On the surface there’s not much to distinguish a B2B website from a B2C one. After all, in both cases the goal is to make a positive connection with people searching for a specific product or service. Digging deeper, though, you’ll find that an effective website is one that caters to its target audience. These five elements of successful B2B web design consider the unique needs and challenges of business owners.
1. Make a clear and distinctive value proposition
Virtually every market segment has been saturated with companies offering the same product or service, with little or nothing to differentiate them. That complicates things for buyers tasked with conducting research and vetting companies. A well-designed B2B website makes the research process at least little bit easier by offering a clear value proposition, right from the very first page.
If you’re competitive advantage is price, say so. If it’s product quality or customizability, drive the message home at every opportunity—on every page, call to action, even popup messages. You can also reinforce this through off-site content such as email campaigns, social media posts and ads.
This messaging should flow from the brand itself, so if you’re not content with what your brand stands for, it might be time to strip everything down to the foundation.
2. Deliver authoritative content backed by cold, hard facts
Effective copy does more than follow the rules of grammar—it speaks to the hopes, fears and frustrations of the user. In the case of B2B website design, this often means framing content as part of a problem-solution relationship.
Due to the specialized nature of many B2B products and services, website content has to convey a strong sense of authority and expertise within the niche.
Put plainly, the user has a problem—an inefficient workflow, a lack of customer loyalty, etc.—and you have the solution—a consulting service, a new CRM system, etc. Don’t be afraid to spell it out as simply as that.
Due to the specialized nature of many B2B products and services, website content has to convey a strong sense of authority and expertise within the niche. You can strengthen your content by incorporating facts, FAQs, whitepapers and third-party research, which may resonate more with business owners than emotionally-geared marketing copy.
Case studies provide a great way to demonstrate your product or service in action. This “show, don’t tell” approach lets prospective customers see how you’ve helped businesses just like theirs, and it’s an easy way to reinforce your problem-solution messaging.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes
Proper use of terminology and coverage of niche-specific topics will help establish your business as an authority. Data security, for example, is a major concern for companies today, especially as more consumer information is collected and stored digitally. A business selling SaaS can strike a chord with buyers by showing empathy and understanding, then offering a solution.
It’s one thing to make assumptions about what customers are searching for, it’s another to know. Luckily you can take advantage of research tools like Google’s Keyword Planner to see what people are searching for and what kind of questions they’re asking. You can also conduct online or offline surveys, or simply ask your customers outright.
Some even advocate creating buyer personas. These research-backed studies paint a picture of the typical buyer or series of buyers, covering everything from career and marriage status to their preferred device for browsing the internet.
3. Go deeper: appeal to specific user segments within the target market
It can also be helpful to look at subcategories of users and structure content accordingly. For example, if you provide different service plans for different sizes of business, you can tailor messaging, recommendations and the sales funnel to each category of business.
The power of personalized content
74% of users became frustrated with sites when the content didn’t reflect their interests
This beats a one-size-fits-all solution, which doesn’t take into account the nuances and diversity of web users. We’ve already seen the personalization of ads and marketing content, including emails that are based on a user’s purchase and browsing history. Presumably, a more personalized online experience stands a better chance of ending in a conversion.
And the statistics seem to bear that out. One study from 2013 found that 74% of users became frustrated with sites when the content didn’t reflect their interests. This included ads and website copy.
A similar study discovered that personalized web experiences led to an average 20% increase in sales.
These statistics aren’t limited to B2B website design, but they do highlight the importance of knowing your audience.
4. Make it easy and enticing to get in touch
It’s difficult to know just how many sales are lost due to trouble getting in touch—either because of missing contact information, a lack of convenient contact methods, a technical glitch or even human error.
In the case of a B2B website, the ability for users to communicate quickly and conveniently is especially important. Not only will you miss out on a sale if there’s a hitch in the communication process, that sale will go to a competitor. Buyers are looking for any excuse to whittle down the list of options and make their life easier; there’s simply too much choice for them to waste even a minute trying to accomplish a simple task.
Multiple paths to the same outcome
You can’t protect against every possible hiccup, but you can make it quick, easy and enticing for other businesses to reach out to you. Web forms are among the best solutions today, because they can collect lots of valuable information without asking for a big commitment.
It’s generally a good idea to keep them simple and ask for only the bare essentials, particularly if you’re catering to time-strapped business owners. However, one exception is with highly specialized products or services: in this case a detailed form conveys a sense of importance and credibility.
When you’re selling a high-powered business solution rather than a pair of shoes, it’s okay to ask for more information.
Forms can also be used in more creative ways, for example to fulfill requests for a product quote or for a call-back. As with the entire website, copy in and around the forms should leave no doubt about what will be delivered and when. Vague or overly creative copy can put a wrench in the conversion process. It’s okay to dress up the text with words like “free” or “no-obligation,” but not at the expense of clarity.
Of course, some people prefer the tried-and-true-methods. In B2B website design, it’s important to consider that business owners may want a quick resolution or a response to a simple pricing inquiry. Giving the phone number prominent placement—such as in the site header and footer—will encourage the user to pick up the phone at any time while on your website.
A responsive, mobile-friendly website simplifies that even further by converting the phone number into a link.
5. Don’t let visitors leave emptyhanded
When someone takes the time to visit your website, however brief the visit is, you can assume they’re at least mildly interested in what you’re selling. You won’t turn every visit into a sale, but you can easily leverage a small victory into something bigger by keeping your business in the conversation after the initial point of contact.
Think of it as the online equivalent of a tradeshow giveaway. Instead of handing out keychains or tote bags, though, you’re handing out knowledge—whitepapers, newsletters, webinars, product quotes.
You won’t turn every visit into a sale, but you can easily leverage a small victory into something bigger
There are any number of reasons for someone to leave a website in the middle of a session, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done something wrong. (That being said, it could signal a problem somewhere in the sales funnel. Tools like Google Analytics can provide valuable insight into these kinds of conversion problems.)
How to keep the conversation going
A well-designed B2B website makes a compelling but unobtrusive case for not leaving emptyhanded. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for basic user info in exchange for whitepapers, especially if you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into them.
Whitepapers also help establish your credibility in your niche, and they’re materials people will return to often. Likewise, service or product spec sheets are ideal for B2B websites because they allow users to take something with them and share with colleagues or higher-ups.
As long as you adhere to local anti-spam laws, you can follow up with these users later via email with relevant tips or offers. It could be just the nudge they need to complete the sale.