If you think answering questions in online business Q&A sites like Business.com Answers isn’t worth your time, I’m going to try to change your mind. Opt out of online Q&A and you’re leaving money on the table, period.
First, consider these statistics from a recent report by search marketing agency Enquiro:
- 39 percent of people researching for a first-time B2B purchase say they will rely on word of mouth and the opinions of other business people
- More than half of business buyers talk to other people who use a product as either their first or second task in the purchase process
Bottom line: Word-of-mouth recommendations play a starring role in today’s business purchase process.
And how are people looking for this word-of-mouth input? In business-focused online Q&A sites. Consider this excerpt from a recent string from Business.com Answers, our B2B question-and-answer site:
Subject: Top email service providers for campaigns
Kelly (user): I am looking for the top ESPs (Email Service Providers) for sending tactical and operational emails. I am looking for an on-premise or hosted solution. Could you please let me know what you recommend?
Answer: I have used both Constant Contact and Streamsend to manage mass e-mail distribution. Both have worked very well. I preferred Streamsend due to their pricing structure (based on e-mails sent, not contacts in your database). – Jeff Arnold, Pocket-Promo.com
Answer: Infusionsoft also offers a great service. You can watch a demo on their site and they also offer a free trial service to see if they’re a fit for your business and your needs….I’ve just switched to them. – Anita Campbell, Small Biz Trends
See anything you like here? If you’re one of the companies mentioned, I bet you do. And once your company name is in the mix, it’s in your best interest to dive into the dialogue. This isn’t a hard sell opportunity, but rather a chance to thank the person who recommended you and jump into the conversation. With someone who clearly needs to buy a product or service that you sell.
You’d respond: Anita, thanks so much for throwing our name in the hat here – we really appreciate it! Kelly, we’ve been providing exactly the services you mentioned for more than a decade, and I’d be happy to talk with you about how other clients are using our services and whether we might be a good fit for you. Feel free to call me at 555-555-5555 or email me at email@example.com. Looking forward to talking with you!
Now imagine that you’re scanning incoming inquiries about your industry (you can do that automatically in just a few minutes a day on Business.com Answers using our Category Subscription feature) and a question like this comes in. The person who’s asking the question sounds like she’s pretty close to ready to buy, doesn’t she? That’s a live lead. You want to talk to her now, while she’s narrowing down her choices. And answering questions like this on Business.com Answers or other business Q&A sites is a direct way to open those lines of communication.
As a vendor, should you jump in and answer? Absolutely. But again, it’s about sharing information, not a hard sell. Try to help the person understand the issue in a way that makes you look smart and responsive, and you’ll be top of mind when it’s time for that person to evaluate purchase options.
You’d write: Kelly, as you’re putting together your list, I hope you’ll include us and give me a chance to show you our most recent offerings. I’m sure you’re thinking about how your email tool will integrate with your existing CRM solution, and we’ve worked with all the major players, so getting everything running smoothly and passing information back and forth should be straightforward. We know there are lots of great options to explore – if you need a hand making sense of all the possibilities and parameters, I’m happy to help, whether we end up working together or not. Here’s my contact information – don’t hesitate to get in touch.
The point is that people making B2B purchase decisions are looking for input in all kinds of places. In online Q&A forums like Business.com Answers, they’re asking very direct questions about very specific (and often imminent) product and service needs. Other users may recommend you, and that’s great: Peer recommendations carry a lot of weight. But there’s an effective way for you to be part of that conversation too.
At Business.com Answers, we get questions about everything related to starting and running a business. Everything. If you sell it – whether “it” is software, accounting services, replacement parts for tractors, restaurant equipment, SEO advice, office design consulting, or a thousand other products or services – someone out there is thinking about buying it and is asking about it online. And if someone’s asking, you should be answering.
Are you convinced yet?