To thrive in today’s changing face of business, B2B companies are recognizing the importance of an online presence that includes both a robust product catalog and detailed marketing information. However, it can be hard to know where to start. There are many things to consider:
- Technology: How will that work? What exactly do I need?
- Product data: Do we have what we need and where is it located?
- Customer requests/complaints: We need to make sure our online presence does X, Y and Z to meet our customer needs.
- People: How will it impact my team? Who should be involved?
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The prospect of gathering and organizing all of your product data into an online site that is user-friendly can be daunting, especially if you have thousands of products or if your data is less than organized. What you need is a roadmap to get from where you currently are to an engaging, online product catalog and customer engagement solution. Here are a few considerations to guide the formation of that roadmap:
Identify a champion
Find an executive sponsor that can take ownership of and responsibility for the successful execution of your online product catalog and customer engagement strategy. If you are the owner or general manager, this should not be your role.
Find someone within in your organization that:
- Believes in an online/omni-customer engagement approach and its significant impact on the growth of the business
- Has the authority or access to effect change
- Communicates clearly, concisely, and diplomatically to the rest of the organization
Focus on the User Experience
Perhaps the most important aspect that most businesses miss is truly understanding what challenges their customers face. Businesses tend to focus on their products and which problems their products can solve for customers. Prospective customers are looking for more than that. They seek solutions for challenges they experience within the overall researching, buying, and managing process. Product availability, managing approved vendors, and payment methods are some of the important customer challenges that need to be addressed within your solution.
Once you have identified how you can solve those challenges, shift to understanding what challenges your customers’ customers face. This knowledge allows you to suggest and integrate features into your online catalog that helps your customer solve their customer’s problems.
Outline and refine your goals
Once you have identified your champion and have discovered how you can successfully solve customer challenges, define concrete goals for your online strategy that are specific and attainable such as:
- “Our customers should be able to navigate to an online catalog to see our full product line.”
- “We want to replace our print catalog with an online catalog to eliminate printing costs and therefore make our customer-facing product data easier to manage.”
- “We want to provide our customers a login portal to access our product catalog that shows their custom pricing and our inventory levels.”
Now that you have defined goals, refine those goals into measurable targets such as “our goal is to increase our customer retention by 25%.”
Once you understand your customers’ challenges and how you might be able to help in serving their customers, you can prioritize value added features. Identify what data, technology, and expertise would be needed to add those features to an online catalog and reprioritize those features weighing effort on your part against the value of each feature. Then, you can implement an online B2B customer engagement solution that will give you the competitive advantage you have been seeking.