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B2B websites must follow standard usability standards; and also support a more complex buying process than found with B2C sites

The distinction between B2B and B2C websites is somewhat artificial, as both types of websites need to be user-friendly and meet usability expectations. Yet B2B sites present a further challenge of a multi-layered client purchasing process.

B2B websites must offer depth of specialized knowledge which meets the exacting needs of potential customers, and at the same time support the complex decision-making processes inherent in most large companies. These processes, as defined by your sales and marketing teams, must be incorporated into the site in the form of additional services and resources.

Business-to-business sites have three additional goals not found with consumer sites:

1. Make the buyer's shortlist of companies; 2. Offer downloadable support materials to assist the potential client to “sell” your company internally; and 3. Build a reputation for great service and quality products.

First things First

Your company must first survive the screening process which accompanies any initial search phase. This where search engine visibility, home page usability and content usability is paramount. Because once found, you don't want to be rejected because your website doesn't live up to typical user expectations.

To determine your target markets' expectations you must conduct field research and usability testing; as well as integrate functionality and content to support your potential client's extended-cycle buying processes.

Support those who support you

You must provide downloadable materials which can be used in client internal meetings and presentations by your 'advocates' to make a strong case for your company. You must help convince their peers and later their bosses that your product or service is the best by making it easier for them to substantiate their recommendations to their bosses.

Important resources to offer your potential B2B customers through an 'advocacy kit' should include the following downloadable elements:

-Detailed product specs and price charts
-Competitive comparison charts
-Product photographs (beauty shots and product-in-use)
-White papers which clearly demonstrate ROI
-Company financial links
-Slide shows in Power Point
-Product demonstrations
-Newsletters which offer product updates as they become available

Build a reputation for great service and quality products

This may be a 'given' internally, but is your website supporting and demonstrating how you conduct business and the results of your corporate actions?

Does your website contain client and community testimonials, industry accolades and awards, staff achievement news, staff community involvement, positive press coverage, and articles and white papers authored by your company?

This content, along with the physical delivery of great service and quality products will separate you from the crowd and give you a competitive advantage others could only hope for.