When it comes to B2B website design, far too many companies and organizations are developing “company-centric” websites.
What do we mean by that?
- The website’s navigation is designed around the company structure and industry-specific language that their target audience doesn’t understand.
- The website’s headlines are incomprehensible to a first-time visitor.
- The website content speaks to how great the company is over and above the competition, but fails to address the objections and concerns of their target audience.
- The website is “over-designed” and some of the fancy features get in the way of the user experience, especially on mobile devices.
- The website has greedy forms that ask for too much information, while promising little of value.
You’ve probably seen plenty of websites like this.
But you’re going to build your B2B website differently, right?
Instead of the above, you’re going to want to save the narcissism for your company happy hour (or in our case, the ski slopes) and develop a “customer-centric” website instead.
In their book, “Making Websites Win,” authors Dr. Karl Blanks and Ben Jesson make the following claim about customer-centric websites:
“These companies, the most successful websites, focus on their customers. Customer-centric design was – and still is – surprisingly rare. The websites look nothing like the ones you see in theme galleries. Customers like them, they visit them often, and they spend a lot. Customer-centric, customer-optimized websites are winning.”
It All Starts with a B2B Content Strategy
So how do you create a customer-centric website that wins?
Whether you’re planning a B2B website build or an ongoing B2B marketing campaign, you need what is called a content strategy. A content strategy is a planning tool that will help you align your content to serve your target audience while meeting your business goals at the same time. A content strategy provides the foundation for your website build and defines how to measure success.
So what are the “must-haves” in a B2B web design strategy?
- Website Goals – Here you will define what success for your brand-new website or redesign will look like. You can categorize your goals into (a) traffic goals, (b) content goals, (c) design and user-experience goals, and (d) conversion goals. If you are doing a redesign, think carefully about the specific elements of the previous website you would like to improve. If you have a website that is live, you can start creating a FAQ list of questions, issues, and challenges that current website visitors are facing.
Here’s an example set of goals from a recent website strategy done by Sayenko Design:
The primary marketing goals for the PSC website are eight-fold:
- Serve as a hub for a new deliberate approach to marketing
- Reinforce PSC’s brand credibility and increase brand awareness
- Generate sales and recruiting leads using respective contact forms
- Track lead activity with integrations to social media
- Host case studies and manage an upgraded Careers portal
- Support growth of 15% per year over the next 5 years
- Increase the ratio of premium consultancy sales vs. labor supply
- Optimize for mobile devices
Competitor Research – Competitor research may be used to outpace your current competitors; but more often than not, you can examine your competitor’s websites with a view to serve your customers better. (Remember, we’re talking about “customer-centric” websites here). Oftentimes you competitors will have learned from their own website visitors and published a piece of content that you hadn’t thought of. You can also use a competitor analysis to think of things you’d like to avoid, or gaps in your competitor’s content strategy. There are a lot of bad websites out there, after all.
Persona Development – Here you will want to segment your target users into various fictitious personas that are based on actual research. This will help you get into the minds of your future visitors and understand how to best communicate with them, empathize with them, and discover new types of content and modifications you’ll need to make to your website.
There are many excellent how-to articles on persona development, including ones from Hubspot and Copyblogger, so we won’t belabor every single point here. It is important to point out, however, that your personas need to be based on real people, conversations, and analytics. You’ll need to conduct one-on-one interviews with existing clients, consult your Google Analytics dashboard, and speak to your best salespeople in order to really understand the needs of your website users.
For B2B website redesigns: If you have an existing site, you can install more sophisticated software to learn even more about your target audience. A good place to start is by installing live chat so you can learn the questions and concerns of your audience directly. Other excellent tools to consider would be user-heatmap and user-recording software such as Crazy Egg or Zoho Pagesense.
Pro Tip: We highly recommend that you conduct interviews with what Conversion Rate Experts has coined, “VOC Aggregators.” VOC stands for “Voice of the Customer.” A VOC aggregator may be (1) Your best salesperson, (2) An excellent customer-service rep, or (3) a front office person. Basically, they need to be someone who speaks directly to your customers often. This person will have a keen perspective on your customer’s needs as it relates to your website, and can offer a fresh perspective on what to do in order to create, modify, or adjust your content and design experience.
These interviews are not only helpful for developing your target user profiles, or personas, they are also vital in creating your content types.
SEO Research – SEO research is the process of determining how often certain keywords are typed or spoken into a search engine. SEO research is valuable because it not only provides you with ideas for which keywords to include on your website, thereby increasing your search engine rankings; it is also a form of market research, giving you a sense of demand for certain products and services which lay behind the keyword phrase. The information gathered from your SEO research influences the rest of your content strategy, flowing to your personas and content types.
When you conduct SEO keyword research for your website, you’ll want to segment your keywords into (a) informational, and (b) transactional keywords. The transactional keywords will be best to target on your homepage and product pages, while the informational keywords are best to target with informational content pieces such as blog posts, resource pages, podcasts, and videos.
Once you have your transactional keywords, you’ll want to group them even further by determining which page of your site you’d like to target each keyword.
Let’s say you’re a roofing company located in the Seattle area.
You’ve conducted SEO research and decided that “ship repair Seattle” and “ship painting Seattle” are both good fits for your business, although the gutter repair is more of a side service
You’d likely want to target “ship repair Seattle” on your homepage and “ship painting Seattle” on a separate service page.
This means that you’d want to target “ship repair Seattle” in your SEO page title, meta description, body copy, and likely your headings as well.
For a more thorough explanation of how to conduct SEO research, check out the Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
It takes serious thought and effort in order to prioritize exactly which keywords to target on your site. If you’re not confident in your SEO research abilities, you may want to enlist the help of an SEO expert such as Sayenko Design.
- Content Types – Prior to even beginning to write content or designing your B2B site, you’ll want to outline what types of content are needed on your site. You can include a short description or bullet points of what content will appear on each page of your new site, what personas the content will appeal to, and where it falls within the buyer’s journey.
- Conversion Goals – A conversion goal refers to a specific action you’d like your website visitors to take. This could be to fill out a contact form, watch a video for a certain length of time, or download a free guide in exchange for their email address.
It goes without saying that you’ll want to create conversion goals that are in line with your business goals and sales process. However, the key to outlining your conversion goals is how you plan to measure them. For example, if your goal is to increase contact form submissions, you’ll want to send the visitors who complete the form to a thank you page. This will allow you to measure in your analytics tool how many users made it through your funnel.
Here are some common conversion goals we see in B2B:
- Sign ups for a product demo
- Submissions to schedule a consultation or strategy call
- Submissions to request a quote
- RFP submissions
- White Paper Downloads
- Product Comparison Downloads
- Sitemap – A sitemap is a visual of your site architecture and hierarchy. Here you can plan how all your pages fit together and which ones to prioritize. Creating your sitemap is a good opportunity to think of what will be the most intuitive route for your target personas to take to navigate through your website.
Example: Sayenko design was tasked with redesigning the Power Systems Consulting website, an independent consulting and engineering company for utilities and energy. The Power Systems Consulting Website successfully segmented website users into different persona groups, then mapped new content to satisfy the needs of each type of user. This resulted in a 224% increase in organic traffic and a 250% increase in keyword rankings. Learn more.
Redesign-Specific Planning for B2B Websites
Does your company/organization have an existing B2B website? If so, you have a treasure trove of data at your fingertips regarding your would-be target audience.
How do you tap into this potential?
Some companies are ashamed of their current site and just want something better than the last one. Instead of simply discarding your current site, you can be accumulating information using various techniques.
Again, our friends at Conversion Rate Experts are insightful; they have developed a framework known as DiPS, which stands for “Diagnose, Problem, Solution.”
This involves using research to determine where visitors are getting hung up, developing a hypothesis on why the site or page is underperforming, then creating a solution that is specific to the issues your users are facing.
One test that conversion-rate optimization specialists love to run is known as an “A/B” test, where one version of a page is run against another in order to test small variations. However, “A/B” tests are impractical for low-traffic websites because the tests often do not reach statistical significance. Instead, we recommend using a few tools that are more qualitative in nature:
Live Chat: install live chat so you can learn the questions and concerns of your audience directly.
Heat Mapping and User-Recording: With heat mapping and user-recording software installed on your site, you can see exactly where users are getting hung up, where the dropoff points are on your site, and where your designs could have been better. Excellent tools exist for this such as Crazy Egg or Zoho Pagesense.
Surveys: Where the best spying tools fail, consider simply asking directly instead. The key to a good survey is to not ask for too much information at once. You can simply ask if the page was helpful or not and what additional information users would like to have seen.
With actual qualitative research in hand, you’ll be in a much better position to build out your website content, user-flow, sitemap, and designs.