By Bridget McCrea
As business-to-business (B2B) websites have evolved, so have the tactics, strategies, and mechanisms used to propel a company’s online home to greatness on search engines like Google. The evolution will undoubtedly continue in 2017 (and beyond), but through it all at least one common theme still emerges: hardline advertising is out and good quality content is in.
“Content is king,” was a popular phrase in the early days of search engine optimization, and it became even more popular once content marketing started to take off. The meaning of that phrase is pretty simple, according to Business 2 Community’s Amanda Clark: For whatever other gimmicks, tactic, or strategies you employ, high-quality and compelling content is the single most essential, make-or-break component of your marketing strategy.
“In addition, it provides some practical direction for your blog and web content development,” writes Clark in Why Content is Still King—And Always Will Be.“Your starting point is always going to be more or less the same: Devise topics and themes that not only align with your company’s vision, but that also offer practical, actionable value to your targeted readers. That first step sets your entire content development process in motion.”
Taking it to the Next Level
There’s nothing like a New Year for tearing down an existing business strategy and starting fresh with a new approach. For electrical distributors, at least part of that process for 2017 should focused on creating a content-centric site where contractors and other customers can not only go to look up product info and place orders, but also learn something interesting, get clued into a new trend, or figure out a solution to a long-standing problem.
Denise Keating, president of Sycamore, Ill.-based DATAgility, says a good first step distributors can take is to acknowledge the content gaps in their current sites and then find ways to fill those voids with new, interesting, useful information that their customers want and need.
“When you start to think about how you can better serve your contractors, one way to do that is through good web content,” Keating points out. “For too long now, there’s been a focus on ‘base content’ (i.e., product photos, details, and basic ‘about our company’ type details). This is the year that distributors need to take that to the next level.”
You Only Have a Few Seconds
Getting your website to the “next level” requires a commitment to combining both written and visual content. This is a particularly important point in today’s age of “information overload,” where:
- The average person is bombarded with the equivalent of 174 newspapers’ worth of data every day
- You have 10 seconds to clearly communicate your proposition if you want to gain a few minutes of a user’s attention
- 55% of users who view a page spend less than 15 seconds looking at it
- The understanding of information jumps from 70% to 95% with the introduction of images
“If an image is worth a thousand words, then what is a video worth? And what is a 360-degree spin image worth?” Keating asks. “When you really think about the value of video, streaming, and other types of visual content that your customers need to be able to install, maintain, or troubleshoot a product, the possibilities on the content front are pretty much endless.”
As an industry, distribution has barely scratched the surface of these opportunities, says Keating. And while very large, national electrical and general line distributors may have their collective acts—and budgets/resources—together when it comes to creating content-rich websites, the typical small to midsized firm is still playing catch-up in this area. That fact alone presents significant opportunity for the distributor that wants to a put little more muscle into its web approach during the coming year.
Take product images, for example. It’s no longer enough to just present a few “flat,” one-dimensional images of a lighting fixture and hope that they give customers enough information to be able to make a smart buying decision. According to Keating, companies can stand out online by using 360-degree spin photos—both on simple and complex products.
“If a customer wants to buy a lighting fixture and mount it, then actually seeing what the item looks like when mounted is very important,” says Keating. “It’s not enough to just take one picture of a product out of the box and put it up online.”
On the content front, Keating says pricing is another important component that distributors need to get right in order to capture their customers’ attention online. Remembering that the next competitor is literally one mouse click (or finger swipe) away—and putting aside for a moment the fact that an independent distributor’s strength emanates from the support, service, and technical expertise that it provides to customers—displaying competitive pricing is an important aspect of selling online. “A lot of distributors think B2B is difficult because of all of the different pricing relationships that they have with their customers, but once you start selling online that mindset really has to change,” says Keating, who advises companies to come up with workable “public pricing” that can be displayed online. “You really have to be able to dynamically price in today’s online marketplace, where a lot of the new channels and opportunities require pricing information before engaging a new vendor.”
For distributors, Keating says creating engaging content in 2017 will require attention not only to the content itself, but also to the transparency and visibility that the content helps to create and cultivate online. In a world where a one-dimensional picture and the words “Call for Pricing ” just don’t cut it, winning the online content game will require closer attention to the various strategies highlighted in this article.
“Shift your mindset beyond just getting the order in and processing it,” says Keating, “and you’ll find yourself in a much better position when it comes to sharing content, engaging customers, and ultimately getting the sale via the web.”
SIDEBAR: 6 TYPES OF VISUAL CONTENT YOU SHOULD BE USING—Confused about content? Try these six options.
McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.
Tagged with B2B, content, e-commerce, tED, website