Kristin Kovner | June 10, 2014
The old rules just aren't enough anymore. Here are six more tips for creating a great and effective B2B website.
Readers and clients alike continue to ask me for help crafting their B2B websites. Last year, I shared five of my favorite best practices:
- Get users the info they came for quickly
- Provide clear user pathing
- Treat advertisers like consumers
- Build your site to scale
- Keep the content fresh
But with the growth in content marketing as a means to grow traffic and sales, and mobile’s increasing role in the vendor decision-making process, the old rules aren’t enough.
Here are six more best practices for building a great B2B website:
1. Mix Gated and Non-Gated Content.
Ninety percent of B2B marketers now use content to grow awareness, drive consideration, and generate sales. Learning centers, content hubs, and blogs rich withmultimedia experiences all help build engagement and "stickiness" within your site. Asking for a user’s email address in exchange for accessing your great content is a good idea, but be sure to give potential prospects a chance to "try before they buy."
Best-in-Class Example: Adobe and CMO.com
Adobe took access to insights to a new level when it launched CMO.com, a website devoted to helping inform and engage marketers. On Adobe’s Target site for digital marketing, however, lead capture readily occurs.
2. Track Everything.
You’ve invested time and energy to create great Web pages filled with useful content. Now make sure it’s all shareable – and that you’re able to track what works. The best B2B websites and marketing teams track everything. While each platform has its own code convention, activating UTM (Urchin Tracking Monitor) codes on every piece of content you publish is a great place to start. Just like a vanity URL on a print, out-of-home, or television ad, these codes let you measure where your traffic comes from, and which piece of content drove it.
Best-in-Class Example: HubSpot
Since HubSpot wrote the book on this type of engagement tracking, it’s no surprise they’re eating their own dog food. Check out their great primer on how to use UTM codes effectively.
3. Make It Easy to Make a Sale.
We’re digital marketers, so we love our forms, email contacts, and live Web chats. But many prospective clients still like to speak to a human before making a large purchase decision. Give your users options. Don’t forget to include a phone number across your site’s pages to field sales inquiries – assuming you have someone available to answer it. (The only thing worse than no phone number, is one that you call and doesn’t get answered!)
Best-in-Class Example: Salesforce.com
From the vanity phone number to the live chat button, Salesforce makes it clear it’s ready to help you – however you wish to engage.
4. Be Bold in Visuals and Copy.
B2B doesn’t mean boring. As discussed last time, the best sites treat advertisers like consumers with their tone. Now, they also do it with their visuals. Make your site more engaging with big, bold visuals that bring your brand to life (but no iStock photo handshake images, please. They don’t say anything about your business, your clients, or your value proposition). And be sure to lead with your value. Think "headlines" for each page, versus mere descriptions.
Best-in-Class Example: Squarespace
Squarespace does a great job of showcasing its clients in action with beautiful photography. It also puts its value proposition front and center.
5. Go Mobile.
"Responsive design" was the buzzword of 2013, but there are really no more excuses. Fifty-seven percent of users won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site, and 40 percent turn to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience, according to Equation Research & Compuware. (For start-ups, my shout-out to Squarespace above continues here: its plans come with mobile-responsive design.)
Best-in-Class Example: EMC
The data storage and services provider does a great job surfacing product info, resources, news, and insights in a small space. The site is as engaging as its online counterpart.
6. Let Your Clients Tell Your Story.
The best B2B websites show, they don’t tell. Client testimonials and case studies are notoriously different to source and get approval for, but they’re worth the effort. They validate your claims, and they help prospective buyers imagine use cases for their own businesses - and imagine themselves as clients.
Best-in-Class Example: Rocketfuel
Rocketfuel features clients on nearly every page of its site, from text callouts to video interviews to written case studies. These elements reinforce Rocketfuel’s positive brand messaging and continually back it up with results – in the form of smart, happy clients.
Have more best practices for best-in-class B2B websites? Submit them to me @kristinkovner for inclusion in next year’s roundup.