The COVID-19 crisis has many B2B companies seriously rethinking how they’ll reach out to prospects and customers going forward. Stepping up your online presence may be a wise move, but only if you avoid some common mistakes.

Whether you choose to beef up your website, start or expand blogging, introduce email marketing, host webinars, or take a stronger stab at social media, you may be thinking it’s just a matter of shifting what you’ve always done to a new arena. That’s a great way to set yourself up to fail.

First, marketing online is not identical to the offline environments you’ve been using. Not only do your prospects and customers get access to online messages in different ways, but they also consume and act upon them differently. Thanks to the online tools we’ve all become accustomed to using and the online players like Amazon with whom we do business, consumers have come to expect instant gratification. When I say “consumers,” that includes your prospects and customers. They may be buying business products and services from you, but they’re still people who employ consumer behavior.

So if you’re ready to step up your online game, what should you avoid?

Talking about yourself. Sure, people show up at your website or read your blog because they want to know about your company and what it offers, but blathering on and on about what makes you so great — or that you were founded in 1967 by J. Jeremiah Jerkloops — leaves people cold. Instead, talk about the people who are reading your content. Display a genuine interest in the problems and challenges your prospects and customers are facing. Demonstrate how you help them deal with those problems and challenges.

Going on and on. Your prospects and customers are busy. They don’t have time for long-winded messages. They’re after quick answers, and if they don’t see you offering one, they’ll move on to your competitors’ content. Search engines prefer concise, straightforward copy, too, so get to the point. What if your prospects and customers need to know more? That’s the beauty of online content. You can give them access to an infinite amount of information by linking to white papers, case studies, instruction manuals, and other in-depth content. Make that in-depth information available, but don’t force them to digest it upfront.

Sounding impressive. Your objective is to communicate with your prospects and customers, not to wow them with just how darned smart you are. You won’t build connections if you write like you did when you took that undergraduate philosophy course. Put the thesaurus and the five-syllable words away and write like you talk. Use short sentences and familiar words. You weren’t allowed to use “you” in your junior research paper, but it’s powerful in your online content. After all, you’re having a conversation with your prospects and customers, not lecturing to them.

Hurting their eyes. Thanks to search and engines and social media, we’ve all become accustomed to skimming through what we see. Our eyes zip across the screen, looking for words and phrases that catch our interest. While we may not read as much, we pay closer attention to what we do read. So break up your websites and blog posts with informative subheadings and lead-ins. Guide the reader to what matters to them.

Ignoring stupid questions. Oh, if one more person asks you whether your product is compatible with Model SD60M … how many times do you have to answer that? A lot, because it’s obvious that’s what people need to know. If they keep asking the same questions, you’re clearly doing a poor job of communicating what matters most. Use the questions that drive you crazy to drive your content and put them in an FAQ (frequently asked questions) page. Don’t assume everyone else knows everything in your brain.

Posting then snoozing. Too many companies make a bold effort to build a beautiful website or run a great blogging program for a month or two, and then let what they did sit there. If you want your online content to work well, you should update and add to it constantly. Set up a schedule and follow it religiously. Also, make sure your various online activities are consistent and coordinated.

Leaving them hanging. So what exactly do you want your prospects and customers to do after reviewing your online content? Great salespeople never end a call without asking a prospect or customer to do something, whether that’s place an order or agree to the next step in the process. Should they request a demonstration, ask for a personal sales call, or take advantage of your special limited-time offer? If you don’t provide a course of action, don’t be surprised when they decide to do nothing.

Scott Flood creates effective copy for companies and other organizations. 

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