Are you selling yourself rather than box-shifting? Do it properly then.

There are two basic philosophical issues about business-to-business websites which show no sign of being resolved. The first is whether or not you should make everything you know available to every website visitor, without asking for anything in return. I do understand the argument that goes: “I don’t care if requesting a visitor to reveal their identity before they can access certain information means that 99% of visitors never see that information. At least I get contact details from 1% of them”. But I’ve been arguing for the last 20 years that this is a mistake, and that by making the information available to 100% of visitors, you’ll eventually get contact details for more than 1% – and they’ll be hotter leads too.

The second discussion to be had is whether you should publish prices or not. Again, while I believe you should do so wherever possible, I do understand the arguments against this, which are held by a large majority of businesses, it would seem. What I would say, however, is that if you don’t believe that it’s in your interest to publish prices, you need to be clear why not, and then make your website support your strategy. Too many companies have a website which just looks like a catalogue with the prices missed off.

For example, one good argument against publishing prices says: “Our customers don’t really know what they want; we need to look at their particular application before we can propose a product to meed their needs”. Fair enough. This is completely true in many sectors. But if that’s the case, your whole website should be geared around explaining how much you know about the subject, providing loads of case studies or testimonials, and – above all – encouraging prospects at every opportunity to contact you and arrange a proper sales discussion. It should make it clear exactly what’s going to happen if they contact you, and how beneficial it will be to them. Instead, these are often exactly the sort of websites which just have a load of product pages and a “contact us” link in the margin, leading to a miserable email form which doesn’t give you any idea what’s going to happen when it’s completed. Compare this to the companies who show the experts they have in-house and explain exactly how (after simply filling in this form) one of those experts you’ve just seen will contact you and make your life a whole lot better. If you’re selling yourselves (and your expertise) rather than your products, then do it properly.

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