What Software Buyers Want From a Vendor’s Website

by Lauren Carlson

CRM Analyst,

6/22/2011

It’s no secret that in today’s Web 2.0 world, the buyer is in control. When they are looking to make a purchase, they don’t pick up the phone and call a sales rep. Instead, they seek out online sources that provide the information they want. But what exactly is that? And how can you deliver that content effectively on your site?

That’s what we wanted to find out. So we surveyed more than 400 recent buyers and asked them questions focused on one thing: What content is most helpful in the purchasing process?

So far, we have received some really positive feedback. So, we wanted to share our knowledge with you. Below are some charts that break down the survey responses. I’ve also included some actual quotes from the respondents, as well as several tips on how to improve your website.

Market-Level Content

Start big and whittle it down. This is how most buyers begin any purchase, whether they are looking to buy ERP software or a new dish washer. At this early stage, they are typically looking for certain types of content to help them understand the big picture. Who does what and how well? Who should make my short list?

We asked respondents to rate each type of content on a scale of 1 to 5, from least important to most important when doing this market-level research.

What content do buyers find most useful when researching a market?
Pricing information4.6
Side-by-side product comparison4.4
Online software demonstrations4.4
Webinars on products, trends or best practices3.6
Buyer's guides that explain the software category3.5
Online courses about the software category3.2
Whitepapers on products, trends or best practices3.1
Excel-based selection tools2.9
Blog posts about the software category2.6

Product-Specific Content

Then, we went one level deeper and asked respondents what content they are looking for when researching specific products. Again, they rated each type on a scale from 1 to 5, 1 being least useful and 5 being most useful.

What content do buyers find most useful when researching a product?
Pricing information4.6
Description of software features and functionality4.6
Online software demonstrations4.5
Compatibility with other systems4.2
User reviews of the software4.1
User ratings of the software (e.g. 1 to 5 stars)3.9
Our third-party opinion of the product3.8
Screenshots and other product images3.8
Information about the company behind the software3.7
Brochures or data sheets about a specific product3.4
Case studies of customers using the software3.4

As you can see, the results are consistent. The top three things that buyers want to see online are:

  • Pricing information
  • Functional descriptions and details
  • Online demos

Many of you reading this are probably thinking, “yeah, yeah…tell me something new…” because you already have this content on your site. Well, before you pat yourself on the back, you may want to consider the following tips to enhance your user experience even more. Based on what our survey respondents indicated, here are a few takeaways…

Tip #1: Give ‘em the price

Most vendors hide their pricing behind a landing page or make you call to get a price quote. If pricing is the number one piece of information that potential buyers are looking for on your site, wouldn’t it make sense to, you know, put it on your site?

“I want to know the cost of the software. This way I can quickly determine what software I should even investigate. For instance, I do not want to investigate a $3,000 piece of software if I am only wanting to spend $300.”

Some vendors contend they aren’t hiding pricing from the buyer – rather other vendors. But honestly, if your competitors really want your pricing information, they’ll get it. So instead of worrying about them, see this as an opportunity to be the refreshing, transparent vendor who gains their trust early in the process.

Other vendors say their pricing is too complex to share. Uh oh. Maybe it’s time to simplify your pricing structure? Can’t do that? Well, then write a guide to your pricing and publish that. Seriously, we think buyers will appreciate the transparency and reward you by continuing the dialog. You just fulfilled their #1 request when no other vendors would.

Another factor to keep in mind is the growth of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model and how it has changed the way vendors and buyers alike relate to prices. The majority of SaaS vendors provide transparency in pricing, publishing the information for anyone to see on their site.

Salesforce pricing

Salesforce.com does it right, publishing pricing for all to see.

Tip #2: Speak Their Language

Each industry has it’s own lexicon, which is deeply ingrained in the minds of your prospects. However, to set themselves apart from the competition, many vendors like to complicate these commonly used terms.

For example, the term “medical billing” isn’t all that attractive when it comes to marketing language, but it’s a broadly adopted term. Many vendors, however, will bypass these commonly used words to make up their own, such as “revenue cycle management.” Sounds cool, but the vendors using such terms then have to spend millions of dollars to train the industry on the new jargon.

In our survey, we found that buyers really want to see familiar lexicon on the sites they visit. They want to read, in black and white (figuratively), what the software does. Fancy jargon just introduces a requirement that they learn a new vocabulary.

“I want a detailed description of what the software does, not just an advertisement with a lot of punchy words.”

“I’m looking for good information about the actual capabilities of the software. I want more than just marketing material.”

You probably already know the industry language your prospects speak. But there’s a way you can be sure: use Google’s keyword tool to find the most common terms buyers search for on the web. Then, modify your site to capture these keywords. This does two things for your site: it helps boost your Google search rankings and it helps you speak the language your buyers want to hear.

Not only should the product descriptions be clear, but they should also be concise. Let’s face it: we all have short attention spans that are even shorter when it comes to the web. Essentially, we are digital goldfish. That means you have merely seconds to grab a visitor’s eye and keep them engaged. The best way to do it: condense your product material into short, digestible tidbits, before your potential customer cruises right along to another site and another product.

“No long written details. I stop reading after one sentence.”

Procore is a great example of how to display features in a way that’s clean, simple, and easy for potential buyers to understand. Right on their home page, they list each feature, provide a short description, and then include a screenshot. If they don’t want to read the whole description, the headline and screenshot tells the story.

procore

Procore uses great images and little jargon.

Tip #3: Show ‘Em What You’ve Got

Today, most software products within any industry are at functional parity with each other. As a result, differentiation is less about functionality and more about how information is organized in the user interface. Because today’s buyers are focused primarily on ease of use.

That’s why demos are such a critical aspect to your site. They allow users to get behind the wheel of your software and give it a test drive. While many vendors offer demos, they typically require prospects to do them live, via WebEx, after they’ve been pre-qualified via a form of some sort.

Ideally, vendors would have an audience that is more than wiling to schedule a demo and engage for a full hour. However, that’s not what buyers say they want. Rather, buyers are at your site for a reason right now to see your products (not at say, 9 p.m. after putting the kids to sleep). And buyers want to be in control – and lose the middle man in the sales reps.

“I would like to have a free demonstration without having to sign up, use passwords, etc.”

In other words, get your demos out from behind those barriers. Put them right on the page so that visitors can interact without having to “pay” first. By removing these barriers, visitors are far more likely to demo your product and see just how amazing it is.

QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions does a great job of this. When you visit their website, the demo is front and center. No user names, passwords or email addresses to enter. Just click and go.

demo

Intuit makes their demo easy to find and access.

Tip #4: Third-Party Validation is Critical

Almost as important as putting demos on your site is sharing user reviews and testimonials. As we can see with the growth of sites such as Yelp.com, buyers are increasingly seeking out the opinions of peers as part of the research process. By putting reviews on your site, you can capitalize on this trend, essentially letting your customers do your marketing for you.

As a company whose goal is to help buyers find the right software, we decided to take our own advice. We recently added a new 5-star rating system that allows users to review products and share their experiences at the bottom of every product page.

Review

Our site allows real end-users to leave detailed feedback and ratings.

This additional component gives potential buyers insight into what their experience might be if they choose your product. It is yet another way to differentiate yourself. After all, a few positive reviews could mean the difference between a pass or a purchase.

Final Tip: Get Serious About Content

You may think you are offering really great content on your site, but if you’re like us, you are too close to be truly objective. So, it may be time to get some fresh opinions.

Sites like UserTesting.com enable you to get feedback about web visitors’ experience at your site, providing you rich feedback on how you can create the right conversation to give potential buyers what they want to know – while showcasing your uniqueness.

To recap, and get you started, here are a few questions to consider:

  1. Is your pricing plainly visible on the site?
  2. Is your website filled with terms like these?
  3. How easy are your demos to find and access?
  4. Do you provide real user feedback on your products/services?

Good luck, and tell us what you think in the comments.

 

4 Comments

Lauren,

This article is incredibly informative. We are often helping our clients select a vendor. As we assist in the process, we have found that vendors are more successful in closing a sale if they follow many of your tips. Thanks for the great content!

-Ari

Comment by Ari
06/24/2011
 

Thank you for sharing this great research! We just implemented few of those ideas to our own website.

Comment by Daniel
07/08/2011
 

nice tips you got. = )

Comment by kaspersky topshop
07/10/2011
 

Great! Helped our construction management software site!

 

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