Perhaps you don’t even need salesmen any more

Yesterday I said that the biggest challenge in industrial marketing has become simply getting the name-and-address sales lead. Prospects see your magazine ad, read your direct mail or browse your exhibition stand, like they always have. But do they then contact you for further information or a sales call, like before? No. They go to your website to find out what they need to know.

In theory, that’s fine. You’ve got a great website, haven’t you? All your products and services are laid out clearly, and it couldn’t be easier for the prospect to contact you by telephone, email or whatever to find out application suitability, pricing, delivery, etc. Perhaps you don’t even need salesmen any more, just order takers! What a great development.

Yeah, right. Meanwhile, back in the real world, you know that’s never going to happen. Firstly, even a perfect industrial website couldn’t give the prospect the appropriate facts as effectively as one of your salesmen. And your website isn’t anywhere near perfect.

Secondly, your most profitable sales aren’t off-the-shelf products anyway, they’re a combination of applications support and customised products. How can you sell that without talking to the customer?

Thirdly, it’s not unknown for a customer to be an idiot. They finally get to the website of the one company which could provide them with the exact product they need, and they miss it. Or don’t like the look of the website. Or realise it’s 5.29pm and never revisit the site the next day.

Anyone have a truly great website, selling only off-the-shelf products to rationally-behaving customers? If you are, perhaps you should be reading a consumer marketing blog instead.

No, in industry it’s imperative that if people come to our websites specifically searching for something, that we capture their name-and-address details. Obviously I’m not suggesting the return of those hilariously bad sites of the late 1990s which didn’t even let you see anything unless you registered and signed in. But you do need to make it easy for prospects to give you their details, and worthwhile for them to do so. We’ll start to look at how we do this tomorrow.

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