The most effective thing you can do in your B2B marketing efforts is invest in your website, management and optimization (“A strategic Approach to Lead Scoring and Nurturing”, 2012, MECLABS). Whether you’re selling a product or a service, the one thing that you want above all else is to make profits.
The somewhat challenging aspect is specifically how to build a website that successfully enables your company to sell more. Any company can pay a designer to build a website, but that doesn’t mean it will automatically be a machine that sells efficiently. Not by a longshot.
Before you can even worry about the final design of your website, you have to do a lot of research, all in the noble effort of understanding your buyers. It’s only when you truly understand who your buyers are, what their business problems are and what solutions they’re expecting to find on your site that you can truly create a website that sells.
At the same time, it’s also immeasurably valuable to understand what turns buyers away from your site—you don’t want to make those mistakes in your site design.
Making websites that sell takes time, money and effort, but it’s well worth it to enjoy greater conversions and profits.
Conduct Research Before Anything Else
Research is the foundation of any B2B site that sells because it tells you what you need to incorporate into the site. These are typically based on knowing what your buyers want, so that your site can be laid out in a fashion that makes it easy for them to find what they want. You’ll never get a B2B site that sells based on opinions. It has to be based on hard, scientifically measurable research.
The key things that research for your site determines are:
- What’s currently working for your company?
- What’s currently not working for your company?
- What do your site visitors want?
- How do your site visitors want it?
These questions and others can be found out by various research tools such as:
Web analytics give you important insight about site visitor behaviors (time on your site, keyword searches, etc.); heat maps show you where site visitors clicked on your site; user surveys tell you what users expect and what’s important to them; usability tests tell you if there is anything in your site that prevents it from making it super-easy for buyers to find what they want or do what they need to do; and funnel analytics give you insight into the whole path to conversion.
Just remember: Heatmaps, though, can only be properly done in a usability lab that has special equipment that tracks user eye movement. Supposedly, tools that track mouse movements correlate positively to the eye movement.
Of course, there are also eye-tracking simulators, such as Feng-GUI. It helps to ensure that the user’s attention is where a B2B site wants it to be.
Remember that you will never get a B2B site that sells in a single shot. Of course, if your site is underperforming, then you’ll want to do a site redesign as soon as possible, but your job is far from over even after a redesign.
Once your site launches, you have to dedicate yourself to constantly tweaking it, whether that’s testing, optimizing or fine-tuning the messaging. That’s your job forever if you want a successful site that sells. Here’s why: Thousands of site visitors are looking at your site, and most of them won’t talk to you. However, some of them will never talk to you at all if they see something on your site that repulses them.
Ensuring your site does an exceptional job all the time is really the best marketing investment you can make.
Understand Your Buyers
What’s the best way to get you to understand your buyers? The best way is through buyer personas. These babies enable you to understand your buyers from a research-based archetype, which takes into consideration so much more than just what would go into a basic customer profile. Buyer personas are based on knowing what drives your buyers to purchase, why they purchase and even how they purchase.
At the same time, it’s also crucial to understand their motivation and that you target relevant prospects. For instance, you should ensure that landing pages and ads have a consistent message while your offers definitively solve a problem your buyer is experiencing.
The last aspect of understanding your buyers is understanding how they buy. This means that you shouldn’t ask for a sale too soon, but you should create unique paths for various buyers in different phases. It greatly helps to be able to map their buying process.
Focus on Engagement
Engaging with your site visitors can eventually pay valuable dividends. Your buyers want to feel as though they matter and that they’re involved in your business activities. Some surefire ways to engage your buyers include the basics like having them join your newsletter or getting them to subscribe to your emails.
It won’t work to just have a B2B site that sells. You need to really help this along with both lead nurturing and segmentation. The thing is that no buyer is magically going to come to your site and buy your product or service. It typically takes between two and four months for really hot leads to convert into actual buyers and longer than that for warm and cold leads.
That’s exactly what makes engagement and capturing leads with powerful and immediate offers like free ebooks, as just one example, so important. After you capture leads, you have to keep on them by nurturing them down the sales funnel with extremely relevant content. The alternative is to be forgotten, period.
In B2B, most of the times what you’re selling is be services rather than products (ecommerce), so it is super important to build up lists of leads. To do this, you’ll have to implement smart calls to action on your website, whether that’s on your landing page or elsewhere.
Check out these extremely helpful resources to design super-effective calls to action:
- B2B Marketing Calls to Action: Best Practices by Channel
- How to Create Calls to Action That Convert
- 5 Keys for Creating a Call to Action That Boosts B2B Conversions
...because it offers site visitors a free guide that has value and relevance.
Offer an Unbeatable Value Proposition
Your value proposition is what tells your buyers why they should buy your product or service, as well as what specific value they’ll get from buying it; this is what makes you stand out from your competitors.
To craft a great value proposition, you have to understand the following factors:
- What exactly is it that you’re offering?
- How do your buyers benefit?
- What makes your product or service better or at least different from other similar offers out there?
- Who is your product or service meant for?
Here are some killer tips on how you, too, can create unbeatable value propositions:
- Three, B2B-Value Proposition Rules That Create Preference, Not Just Parity
- 4 Steps to Building a Compelling Value Proposition
- 6 Steps to Defining Your Value Proposition
...because it makes super-clear right off the bat what benefit users will get when obtaining the Narrative Clip.
Make Everything Stunningly Clear
To make everything very clear for the user, you have to work on the site copy since clarity is mostly about what you read on a site. Avoid both jargon and corporate speak in your site copy. Ultra-technical jargon and corporate gibberish may impress those who write it, but it will confuse and ultimately repulse your site visitors and buyers. Instead, focus on clear, simple and precise copy that can be understood by virtually anyone, no matter their age.
Here is what to keep in mind when designing a B2B site for clarity:
- Make sure buyers know where they are at all times
- Make sure buyers know what they can do on your site
- Make sure buyers understand how useful your site is
Since 95% of web design comes down to typography, it’s no surprise at all that great copywriting plays a massive role in making everything clear. Here are some fine resources to improve your site copy:
- 3 Tips for Maximizing Clarity in B2B Marketing Copy
- 5 Steps to Crystal Clear B2B Content
- The Importance of Clarity in B2B Marketing Copywriting
Just for fun, let’s look at a notorious example of corporate speak and jargon-loaded copy that’s so bad that it’s essentially gibberish. Can you interpret any of it? See this post detailing bad copy. The actual name of the company’s been changed to help it save face, but get a load of this atrocious copy on the company’s homepage:
“Acme Software is a custom software development company specializing in the rapid development of highly maintainable and dynamic software to meet custom client software specifications. Acme attains rapid delivery through active management and focused teamwork coupled with the constant improvement of our internal processes and development methodology.”
Did you get what this company does? who are their services for, and what’s the unique differentiator? No?
Read it again...
Still not? Thought so.
Nothing can destroy your business and successful conversions more than friction on your site. As such, it’s of the greatest importance to identify it wherever it rears its ugly head on your site. Friction is defined as anything that makes it harder for your buyers to actually complete their buying process on your website, and it can also apply to web forms.
Friction, therefore, can take the shape and form of many different things:
- An excessively long or complicated process (such as long forms)
- Users failing to understand what to do next
- A visually unattractive website
- Overly complex language in the site copy
- A lack of information
- Inadequate evidence
- Any fears, doubts and uncertainties
- Buyers not knowing precisely how your site works
See these exceptionally helpful guides on how you can reduce site friction:
- 10 Simple Ways to Increase Conversions by Reducing Friction
- Master Online Lead Generation by Reducing Friction
- How to Increase Your B2B Conversion Rates by Reducing Friction
Know How to Use Urgency
To drive sales, it’s recommended that you communicate urgency to your buyers. After all, when something’s only available for a limited time, the psychological response in buyers is that they tend to want to buy the product or service more.
The concept of urgency can be used in various ways, whether you exploit:
- The opportunity for improvement
- The fear of the deterioration of the status quo
- The fear of the loss of the current position
Here are strategies on how you can increase the urgency on your B2B site:
- How to Inject Urgency Into Your B2B Marketing
- A Classic Way to Create a Sense of Urgency in Your Prospect
- Creating a Sense of Urgency in Selling
...because his sign-up form warns site visitors that openings for talking to him are very limited.
Eliminate Distraction and Noise
Too many B2B websites suffer from both distraction and noise. Distraction and noise are defined as basically anything that gets in the way of your buyers following through on the call to action, whether that’s a sign up or an actual purchase. The way to help achieve this is to ensure that each page has just one most wanted action. This can be a sign up on your landing page or an actual purchase on your products or services page.
Also, it should be crystal clear what the user should do on any given page. Make sure that the user isn’t left hanging, but understands precisely what his next step ought to be. If any given page features something that is not associated with the action you want your buyer to take (read: distraction and noise), then you have to immediately remove it.
For some inspiration on how you can eliminate noise in B2B, check out this smart infographic:
Test Your Website
Since you can’t predict with 100% certainty how your site is going to perform…you have to test it, always. This refers to everything: your copy, layout, design, etc. Two of the most reliable tests from which you can choose are A/B testing and multivariate testing, each with its own pros and cons.
At the end of the day, both A/B testing and multivariate testing have their own strengths, so they could be used together to complement one another. A/B testing is generally useful for testing page-design options that are drastically different while multivariate testing is good for experimenting with many elements inside of a page.
These are just some of the various elements to test:
- The effectiveness of your offers
- The attention-grabbing nature of your headlines
- The usefulness of your text and the sizes of your buttons
- The graphics
Note that multivariate testing needs much more traffic to reach statistical confidence, so if you don’t have massive amounts of traffic on that page, stick to A/B testing or simply be prepared to wait a very long time to get results.
The known case of the young man that made Obama President
Let me divert here for a moment... One recent and extremely ideal example of website testing is the story of Dan Siroker, today the founder of Optimizely, but, several years ago, the Director of Analytics for Obama’s 2008 campaign.
Siroker, then just an idealistic kid in his 20s, introduced the concept of A/B testing to the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign, which had theretofore been completely unaware of the technique. Siroker educated the Obama team on how various site colors, pictures and copy could increase donations and volunteer sign-ups. He relied on web trials to do this.
Siroker and his team used a combination of different media and call to action button variations to test which arrangement resulted in the best email sign-up rate on the Obama campaign’s splash page. They completely redesigned Obama’s campaign splash page to feature the arrangement that boasted an impressive 40.6% increase in the sign-up rate from the original version.
In more practical terms, this eventually translated to an extra $60 million dollars for the then-presidential candidate.
Image Credit (Dan is the one on the right)
Ever Heard of the Inverted Sales Funnel?
Sometimes, it pays to think of ordinary things in revolutionary ways, as with your sales funnel. Instead of looking at it as buyers falling into your sales funnel, you have to look at it as buyers falling out of your sales funnel. Meet the Inverted Sales Funnel.
According to the highly authoritative analysis performed by MECLABS, there is a macro “yes” at the top of the Inverted Sales Funnel, and there are many, smaller micro “yeses” running up along the sides of the funnel, all the way to the top.
Whereas the macro “yes” represents the biggest goal (read: an actual purchase), the micro “yeses” are smaller assents by your buyers that still need to be in place for the eventual purchase to happen. These can be anything from a buyer signing up for your email newsletter to navigating to the next page on your site.
For a more detailed look at the Inverted Sales Funnel, see MECLABS’ handy lesson on the concept.
Due to the long sales cycle, multiple buyer personas and greater amount of anxiety for the decision makers in B2B, making a B2B site that sells is a lot harder than making one that sells for B2C. The information your B2B buyer needs to consume until he feels comfortable making a purchase is enormous compared to B2C requirements. As such, there are a lot more variables to optimize over time.
This isn’t actually part of web design, but it’s an important consideration, nonetheless. You absolutely have to present high-quality content to your leads. After all, without great content, you can’t establish trust with them.
Before you can call it a day, though, you always have to remember to test your site design, layout, copy, whatever. Because without testing, all your efforts to create a website that sells will be for nothing. When you take the time to carefully implement all of these factors into your site, then you’ll be the proud owner of a B2B site that sells.
What do you think the hardest part of building and maintaining a B2B site is?