B2B brands don't have retail outlets and many do not have eCommerce capabilities. The website is often the #1 tool for building brand identity and for marketing. When creating a B2B website, internal resources are often stretched to the max, yet the urgency for the website to build brand awareness remains strong. To apply limited time and resources for the best results, consider these five tips:
Sounds kind of obvious, who doesn't want to be relevant? But "relevance" is one of those words, like "social," that has taken on additional and specific meaning in our era.
On a website you have two audiences, your business audience and Google. There has been a lot written about creating your content for people rather than machines. But in order to reach your largest audience of people, your content must be considered "relevant" to show up in a Google Search and not be buried several pages down. The definition of "relevant" then is: "It is clear to the end-user, why the search engine is presenting this particular document."
To meet the Google criteria for relevance requires quality, quantity and persistence. Content needs to be clear, concise and audience focused, with links to learn more. By regularly producing fresh content in your area of expertise, your "relevance" is enhanced and over time you will rise in the search engine ranks, thus enhancing brand awareness.
Find Your Unique Voice
What exactly is "voice" in the context of the web and your brand? Voice is the expression of your brand personality. It is the language that you use, its tone, phrasing, brevity or lack thereof.
The tense in which you communicate is also important — is it a more formal, third person style: ABC company provides a range of products and services that enable customers to... or, is it a more familiar, second person style: No matter what your applications may be, we will collaborate with you to tailor the right solution to meet your needs... "Voice" is the "feeling" your visitors get from the way your words are presented.
To find your distinct brand voice, begin by identifying a set of descriptors for your brand. For example, if terms like stability, security, safety and stature are the attributes you want your audience to feel, your "corporate voice" needs to have a matter of fact tone that is conveyed consistently on your website. You may want to use statistics and infographics to demonstrate that your language is based on data rather than emotion. If innovation is your thing, your voice should have an aspirational quality. Graphics can have a more aspirational, conceptual and nuanced feel.
With so many pre-designed Responsive website templates available, the barrier to entry for creating a decent website has been substantially lowered. A template, though, will only take you so far; we see this in the homogenization of website design. If you go to a Wordpress Theme (template) vendor offering numerous Themes for say, Product Company Websites, you will find that a company selling office supplies may be virtually the same as one selling jewelry or medical supplies.
In this bland new world, you have more opportunity to visually and conceptually dare to be different. Start by looking at your competition and identify what the standard visual brand experience is for your industry. Look at and note the url's of websites in other industries, which you admire, and use them for inspiration to bring new context to the realm of cookie-cutter solutions that abound.
Understand the Role of Content
Like most trends, the familiar meme, "Content is King," originated in the consumer world, some say with Bill Gates, others say it was Sumner Redstone. At any rate, "content" in the consumer space describes that which can be most widely distributed and monetized. Trickling down to the B2B space, "content is king" means that all of us, driven by the promise of increased visibility and potential lead generation, need to create an ever constant flow of relevant content. Or do we?
Best practices of Inbound Marketing, a relatively recent marketing practice for the digital age, suggests that organizations that build content engines that churn out a constant quantity and variety of content to address all phases of the sales funnel, will be the most successful at capturing leads, nurturing them and converting them to customers.
My experience suggests that most B2B companies don't have the resources or wherewithal to execute these best practices. A majority of B2B companies also look at the website primarily as a "validation" vehicle and continue to adhere primarily to relationship selling and attending of trade shows and other events for lead generation, if not conversion.
The answer to the content question is that B2B companies need a succinct, differentiated and immediately visible value proposition to make the all important first impression. And this should be supported by a "critical mass" of search engine optimized content, to be seen as relevant, and thus to be found easily by search. B2B companies also need some kind of consistent program — blogs are great — to maintain and refresh that critical mass of content. How often to publish (daily, weekly or bi-monthly), becomes a resource, competitive and desired speed of growth question; all decisions unique to your business and not a one-size-fits-all solution.
See what works
Web analytics are one of your best branding and lead generation tools, especially for B2B companies that can't afford to waste time and money creating content that nobody wants to read. At RainCastle, and for our clients, we use Google Analytics and sometimes HubSpot.
Among other things, Google Analytics gives us an idea of which pages get the most views, what are the pathways visitors commonly follow as they navigate through the website and what pages people are exiting the site from. Because creating quality content takes thought and time, it is critical to understand what brand messages and other content is working — so we can produce more of it, and what isn't — so we can correct or test other content options.
HubSpot is most useful for measuring the success of online marketing campaigns and viewing visitors' behaviors over time to better target them with the kinds of content that will get them to engage.
Adding Google Analytics code is something most B2B companies do. But I am continuously surprised and baffled that many of these same companies never follow-up by consulting these helpful analytics for guidance.
Many prospects first exposure to your brand is your website. By understanding these five drivers of brand preference and website best practices, you will enhance your chances of connecting with your audience.
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