Consider this: 25% of visitors to B2B websites are active buyers, while another 50% are in the early stages and with the right nurturing could become active buyers. So, 75% of website visitors are legitimate prospects. But because the websites of many (most?) B2B companies are poorly designed, the companies will never realize the full potential of the site. B2B sites suffer from myriad problems including:
- Poorly written copy,
- Flash animation that serves no real purpose,
- Too much “stuff” on the home page competing for attention,
- No info on company management to make a human connection,
- Focus on selling products and services, not on solving customer problems,
- Overuse of trite stock photography (think photos of handshakes and of serious-looking people sitting around conference room tables),
- Web content that several years old,
- No testimonials, case studies or white papers,
- No option for contact other than “have someone call me.”
Why does this happen? I have several theories. First, most web designers are graphic designers, trained to make things look attractive and fit a certain ideal of what we’ve come to expect for web sites. But this is not what the client needs to help them sell. The client, through no fault of their own, doesn’t know what works in the web world and is relying on the web designer to do the right thing.
Second, companies frequently rely on internally-written copy instead of engaging a writer to craft effective prose. In the end this decision costs the company many times more than the cost of the hiring a writer.
Third, a misunderstanding by management of the importance that their website plays in the sales process. Many execs rose through the ranks using more traditional sales and marketing methods and are unfamiliar or reluctant to turn over significant demand generation and lead nurturing duties to their web site. Hence, the website, search engine marketing (SEM) and other web-related marketing are seen a one-time expenditures (much like a brochure), while resources are poured into direct sales and other methods for engaging customers. The ineffective website ends up working against the company when prospects check things out online. This is unfortunate, as The Gartner Group finds that companies that follow best practices for demand generation and lead nurturing can see a 50% lift in their conversion rate,
Lastly is the disconnect between Marketing’s traditional role in getting interested people to the top of the sales funnel and the role of Sales to engage with leads who are ready to buy, about half way down the funnel. Significant leakage results as prospects that require nurturing are neglected by Marketing, who sees funnel management as the job of Sales, and Sales who needs Marketing to nurture prospects until they’re ready to be engaged by Sales. See my white paper for more info on this.
Businesses need to understand that the purpose of their website is to sell, and that their websites play a critical role in communicating with prospects. It’s a place for customers to learn about the company, its products and services, its management, and (hopefully) be interested enough to keep the relationship (and it is a relationship) going and to eventually move through the sales funnel. In the real world, this use of the web doesn’t happen nearly as frequently as it should.
To solve these problem, there are many useful resources available online about creating and managing effective B2B websites. For example, here’s an interview from MarketingProfs:
What do you think? What have you done to improve how your company uses its website to sell?