Innovation

B2B Sites Don't Have to Stink

How to know if your business-to-business site is lame—and how to fix it if it is

Written by Lisa Shepherd

Online marketing is more central to success for B2B companies than ever before. That makes having an appealing and effective website critical. Yet the sad truth is that most B2B sites fall well shy of the mark. They aren’t enticing or memorable, they do a bad job of strutting the company’s stuff and they don’t offer visitors ways to engage with the business.

Is your site one of the laggards? Here’s a quick way to find out and some easy ways to lift your site out of lameness:

1. Does your site ignore people’s limited attention spans? Fast and simple—that’s what website visitors want. Because you love your business and find it so interesting, it’s tough to resist the temptation to run paragraph after paragraph about your wonderful staff, products and processes. But people don’t have time for that. They want to get a sense of whether you offer what they need and then to take action.

THE FIX: Be ruthless about cutting way back on your text. Subject every sentence to the “Is this really necessary?” test. And if, after that, you still feel you need to run a fair bit of text, break it up into bite-sized bits. Offer a single page of easy to read, quick-hit information, with links to more details for those who want it.

2. Do you use stock photos that make your site look generic? Do any of the insipid images below look familiar? According to Marketing Profs, they’re among the most abused stock photography images. Most B2B companies don’t have the budgets for original photography, but that doesn’t mean you have to use images that are so overdone—and so boring—that your visitors will confuse you with other sites.

THE FIX: If your site uses images like these, remove them now. If you don’t have any original photography, you have two options. Either hire a photographer to come to your business for a day and take original photos (the pricey option, but still an excellent investment for many B2B companies) or take some time to find stock photography that isn’t groan-inducing. Have a look at fotosearch.ca, istockphoto.com and shutterstock.com.

3. Does your site show off your firm’s expertise? No matter which sector you operate in, the customers you are targeting want to know that you have deep expertise and knowledge. They want to work with thought leaders. Are you presenting content that demonstrates your expertise to potential customers? If not, you’re missing opportunities to generate leads.

THE FIX: Add thought leadership content to your website. This doesn’t mean overviews of your services or products, or descriptions of your processes. Instead, it can include white papers, articles, case studies and webinars that will engage your prospects and educate or share expertise with them—but not give them a hard sell. Your company undoubtedly has expertise that you can package into content. Dedicate some resources to extracting it from people’s heads and getting it into digital form.

4. Can you generate potential leads through your site? If you don’t have a way for your target customers to download content from your site, you’re missing opportunities to generate leads. It’s great to provide the thought leadership content outlined above, but you also need a way to find out who’s interested in your expertise.

THE FIX: Make some of your content gated, requiring visitors to provide basic information such as their name and email address in exchange for downloading particularly strong content.  This way you’ll have a way to follow up and nurture a relationship with potential customers. If you don’t have any pages that capture visitor information in exchange for downloading content, build them now.  Your web developer can do this, or you can do it through marketing automation software like infusionsoft.comhubspot.commarketo.com, or numerous others. And don’t forget that you need to have the content first!

Lisa Shepherd is author of Market Smart: How to Gain Customers and Increase Profits with B2B Marketing and president of The Mezzanine Group, a business-to-business strategy and marketing company based in Toronto. She was the youngest female CEO of a PROFIT 200 company in 2007 and 2008 and is a frequent public speaker on B2B marketing strategy and execution.

More columns by Lisa Shepherd

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com