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Business fails to market well online

Brand matters. Don't focus on price. Speed isn't as important as it seems. These are some of the lessons from a new survey that says companies aren't marketing enough when they sell to businesses online.

Brand matters. Don't focus on price. Speed isn't as important as it seems.

These are some of the lessons from a new survey that says companies aren't marketing enough when they sell to businesses online.

Brand reputation is the number one value for business-to-business brands, said Ying Shiau, a senior manager at Accenture. That's based on a survey, released Friday, of 240 companies across the U.S. that represent $700 billion worth of revenue.

But what works offline was forgotten online.

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"The way B2B providers have launched their services have been at the expense of doing it right. Customers are not satisfied," Shiau said. Only about 43 percent of the 240 respondents said they were satisfied with their "e-provider," or the company selling to them online.

Companies selling over the Internet to other businesses could learn from their retail counterparts, despite the mistakes in the business-to-consumer market. "Our study revealed that whereas in B2C there was too much marketing, we found that B2B did very little marketing if at all. The fact is that neither approach is correct, with a lack of marketing being the worse of the two because of the sheer size of the space," said Brian Johnson, partner at Accenture's Customer Relationship Management practice.

The study punctures several myths about e-commerce, Accenture said.

"A good 80 percent of the market segment believe that brand and customer service is more important than price," Shiau said.

Even when entering new territory on the Internet, businesses fall back on the familiar. "We can imagine these are important decisions. It pays to work with people you trust," she said.

Another finding was that having a range of suppliers wasn't as important as previously thought - it ranked fifth in overall importance.

In general, the survey shows how difficult it is to market properly on the Internet. "It's hard to simplify for something on the Web. Delivering a superior online experience means the experience needs to be relevant and targeted to needs," Shiau said.

Today, however, companies are doing a rudimentary job of marketing, leaving many customers hungry for more. "Most of these brand experiences are one-size-fits-all," Shiau said.

The problem is that, according to the survey, there are at least five different kinds of customers and each values different things. "For an e-provider with a one-size-fits-all approach, the chances are it's creating a lot of dissatisfaction with all those segments," she said.

Some are "traditionalists" that value brand reputation above everything; others value brand tenure and familiarity. Some are price sensitive, while others readily give up price for the sake of customer service.

It's up to the companies on the Internet to figure out what their own customers want, Shiau said. "Know your customers. All e-brands should build e-marketing capabilities."