When it comes to developing a website for your B2B company, there are several different elements which need to be considered. Design, layout, navigation, optimisation, content, user experience – the list goes on.
However, not all website elements are created equal. Some elements are more important than others and some are fundamental. These elements have a greater influence on the quality and performance of your website in both the short and long term.
Of course, while it’s important to build all of the necessary elements into your website over time, you want to build the most strategically effective website as quickly as possible to help drive B2B lead generation. These elements are what we would describe as essential website features, the key features you need to address at the start of any development process.
Here’s what they are:
1. Make sure your website’s messaging is clear
All too often we see B2B websites – particularly in the technology space – with unclear messaging. We check out these websites, read a few lines of the mission statement and executive summary, step back and go: “What the hell are they talking about?”.
It’s a real issue. There’s nothing worse than clicking on a website you think might have the solution to your problem, only to be confused as to what the business actually does and if they can actually help you.
Too much jargon is a bad thing for your website. The simplest way to ensure website visitors understand your business and what it does is to condense it down into a few words. However, achieving a concise corporate descriptor is not easy – but in doing so, you arrive at a point where everyone in the business can quickly and easily articulate what your business does and when they speak to prospects, it’s so easy to remember it sticks. Those prospects then go and say the same thing about your business to other colleagues and eventually, your awareness of your business starts to increase.
Struggling to condense your business’ corporate message or strapline? This blog will help!
2. Host lots of high-quality content
At the heart of every digital marketing campaign is high-quality, relevant content.
We – as consumers – expect to be able to find information online in relation to a product or service. Blogs, eBooks, case studies, customer reviews, white papers – the list goes on – all help us to make an informed purchase decision.
We also expect to be able to access and receive the above information in real-time. We don’t want to have to speak to a salesperson or a marketing team to ‘find out more’ and will happily conduct research in our own time, visiting websites, blogs, forums or review platforms.
Without content, B2B companies have no way of engaging and retaining the interest of potential prospects. Even if those prospects are looking for the exact products and services the business provides, without content to make those prospects aware of that fact, they will fail to attract them to the website.
Every B2B company, at the very least, should have a blog. Even if they only blog once a week or month, it’s an opportunity to create a new web page that targets a specific keyword and uses a unique URL, all of which will help prospects (and crawlers) to find the website.
3. Create a blog
Following the first point, it goes without saying that B2B websites should have a blog. Think of a blog like a repository of quality information. An educational resource prospects can turn to and be able to find out more about their business challenges, as well as your products and services.
As mentioned previously, every new web page is an opportunity to be found online for a specific keyword term relevant to your business. We blog about three times a week – and it pays dividends. Using blogging alone, we managed to quadruple our website traffic in just a few months and have several blog topics ranking on the first page of Google.
It takes time and effort, but it’s free and only requires a little investment on your part.
4. Include lots of calls-to-action (CTAs) for each stage of the buyer’s journey
Any B2B website that’s predominantly ‘Outbound’, outdated, or does not follow the methodology of Inbound Marketing, will have one principal call-to-action (CTA) plastered across it: ‘Contact Us’.
The Contact Us CTA is a relic of a time long past – 10-15 years ago – a time where all the power in the sales engagement process was held by the salesperson. Back then, if customers wanted to find out about a product or service – even if they weren’t interested in buying anything – they had no choice but to speak to a business’ sales team.
Nowadays, salespeople are involved much later in the sales cycle and typically engage when a prospect shows the symptoms of being ready to buy. Today’s prospects will take their time researching a business’ product or service offering; reading content and reviews to assess whether or not a business can solve their problem.
Everyone knows that the Contact Us CTA is synonymous with ‘send me a big hairy salesman’, so to engage with website visitors earlier on in the sales cycle and obtain vital information, websites need to incorporate a variety of CTAs – CTAs which engage prospects on a level other than Contact Us.
CTAs such as ‘Find Out More’ or ‘Download Now’, for example, not only encourage action but encourage action in a way that isn’t as oppressive as Contact Us. They also cater to people earlier on in the sales cycle who are conducting research to educate themselves.
Of course, this isn’t to say that there isn’t a time or a place for the ‘Contact Us’ CTA on your website. It’s a powerful CTA that’s typically reserved for those at the bottom of the sales funnel. However, most of the enquiries you generate will be from people just doing research. There will – from time to time – be a few legitimate leads but ultimately, they will be few and far between.
5. Build lots of landing pages and forms
Another essential feature for B2B websites: landing pages.
Landing pages are crucial and without them, generating Inbound leads will be considerably more difficult.
The sole purpose of a landing page is to drive conversions. They advertise a specific content offer, product or service which can only be obtained by landing page visitors completing a form. In essence, landing pages encourage landing page visitors to provide their details in exchange for a valuable piece of content, whereas forms ask the visitor for specific bits of information.
Essentially, you want to move website visitors further into the buyer’s journey – so if someone arrives on your website and reads a blog on say, ‘modern website development and design’, you might want to include a CTA that directs them to landing page for a similar piece of content, perhaps an eBook entitled ‘Growth-Driven Website Design’. They click on the CTA, arrive on the landing page and, if they like what they see, fill in the form to download the eBook.
The result is that you have some of their details and they have a piece of content they are interested in. Now that you have their details you can start to nurture them over time using more relevant content until they are ready to engage with your sales team.
6. Ensure your website has a modern design and is visually appealing
No one wants to use a website that looks like it came straight out of the 90s. Big multi-coloured text and multiple fonts on a website went out of fashion ages ago.
It’s all about sleek, modern and minimal design. No flash, no elements that slow the website down, and certainly no massive text. The website visitor wants a smooth and streamlined experience. They want to use an aesthetically pleasing website, one with flowing modules, fast web pages, clear text, and consistency. This is by no means an exhaustive list – but certainly a few things that B2B websites should use.
Deep scrolling is also perfectly acceptable. Modern websites utilise a mixture of long and short web pages – particularly where pillar pages are concerned – to break up content and better display information.
Also, subtle colours – not bright or distracting colours – will help to keep the attention on your website’s content whilst bringing other aspects of your website to the forefront. CTAs using more vivid colours, for example, can then distinguish themselves from the subtle background colours.
If your website is aesthetically pleasing, easy to use and modern, it will keep website visitors on it for longer – maximising not only chances for conversions but also revisits.
7. Ensure your website is search engine optimised (SEO)
For most of your business’ prospects, their journey starts with a search engine. They fire up Google, Yahoo or Bing and type in what they are looking for.
Having typed in their search query, they are met with a search engines results page (SERP), showing them a list of web pages that include the specific term they searched for.
If your website does not show up in this list when your prospect search for the products and services that you provide – you are missing out on opportunities. Optimising your website is not only vital to ensure organic traffic, but also to increase brand awareness and business exposure.
SEO is fundamental and an ongoing practice that all businesses must partake in if they are to be found online for specific search terms relevant to them.
8. Ensure it looks great on mobile
The world is increasingly mobile-first. Back in 2015, Google announced that mobile search had exceeded desktop search for the first time. And in 2018, some countries are ‘long past the tipping point’, according to Smart Insights, a leading platform for actionable digital marketing advice. Statista corroborates that research, highlighting that website visits from mobile currently accounts for 52.2% of all website traffic worldwide.
With this in mind, B2B websites need to be optimised for desktop and mobile (desktop still has a role to play) if they are to retain website visitors. No one wants to have to enlarge a website’s text by pinching just because it’s only optimised for desktop!
9. Make sure your website navigation is clear and easy to follow
One aspect often overlooked during the website design process is website’s navigation. When it comes to website design, many businesses focus on all the glamorous aspects of the build – the web pages, the design and layout, the colour scheme – but then forget about things like web page optimisation, responsive design and website navigation.
Having the structure of the website in order before proceeding with its design and layout, will ensure it’s developed in a way that makes it easy for users (and search engine crawlers) to find what they are looking for.
Website navigation is one of the most important elements of any website. After all, it’s how website visitors find their way around. No one wants to have to dig around website to find information which should be included within the main navigation. Product pages, for example, shouldn’t be buried five pages deep – but in fact underneath a product dropdown on the navigation menu.
Making it easy for website visitors to find what they are looking for will make for a pleasant user experience and a pleasant user experience will mean better visitor retention and website traffic.
Remember, build your website for both search engines and your prospects – that way it will be easy to navigate.
10. Set up analytics
You need to be able to track activity on your website to understand just how well its performing. At a minimum, a B2B website needs to be able to report on website traffic and by source – organic traffic, direct traffic, referrals, paid search, email marketing, social media and paid social.
However, while having the above will allow you to see which channels generate the most website traffic, you won’t be able to drill down into each channel to understand paths to conversion or contact conversion rate – i.e. website visitor to lead, lead to customer – unless you have a more sophisticated analytics platform capable of attribution.
In HubSpot, for example, you can see which channels drive the most website activity, which channels generate the most leads and how those leads converted on the website. All of this information is pooled together to give you an end-to-end view of contact activity on your website, allowing you to make data-driven decisions on where to invest your marketing spend.
It’s not a matter of building your entire website right away. That’s both costly and time-consuming. Instead, by focusing on the most pivotal and influential elements of your website build, you can launch a strategically effective website in shortest possible period of time and start generating high-quality leads for your business.