5 Essentials for Every B-to-B Website
"If you don't have a website, you don't have a business." By now, this maxim is well understood. But what kind of functionality does your website really need? What website strategies should you pursue for business marketing? Here are five must-haves for every B-to-B website.
The five elements every website needs are:
1. Thought Leadership
Establishing your company as a knowledgeable authority in your field is job one for a B-to-B website. You want to be seen as not only up to date, but trustworthy and helpful—sort of like the Boy Scout law. So make sure your site is filled with useful, non-salesy information about your category and the problems your customers are looking to solve. This is a classic content marketing play, whereby you provide libraries of case studies, research reports, presentations, archived webinars, blog posts, how-to videos and all manner of information intended to help visitors learn, and to present yourself as their trusted partner in that task.
2. Help Your Customers Buy
As discount retailer Sy Sims used to say, "An educated consumer is my best customer." You want your customers and prospects to be as knowledgeable about solving their problems as they can. And you also want to influence them as they move through their buying journey. When they are ready to make a purchase decision, they will better understand how you can help them—and why they perhaps should select you over your competitors. In some ways a subset of thought leadership, helping your customers buy means teaching them how to be a good customer for you. Oracle, for example publishes a Software Investment Guide to help prospects' decision-making.
3. Lead Generation
The perennial number one goal of just about every business marketer is generating sales leads. If you make the effort, your website can be a productive source of high quality, low cost leads for your sales force. So don't squander the opportunity to turn your website into a lead generation tool. There are basically two ways to approach this objective:
- Add an offer, a call to action and a landing page with a data-capture form. If the offer is of sufficient interest, a small but steady percentage of visitors to your site will fill out the form and leave behind their contact information. Treat that data as an inquiry, and run it through your normal qualification and nurturing process. Add similar offers throughout your site, varying the deal to suit the surrounding content.
- Install IP address identification software that allows you to observe the domain name of business visitors to your site. You won't know their actual names, but you will know the firms they represent. You can do a look-up by hand, or use automated processes from such providers as NetFactor and Demandbase Real-Time Identification. Once you have a sense of which companies are researching information on your site, you can then reach out and offer to help.
As I discussed last month, e-commerce is fast evolving into an effective tool for automating all kinds of B-to-B sales and marketing processes. Even if a classic shopping cart is not suited to your offerings, you are sure to find pieces of your go-to-market that can benefit from e-commerce, from quotes, to purchase orders, to selling low-margin replacement parts.
Business marketers benefit from connecting their constituents in myriad ways: sharing expertise, promoting word of mouth, enabling channel partners, informing shareholders-the list goes on and on. Some terrific case examples come from the Kinaxis community for supply chain enthusiasts, and the Cognizant Community invitation-only forum for senior executives at its top clients. Communities can be as simple as setting up a LinkedIn group or Facebook page, or as complex as Ingram Micro's 15-year old peer-to-peer VentureTech Network for its U.S. and Canadian resellers. However you go about it, the pay-off in community connections is huge.
So, that's the line-up. And here's the bonus: Not only will you advance your business goals with these strategies, you'll also improve your SEO findability. A win win.
Do you have any website essentials to add to my list?
A version of this post appeared in Biznology.
Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, and teaches marketing at companies and business schools around the world. She is past chair of the DMA Business-to-Business Council, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain's BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She is the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, and Trade Show and Event Marketing. Ruth serves as a director of Edmund Optics, Inc. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff-Davis, and IBM and holds an MBA from Columbia University.