendor strengths and weaknesses depends on how those strengths and weaknesses map to the most important requirements of each buyer project – generic RFP content may not be able to make a clear assessment and could have negative effect
- Competitors will now know more about how the vendor responds to certain questions while not providing corresponding data on their own websites
So it might be best to provide higher level, but meaty, content for unrestricted access, and then require buyer registration and validation before sharing access to deeper content, especially if a mutual NDA is necessary for more “sensitive” information.
Software solution buyers often list “competitor comparisons” as a content type that they’d like to find on a vendor website. However, there are real issues that a vendor must consider before attempting competitor comparisons:
- Mainly, legal constraints related to claims made about what a competitor does or doesn’t do, as compared to the vendor -- lawsuits could arise from buyers or competitors regarding claims made
- Even if an “objective” third-party is engaged to create competitor comparisons, such comparisons are frequently tedious and expensive to execute
- Relevance -- points in competitor comparisons may not be of importance to all buyers or relate well to their needs
- Commoditization -- software offerings in same solution space generally have many of the same feature/functions so competitor comparisons have reduced impact
Aligning “Findable Web Presence” with Social Selling and Social CRM
Focusing on the buyer-centricity of a vendor’s web presence by improving the findability and usability of the website and by building out proper social media connections to potential buyers also brings alignment with initiatives for social customer relationship management (the strategic practice, not just the technology) and with programs for social selling. This is especially important for SMB / Mid-Market software vendors who need to maximize existing resources for these important initiatives.
These three inter-related initiatives nurture quality buyer experiences. And these initiatives are dependent on the vendor being willing to continuously engage in real bi-directional “conversations” with buyers and to act on buyer feedback. Vendors will greatly enhance long-term loyalty, buyer success, and the ability to continuously understand what buyers need by building a composite of excellent web presence / findability / quality content, combined with lively support of social media and true buyer support through social CRM.
Social selling taps into social culture and makes use of social media to build relationships and hold conversations with potential buyers. Listening well, presenting compelling content, meeting buyer needs are important aspects of social selling. Likewise, social CRM strives to provide support for buyer success with the vendor’s software offerings, aligned with the “lifecycle of the customer support” (pre- and post-sale). (More on social CRM for B2B vendors)
For social selling, social networking and collaborative sites help sales to connect with buyers on buyer terms: in venues where buyers are looking for solutions to problems, asking about specific kinds of software solutions, exploring competitor solutions. Sales teams can tap into what matters to potential buyers in order to connect on a real basis. Monitoring social media sites can also help sales teams identify the key influencers for target buyers.
And Finally, Always Make Sure There’s a Software Solution Worth Buying
Software vendors sometimes forget that it is equally important to deliver quality solutions that are: relatively easy to implement, do the job they’re supposed to do, perform well, and provide clear benefits to the buyer. Quality solutions should be the main objective of any software vendor.