Website Success from a B2B Marketing Perspective
With more and more top-of-the-funnel activities of the buying process taking place online, even in business-to-business purchases, your company website is a crucial piece of the marketing puzzle. It serves both as a brand asset, a source of information, and a significant element in the customer experience as a whole.
The corporate website is still the most commonly used digital channel in business-to-business marketing, according to Salesforce’s State of B2B Marketing 2015 report. However, one in ten of the marketers using their company website described it as a “not very effective” or “not at all effective” marketing channel. Further, only half of all the marketers surveyed planned to increase their spending on their website in their upcoming budget, while higher priority was given to other budget items such as marketing automation, mobile applications, and social media advertising.
“One in 10 of the marketers using their company website described it as a ‘not very effective’ or ‘not at all effective’ marketing channel.”
So, is there a way to increase the effectiveness of your website as a marketing channel without having to drastically increase the designated budget? Part of the answer lies in automating your web governance. Examples of web management tasks which can be fully or partially automated include, but are not limited to:
- style and brand protection;
- quality assurance of content;
- monitoring of the website’s performance;
- task delegation to web team members.
For more details, read the blog post “What is Automated Web Governance?”
What’s the Point of your Website?
Another significant part of increasing the effectiveness of your company website is to evaluate: Is it truly optimized for the users, the purchasers? Consider this fact:
According to a 2014 study by Forrester, 83% of business-to-business buyers agreed with the following statement: “I buy again from the same supplier if I find it has an easy-to-use website.” In fact, the respondents of the study listed an easy-to-use website as the second most important factor in the buying experience, only topped by the expectation that suppliers track the buyers’ purchasing habits across different channels.
“The respondents listed an easy-to-use website as the second most important factor in the buying experience.”
In order to evaluate which role your corporate website should play, you need to know your visitors and the objective they come to your website to complete. Overall, we can divide web users into three broad categories:
For the Surfers, browsing a website is an end in itself, since they are on a quest for enjoyable content. Think of 9GAG or a news outlet. Their satisfaction increases the longer they spend on the website.
Tip: Is this relevant in B2B? Absolutely. Identify which kind of relationship your visitors (whether customers or potential customers) wish to establish with your brand (“Business Partners”, “Fling” or “Buddies”? See more at Harvard Business Review), and then provide content that strengthens this relation by means of your company blog, webinars, research articles etc.
These visitors are looking for specific information. Their initial attitude is positive: In their search, they’ve landed on your website expecting you to deliver what they are looking for. However, this sentiment can change very quickly, if it takes longer than they expect to find the information they need.
Tip: Use web analytics to identify top tasks and most sought-after information and place these elements prominently on your home page. Further, make sure that Seekers can reach you WHERE and WHEN they want. Do they prefer to message your company page on Facebook at 5 pm or do they prefer to call a 24-7 hotline? Make sure the preferred channels are easily accessed from your website – and that somebody is there to reply.
For the Shoppers, the initial euphoria of finding, and perhaps even purchasing, that one item or solution they’ve been searching for is the decisive aspect of their online experience. After this moment, their satisfaction gradually decreases over time spent on your website.
Tip: If your B2B website should cater to Shoppers, you need to communicate your offerings and buying options very clearly. Further, if you have large inventory, it is crucial that your internal search function is fully optimized making it easy for the Shoppers to find the item they are looking for. For more, please check out our guide to optimizing internal search.
How to Evaluate a Website
To what extent, then, are business websites living up to best practices? Are they making the grade, so to speak? Not really, according to a recent study by Hubspot Research. The study evaluated more than 26,000 websites on four metrics of website success:
- Performance (page load time)
- Mobile readiness
- Search engine optimization
The results were not impressive, as several of the analyzed websites failed to follow basic guidelines, such as:
- having page sizes of less than 2 MB;
- having a mobile responsive site;
- having unique page titles;
- having SSL security in place.
If you would like to know how your website performs, click here for an individual report.
I recently attended a lecture on digital, business-to-business marketing by Henry Robben, Professor at Nyenrode Business Universiteit, where it was jokingly recommended to remove all instances of “We exceed your expectations” from your company website. (How’s that for a web policy?) The reason being of course that B2B buyers’ expectations and demands are incredibly high, and from a marketing perspective your website should never promise more than you can deliver, and it should always deliver what you promise.
“Remove all instances of ‘We exceed your expectations’ from your company website.”
– Prof. Henry Robben
To learn more about web operations and how to implement an operational plan for your website, download the web guide “From Project to Process: Operational Thinking for Website Success.”