Helping a newly formed B2B company create their first Website spurred me to visit dozens of sites in search of examples I could show them from their industry that follow best practices.
In the process, I made a sad discovery. Not one followed what I know are the most basic rules of good Web design.
The rules (that is — what should be on the page and where) are the ones I learned from Amy Africa of EightbyEight. Her firm specializes in helping e-commerce companies maximize online sales. They have conducted hundreds of hours of research that monitors how people’s eyes move through a Web page, how they navigate, and even how their pulse reacts to what they see. The rules are built on the results of this research.
The way people interact with Websites does not change even if the site is a B2B company with no e-commerce involved (although Amy has reported that experienced visitors interact somewhat differently from novices).
A Website is important. It should be a strong part of every company’s integrated marketing program. It is often the first place prospective customers go to find out if the company that has contacted them or that they’ve heard about is real and legitimate. Companies conduct Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) for the sole purpose of driving prospects to their site.
But what does the viewer experience at most sites? Hard work and confusion. What visitors want is information that they can gain without effort. So here are just the very basic rules for a B2B company to make its Website a strong player in its integrated marketing programs:
The first 50 words of copy on the landing page must convey what the company, service, or product is about and hopefully its unique selling advantage. The page must instantly answer the question “Where am I?” Pages with no written message but only links to other pages force visitors to work to find answers to this question. Visitors should never be made to work.
Navigation must be clear and instantly imply what kind of information will be found on the linked pages. If the navigation says “Services,” the page had better list the services available from the company. Marketers should look at their navigation and make sure it is clear and correct.
Every page must have at least one call-to-action. Just like a meeting with a sales person, after prospects learn something, you must ask them to do something. The call-to-action can be “Learn more,” “Contact us now,” “Download FREE content,” “Request a bid” or many other options. A Website is no different from any other B2B marketing effort. It needs to respond to the prospect’s inquiry of “What’s in it for me,” then get the prospect to act.
There are, of course, dozens of other Website best practices. However, if B2B marketers can achieve just these three, they’ll be putting their site way ahead of most others.