The first step in designing an effective B2B website is to understand its purpose. For many, if not most, this will be to generate pipeline – or qualified leads that become pipeline.
If the purpose of your B2B website is pipeline or qualified lead generation, the two most important features are:
- A platform that performs
- A user experience that turns interest into opportunity
Websites are where opportunities are made — Phil Vallender, Sales & Marketing Director, Blend
The platform you build your website on directly impacts its ability to generate leads. If it doesn't provide your visitors with a consistently fast, available, and reliable experience, you'll struggle to compete for search traffic or engage visitors well enough to convert them.
There are many facets to website platform performance. In the B2B realm, the three most important areas to consider are:
- Availability & reliability
1. Availability & reliability
Obvious as it might sound, your website needs to be available when someone visits it. If you suffer from regular service outages – whether that’s due to server issues, software conflicts, or malicious activity – potential buyers aren't going to be able to read your content, learn about what you offer, or express their interest by converting.
Your platform (the combination of hardware and software that underpins your website) needs to provide a reliable experience for every user — wherever they’re located. Your server infrastructure must be resilient with built-in redundancies. This helps you manage load more efficiently and protects you from physical and logical threats.
To generate leads and create new opportunities, your website must be fast. Google continues to prioritise user experience (see the imminent arrival of Google’s Core Web Vitals update) and today, customers expect websites to be both fast and responsive.
Website conversion rates drop by more than 2% for every additional second it takes for your pages to load. There are many things you can and should do to ensure your site is as fast and responsive as possible. For example:
- Code minification
- Image optimisation
- Use a content delivery network
- Implement SSL
Ensuring your website is secure and safe to use isn’t just about reducing business risks from hackers or data breaches. If your website looks dodgy – because you don’t have an active SSL certificate, for example – potential customers are less likely to trust you with their money. By taking the appropriate steps to secure and maintain your website, you send positive signals to your prospects. This establishes trust which, in turn, helps you attract and convert potential customers.
When people visit your site, you want a percentage of that traffic to turn into qualified leads. That means designing a user experience that makes it easy for them to find the information they need and act on their interest.
Among the key things to consider when thinking about user experience on B2B websites are:
- Look and feel
- Position and messaging
- Content & SEO
- Conversion points
Look and feel
The saying goes that a picture's worth a thousand words. It may not have been coined for the internet age, but it's certainly applicable to B2B website design. 75% of people base their opinion of a website on its aesthetic appeal alone, according to recent research. In other words, a site that looks unappealing or antiquated won't encourage visitors to convert.
That being said, it's not all about appearances. The goal should be to marry modern, eye-catching visuals with responsive and intuitive design. Mobile is responsible for 54% of traffic worldwide. If your site only works on desktop, you risk alienating over half of your audience.
Positioning and messaging
To provide a helpful and intuitive user experience, you must pay careful attention to the way you communicate with your visitors. They won’t become leads if they have to scroll through multiple pages to understand what you do and the value you provide. Carefully consider your choice of words. Is it clear and concise? This isn’t only vital for first-time visitors, but prospects at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
The way you structure the navigation of your B2B website has a huge impact on the user experience.
You might be tempted to create one huge mega nav that contains every page on your website. But giving visitors too many options is ineffective. Choice (or decision) paralysis is a major issue for web users and research shows that, when faced with dozens of options, visitors quickly become overwhelmed.
Decision paralysis brought on by the inability to choose between options is typically the result of cognitive overload and fatigue. The human brain simply isn’t designed to process and compare the sheer amount of information it is often given — Deloitte
Less is more. Your navigation should be clear and intuitive. It’s better to make a few considered choices on behalf of your visitors that lead them to the most important and relevant content. Remember, the longer it takes for someone to understand how to navigate your site, the less likely they are to become a customer.
Content & SEO
Visitors won't become leads if they can't find your website. And they can only do that if you have relevant, SEO-optimised content in place to improve your discoverability.
The content you produce should be aligned to each stage of the buyer’s journey. For example, blogs for the awareness stage, product information and comparison pieces for the consideration stage, and case studies that provide prove the value of your services or products in the decision stage.
Accurate and consistent messaging helps prospects quickly decide whether your's is the right solution for their problem.
The majority of people who visit your site won’t become customers. According to MarketSherpa, average website conversion rates range from 2%-10%, depending on the industry. So it's in your interest to make it as easy as possible for prospective customers to convert.
Equally, you must consider that not everyone is ready to convert at the same time or in the same way. Just because you include a book a demo CTA at the bottom of your page, doesn’t mean every sales-ready visitor will take you up on it. To maximise conversions, you need to use the right conversion points, in the right place, at the right stage of the buyer’s journey.
Cutting through the noise
Much of the discussion around the core features of B2B websites focus on the specifics. Some argue blogs and contact forms should be your biggest concern, while others emphasise the importance of a strong brand presence. Neither statement is wrong. In fact, they’re probably right.
The thing to remember is that these elements work in tandem. A good design is meaningless if it takes too long to load. Likewise, consistent messaging will fail to generate leads if your content isn’t optimised for search. If your goal is to generate leads using your B2B website, the two essential components are a robust platform aligned to your requirements and an intuitive user experience that converts visitors.