I’ll just get right to it: if your B2B website leads with your products, you’re doing it wrong.
“But we have the best products!” you say. “We manufacture them in the U.S.!” “Our R&D is second to none!” I hear you, and that’s all still important. But a lot of your competitors claim the same things. And no matter how flawless your SEO, your competitors are also being found for the same things. So why should a prospect choose you?
Do you know?
Lead with solutions, not commodities
It used to be you had a great product, you found an audience, and a match was made. Maybe your prices were the best, maybe they weren’t. But B2B companies did business like this for decades, and salespeople found success just by forging one-to-one relationships with clients.
But life has changed. Consumers are empowered by technology, they’re accustomed to 24/7 marketing, and competition has emerged from completely unforeseen places. Salespeople don’t get as many callbacks or email responses these days. Especially if they don’t know what’s different or better about what they’re selling versus the competition.
What should you do? Market your solutions. Here’s what I mean: when someone lands on your website (let’s ignore how they got there for this post), they should see how you solve their problems, right away. For example, if you sell industrial lawnmowers to landscaping companies, I don’t want to see the details about your newest mower on your landing page (save that for deeper in the site). I want to see how you’re helping solve a runoff problem with proper lawn care training or how park attendance is up thanks to efficiencies gained when a municipality starting using your equipment.
You get the picture: don’t tell me about your products. If I’m your prospect, you can bet someone else is also telling me about their products—which might be cheaper. You can’t know if you can win that fight, no matter how closely you follow your competition.
Instead, tell me why you matter. Not to my landscaping, but to my life.
Who’s doing it right?
Leading with solutions isn’t a new idea. It’s just that it’s hard to put in practice when you’re faced with legacy thinking in an established corporation. It’s much easier to lead with solutions if you’re a tech start-up—you can simply start with what we know works today. If you’ve been around for a while, though, and your business has long been product-first, you have some hearts, minds, and traditional sales practices to change.
Who’s doing it well? As I hinted above, technology providers are leading the charge. Since they don’t have a manufactured physical product to sell (like a lawnmower), they’re forced to talk about the intangibles of their services—those high-level benefits that don’t necessarily arrive immediately after implementation.
Paycor offers HR software for “human capital management.” And while that explanation of its services is readily available to you after you land on the site, the company quite literally offers to help you “find your solution” before attempting to sell you a single thing. Another major bonus: free, relevant content is immediately to the right. Not a sales pitch in sight.
You know SAP because it essentially runs the world. No, you will never have its budget or access to Clive Owen. That’s ok—we love stealing ideas from the big guys and getting scrappy about making them work for the rest of us. What can we learn here? Well, the very first question on the site is pretty provocative: “How do people feel about your business?” That’s something you need to know, and while SAP wants to sell you on the best way to figure it out, they’re still promising a solution—not a suite of products.
Yes, I talk about Steelcase a lot. There’s a reason. Even though the company manufactures furniture, its messaging is about workplace solutions, and the free content offered matters much more to its buyers than furniture does. At the end of the day, Steelcase is about people, and it’s serious about proving it.
Overall, almost every B2B manufacturer’s website I visited smacked me in the face with products. Pretty boring stuff. Do you know a B2B maker of goods (not software) that does it differently? Leave a comment below!
Time for a site overhaul
My lackluster experience while scrolling B2B sites proves that this idea is a game-changer. True, it’s a mindset shift, moving away from product-first to solution-led. But “solution-led” is really just another way to say “customer-centric,” and everyone—B2B and B2C companies alike—should be moving in that direction anyway.
Start by understanding your customers. What do they really need and want? What matters in their day-to-day lives? I promise you’ll find that your products are far less important to them than things like reducing stress, saving time and money, and increasing productivity and revenue. How does your business help them do all that?
Once you find out, make sure it's the first thing they see on your website.