Is it real? Proof and conversion rate optimisation in B2B marketing

Proof in B2B digital marketing

Proof is the art of showing potential customers and clients that what you sell is both real and worth having. It’s one of the trickiest elements to get right in digital and inbound marketing, and can be the difference between appearing authentic or fake.

It’s even more difficult for B2B, but it’s absolutely essential if you want to convert the people who find you online or visit your website into prospects and customers.

What is proof?

Broadly speaking, most proof falls into 1 of 2 categories:

  1. Confirmation of what is on offer
  2. Corroborating evidence of the offer’s value

Basically, it shows people that your product or service is something real and that it is of value to a business. If you’re old school, then you can think of proof as the ‘physical evidence’ element of your marketing mix.

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Why is proof important?

We live in an age of scepticism. People are consuming more and more content, and they’re bombarded with advertising wherever they go online, be it Facebook, news sites or YouTube. More and more people are using ad blockers or developing ‘banner blindness’ to overcome the fact that they are constantly being targeted by someone.

In addition, when people come to you as a result of your inbound marketing, advertising, events or just word of mouth, proof helps reduce obstacles to purchase or conversion. It helps you seem more authentic than your competition. Ultimately, this means that websites that provide proof convert better than those without, as this article from CrazyEgg explains.

When is it most important?

Proof is most important at the point when a prospect is weighing you up against your competition. The classic AIDA model would call this the ‘action’ phase, and it matches the ‘decision’ phase of the HubSpot buyer’s journey perfectly. It’s the point at which a prospect has decided to purchase, but hasn’t yet decided whom to purchase from.

But it’s also worth including proof all along the customer journey, to establish your brand as more authentic than its competition.

What counts as digital proof?

The Charted Institute of Marketing suggests some broad kinds of proof that can be applied to all sectors:

  • A modern, professional website: “If your digital or physical premises aren’t up to scratch, why would the customer think your service is?”
  • Meeting expectations: you need to confirm what customers expect of your sector in terms of formality of appearance, functionality or language.
  • Customer feedback: be that reviews, testimonials or case studies.

I’d add a few extra points to this, specifically about content:

Tone:

Sales-speak may work in person, but you have to strike the right balance in your online content if you don’t want to come across as pushy or even desperate.

As an agency, we also have to consider reflecting the brand and personality of the client. We don’t want there to be a huge disconnect between the tone of the website and the actual people they’ll be in touch with once they make contact. If a client is very direct, we reflect that; if they’re friendly and approachable, we’ll reflect that instead.

Appearance:

Looking too polished can come across as insincere in certain sectors. Real photos are often more human than stock photography.

Of course, it’s not always feasible to work with custom photography for every piece of content. If you’re publishing 4 or more blog posts a month the chances are you’ll be using Shutterstock or something similar. But when you’re putting together a page about the strengths of your team, you’ll want to use their actual faces, and the same is true of talking about your office, machinery etc.

What kind of proof should I use for my sector?

Obviously what will work best as proof varies greatly depending on your market sector, but here is a non-exhaustive list of the kinds of content you can look to add to your website.

Technology and SaaS

  • Your product: specifically screenshots of software or photographs of hardware, both in isolation and in use.
  • Your pricing
  • Your product’s results: data makes results tangible.
  • Your clients: case studies, testimonials, logos and videos can all work well.
  • Your product support content: tutorials, support forums, customer support contact details.
  • Your SLAs
  • Your accreditations

Professional Services (including legal, financial, management, and IT)

  • Your team: photographs, biographies.
  • Your offices: photographs, address, possibly a location map.
  • Your clients: case studies, testimonials, logos and videos can all work well.
  • Your experience and expertise
  • Your qualifications
  • Your results: data makes results tangible.
  • Your pricing: this may not always be feasible, but done well it can be invaluable for allowing leads to qualify themselves for your services.
  • Your awards

Ecommerce

  • Products: especially photographs or video.
  • Product reviews
  • Your awards
  • Your service commitments: delivery information, returns policy.

Suppliers

  • Example products
  • Your premises
  • Your clients: case studies, testimonials, logos and videos can all work well.
  • Your service commitments: delivery information, returns policy.
  • Your awards
  • Your team

Manufacturing

  • Example products
  • Your premises
  • Your machinery: especially if bespoke products are part of your offering.
  • Your clients: case studies, testimonials, logos and videos can all work well.
  • Your team
  • Your awards

Engineering

  • Your premises
  • Example products and prototypes
  • Your machinery and software: especially if bespoke products are part of your offering.
  • Your clients: case studies, testimonials, logos and videos can all work well.
  • Your awards and accreditations

Science and Medical

  • Your accreditations
  • Your results: data makes results tangible.
  • Your publications
  • Your team and premises

Logistics

  • Your premises
  • Your vehicles
  • Maps of your network
  • Your clients: case studies, testimonials, logos and videos can all work well.

Where should I put proof?

The most important places for proof are:

  • Your homepage (but remember that it’s not the most important thing on there!)
  • Any pages about your business, your team, your facilities
  • Dedicated pages such as testimonials, our clients etc
  • Product pages
  • Your main conversion offer (ie where you expect people to get in touch with you)

There can also be value in dotting proof in among your content marketing, such as blog posts or social content. For example, we tend to talk about our clients’ successes, such as ramsac’s recent awards win, or a significant growth in website traffic due to SEO work. Or we’ll throw a post about growing our team into the mix when we’re hiring. (We are, by the way.) But don’t go overboard and dilute your main message – that’s what will actually get people to the point where they’re considering you in the first place.

Ultimately, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to digital proof. You need to strike a balance between the competiting needs of conversion and acquisition to ensure that you generate ROI. Proof is an important tool in showing potential customers that what you have to offer is both real and valuable to them. Using it effectively will reduce perceived obstacles to purchase, and help your bottom line.

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