This blog originally appeared on Whittington Consulting's Online Results blog.
Bryce owns a successful but small company that sells water testing supplies. His company manufactures them and sells these supplies through their website to chemists in industrial applications.
I spoke with Bryce recently about better marketing his products online, and he was understandably proud to tell me this:
“Most of our products are of a distinctive, almost unique, style. They are one-of-a-kind, and no other company sells exactly the same products we do. The company was formed when my father invented these types of devices.”
Yet, his competitors selling seemingly inferior products are 10x, 15x, 20x the size of his company. How could this be?
I speak with a lot of manufacturing founders and CEOs like Bryce that sell unique items in niche markets, and most tell me similar stories to Bryce’s. Often, someone affiliated with the company invented a product or manufacturing technique that makes the product unique — unlike anything else in the market. That innovation improves the product significantly.
But in the eyes of your potential customer that’s just starting to search for solutions to a situation they face, does that innovation or difference matter?
What you have to understand is that even though no other product is exactly the same as yours, there are several products that accomplish the same things for a customer. Your prospective customer might not need to buy a product to solve their issue, even though it may solve it. There are other solutions in that consideration set, too.
The real question becomes this: are you helping your competitor by being too product focused and not customer focused?
In Bryce’s case, people are buying water testing kits. His product may do it differently and better, but does an early stage prospect who is looking to buy products like his know that? When they search Google and they find Bryce’s company website, will it contain the information that furthers a prospect’s knowledge ? Does the website inspire confidence by helping a person solve their unique challenge with education? Or does Bryce’s website go right for the sales pitch without providing proper background?
It’s understandable, then, why a buyer might choose a less superior product over your unique, one-of-a-kind product.
Ask yourself this question: do the people that reach out to your sales reps understand as much about your product or your industry as you do? The mistake most manufacturing CEOs, salespeople and product managers make is that they think their prospects know as much about the industry as they do, and it shows on their websites.
In Bryce’s situation, a chemist might know a lot about chemistry, but they may have been testing water samples for years using the same product. They get mostly reliable results, but changing products introduces uncertainty. Will Bryce’s company website address that uncertainty and other pushbacks that might come up in order to further the sale?
When your ideal customer searches the internet for information on a general product type, the positioning of your product may be so specific that your company gets overlooked. Do you want to help your prospects overlook your company by not providing valuable information they can use? Will buyers realize the benefits of your product if your messaging is specific or technical?
You have to remember that though people buying from you may be engineers or technically sophisticated people, they don’t have the same level of understanding about your products or even the industry as you do. If you share specific details and product pitches too early, you’ll frighten them off.
Some sales sherpa friends of mine might call pitching the product too soon “asking for a marriage proposal before you date.”
What if you had a rash and you didn’t know what it was? You might Google it, and find the WebMD website. You might look for similar rashes and read about them. You compare it to yours, and notice some similarities. The next thing you know, you’re looking for a way to contact a doctor. When you started your research, though, you weren’t looking for a doctor.
Why treat your website any different? When you write your website, consider the early stage buyer that has a problem. They have a choice to do nothing at all, or even buy a completely different technology/product than yours. Your website has to look and read as if you know the situation your buyer is in if you want more leads and customers. The statements you make on your website need to answer the questions you get from prospects and relate to them on their level. Shouldn’t your company website say things that resonate with your ideal customer, not what resonates with company product managers, engineers or managers?
So if your company homepage has a large photo of company executives welcoming a new staff member, or an incredibly technical description of your product, or an overwhelming amount of information, maybe it’s time to re-think it?