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In early 2014, I began the search for accounting software. I had been using Quickbooks for years. The product, however, had become extremely clunky, and the function for allowing customers to pay online no longer worked smoothly and was rife with errors.

Changing one’s accounting software, no matter what size your business, isn’t something you can rush. You have to figure out which features you need and how the software will integrate with applications you’re already using. Even more important, you have to determine how the new software will impact your existing processes.

I spent months researching my various options. I did Google searches. I read forums and third-party review websites. Most significantly, I visited vendor websites multiple times during my decision making process. With each visit, I learned more about each software brand, how it worked, the support options available, and the company behind it.

Research Finding: Buyers leave and return to vendor websites multiple times during the research phase of the buying journey.

I and my colleagues at KoMarketing are preparing to have launched the 2015 B2B Web Usability Report. We’re pretty excited as we have lots of surprising data and findings.

One of the research findings shows that B2B buyers will visit a vendor website multiple times when performing research. We knew about this behavior from our 2014 survey:

  • 37% of survey respondents indicated they’ll visit a website 3 – 5 times
  • 33% of respondents said they do so because they want to research third-party references

For 2015, however, we wanted to know which factors cause a buyer to leave a vendor website in order to perform this research.

The number one reason? To evaluate competitive products or solutions. As you can see in the chart, 87% of survey respondents indicated this is why they leave a vendor website and then come back — multiple times.

Huff/KoMarketing Survey Data

Based on my own experience with researching accounting software, this survey finding made a lot of sense.

As I began thinking through the finding and its implications, I realized that my standard operating procedure is to research alternative products or solutions for just about anything I purchase for my business. In fact, I take months to make a decision because I do spend the time to evaluate how the new application will fit into my existing processes and integrate with other business apps.

I’ve also learned (the hard way) to read review sites for ratings and feedback before making a purchase.

Key Takeaway: Create a website that facilitates this research process

Due to the speed of change, and marketing hype, the idea exists that people make spur-of-the-moment decisions. Vendors develop their websites with this expectation in mind – that buyers will come to the website, read a few pages, and presto, will immediately convert by calling, emailing, or signing up for a trial offer or demo.

Thinking through my own research process for the last three applications I’ve purchased — accounting, CRM, and application syncing — I can now see that the vendors I chose all had content-rich websites that supported my research process.

Whether you’re offering a software app or you’re an industrial manufacturer, you need to create content assets that help buyers through this research process. Consider providing the following content:

Authentic testimonials — I do appreciate when a company provides extended testimonials that include the person’s name, company name, a photo, and the person’s words just as if he/she were speaking, as you can see in the following PieSync example. Testimonials like this are authentic, which helps build credibility and trust (one the key research findings for our 2015 survey).

PieSync Testimonials

PieSync Testimonials

Features — Explain to buyers how your product or solution works. Give information about how it syncs with other apps or works on a smartphone. Use lots of screenshots so that buyers can see how it works. Let people know the benefits of these features.

I like how Freshbooks uses whimsical graphics to explain the software features. The whimsy shows that Freshbooks is easy to use and built for small business owners rather than accountants.

Freshbooks illustrated feature

Freshbooks illustrated feature

Capabilities — If you’re a manufacturer or service provider, help people see the talents, skill sets, expertise, etc. you bring to the table. Use graphs and short paragraphs to explain how these all tie together and how they benefit the prospective buyer. Help buyers understand what makes your company the right choice for them.

In this screenshot, you can see how Acme Wire Products used a graph and text to explain their turnkey wire forming capabilities.

Acme Wire Products Capabilities page

Acme Wire Products Capabilities page

Ratings — If buyers can rate your product on third-party review sites, list the rating on your website — even if it’s not 100%. Most people don’t expect perfection; what they really want to know is that you’re responsive and will help them if they run into a problem. By being honest about your product or service, you’ll build credibility and trust.

In fact, a WhichTestWon Monarch airlines case study proves this point. SPOILER ALERT! By adding the trust icon, Monarch improved landing page conversions. What I found interesting, however, is Anthony’s comment:

Comment from WhichTestWon case study

Comment from WhichTestWon case study

FAQs — Before the Internet, prospective buyers would call a company and ask lots of questions in order to determine if the company could help solve specific challenges. (I know this for a fact because in the old days, I used to answer four phone lines and had to answer these questions!) Help buyers educate themselves by providing this information on your website and include answers to everything, from how your product works and your business hours to how to receive free samples or move forward with an RFQ.

Here you can see that Kays Engineering, manufacturer of deep hole drilling machines, answers people’s general questions about machine build time, shipping Internationally, and technical support.

Kays Engineering FAQ page

Kays Engineering FAQ page

These are a few examples of how to help buyers determine if your product or solution is right for them. You’ll find lots of other great research and takeaways from the 2015 B2B Web Usability Report, so be sure to check it out.

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Dianna Huff is the founder and president of Huff Industrial Marketing, a full service agency that tackles a host of marketing and communications challenges for manufacturing companies.

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