With the COVID-19 pandemic making business-as-usual “very unusual,” it is more important than ever for B2B companies to successfully reach their customers and prospects through their website and online presence. Increasingly, B2B buyers are going online to make business purchases at an unprecedented rate and companies with a results-focused website and online marketing strategy can reap great rewards – even during this crisis.
HubSpot, a B2B marketing automation platform, aggregated data from its customer base of more than 70,000 companies to understand how business metrics are shifting as businesses grapple with the impact of COVID-19. The following chart from HubSpot shows website traffic percentage increases in 2020 compared to 2019 (Pre-COVID) traffic levels.
When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in mid-March of this year, B2B website traffic took off with the highest increases recorded in recent weeks. As B2B buyers move their purchasing online due to the pandemic, businesses with an established online presence have a competitive advantage.
The question is: Did this increase in online traffic result in an increase in sales? The following chart tells a compelling story. Forrester Consulting surveyed business leaders to gain an understanding of how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their businesses.
According to the survey, B2B companies with a results-focused website and online marketing strategy actually experienced growth during the current crisis. Nearly half of businesses that sell online (46%) report sales growth as a result of COVID-19. This growth is a direct consequence of increased online activity, search volume and website traffic.
Is your company ready for this surge in online business? To assess your situation and learn the key drivers of a B2B website that grows sales, consider the following questions to see if your website is “open for business.”
1. Is It Customer Focused?
All too often, industrial companies do not design their website for their customers. Rather, they take an egocentric approach, more interested in talking about their products, their history, their news, their events, etc. While that information may be important to them, it’s not necessarily what their customers are interested in. If your website does not serve your prospects and customers, it is not serving you either.
A customer-focused website puts your customers at the center of your online offering, making it easy for them to do business with you. At the same time, a customer-focused website is aligned with your company’s overall business strategy and marketing objectives. And, most importantly, a customer-focused website produces results – leads, sales and profitable long-term customers. To be successful, your B2B website must:
- Provide useful and relevant information based on the needs of your users. Make sure your content explains how your product or service solves your target customer’s problem, what specific benefits your product will deliver and why they should purchase from you.
- Educate and build trust. Offer educational blog posts, guides, videos, case studies and other content that helps convince a visitor to do business with you.
- Make it easy for customers to do business with you. Your customer-focused website should encourage prospects to place an e-commerce order or give you their information and establish their interest in becoming a customer through well-displayed calls-to-action.
- Ensure your website is mobile and user-friendly. Sixty-one percent of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they have trouble with. So, make sure your website is easy to navigate on desktop, phone and tablet.
2. Is It Sales Focused?
If you think your website is just a marketing tool, you are leaving money on the table. To build business these days, you need to think of your website as a sales tool – better yet, think of it as your best salesperson. According to Lead Forensics, 94% of the buyer’s journey occurs online before they speak to a sales rep, so it’s important for your website to serve that vital sales role.
Your website’s content needs to answer the key questions your salespeople normally answer in the sales process. To be successfully sales-focused, your website needs to answer the following questions:
- What are you selling? Prospective customers want to immediately know what products and services you are offering. They should be able to determine this within five seconds after landing on your site through your use of copy and images.
- Why should they care about your offering? Your website needs to communicate your value proposition. Clearly explain why prospective customers should be interested in your offering and want to do business with your company.
- What differentiates you from the competition? Your site must differentiate your company from competitors and establish your unique brand identity. Often this is by telling your company story. For example, offer information about your company’s history, team members, values, approach to serving customers, community involvement and so on.
- Who else is working with you? Prospects want validation of the quality of your products, services and customer support processes before they will consider doing business with you. Customer testimonials, case studies and endorsements from industry influencers will help you build trust with prospects.
In addition, your salespeople should be trained on how they can leverage the website’s content and features to enhance their own direct sales process. For your website to be a sales machine, your sales reps need to view it as their most valuable resource and not a threat to their commission.
3. Is It Search-Focused?
As mentioned above, customers have taken control of the sales process. According to MarketingSherpa, in 80% of B2B transactions today, the customer finds the supplier – not the other way around. And, to perform this search, buyers are largely turning to Google. So, it is extremely important your site is optimized for search engines to ensure it is a money-maker.
The good news is that making your site appealing to Google is in line with your customer focus. Google wants you to provide value to your customers. If you are doing a great job creating valuable educational content for customers, you just have to use the right keyword phrases and group your content into topic-based clusters to help Google understand your areas of expertise.
Other factors that Google considers include:
- Customer engagement. Google looks at how visitors are interacting and engaging with your site’s content as a strong indicator of whether they should send other like-minded customers to you.
- Freshness of your content. Google want to see that you are regularly producing relevant and valuable content for your website.
- Technical SEO. Google needs to be able to find and crawl your website and wants to ensure visitors are having a positive experience regardless of the device they are using.
- Links and off-page SEO. Optimizing for off-site ranking factors is accomplished by getting reputable third-party websites to link or promote your website and its value.
4. Is It Conversion-Focused?
As a B2B company, the overall goal of your website is to drive revenue and profits. To accomplish this, your site needs to be strategically optimized to convert anonymous visitors into named leads and online sales.
Every page of your website should have a clear goal to move customers to the next step in their buyer’s journey with you. If you have not mapped out the conversion goal for each page, you are leaving the action up to chance.
In addition, you can ensure your website is conversion-focused by making it extremely easy for customer to take the next step through the following actions:
- Make your website lead generation forms short and simple. Resist the urge to qualify prospects with your forms. Just ask for the base level information a salesperson needs to make an intelligent follow-up.
- Shorten your checkout process. If you sell products online, take a close look at your checkout process to simplify and shorten the steps a customer needs to take complete the sale.
- Make your phone number obvious. Don’t make customers hunt for your number when they want to call you. Make your phone number one of the prominent calls to action on every page of your website.
- Leverage online chat and messenger bots. These instant messaging tools allow your customers to get right to speaking with a salesperson the moment they are ready.
5. Is It Results Focused?
Don’t rely on subjective measures, gut feel or esoteric statistics like “visits” when tracking your website’s performance. Define your success measures based on the goals you want the site to achieve. Then, identify specific, measurable performance criteria you can easily track to measure success.
The following actions will help you keep score of your success:
- Implement a web analytics system. Web analytic tools, such as Google Analytics, to measure how well your website and online marketing are working toward achieving your business goals. This digital report set will show you which online marketing activities are generating the most traffic, what products and content they are engaging with and what ‘calls to action’ are generating the most leads and sales.
- Leverage a call conversion tracking system. Call tracking tools, such as CallRail, help you see how effectively your online marketing campaigns lead to inbound phone calls from your website. When someone visits your website after clicking one of your online ads or an organic listing, call conversion tracking will help you identify and measure calls from your site.
It is certainly true that the current crisis created a challenging business climate for B2B companies. However, by embracing these ideas to create a website that attracts sales, your company will be in a position to succeed now, as well as in the coronavirus-free future.
Bob DeStefano is a B2B online marketing strategist, author and professional speaker with more than 25 years of experience helping distributors and manufacturers grow their leads, sales and profits online. Learn more at svmsolutions.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (877) 786-3249 x234.