Tl;dr - Most companies treat B2B website design as a project to be undertaken once every 5-7 years. And when they do it, they focus on aesthetics. Instead it's better to focus on function first, and view it as an ongoing activity. Further, there's certain information that might not feel comfortable or easy, but is critical to include.
B2B Website Design
Who was on your last website design team?
If you're like most companies, it was the person writing the check (or their deputy) and the marketing team.
Conspicuously absent from that list are any people who actually need to use it (prospects, customers, industrial sales team, vendors, community members, employees.)
And what did the design effort focus on? In most companies, it's a process built around aesthetics. Layout, branding, images, and maybe a bit of nav. Just think of the process - discussion, examples, wireframes, mockups, then production pages.
So generally, B2B website design neither accounts for the opinions of key users nor their important information requirements, which often end up following aesthetics in the design process. (More here on whom to build it for.)
That typically leads to important gaps. Perhaps the most important is being straightforward about who you (as a company) and your products/services are NOT the best fit for.
Reasons NOT to Work with Us
We've all had clients & customers that weren't a fit. Sometimes they wanted an easy button and weren't willing to make some changes. Sometimes, business was slow and we took a deal we knew wasn't quite right, telling ourselves it would be OK. And other times, the prospect misdiagnosed their problem and we just ran with it, discovering later that we were chasing the wrong problem.
The point is that we have an ICP (ideal customer profile) based on qualitative and quantitative factors. The tighter the ICP, the more value we can generally provide with confidence in our solutions, rapid implementation, and fewer errors.
That means that in sales, we focus on the ICP, and we quickly qualify out (or should) those that don't fit.
We should do the same in our manufacturing marketing as well.
That means that our website, our messaging, and our content need to both:
- describe where we're a great fit
- articulate where we're not a good fit
Often, companies whiff on both. They talk about how great they and their products are and then leave it up to everyone to figure out how they might match up.
Sadly, they're afraid to say aloud, much less publicize, that they're not a great fit for some.
That's a missed opportunity.
When you explicitly state the type of companies and applications for which you're not a good fit, you:
- improve qualification - many of those that don't fit will self-select out, and you give your sales team air cover to qualify others out aggressively
- boost credibility - all your statements of where you do fit well are more impactful when they're balanced by an honest discussion of where you don't
- gather additional data in lead qualification - from a 1st party intent perspective, wouldn't you treat a company that might be on the edge of your ICP differently if you knew that they'd spent time on your "not a fit" page and still reached out?
- reinforce company culture - you're transparent and ethical
It's going to feel strange to create and publish this information. It's counter to much of what's ingrained in us.
But doing so offers several benefits to prospects, your business, your marketing team, and the capital equipment sales team.
Discussing situations in which you're a poor fit openly and honestly delivers mindset, culture, and operational benefits.
Other Important Industrial Manufacturing Website Features
There are other common gaps in B2B website design that can be feasibly plugged to improve the user experience and effectiveness.
- knowledge base - self-service information that provides the fastest resolution to many product and customer support issues. This isn't to save on technical or customer service expenses - it must be designed with the genuine intent to help customers be efficient, and also offer an easy offramp to reach someone live
- customer portal - giving customers access to order history, warranty info, spare parts details, operators manuals, training materials, etc. builds value for them. This isn't a massive development project. You should have a CRM that allows you to easily create custom CRM objects and a CMS that simplifies a registered user portal implementation.
- ease of navigation - first, just know that others don't know your website structure like you do. They'll have to hunt to find info. Second, rising generations of users never actually filed documents in a cabinet with folders. They search digitally. Make it easy for them. That means a simplified nav, a chatbot to aid in finding what they need, and a site search function.
- communication channels - some will want to call. Some will text. Some will email. Some will submit a form. And others will prefer to use a chatbot with an option to move to live chat. You should offer all options and route inquiries automatically to the right place.
- blogs - they're good for your marketing, for prospects, for customers.
- spare parts eccomerce - this isn't a huge project. Run a quick Pareto analysis and get the 20% of parts on an ecommerce site by EoY.
Effective B2B Website Design Is About Making Complex, Intuitive
A B2B website is a paradox. On the one hand, it's critical that it doesn't become a "once every seven years" project that is stale and ineffective nearly when launched.
On the other hand, it's important to understand that it's not a simple undertaking. It will take focus, effort, creativity, and more.
Those often feel as though they're in conflict.
I'd argue they're not.
Viewing your website as an ongoing activity (just like business development) lets you budget for continuous improvement. It steps you back from the paralyzing (or at least procrastination-inducing) need to get everything perfect prior to launching.
Understanding the audience and the goal of the site allows you to step beyond the aesthetics and really design a site with information and features that create value for your stakeholders.