The website plays one of the most pivotal roles in business-to-business marketing for technology companies and manufacturing businesses. Forrester Research found 74% of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making a purchase offline. With the number of stakeholders involved in a purchase decision growing every year and the journey becoming ever more complex – the B2B website job is heavy.
The b2b website is the doorway between your prospects, your brand, and a potential sales opportunity. How do modern brands juggle all these priorities? With a B2B website design strategy focused on your buyers. Here’s how.
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Difference between B2B & B2C
Understanding the distinction between B2B and B2C web strategy starts with acknowledging the substantial differences in the types of transactions.
According to the Federal Reserve, the average debit transaction for B2B is $31,118, and the average credit transaction $9,349. By comparison, the average consumer debit and credit purchases are $47 and $57 respectively.
Average orders in B2B are significantly larger.
With the increase in transaction, size comes more stakeholders in decision making. HubSpot users who use OrgChart, a tool to map the stakeholders involved in a purchase, see on average 8.2 contacts per company relevant to a deal.
All of these contacts need to be educated during the purchase process, based on their role, their questions, and their goals.
On the other side, in B2C, websites serve a transactional model. Where all content is driven to make purchase decisions quickly and by one shopper.
While both kinds of websites certainly have their work cut out for them, B2B presents a content and conversion challenge.
There are some unique considerations when setting out to develop a winning B2B web strategy. Because of the size of the transaction and the volume of decision-makers – content is key.
The amount of content your buyers consume in their journey before they even reach out to sales, download a trial, or request a quote is massive. Gartner research suggests that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase, less than 20% of their time is actually spent meeting with suppliers. The rest is research: online, offline, with peers and others.
With the difference between B2B and B2C transactions and content needs set, what then is the overarching goal of a B2B website?
Simply put: to answer your buyers’ questions.
Yes yes yes, the goal is to make money,, but in order to do so, you need buyers. Getting buyers interested in you starts with a focus on them, as a result, you make the shortlist of potential solutions to their problem. Since B2B buyers are research junkies – doing so – will have the downstream effect of driving leads, downloads, trials, RFQs, etc with the ultimate metric being revenue.
All that content and all those stakeholders is what makes the job of B2B websites heavy. How do you handle the content needs of multiple stakeholders? How do you tie it all back to business goals? Start with a laser focus on your ideal buyers
When it comes to B2B websites, everything starts with a laser focus on your buyers and the various stakeholders involved in the B2B purchase decision. This is why having well-articulated buyer personas is critical.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your buyers and various stakeholders. It helps sales and marketing walk in their shoes. It drives content and design decisions. It helps you know what motivates them, what questions they have, what barriers they need to overcome.
There are tools out there like Hubspot’s Make My Persona that can walk you and your team through the process. Broadly, the main points you want to hit on are:
- How do they define success
- How are they measured
- What challenges do they face
- What questions do they have throughout their journey
- Terms they search at each stage of the buying and research process
According to Gartner, 77% of buyers state that their last B2B purchase was either very complex, or difficult. As we mentioned, in B2B vs B2C buying so many people are involved.
Make sure your site makes it easy for all those stakeholders to get the content they need, to answer the questions they have. Some people will care about features and functions. Others will care about who they interact with daily. While another group might care about budget and resource implications, it’s not all executives.
The C-Suite plays a role in the purchase – but the influence is spread across employee functions. Google data suggests that 81% of non-C-suite employees influence purchase decisions.
Traditional marketing thinking focuses on a series of steps in the buyer lifecycle: lead, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, opportunity, and customer. Each of these lifecycles maps to a stage in a buying journey that is simply defined as Awareness, Consideration, Decision. While this framework is helpful in driving alignment and getting people speaking a similar language between sales, marketing, and support teams – the B2B buyer journey is never that simple.
Gartner points out a process aligned around “buying jobs” that define the complex research and stakeholder engagements of the B2B buying experience.
There is some overlap with the traditional buyer’s journey. Problem identification for example and awareness map closely. Where things really get hairy – is in the journey.
There’s a lot of back and forth between stakeholders moving from one stage to another.
This complex journey is echoed by insights from Google. On average, B2B influences will conduct 12 searchers prior to even visiting a supplier’s website.
So when they finally get there, make it easy on them. OKAY?
One way to make the B2B website experience easier on your visitor is with clear CTAs (Call-to-Actions). You’ve got about 15 seconds when someone lands on your website to hook ‘em. One of the most common reasons people leave websites – they don’t know what you want them to do.
Remember – we’re trying to make you easy to do business with. Let’s look at a few examples.
WordPress Engine provides two clear starting points – get started (those who are ready to take action) and why us (those who still have some questions and are comparison shopping).
The copy speaks directly to the challenges of developing and hosting for WordPress.
Databox asks a thought question – “why no, I’m not entirely sure how my business performed today” – supported with a visual that most marketers and salespeople can relate to. Anyone who has tried to collate reports out of different systems knows the pain.
The one question sign up and forever free low-risk CTA makes this a frictionless experience.
Quality User Experience
Making sure people know what to do is only half the battle.
Making sure they know how to get through your site and to the content they need? That’s the job of high-quality user experience.
As we’ve said, B2B sites need to tailor content for end users, decision-makers and up to 10 different stakeholders. While the sale is complex – it doesn’t mean your web design should be.
Google found that simple web designs are scientifically better. Users perceive them to be prettier (not the end goal but ok) and easier to navigate (now we’re getting somewhere). Nielsen Norman Group echoes this insight in their own user testing that found B2B sites earned only a 58% success rate ( however did a user accomplish the task they arrived at the site for) compared with mainstream sites at 66%.
So what makes for good user experience? Some of the UX principles that bubble to the top include:
- Design for your buyers. Your marketing should have clearly articulated buyer personas. Keep them in mind as you design.
- Keep navigation simple. B2B sites serve multiple stakeholders with a lot of content. The Nielsen Norman Group has a host of content on the importance of keeping navigation easy and logical.
- All clicks are not equal: the three-click rule was never really based on any data. The rule suggests that if a website visitor needs to take more then three clicks to get to a goal – they’ll give up. Again, the Nielsen Norman Group looks at data and says that what does make users abandon is the perceived effort in the clicks. How hard do they have to think along the way?
Language and Tone of your buyers
Another reason people often leave a website is they feel like they ended up somewhere they didn’t expect. This can be overcome by using phrases and words that your buyers are familiar with.
This means knowing which content is intended for which of your stakeholders, spending time talking to customers, and eliminating jargon. If something is simple – don’t feel like you need to make it more complex to explain it. Keep it simple.
Educational content clustered by topics
One effective way to plan content for B2B websites is to cluster your content strategy around topics. It lends itself to being utilized in UX and making it easier for your web users to find related content on a topic relevant to their needs. It also serves the bonus purpose of adding SEO value.
A cluster focuses on a long-form pillar page or skyscraper piece of content for a broad, keyword with high volume. The page captures all the high level, key aspects of that topic. Branching off that page through links to blogs are topics on long-tail phrases (search queries with 3+ terms), related to the topic, creating the cluster. Over time, Google search engines see the page connections on the topic and view your site authoritative on it.
For example, you might sell fleet management software and want to create a cluster around fleet management tracking that looks like:
Pillar Page: Fleet management tracking
- Benefits of a fleet management tracking system
- Evaluating fleet management tracking solutions
- Comparing fleet management tracking devices
- Cost/Benefit of fleet management tracking
- Tips for implementing fleet management tracking
Supporting Pillar Content With Blog Topics
One of the most effective marketing strategies for modern-day B2B companies is to think of themselves as publishers. Creating content for their niche positions them as thought leaders to their buyers, who, as we’ve already established, are conducting a tremendous amount of research.
B2B marketing has long been supported by content like webinars, white papers, and case studies. But to really be effective when so much of the B2B buyer’s journey is conducted online – you need to publish, a lot. That’s the role of your blog.
Blog content supports your topic clusters by linking back to pillar pages. It also offers an opportunity for your organization to jump into conversations as new trends emerge that are relevant to your industry.
Humanize your images and video
One of the strangest things B2B organizations forget is that they are selling to people. Yes, it’s an entity that’s funding the transaction. But it’s a relationship with stakeholders that drives that transaction.
It’s the pains of Karen in accounting that drove the requisition for a new payroll provider – or Jen the risk management officer to seek out a new monitoring solution. It’s the frustration Ed has trying to fill the job openings that led him to reach out to a recruiting firm or Frank’s challenges of constantly replacing damaged telephone poles that led him to find a product to repair them rather than replace them.
People are behind the transaction – so why do we constantly put images of server racks and products and stock photo shots of computer screens and charts on our website?
Humanize the need.
While the design and content for a B2B website serve the needs of your ideal buyers by ensuring they can find the answers to their questions, there is a host of technology behind the scenes that help make the B2B marketer and salesperson’s job easier. These tools also help to connect the actions of content and lead gen to the end goal of driving revenue opportunities.
Content Management System
ACMS (Content Management System) makes it possible to quickly build and edit pages that fit within the defined user experience and design of your site. Modern content management systems make this possible with little or no need to know web languages. They also make some basics of digital marketing exceedingly easy to manage – like on-page search engine optimization. There’s a mountain of options when it comes to content management systems from free versions like WordPress to paid versions like HubSpot and Kentico.
Marketing automation refers to software that automates marketing activities such as email marketing, social posting, and ads.
Marketing automation can help to accomplish some of the following:
- Updated tracking
- Real-time alerts
- Automated lead-hand off
- Quickly launch
- Landing pages
- Thank you pages
- Call to actions
- A/B Tests
- Social post scheduling
- Lead nurturing
- Lead qualification
- Automate manual internal processes
All of this is tailored to contact behavior (how they interact with content) and contact demographics and psychographics ( what do we know about them)
With Marketing automation, you can serve the right content to the right person at the right time – at scale. You can see if it’s helping your B2B buyers advance their research and with that data inform your overall program.
Its true power comes through sales and marketing alignment with a well-utilized CRM.
The heartbeat of any B2B organization is the ≈ CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Your website and marketing automation should flow seamlessly into it to provide closed-loop feedback on what’s working and what’s not. This is why sales and marketing alignment is so critical. We have a whole other guide on that topic alone – but TLDR: we’re talking about getting the two teams in agreement on key terms and metrics that drive the KPIs around business goals.
With quality CRM data, you can tie back what marketing campaigns drove a new deal from lead to qualified to the opportunity to booked revenue and what experiences played critical touchpoints along the
Perhaps the single most important point to be made – your website is a living breathing thing. If you’re a tech or manufacturing company and you haven’t revisited your site since your nephew built it as a computer science project in 1999, it probably needs an update.
Aside from outdated technology, once your site is in the wild, driving leads and integrating with your sales and marketing stack to measure performance – you’re all set – right? Not quite. There’s ongoing work to maintain your edge.
You should plan to regularly invest in the design and development of your B2B website. At a minimum, allocate budget for an annual clean up – or even better invest in what HubSpot calls, growth-driven design. GDD ties data and insights from your CRM and marketing automation into a constant iteration of your site design – in service of your users and business goals.
In 2018, Google started heavily favoring pages that were mobile-friendly. To take advantage of the SEO bump that comes with being on the “favored” side of Google, B2B sites need to make sure design and content are mobile-first. That means making sure buttons and interactions on your site are responsive to small screens but also content comes in many forms and is friendly to changing search results including search snippets. Search snippets are special results that answer a searcher’s questions on the page.
Just as important as mobile-friendliness is the speed at which your site loads. With all that added content – this can be challenging. The longer a page takes to load, the higher the probability of a bounce.
Your hosting, your site development, and the way content is created and loaded all play a part in your speed.
Security continues to grow as a concern for all of us on the internet. At a minimum, your site needs an SSL certificate. This provides another boost in SEO but also gives some confidence to your site visitors. Depending on your industry and the role of your site – additional security precautions will likely be needed based on the type of data you process.
The buying journey for B2B transactions likely won’t get easier – only more complex. But with some thoughtful planning, you can master your B2B website strategy. Whether you’re launching for the first time – or revisiting a stale site, the principals stay the same. Focus on your buyers, answer their questions, make it easy to do business with you, and implement tools and technology to help you scale.