Eleven years ago when Dealer Marketing first began building websites for office equipment dealers I used to get asked all the time, “Will people ever buy copiers online instead of through salespeople.” My answer has always been, “Probably not, due to the complexity of the decision.”
So far that has been true—kind of. Salespeople still play an important role in the process of acquiring the technology. However, the reality is that much of the buying process actually occurs online.
True, other than segment one devices, it’s very rare for a high-end piece of office equipment to be purchased over the web. The reality, however, is that people do buy complex technologies online. It’s just a little different than we thought it was going to be.
How People Buy Copiers Online is Different Than We Thought
You see, the very thing that keeps them from buying complex technology like a color multifunction system at an online store is what drives them to the internet.
Here’s what I mean:
- Buying technology is complex—especially for a non-technical decision maker
- Complex buying decisions create a lot of fear and uncertainty in the decision-maker
- Fear is relieved by gathering information
- Information is readily available online
- The decision-maker goes online to Google and social networks to gather information to relieve their fear
In fact, so much information is gathered online that research on business decision-makers published in the June 2012 Harvard Business Review revealed that buyers are ON AVERAGE 57% of the way through the buying process before engaging a rep.
By the time they engage with your salespeople, they have done all kinds of online research. Why? To alleviate their fear.
What They Are Learning
During their online research they have formed all kinds of assumptions about:
- What they need
- How to best acquire it
- Who they can trust
- What brands are the best
- What local partners are most helpful
So, while people aren’t putting segment 3 MFP’s in shopping carts and clicking “buy now”, they are completing the most critical part of the buying process online.
What Do You Do About It?
The question you have to ask yourself is, “How is my dealership involved in the online buying process?” This opens up many other questions:
- What information am I sharing? Is it helpful? Does it position me as a trusted thought leader?
- Can people even find us on Google and social networks?
- Are we offering compelling enough information for buyers to give us permission to send them more?
- Do we have a defined process to hand these prospects off to the sales team? Do sales reps know what to do?
I read a Gartner article yesterday that showed the online marketing is the number one area in which companies will invest in 2014. (I know, it sounds self-serving to quote data like this since we’re an online marketing services provider for office technology resellers.)
The reality is that copier dealers need to get great at online marketing and integrating that marketing with their sales processes. There is a lot to be done here. This is what energizes our team, drives our decisions, and keeps us working hard!
Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.