What’s Wrong with Most B2B Websites and How to Fix Them
What’s most important when it comes to websites and what most businesses miss … losing valuable engagement.
One of my favorite parts of visiting a bookstore is spending time in the magazine section — specifically browsing any magazines about cooking. Magazines must be themed, attract and retain your attention, the pages have to be filled with good imagery and a compelling story. When I find and buy a magazine that has some good tips, tricks or recipes, it hangs around my house for years.
So, why do I share that? When you build your website, you should think like a magazine publisher. The problem with most B2B sites is that often they’re laid out like a catalog and not like a magazine. I think everyone would agree that a magazine is much more entertaining and more likely to get lengthy engagement compared to a catalog.
The magazine is geared toward giving the reader an “experience.” The reader can learn, engage, and be entertained, all within one genre or theme. A catalog is geared toward laying out products for people to choose. There might be a sense of style or design there, but it’s strictly functional. The reader has a desire to purchase and is now perusing product info to determine what to purchase, when, and for how much. These users are usually in only one part of the customer journey.
Content is King
The problem with designing your website like a catalog is that your visitors will be at various stages of the customer journey when they visit your sit You need to provide content for customers at every stage in order to engage them.
And … you need to build a site for your ideal customers, not a site for you. One of the biggest mistakes made by B2B companies is that they focus their site on what they want customers to know about them instead of focusing on what their customers want to know.
So, pretend your website is a magazine about your company that holds 4 different types of content:
• Awareness — Who is your company and why do I care? This content is at the very top of the funnel and gets the customer to pay attention, take notice of your business.
• Education — What do you do? Educational content may very well be the 1st content your customer encounters. This supports their desire to learn about how to approach a new subject or solve a business problem.
• Usage Tips — How will I get the most out of working with you? Using customer stories, videos, podcasts, etc., will ensure your company stands out against competitors.
• Differentiation — Remind me you exist and what makes you special. In this category, focus on telling behind-the-scenes stories about your employees, the founding of the company, and content that shows the authenticity of you and your team. This content has no other purpose than keeping your brand in front of the customer.
Focusing on each of these content types addresses different parts of the customer sales journey.
Context is Queen
Building your site from the perspective of the customer journey, and planning to add educational content on a consistent basis, will ensure you’re hitting all of the key areas. Instead of building your site to reflect how your company is organized (what 95% of sites do), focus on the questions your customers have when they arrive at your site. What is the problem you are solving? What is the purpose of their visit? Your goal is to easily provide the customer with the content they seek.
For example, if a customer who’s interested in your product will want to know your pricing model or what you charge for different levels of service, you don’t want to hide the info and make them frustrated when they go searching for it. To make it easy to find, you’d put a pricing button in a section on your homepage and/or make “pricing” one of the options in the header menu.
You also need to write your messaging from your customer’s perspective. If you’re doing it right, you’ll see that your copy will use the word “you” many more times than it uses the words “we” or “our”. Choose your content and frame it with messaging that speaks to your ideal customer as if they were sitting across the table from you.
Make Sure It’s Memorable
The best content needs a memorable wrapper. This is where your brand comes in — and your brand only matters if it incites a visceral reaction. Love it or hate it — make sure it’s something people will talk about (but make sure a good portion of your ideal customers will love it).
We built a logo for a client that had a long vertical bar. When reviewing this logo compared to the other options, the client spent 20 minutes talking about what that bar was, why it was there, and what it meant, ultimately rejecting it. In my opinion, that logo was a winner. Of all the logos on the page they could’ve chosen, this logo was the one that they paid attention to — a branding win.
That’s just a logo, but when it comes to your site overall, if it says the same thing everyone else in your industry is saying, you definitely won’t stand out. If it looks similar to all your competitors, you won’t stand out. Don’t try to “look like you belong,” because with that as your goal, you’re going to blend in and be forgettable.
Make It Consistent
Your brand should be obvious from your website and through your customer support materials and online presence. The best brands are recognizable solely through the imagery and words used, even before someone sees the logo. While this seems like something only a large brand can accomplish, it’s significantly more important for a smaller company with a restricted marketing spend. Attention to consistency ensures you get the most out of your efforts.
How do you do this? One way is to create a brand and style guide you can follow. Your guide has recommendations for things like how to use your logo, how to use your brand colors, how to use images, and what phrases and terms you use to describe your services or product. For example, when deciding what types of images you’re going to use, will you use stock photos or only original photos? Will you use only candid photos or include people who are posed? Will you try to favor your brand colors in the photos you use? Making these decisions and recommendations up front for all to follow will ensure you produce a consistent brand image.
By following these four tips you’ll already be far ahead of a majority of B2B businesses. And if you somehow forget these four, you’ll still be way ahead if you keep one thing in mind: make sure you provide the information your ideal customers want and need in an interesting way. … like a magazine, not a catalog.