B2B Online sales best practice.

Most of my B2B direct selling clients are struggling with the integration of their online selling efforts versus their direct mail and telephone selling efforts.  In our multi-channel world it is difficult to assess what really drives both orders and new customer acquisition.  The channel that takes the order is not always the channel that creates the order.  In addition, customers and orders are being created by a multitude of blended and interdependent online marketing tactics.   My experience is that most companies at this point know enough to confuse themselves and are struggling with what to do.

I tend to start with the basics and advise the following four steps:

1.   First,  quantify the potential of your online opportunity.   “ Size the prize” I call it.  Essentially, here you are looking to quantify and stratify the volume of searches/traffic being generated by the various categories and sources of search terms.   You need to know if your relevant monthly search volume is 10,000 or 500,000.   In addition to volume and quality of searches and traffic you need to know your online competition and current versus potential traffic sources.    Once you know the “size of the prize” you are chasing they you will have some perspective on the opportunity and the investment risk.

2.  The second area that needs focus is your B2B content optimization.   This is usually a two-pronged issue.  First, the structure (site taxonomy, navigation, page titles, meta data, links, site maps, etc.) needs to be structured and presented (and ideally auto updated) to be visible to the search engine spiders.   Second, your product and knowledge content needs to be keyword optimized.  Easier said than done.

3.  The third area of discussion usually involves figuring out what B2B metrics you will use to evaluate your online B2B marketing investments.   At the highest level you are measuring the orders and new customers you acquire online.   As you get more granular here you will soon discover that new customers acquired from non-branded search terms with equivalent average order values and first year values to similar customers acquired through offline marketing is a more accurate goal.   As you might expect there are usually many marketing combinations and permutations here to evaluated and directed.   This is another very complicated task.

4.  Lastly, the more advanced B2B online marketers are reaching the point where they now can integrate all their online activity data (unique visitors, page views, time spent, email, links, traffic sources, etc.) with their offline (mail, phone, store) site level data.  Merit Direct, the largest B2B data management company in the USA today, are leading the charge in this important area.   The importance and impact of this data integration step will be no less than when co-op prospecting databases first became available.  Even the most seasoned B2B direct marketer will be impressed with what is being developed in this area and I would encourage you to explore this step as soon as possible.

As always, please do not hesitate to call if I can be of assistance.

Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence LLC, a strategic B2B direct marketing consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services B2B catalog company clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at tjukes @ b2bdmi.com or (954) 383-5221

Comments or questions are welcome.

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