Conversion Rate Optimization for B2B
The Definitive Guide
In this guide we will go through the following:
- What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
- Difference between B2B and B2C
- How can you affect the visitor?
- Motivation vs. Resistance
- Motivation: Need, Value Proposition and Incentive
- Resistance: Friction and Anxiety
Let’s get started.
What is Conversion Rate Optimization, and how do you increase it?
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of improving how visitors on your website act the way you want them to based on set goals or actions.
Conversion rate can be measured on different levels; as an individual ad to a landing page, or based on a whole customer journey where you measure every step involved.
The most concrete example is usually a landing page where you drive traffic from an ad or an inbound link somewhere on the internet.
In this guide, we will focus on B2B, where common conversion goals are to fill out a form, become a lead or download a whitepaper.
CRO for Business to Business (B2B) vs. Business to Consumer (B2C)
Before we go into the actual details of CRO, let us establish the difference between conversion rate optimization for B2B vs. B2C.
First of all, they have some things in common.
Like targeted high quality content, a secure and a high-quality website.
But after that, things start to differ.
B2B campaigns shouldn’t focus too much on the product itself, but rather the brand and establishing a relationship.
In its essence, it’s the digital equivalent of asking a client out to lunch, shaking hands and building a foundation for the future.
The B2B customer journey also different.
Landing pages don’t have to be used to push a specific product or purchase. Instead, they need to get the contact ready for a future conversion at a later time.
But how do you get someone to convert?
Let us look into that now.
Understanding how users move through your site, what actions they take, and what’s stopping them from completing your goals is the core of conversion rate optimization.
There are a variety of variables that come into play when we want to understand conversion rate optimization.
But you can sum all those variables in two opposing parts:
Motivation vs. Resistance.
Motivation helps one to convert, and resistance reduces one’s will to convert.
Conversion optimization basically deals with the fact that motivation overcomes resistance.
When motivation is greater than resistance a conversion occurs.
Depending on what your offer is and who you sell to, these parts are weighted differently.
The greater the resistance your offer has, the more motivation you have to create for the visitor to convert.
Let’s look at these parts further.
Motivation can be broken down into 3 parts:
- Value Proposition
It is going to be hard to get people to convert to something they don’t need.
So, you basically have two options here.
1) Create a need for something that people don’t have yet and lead them towards your solution.
This method is often combined with the fact that people are not solution-aware yet and thus do not know that there is a solution to their problems.
The focus then becomes educating customers about the problem and that you have the solution.
2) Create a solution for a problem they already have.
The easier way.
Find a real need that people have and work hard to meet it in any way with your product or service.
These customers are more or less actively looking for a solution because they are already aware of the problem they have.
Often, the person turns to Google or their network for a solution.
Without a clearly defined need from your potential customers, there is no point in working with conversion rate optimization.
Once you have identified that your solution actually meets a need, you need to formulate that value into something tangible.
Which leads us to the next point under the motivation factors.
Value proposition is the smallest denominator that separates your product or service from other similar offers.
You package your solution in a way that is easy to understand.
Creating a value proposition is based on identifying the customer’s challenges and meeting them with solution-oriented offers.
Keep in mind – creating a value proposition that converts takes time and effort.
A value proposition should be easy to understand, remember to speak in the customer’s language and terms.
It doesn’t matter how valuable your service or product is if your target audience doesn’t understand it.
And they need to understand it within seconds.
Refining your value proposition is often a lengthy process based on tests and feedback from your customers.
What should a good value proposition contain then?
- How your product solves / improves a situation
- What specific benefits your customers can expect
- Why customers should buy from you instead of your competitors
Below we go through a few examples.
Example 1. Unbounce communicates clearly and effectively in their Value Proposition.
Example 2. Intercom is clear to whom they are targeting but lacks what their service actually does.
Making the value proposition Clear and Understandable are the most important factors when it comes to startups or slightly more unknown services.
However, if you have an established brand that everyone recognizes, take Apple for example, then you can be more general and broad in your value proposition.
Now that we have clarified the customer’s needs and you have an offer that matches that need.
Let’s move on to incentive.
Incentives are something that must be created by you, and are a big part of conversion optimization work.
Incentives help a person to understand why they must do something now, rather than later.
People are generally anxious, and want to postpone their decisions.
So, we as marketers need to find a way to trigger their action as soon as we can.
There are several ways to do this, which we will go into now.
1. Time limit
Time-limited offers can be something like a Black Friday offer that only lasts for a day or a weekend.
In a Black Friday campaign I did for a clothing brand recently, we targeted our audiences with a Black Friday discount through ads on social media.
Usually I run these kind of campaigns on remarketing audiences, but this time also did a few ads for cold lookalikes audiences as well. And although these customers did not have a previous relationship with the brand in advance, they were willing to jump on the deal.
Through time constraints, I created incentives that led to action.
If you have an email list with previous customers, blog subscribers or free trial users it is also a great opportunity to reach out with your limited time offer.
I recently got this from a company selling a SEO software that I was once a user of.
We decided to run a secret early Black Friday deal for all the former Mangools trial users. Hurry up. It’s valid only for the next 72 hours (until this Sunday).
I actually signed up again after the Black Friday deal was over and regret it now.. :/
2. Limited stock / availability
Limited stock or availability is as old as marketing itself, but still works great in our digital world.
The reason it works great?
Fear of missing out. People cannot stand that others get something they cannot have.
If you don’t have “stock” in the traditional sense of physical products, you can create scarcity in other ways:
- Number of seats for an exclusive webinar
- Number of downloads before a price increase
- Number of new clients before you are at max capacity
3. Invite only
I used this tactic for a growth hacking community I used to run to make it super exclusive.
I started out by inviting top marketers and business founders and created content specifically tailored for their needs. Then as the community started to spread I made it tougher and tougher to join as the community increased in size. At some point people started to beg me for an invite.
But it doesn’t just have to be a community, you can use this same tactic for:
- New Beta Releases
- New Services
- Limited Offers
Send an invite to your email list or your followers on social media and let them know there are a limited number of spots and a limited number of people who were invited.
Make sure to clearly outline the terms of the deal, your part and theirs to avoid confusion.
4. Limited time opening
This is especially good for online courses.
It typically works like this:
- Create course, make it open for registration for a limited time, and close it down.
- Take care of the students, improve the content as more people enroll, and get testimonials for the next time the course is open.
- Re-open the new and improved course – with a higher price than last time, of course.
The scarcity it creates is really great. But there is a potential downside. Once it’s closed, it’s closed.
5. Price increase / price cut
Many internet marketers use a tactic with limited time offers or they “threaten” to raise the price of their product for X days, creating an incentive to act quickly.
You should make sure a user understands why they need to convert now rather than later.
Depending on your industry, or what you’re trying to get people to convert to, you’ll probably need to set up your messages in different ways to trigger action.
This is how you do it:
- Target people hanging out on your social profiles and sitting on your email list.
- Don’t increase price for current customers.
- Set a date when the price increase occurs – like 2-4 weeks into the future depending on your product/service.
- Stick to it. None of this, “Maybe we will change prices later”.
This will convince people who are slower in their decision making to pull the trigger faster.
Of course, the reverse also works, such as lowering the price for a certain period and then raising again.
Motivation – summary
Your task is to fine-tune these three components of motivation so that they overcome the opposing forces of resistance.
The more these three are strengthened, the more you will be able to convert people to buy your product, download your e-book or your app from the app store.
Now we will move on to the subtractive factors for conversion; friction and uncertainty within resistance.
Resistance can be broken down into two parts:
Friction is everything that makes it more difficult for a user to reach a positive decision – for example ordering a product online or filling out a form.
When it comes to a website, friction can be things like:
- Slow loading times
- Poor design
- Poor mobile responsiveness
- Poor navigation that unconsciously makes people work hard to reach a conversion
- Unnecessarily long contact forms
- Not being clear with what you will do with their information
Identifying friction begins by looking at actual challenges that exist to the user, both physical or digital interactions that a person makes during the journey to a conversion.
Friction can be seen as the technical barrier and a common reason for working with conversion optimization.
But how do you reduce friction?
In addition to solving the obvious technical barriers I mentioned above, the best way to detect and resolve friction is to observe or question the user.
The difficult thing, however, is getting reliable feedback, for example people may be too proud to say that they have had a hard time understanding something. Or, they feel that they have to construct obstacles to make the feedback “useful”.
To overcome this problem, there are services like Usertesting, Usabilityhub and Whatusersdo that are really useful for testing your website / service against a specific audience with a specific set of skills or industry knowledge.
Tip! My favorite feature is Usabilityhub’s “5 second test”, where you upload a screenshot of your landing page’s hero section and then let people see it for 5 seconds and see if they understood what your product/service is.
By using tools such as Hotjar‘s recording feature, you can see the user’s interaction and time on specific pages of your site to find out where people doubted and what made them hesitate. I’ve been using this a lot on crucial landing pages, I love it.
Whatever you find through these methods should give you the information you need to improve your website and your copy to reduce friction.
Once you have made some changes, you must test, observe, learn and test again.
Anxiety has the same effect as friction, but is caused by psychological aspects of the experience.
Anxiety can be things like the lack of https (indicating a secure page) or “verified symbols” (Visa, Mastercard etc) on a checkout page.
Or that images of your products that cannot be enlarged, or no terms of service or company information.
All that causes the user to question whether it is safe to convert or not.
How to reduce uncertainty?
A classic example of anxiety is when you authenticate yourself to services with a social media account.
This may trigger some concern about how the service will use your account.
If you foresee this uncertainty and add a relief message such as:
“We do not post anything on your social media” under the “Log in with Facebook” button.
Then you should be able to get around this problem.
Another example when friction occurs is in free trial registrations for SaaS products that often needs a debit card.
Then you can indicate early in the registration flow that no debit card is needed.
From a purely technical point of view, you resolve payment at a later stage when the customer has tested the product and is more likely to continue.
Practical examples of this can be:
“No credit card required.”
Under the CTA button for free trial signups.
Let’s look at an example of a good registration page.
Example 1. Mangools does a very good job with its registration page. They have a testimonial from an expert, their features, live chat, and no debit card requirement.
When I have tested for what creates anxiety, I found that customer interviews are actually very useful.
The idea is that you want to separate the converters from the non-converters, and try to understand why they act differently.
In order to do this for converters you can have your sales rep ask a couple of questions on the first phone call with the customer, after users have signed up for a demo of the product.
The questions should be based on things that might create anxiety during the registration/signup process.
“What made you hesitate when you signed up?”
“What was unclear about the demo registration page or product in general?”
The sales rep method only collects feedback if the users actually filled out the form and converted, not from those who did not.
What you can do for the all the visitors is to implement a “question slide-up” (e.g. qualaroo.com) that shows the user a question after a certain period of time on the site or landing page.
I did this for a client and had several questions rotated towards the visitor, but only ONE question was shown at a time.
The questions were:
“Do you understand what the product does?”
“Is anything unclear in what we offer?”
Where the answers should be predefined:
For example, “Yes”, “No”, “It’s too expensive”, “It’s too complicated”.
People are generally too lazy to provide feedback in their own words.
If you start requiring the user to answer several questions or write a text, it will not give enough answers to learn anything.
Remember – reduce friction in everything you do.
In fact, asking your customers questions may be the only way you can find out what someone actually thought when they weren’t converting.
Example 2. Qualaroo.com offers great services to collect feedback through slide-ups.
A few years ago I was working with conversion rate optimization and UX at Falcon.io, and the main issue was that they did not have a pricing page (at least not for the first couple of years) which was a great source of anxiety for the visitors.
In the beginning for them, it was more about signing enterprise customers for building cases, as the brand did not yet have enough credibility to convert only through an online funnel.
They needed to get on the phone with the customers, and not having a pricing page was a shortcut to a phone call.
Pretty clever, since they where quite expensive.
A pricing page was later introduced, as part of increased traffic and brand recognition. However, without any actual prices!
This was also smart move to both solve the problem of anxiety, and at the same time provide a good overview of the various packages.
Example 3. A pricing page without prices – a good middle ground for B2B companies without public pricing models.
Book a demo / trial
One problem related to “Book a demo” of products is that people feel more forced or that it is an obligation to use the tool or service after.
This creates anxiety.
Especially if you need to talk to a sales rep on the phone in order to proceed, or cancel the service.
This can be addressed by adding a message that reduces the importance of the demo in case the customer does not want to continue using it.
Example 4. In this example from Wordstream, they write “100% no obligation” which eases some of the responsibility.
Testimonials and customer logs
Another important topic related to alleviating anxiety is trust.
To solve trust problems, you need to find a way to meet the visitors need for security.
When websites face a trust issue, I always try to look for third-party validation.
This simply means that you should either put customer reviews and / or customer logos on your website.
Ideally in near proximity to where the registration form is located.
If that doesn’t work and people are still worried, you can try combining logos with a strong incentive to convert (in this case, the good old FOMO).
It can be something like:
“Join 10,000 other marketers increase their Social ROI”.
Resistance – summary
Your task here is to reduce the two components of resistance so that they do not overcome motivation.
The more these two components are reduced, the more you will be able to convert people to buy your product, download your e-book or your app from the app store.
Good luck converting!