Designing an effective website is as crucial to most businesses as providing stellar products and services. It’s how people get to know you, how they research what you’re offering, and in many instances, how they make a purchase. So you know it behooves you to hit it out of the ballpark. But saying it is easier than doing it; especially when each business is unique and has particular requirements.
If you have a B2B business, you have to incorporate additional elements and center it around establishing long-term relationships with prospects.
B2B stands for business to business. For example, think of all the goods and services all businesses need to exist — software as a service (SaaS), office furniture and supplies, legal advice, technology, etc… The entities that provide them with such materials are B2B businesses. Granted, if you’re reading this blog, you’re already likely aware of that, but it’s good to go over the basics for the benefit of new entrepreneurs who are just starting to take the over the world.
By the same token, B2C stands for business to consumer. These types of entities also sell goods and services, but they’re short-lived, transactional, and provided to end consumers. Think of every time you buy groceries or order a new pair of running shoes from Amazon (it’d be lovely if you purchased them from a local small business, by the way; but I digress). It’s the type of business that typically tries to sell you stuff through TV commercials.
B2B and B2C websites are different due to the nature of each business’ relationship with their target audience. When developing buyer personas, you have to figure out their demographics, job roles, pain points, and reasons for seeking you out. Soon enough, it becomes apparent that B2Bs need to take a different approach when designing a website. These include:
1. Target Audience
When you’re selling B2C products, they could be wants or they could be needs. Some of these items are needed for survival — food, clothing, personal care. Others are purely based on wants, vanities, and hobbies — the latest iPhone, a sports car, high-end makeup. Both are fine and have their own merits, but they require a different strategy (and a much shorter sales cycle) than trying to convince a business owner to purchase complicated software for a team of 1,000 people.
So when you’re designing a B2B website, take into account the user’s intent. This refers to what type of content the user is looking for when doing online searches. Within a B2B context, this includes data — the percentage of increased sales in businesses you’ve served, or increased in productivity, or website traffic, or whatever services they are seeking to purchase from you.
Let’s go back to the running shoes example. If you’re a newbie, you need a gait test (which can be done in-store) and a couple of recommendations from the sales rep. That’s it. Buy them. Done. When you’ve been doing it long enough, you know what you like and you purchase it within minutes.
But when you’re a business, you need to take into account factors such as the size of your company, your budget, whether there’s a contract, service level agreement terms, scalability, compatibility with your existing technologies, number of teammates who need access to what you’re purchasing, etc… Therefore, you’d want to include web pages showcasing each relevant element, along with educational content on how they address your target audience’s most common pain points.
Since there are so many factors to consider, your target audience wants to do as much research as possible. And this can be a lengthy process — especially when the goods or services require a significant investment. You also have to take into account their stage in the sales funnel. Therefore, it’s beneficial to include content tailored to different stages of the buyer’s journey such as with blogs, infographics, or video tutorials.
You can also include lead magnets to both educate them while at the same time growing your email list. This could be in the form of eBooks or white papers, which provide you with a more ample opportunity to discuss your offerings in greater detail.
4. Industry Terminology
When you provide educational content on your website, you most definitely want to showcase that you’re well-versed in all relevant factors of your industry. So you want to incorporate industry terms into any inbound marketing content. This lets your audience know that you’re an expert within your niche; and it’s a component to building trust.
If you’re offering particularly esoteric services, you may also want to include a glossary, industry term definitions section, or frequently asked questions.
5. Longer Sales Cycles
Since the B2B sales process involves considerable research, several people to buy in, and a larger investment, it takes more longer to close a sale than a person who simply needs to buy a can of soup. This is ok. It’s part of the process and you have to plan for it — especially by designing a website that caters to this very need. You can walk your audience through the process of doing business with you, and taking your time nurturing your leads.
You can also deploy smart content, so that your website displays information that’s relevant specifically to the visitor. For example, a first timer could see introductory information about your goods and services, while someone who has returned several times could be guided towards enrolling in a webinar or reviewing comparison charts showcasing how your products stand up vis-a-vis with competitors.
6. Establishing Relationships
There are several reasons to build relationships with your audience in a B2B context. At the beginning, when they first learn about what you offer, they have to take their time to figure out what you’re all about — learn about your product, read case studies, compare with competitors. When they become clients, you want to provide good customer service — which entails learning about their likes, dislikes, and what works well for them. Finally, you want to be able to follow up with and re-engage former customers and sales qualified leads.
To this end, you want to encourage engagement. You can do this by incorporating quizzes that give you better insights as to their needs, as well as requesting free trials and/or demos. You can also offer tools such as a cost analysis, limited keyword research, or allowing them to participate in discussion forums or comment on blogs.
7. Decision Making Process
End consumers make purchasing decisions almost daily. But at the end of the day, they are the single person who chooses what to buy — unless it’s a big purchase and they discuss it with their spouse. However, when it comes to businesses, the decision making process is more nuanced. It could be up to the CEO, but it also could depend on what a board of directors, investors, and shareholders may want to do. Therefore, you have a lot of people to convince and tailor your content to that end.
For this reason, it’s good practice to include requests for proposals or quotes. This way, your prospects can provide you with all relevant information, so you can provide them with a breakdown of all associated costs, the needs you’re addressing, and documentation they can provide to the decision makers within their business.
8. Custom Services and Pricing
When you sell a product to a consumer, it has a set price. That may vary on discount codes on whether you’re having a sale; but for the most part, it remains pretty constant. But when it comes to B2B, it’s standard to offer tiered pricing based on each business’ specific needs and goals. This could range from consulting services to managing tasks for customers, or a million different nuanced variations of services.
While it may be tempting to simply encourage the reader to schedule a call, you want to also include an overview of different price points and what they include. Doing so will save your prospects’ time, promote transparency, and foster trust. It also makes it a lot easier to compare competitors before reaching out to any potential vendor. And when you include a list of features under each price point, you also let them see the value of each tier.
9. Account Management
Within a B2C context, a transaction is complete once there’s a purchase. However, B2B services require ongoing management — onboarding, integrating with software and hardware, consulting, troubleshooting, and providing customer service. Therefore, parties from both ends of the bargain have regular contact with each other and get to know each other on a first-name basis.
Something that makes this a lot easier is to include a customer portal on your website. It empowers them to see everything relating to their account — project status, past communications, and support tickets, to name a few.
Now, although there are so many differences between B2B and B2C websites, there are still several common denominators:
User Experience (UX)
No matter what you’re selling — or who’s your target audience — your website should be intuitive and easy to navigate. You want visitors to know where to click and how to look for information in a way that makes sense. You also want to incorporate a responsive design. This ensures that the website displays well regardless of screen size and device type.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
You can build the most wonderful website in your industry, but if people can’t find you, it would be mostly pointless. Since the competition in Google is fierce, you should always prioritize incorporating search engine optimization best practices. These include conducting keyword research, using headings and subheadings, drafting meta descriptions, using keywords in image file names, adding alt text for images, making your content scannable, linking to internal and external pages, and keeping URLs short, among others.
Good customer service is the backbone of any business. In fact, 96 percent of customers would switch to a competitor — even if they are more expensive — if they offer better customer support. So make sure your contact information is easy to find on your website. Also, offer more than one way to reach out to you. This can be by including a live chat feature, filling out forms, or calling your office.
As you can see, designing an effective B2B website requires a lot of strategizing. The key is to make things as easy as possible for your audience throughout all stages of their buyer's journey — and to commit to doing so long-term. Once they're ready to finally make a purchase, you'll be top of mind.