In this post we cover the nine best practices that will ensure you have an effective B2B website that attracts and converts your buyers.
Just how important is an effective website?
No business can afford to be without a website, it is a fundamental building block of building a business.
But your website does not stand alone, it is fighting for a prospect’s attention against all your competitors. And with buyers having limited browsing time, you need to remember that it is also competing for that time with a whole host of other sites – industry media, bloggers, peer-to-peer sites, social media and even entertainment sites. Your site has to hold its own in this battleground – and because of this, it may not be good enough to simply be better than your competitors, your website needs to stand out against all the background noise.
The importance of developing the best website you possibly can, cannot be overstated. Your website needs to win the battle for attention, and then hold that attention. And it then needs to go on to convince and convert so it brings in the maximum revenue for the business.
Today’s buyers are doing their research before even approaching a company to make an enquiry. It is only when they are nearly 60% of the way through the decision process that they get in touch with a vendor. The implications here are obvious, your content needs to show up in that research, and your content needs to shine.
When buyers approach you directly, they will more than likely know exactly what they are looking for in a solution and will have very specific questions they want answered comprehensively and honestly by your website or by a salesperson. (Implying that your salesperson will need to be more of a knowledgeable consultant).
During their research they will consult many different sources across many different channels to get a general overview of the industry’s possible solutions to their problems. Once they have narrowed down potential solutions, they will start researching vendors. At this stage, the primary source of information about your organisation and its range of solutions will be your website.
(Remember though, that it won’t be the only source – buyers will consult peers and industry media to verify the integrity of your claims, your position within your market and your past performance as regards to deliverability, reliability, customer service and support.)
Bottom line? Your website needs to be the best it can be. Here are nine best practices to focus on.
1. Have a clear strategy and direction for the site
One of the main issues with a poor website is a lack of direction, which results in a confusing and disconnected site. This is not only an issue for human visitors but also for those all-important search engines. Having a clear strategy for the site is essential.
Starting with a clear business strategy, you need to plan the website around the goals of the business and its marketing plan. Before you even start developing a site you need to be clear about your brand identity, your brand positioning, your product offerings, your sales process, your after sales service and so on. You can’t just make these things up as you go along – you need to be crystal clear on what they are before you plan your website.
Assuming your business strategy is sound and understood, then the first step is a website brief which sets out the performance goals you wish to achieve.
The second half of this strategy relies on an understanding of your target audience. You will not be able to develop a successful website without a comprehensive understanding of that audience. If you haven’t gone through the process of identifying your typical potential buyers as part of your business or marketing strategy, then you need to do this now, creating a set of buyer personas.
The results of this stage should be a global site strategy and a pillar page strategy which lay out how you will be engaging and influencing visitors to attain your business goals.
Knowing where you are going and how to get there is the foundation of a successful website. A confused approach will lead to a confused website and to confused buyers that will simply leave – fast – and go on to visit the next site on their vendor list.
2. Communicate your value proposition(s)
Marketing is about answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” Why should someone buy your product or service? What is the benefit to them?
A website is no different – the fundamental questions you need to answer from the moment a visitor lands on a page on your site are:
- Why should I stay on this site?
- What can this site do for me?
The first thing a visitor needs to see on any page of your site is a benefit statement – something that lays out a value proposition and answers those two questions.
Do you know what the benefits are to your target audience, what would they value?
Once again, we see the value of understanding your target audience, and the importance of those well-researched buyer personas. Understanding your audience will lead to an understanding of what they value, what they would see as a benefit.
Remember that your site may have different types of relevant visitors which could include:
- The main buyer
- Their assistant doing the legwork or conducting initial research
- A financial gatekeeper
- A director who might have to approve any buying decision
- A blogger who might be reviewing or writing about your company and its offerings
- An existing customer looking for support (and hopefully heading towards a repeat purchase or a recommendation to a peer)
- A technical expert working with the buyer
All these different visitors will need to see benefit statements that relate to them. This is likely to require different pages targeting those visitors.
You want to able to tell a different story to each of them. You want to guide them through the site in a way that tells that story. And you want to address any issues they have along the way.
Understanding each of these different types of visitors is paramount. You need to know what they are searching for, what their motivations are and what pain they face in their daily working lives.
This understanding will allow you to tailor benefit statements about solutions that answer the question, “How will this help me in my current situation?”
3. Take care of credentials and branding
One of the key factors influencing a purchase is trust. Does the buyer consider you a reputable company, one that has authority, with a reliable track record, one that they can trust?
This is where branding and the value of that brand is important. If you have a strong recognised brand that stands for something in customer’s minds (brand perception) then you should be leveraging that. And even if you’re a new brand, then strong branding is still important in the brand-building stage.
Something that is often overlooked is the importance of clear, consistent and strong branding on every page. Looking again at questions you need to answer, the relevant one here is, “Whose site is this?” Once you get deep into many websites the page branding becomes diluted and a visitor who lands on that page direct from a search engine may struggle to identify who the company is – resulting in a lost opportunity as they click away.
Arguably, the very first websites were simple nothing but simple credential presentations – who are we and what do we do. This is still important and relevant. No matter how famous or well-known your brand, there will still be people who do not know who you are, or all that you do and more importantly, what you stand for. This is your opportunity to tell your story, to lay out all your brand values and build that all important brand perception.
Yet another buyer’s question to answer is, “Are they any good?” Content such as case studies and customer endorsements can be powerful ways to answer this, along with blogs that establish authority and other relevant credentials.
4. Appropriate calls to action
- What do you want me to do – how can I take this further?
A clear call to action should be presented to the visitor. This should not happen at the opening of the page, as you won’t have explained the proposition and sold the solution, so it will be pointless. You might only get one opportunity to ask for a response – so you shouldn’t waste it.
It is also very annoying to be presented with a call to action before you have even had a chance to look at the page. Many sites do this with a pop-up that interferes with the presentation of the proposition. Do this, and your visitor will most likely leave.
It is at the end of the page where there should be a clear and powerful call to action – it should be obvious what the next step is, what it is that you are asking the visitor to do.
In many cases this would be an offer of a piece of premium content, such as an eBook, results of research or a white paper, which can be downloaded in exchange for contact details and permission to do a follow up.
5. Develop relevant content
- How can you help with my research towards a solution?
Useful content that will answer questions, provide an overview, or explain technical details is valuable and attractive content. As is content that explains the issues, lays out the benefits and pitfalls of various approaches or offers a strategic viewpoint.
The more helpful you can be during the buyer’s research phase, the more likely you are to figure in their shortlist when it comes time to buy.
6. Prioritise mobile first design
If your website is not mobile friendly, then you are shooting yourself in the foot. As of June 2022, nearly 60% of website traffic comes from mobile devices.
Even if none of your visitors use a mobile device to browse your site, search engines such as Google will look at how friendly your site is towards mobile devices and rank you accordingly. In fact, since 2016 Google has worked on the basis of mobile first when indexing websites.
Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at some more stats:
- 80% of B2B buyers use mobile devices at work (Boston Consulting Group)
- 61% of users say they move on to another site if they can't find answers immediately on a mobile site (Think With Google)
- 57% of users don't recommend a business with a poorly designed or no mobile site (Formstack)
- Over 60% of B2B buyers report that mobile has a significant effect on a recent purchase (Boston Consulting Group)
Note that all of these statistics have been trending steadily upwards over the past few years, so if your site isn’t mobile friendly you will be losing significant business now and losing even more in the future.
7. Ensure your site is SEO friendly
Since 2011, around nine out of every ten buyers start their research with an online search. If you are not showing up in that search, then you will not even be in the game.
There’s not much more to say on this, search engines are the gatekeepers to your website, you need to do everything in your power to rank with them. Implementing SEO best practice throughout your site is an absolute given.
8. Don’t forget the basics and clear navigation
Many businesses seem to focus so much on the deep issues of their website development project that they often miss out on the basics. It is often surprising just how hard you have to search on some B2B sites just to find a phone number, for example.
Don’t believe me? Well, according to a report from KoMarketing:
- When asked what causes them to leave a vendor website, 44% of survey respondents indicated “No Contact Information / Phone Number.”
- When asked to rate website elements that annoy them, more than half (54%) of respondents indicated that the lack of thorough contact information reduced a vendor’s a credibility and thus would cause them to leave a website.
- When asked what types of content assets were missing on most company websites, 51% of respondents again indicated, “Thorough Contact Information (phone / email / address).”
So if you do nothing else, make sure you answer the following questions.
How do I contact this company?
When it comes time to buy, many buyers may prefer to pick up the phone and talk to a human, so make sure your phone number is visible on every page. Don’t make them work for it. Some visitors may not need to read to the end where the call to action is, so having a phone number or email address above the fold will help capture these people
Both phone number and address are important – particularly if your services are location dependent. Buyers will want to know where you are. They may wish to visit you, or maybe they’d like to check out your operation, they might have logistics concerns or concerns about their green footprint if you are too far from them.
A contact email address for general enquiries (rather than a call to action) is also crucial for those vendors who want to get in touch directly, or who have a specific question that they can’t find the answer to on the website.
How do I find...?
The majority of visitors will be searching for something, even if they have used the search engine to land on a specific page of your website. Search engines are fallible, and that web page may not contain the exact information they were looking for, or they may have a supplementary, or follow up question. Make sure you have a good search mechanism on your site and that the search box is easy to find and use.
Where am I?
As mentioned before, many visitors may arrive on a page deep in your site if they have come from a search engine. It is important that they instantly see what part of your site they are on – the subject or topic of that page. Check every page has a title or clear signposting that lets the visitor know where they are within the site.
Where do I go from here?
A clear website structure, accompanied by a self-evident navigation scheme are non-negotiable. Visitors should be in no doubt of their options when it comes to choosing where to go next on the site. Links should be so clear that users do not have to think, and what they represent should again be obvious.
More than this though, you need to emphasise the links that you want visitors to take whilst not limiting their options. They should be entirely free to go where they want, but at the same time, you need to ensure that some potential choices are more attractive.
9. Plan for growth – grow to a plan
The thing to remember about a website is that unlike most other forms of marketing, it does not have to be complete from day one. In fact, the very act of trying to create a perfect website in one hit is a direct route to failure.
You even need to rid yourself of the notion that websites can be complete. That they can be built and then forgotten about for a few years. This usually happens because a business has invested so much time and money in developing the perfect website they run out of budget and resources.
The fact is that search engines like to see fresh content, and so do visitors. A blog which continuously publishes new posts can help with this.
But more than this, circumstances change, markets change, and your visitor’s needs change – so continuously improving your website should be a natural part of doing business.
If you are developing a new website, you want results as soon as possible. Waiting a year whilst the website is ‘finished’ is illogical when a launch pad website can be built quickly and be effective in a short space of time.
This more efficient website development process is known as Growth Driven Design. You start with a quick-win launch pad website and build from there through ongoing cycles of continuous improvement.
This process naturally implements many of the points we have covered in this post – strategy, branding, value proposition, calls to action, content and structure.
Developing a website can be a costly, involved, lengthy, exhausting and ultimately ineffective process. The very nature of trying to create a huge site that does everything almost dooms any development to failure.
Following the first eight points here will ensure your site is effective and the ninth is the method by which to establish an effective website with the minimum of resources and budget; in the shortest possible time.