What it Will Take for Distributors to Get Found Online in 2015

Frank Isca
Posted by Frank Isca on December 18, 2014

distributors_found_onlineHere you are, facing the end of another calendar year and you’re still feeling as though your company’s marketing presence is dated and less than relevant to a younger prospect pool – which is starting to replace retiring baby boomers.

You’ve been preaching to your VP of sales and management team that your online marketing presence can’t be made a secondary priority any longer, and your website needs a drastic overhaul to avoid becoming completely irrelevant to prospective customers. It seems as though they hear what you’re saying but don’t take you seriously, and don’t have the same level of urgency or confidence to commit to budgeting for these activities.

Sound familiar to you?

You could continue to show your team your website analytics and how your visitor traffic is stagnant or declining. Or, maybe it’s time to paint them a picture of what you’re up against in 2015 in order to get found or risk falling behind even more than you are now.

Outlined here are insights and specific facts on what it takes in today's online landscape to get found, and specific action items you can take to move your team forward. 

Accept That Buyer Behavior Has Changed, And Continues to Change

The veterans on your sales team can continue to think that prospective customers aren't using the web in their buying process, but the reality is they're relying on it more and more. In fact, according to the 2014 DemandGen B2B Buyer Survey:

  • 67% of B2B buyers say they begin their purchase path anonymously on the web (meaning, before your sales team is aware they're interested)

  • 58% of B2B buyers spend more time researching purchases online

  • 79% of B2B buyers either had a vendor selected or narrowed to finalists before their project was funded

  • 46% of B2B buyers create a short list of potential vendors before contacting a sales rep

  • 87% of B2B buyers say online content has a major impact on vendor preference

So the day of prospects starting their buying journey at event tradeshows to create their short list has evolved. These events may still have some influence in their journey, but it's likely they've researched and selected the few vendors they want to meet personally before they ever arrive at the show.

In order to be relevant and considered during this information-gather phase you need to be active with your online presence and recognize this shift in behavior. I'll get into this in detail in the sections below, so keep reading!

Action Items:

1. Download the noted 2014 DemandGen B2B Buyer Survey, study it, and share it with your team.

2. Get at least one person on your sales team who agrees that your prospective buyers' behavior is changing, and have them share their insights with the team.

Build Your Website to Help First, Sell Second

It's no secret that as an industrial distributor you likely carry a lot of the same products and specific brands as your competitors. This can make it challenging to stand out to a prospective customer who hasn't experienced your team's expertise or level of service. You can always try to stand out by offering the best price, but chances are you're not aiming to be the cheapest source either.

With your website, instead of blending in with everyone else and leading with products that you have to sell, why not aim to be the most helpful distributor in your space? It's likely your prospects have specific questions and things they're unsure of during their buying process, and I'd bet your sales team hears these questions day in and day out. Taking all of these questions and writing short blog articles or downloadable guides that answer them, and featuring them on your website where the prospective buyer will see them when digging into the products you offer, will stand out to your audience, who will appreciate your insights and guidance.

This all goes a long way with starting to establish credibility and be seen as a resource that understands their needs, and gives you a point of difference among the other distributors in your space.

Action Items:

1. If you've been looking to overhaul your current website, now would be the time to implement a blog and blogging strategy to house this helpful content. 

2. Another key in ensuring your website is helpful, and worthy of Google ranking you high in search rankings, is making it mobile-friendly with a responsive design that adapts for various screen sizes.

Start Creating Consistent Content to Fuel Your SEO & Convert Leads

The search engine optimization (SEO) work you did years ago to place specific keywords throughout your website content could now be coming back to hurt you. Google has gotten smarter and these tactics of the past can't influence your search rankings like they once did. If you over-optimized your pages this should be cleaned up and the adoption of a blog, as noted above, is a must to help fuel your your website's overall SEO engine.

A blog is the best way to keep your website updated with new content on at least a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Publishing new content multiple times per week will only shorten the time frame that you start to see increased website traffic and lead conversions. So, decide on a frequency that's realistic and that you can consistently maintain.

By publishing content that aims to answer the most frequent questions your sales team hears, as noted above, and helps address your prospective buyers' specific worries or pain points, you're setting yourself up to be found when a prospect does a Google search for that question or a solution. And if Google sees you're the only website that has content based on that question/keyword phrase, guess who they'll put at #1 in the rankings? You guessed it – YOU!

This content also works to attract inbound links from other websites that appreciate your content and want to share it with their website visitors, and also gives you and your team something to share on relevant social media channels such as LinkedIn. These links and social sharing signals also benefit your SEO, resulting in additional improvement in your search rankings.

Action Items:

1. I said it above and will say it again, don't ignore blogging any longer!

2. Start to determine who on your team can be tapped into for blog writing, knowing you'll need to be the one who plays the editor-in-chief role.

Stop Ignoring Targeted Social Media Use

Social media has proven it's here to stay and can deliver increased reach and lead attraction, if used with strategic focus. 

For an industrial distributor like yourself, you can't ignore LinkedIn as a primary social channel. If your team thinks otherwise, just share with them the number of groups that are on LinkedIn for the type of prospective buyer personas you're looking to attract. For example, let's say a customer segment your products serve are waste water treatment facility managers. Just for "waste water treatment" related groups on LinkedIn, there's roughly 114 different groups and some have 8,000-10,000 members. One group even has over 41,000 members! So, even looking at an industry and role in this niche, there are signs that professionals are tapping into LinkedIn to learn and share ideas.

Think how powerful it could be if your sales team, or other team members depending on the group, were actively engaging in discussions and sharing your content that addresses their questions and pain points? The potential can no longer be ignored.

Action Items:

1. Start digging into what specific LinkedIn groups exist that relate to the prospective buyers you're looking to attract, and share those with your team.

2. If your sales team isn't using LinkedIn, or (worse yet) they don't have an account, help them get a basic account set up.

Depending on your situation, the thought of making this shift to amplifying your online marketing activity can feel intimidating. If you start by following the outlined Action Items you'll start to make some strides and hopefully start to create a groundswell with your team. To further expand your learning on the true potential of these various marketing approaches and how they fit together, download a copy of our Step-by-Step Guide to Inbound Marketing.

Step-by-Step Guide to Inbound Marketing

Topics: Search Engine Optimization, Content Marketing, Website Design

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