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Therefore, I decided to post the question here and see what others thought a good list of content would be for B2B clients. I realize every business is different so it can't be a really specific conversation, but I thought we could list general types of information that any company could create that was using their web site to market to a B2B base and needed to generate more leads and see what everyone thought.
If I were to boil down all the conceptualizing of the B2B conversation process to "what works" I whisper collaborative effort, i.e., some version of "don't sell to me, stand in my shoes". Educate me. Help me to define my problem/issue in a way that helps me (not you). Illuminate the way(s) in which your solution is appropriate to "my world". (Whitepapers?) Finally, right price the solution.
Most of the above is drawn from my own experience as a small business owner. YMMV. Study what Tedster has written on the subject.
In a nutshell: get found, then provide information that an employee from a prospective client can use to make a case to their boss for your product/service.
For technical products/VARs, providing better information than the supplier's website (eg product comparison tables, pulling specs out of PDFs etc) works well IME.
A good contact form/configurator/RFQ form can significantly improve lead generation.
I stress that it is important to do both these days since "everything" is in a high state of flux.
Next, looking at the customer's SWAT, you want to determine how you can add value for your customers with a web site. News? Directory? Catalog? Chat/message boards? In any case on this site you must have,somewhere,who, what, when, where, how, why and how much.Not always easy answers. Give the client a checklist with each of those points, review each answer. Also, ask for the CEO's elevator speech.
If it is a very competitive B2B market, it might be wise to have your clients take a look at some of the more aggressive B2C sites.
Are they trying to maintain their leadership status or are they trying to working into a new niche or overcome an established player?
In any case, keep in mind that your client doesn't want to get out too far in front of the their customers. If the industry standard is unsophisticated and basic, then you don't want a lot of flash or Flash. But, likewise, if it a high-tech or marketing industry, it might be wise to invest in some high-end creative. You need to clearly show what is remarkable about your client, but you're not going to change the industry's culture or style. (On these project there is usually someone--often the webmaster--who does not get that.)
But, during the entire process the business client typically is focused on their own needs and not looking clearly at the needs of their customers. And it's the needs of their customers that need to be the driver. The wise webmaster addresses BOTH, letting the needs of the client appear to rule because they are the ones paying the bills. That sounds a tad unprofessional, but that's life.
Closing online is very different to providing some content to an influencer for a lead. If I were you I would define your b2b goals very clearly before designing the process, online tools and content. You can then use google website optimiser to test different tactics.
Analogies are useful, too. "Your firm is like Apple Computer is to Dell." Or "The local supermarket to Safeway." Or "a doc in the box compared to the local hospital." Or "an old plow mule compared to the winner of the Kentucky Derby." Or "the Mona Lisa compared to the spraypaint art on the subway cars." Or "McDonalds compared to Subway."
It's useful to use an analogy that shows where you think they need to move. (Nice if they have web sites to illustrate your point.) Sometimes it's Coke vs Pepsi, but often it's not a level playing field. Your job: Make it unlevel in favor of your client.
I would not use the US auto industry. Or banks.