What’s the next big competitive advantage in ARM? Better web marketing.

I look at a lot of business sites every day. What surprises me is that I rarely say “this is a very well-designed website with a clear set of goals for the end user.” Why?

It isn’t clear why good online marketing practice has failed to spread among B2B companies as it has in B2C markets. What is clear, however, is that ARM companies who supplement their sales efforts with great web marketing will find themselves with a solid competitive advantage during the sales process.

So, is your company struggling with its web presence or have you integrated the web into your sales process? It’s okay if you fall within the first group. Turning your website into a competitive advantage only requires a small shift in thinking, as well as the application of practices and behaviors that you probably have already learned as a consumer.

The internet is serious business.

First, let’s identify the purpose of your site. It is no longer just a line item on a business card – it’s a viable way for a prospect to know that you’re serious about meeting their needs.  In the last decade, there has been a standardization of marketing and design practices for generating business online. The usage of these practices is industry-agnostic – they are the new way to build sites in order to sell products or services and establish instant credibility with a prospect. Optimization of online marketing has led to an explosive growth in consumer retail sales, with predictions that by 2014 as much as 8% of all retail sales will be online.[i]

We can see these trends bleeding into business-to-business sales as well. No longer is the online sales process an extension of your brochures. It’s now the most ROI-efficient way to seed the concept of your product/service as the solution to specific problems, provide strong case studies and facilitate a discussion with a prospect. Consider that mobile-focused B2B marketing budgets are slated to increase by a staggering 124% in 2011.[ii] Such an increase is due to a shift in the behaviors and expectations of B2B buyers who have experienced consumer marketing through various sub-channels, such as social media or email newsletters.

ARM marketing has not accounted for this shift in prospect behaviors and expectations. The firms that successfully do so will find themselves well ahead of the pack in terms of an effective sales process with a low cost per lead. Web marketing is not just about making pretty websites – it’s a way to streamline sales and lower your costs.

Where to begin? Think like a user.

1. Prospects have problems – are you giving them solutions?

Your prospects have problems - are you giving them solutions?

Whatever the market, the goal is to break down the barriers preventing your targets from seeing the value of your service offering. They want solutions to their problems. If you don’t provide them, they will go somewhere else. Think carefully about how your prospects phrase their needs and how your message answers their problems.

2. Does your site look credible?

Is your site's design credible or laughable?

Be honest – is your site’s design amateurish? Does it fill you with a sense of credibility and trust? Good design instills trust in your end user. If the image you put out in the marketplace does not seem credible, they won’t take you seriously as a solution to their problems.

3. Have you provided a clear call to action?

Have you provided a clear call to action?

How are you displaying information? Is there a method to the layout? A shotgun approach won’t work – you need to provide specific paths to a call to action. By making things easy for your prospects, you drive them along a path to self-qualification, saving you time and money.

Note that these are just the first steps in considering a redesign. Many other factors come into play, such as the keywords you use to describe your services or even colors and branding. In the future, we’ll dive into additional topic such as search engine optimization, branding, user experience and more.

So what. My business doesn’t depend on the web for leads.

This doesn’t apply to me – I’m doing just fine without web leads.

Sure, you’re not losing money by avoiding web marketing. But you could be making more, at a higher ROI than traditional sales and marketing methods. Why spend time qualifying leads with calls and meetings when they could do that work themselves with a few clicks of a mouse?

By not utilizing the web to ignite their sales and marketing efforts, many businesses operate with a sales cycle that produces leads at a high cost. ARM firms generally tend to follow this pattern as well. Best practices for marketing are often fine-tuned in B2C markets and then implemented by B2B companies. ARM firms have an opportunity to innovate and dramatically lower their cost per lead.

Business as usual may be a safe approach for now, but if you’re aiming to get ahead of the competition, a serious commitment to improving your web presence could result in a prime advantage in a competitive landscape that lags behind other industries online.

[i] Forrester Forecast: Online Retail Sales Will Grow To $250 Billion By 2014

[ii] Reflecting on 2010 – The Year the Customer Became King

About the author

Naveen is the senior marketing manager for Kaulkin Media and has experience in both B2B and B2C marketing arenas. He writes and illustrates articles for insideARM about marketing in the ARM industry. If you’d like to discuss your company’s strategic marketing objectives with Naveen, you may reach him at 240-499-3826 or visit the Kaulkin Media Creative Services page.