Websites are playing an increasingly important role in the B2B sales process — if yours can’t do these two things effectively, it might be time for a fresh start.
While the inbound marketing model itself is changing, its foundational principle remains intact: the internet has fully empowered B2B consumers, placing them squarely in the driver’s seat during their path to purchase.
As a result, buyers are conducting a significant amount of online research before they’re willing to initiate an actual sales conversation.
The good news for marketers? Prospects are effectively vetting themselves. You can assume that when someone does make contact, they’ve already reached the middle, possibly even the bottom of the funnel.
In theory, this translates to a less involved sales process and increased ROI. However, as you might expect, this sword has two edges in reality.
The responsibility to guide prospects down the funnel doesn’t simply evaporate into thin air — it transfers from the shoulders of your sales team to your website. In other words, if you’re working with an outdated and/or poorly-designed site, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on a huge amount of potential new revenue.
Of course, these empowered consumers also have elevated and more nuanced expectations, which means web design isn’t just more important than ever before — it’s also more challenging.
If you want a website that drives your business forward, you have to understand your audience intimately, both in terms of their values and their needs. This understanding should be reflected in the technical, aesthetic, and functional elements of your site.
Here are a few key things that your site architecture must get right in order to ensure your business’ ongoing viability in an increasingly buyer-centric digital landscape.
1. Answer Key Questions and Provide Direction Right Away
Regardless of what brought them there, most website visitors will arrive with several questions that need to be answered immediately:
- Am I in the place I was trying to get to?
- Does this site contain the information I was looking for?
- If not, what else does this site have to offer?
- What can or should I do next?
While your homepage will certainly serve as your site’s primary navigation center, it will not be the only port of entry for your prospects. As such, you need to ensure that each section’s template — your blog, products and services, contact us, about us, etc. — is capable of answering the above questions.
In addition to clear branding and engaging design elements, each page should provide access to intuitive navigation features, related products and services, and multiple calls-to-action (CTAs), i.e., opportunities to convert.
Your site should strike a balance between form and function. Hip, minimalist design and cool, interactive features are all well and good, but if someone lands on your homepage and doesn’t immediately know a) who you are, b) what you do, and c) how to use your site, there’s a good chance you already lost their business.
2. Guide User Flow with Content, Design, and Structural Organization
User flow is the path visitors follow while on your site. The best websites use structural organization and design elements to influence user flow, ideally guiding prospects from their point of entry to a bottom-of-the-funnel landing page.
Your site’s navigational hierarchy — and your content strategy in general — should be informed by the buyer’s mindset at each stage of their path to purchase.
For example, a blog post probably shouldn’t contain an overt sales pitch, your homepage shouldn’t overload visitors with too much information, and a service page shouldn’t leave someone with unanswered questions about a specific capability.
You can further improve outcomes by inserting multiple conversion points along the way. Add a contact us form at the bottom of each page; include links to long-form, down-funnel content (e.g. white papers and case studies) on relevant products and services pages; and utilize chatbot technology so visitors can initiate direct, real-time conversations as questions arise.
This, of course, requires walking a fine line — too many pop ups and sidebar CTAs can negatively impact the user experience. That said, you need to make sure they always have the opportunity to take an action if they so desire.
At the end of the day, your website should be designed with all the traits of a great salesperson — that is, it must be helpful and informative, be highly personable, instill confidence, and, perhaps most importantly, have mastered the art of the pitch.