The next step for prospects: survey results

Last week I asked “What offers are you making to your customers?” through a short survey, in an attempt to find out what companies are using as the “next step” on their product pages at the moment. Because you have a “next step”, right? You don’t just describe your products and then leave readers to work out what to do next, if anything. Of course not.

Almost 100 of you responded, so thanks very much. Three-quarters of respondents described their customers as being engineers, to put the results in context.

Now, I suspect that the readership of these daily articles is perhaps a little more sophisticated than the manager of the average B2B website. Taking a product at random, “pneumatic cylinders” (the sector I looked at in Who’s making the most of their top places in Google? last year), we find eight companies on the first page of Google results. Of these, six offer no “next step” at all, leaving the reader with just one option, to find and use general “contact us” information (one company does have a software download in addition to this). Only two of the eight companies have a clear next step, and that’s because they offer the ability to buy online. It’s really disappointing.

Our survey respondents are a bit more proactive than this random example which I suspect represents a more normal practice. A surprisingly low 15% of respondents admitted that the only next steps they offer are for the reader to find a general contact form, email address or telephone number. The rest, a vast majority, offer something more (unlike most B2B websites, I suspect), which is great. Just under 50% have a “request a quotation” link at the end of their product pages, which I hope is a proper one relating specifically to that product, and not just a link to some general form. Over a quarter of respondents’ sites direct readers to case studies, which is an excellent next step, and a fifth suggest watching a video. Similar numbers offer a brochure or catalogue by post, or give the readers the chance to request a sales call – both of them perfect next steps which will lead to true engagement from prospects.

White Papers are offered as a next step by 17% of respondents, and 13% offer a free trial of the product, something which of course will only be appropriate in certain cases. A negligible number of companies point readers towards attending forthcoming events, such as exhibitions, open days, seminars or webinars. I suspect that for most companies, these sorts of events are only flagged up on “news” pages, which is a real waste when they might be such a good next step for prospects who’ve just read about a product. Free gifts, CAD files and eBooks also scored minimally.

I think the relative sophistication of the responders is one feature of the survey results. Despite this, I’m sure many would still admit they “could do better”. We’ll discuss how tomorrow.

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