Your website is often the best driver for generating and qualifying leads, thanks to the now well-known paradigm of potential buyers doing their own research long before they want to talk to a salesperson. Stage-based marketing helps augment a buyer’s journey once they’ve made contact, but all the initial research before that is done in isolation on your site. Even as leads move through stages, they will return to your site to get more of the research their team needs.
The process of designing—or even majorly tweaking—a company website for this reality can be daunting. There are endless ideas and resources and methodologies for website “design,” and the considerations get even more complicated for B2B companies:
What can be borrowed from B2C, which tends to house the most inspiring designs?
How do we structure for research over more emotionally-driven interactions?
What do buyers need to see?
It’s easy to get too far into how things look without ever having made sure the necessary elements are in place. Ensuring these four pieces are in place will lay the foundation you need to create a beautiful, usable layout that fosters the research your prospects will need.
Clear Value Proposition
A clear, concise value proposition gives context to the buyers’ journey. Though you may offer multiple products or complex solutions, it’s important that a prospect knows and understands your intent as a company, as that shapes their trust and understanding. Who is your target market, and why? What’s the pain point you seek to ease? How do you do that?
It can be tough to consolidate that down to an ‘elevator pitch’, but it’s essential. You ought to be able to describe why and how, generally, in 2-3 sentences. It has to be digestible and memorable, and it has to be focused on your customer. This serves a different purpose than the equivalent in B2C: context, instead of triggering a buy (i.e. call-to-action copy). It’s unlikely that another B2B company will simply visit your site, read a few lines, and become a customer that quickly. So, your clear value proposition serves as a framing mechanism for every buyer stage after that. Make it count.
Site Search that Supports Structure
Not all visitors use search to find what they’re looking for, but plenty do. It’s difficult to predict whether search functionality or site navigation will help a user more, so you have to account for both. Depending on the depth of information on your site, you may need to integrate helpful search interfaces or intercept certain terms entirely.
The easiest way to find out if your site search supports your visitors’ research is by testing. It doesn’t have to be complicated; grab a few folks, and ask them to find information about a common keyword through your existing functionality. Listen and watch for opportunities to get users where they want to go. (source)
Business customers report pricing as the top most needed piece of information online, yet many B2B sites don’t show it.
Showing your pricing model (in some form) is a no-brainer. This is essential information for anyone doing research, and hiding pricing behind a “salesperson wall” will often do much more harm than good. In addition to providing some straight-forward context for this rule, Nielsen Norman Group also suggests some alternatives if you can’t show exact prices.
Unfortunately, there’s often a disconnect between the relevant keywords used in a B2B search and the words you want to use in your copy. One way to mitigate this issue is to have some space for more keyword-dense copy. Of course, it should be readable by humans, but it can be optimized for search engines and unintrusive. Brainrider recommends SEO copy go into a large footer, along with other important items that can’t be left out, but aren’t essential to the prospect at all times.
These four key components of B2B website design should be a part of any design discussion for your website, because you need to ensure there’s space for them. These items allow you to best serve the research process of your prospects, setting the stage for a pleasant conversion and customer relationship.