By Todd Hockenberry, Top Line Results
An excellent website is an invaluable tool for an inbound organization because an inbound organization starts the buyer journey by creating a website that provides education first. An inbound organization’s website functions as an online portal for actively first attracting, then engaging, a target audience and persona.
One of the biggest mistakes we see companies make is thinking that a website is only an expense and not viewing it as an asset. Remember, your company website is your very first impression for most contacts. Your website communicates your brand message, engages your audience, and should act as a digital salesperson.
Too often companies cut corners. They don’t use the best tools to accomplish their goals or refuse to hire the best talent to manage their web presence (sorry, but your geeky nephew might not be the BEST choice). Many companies believe that if you build it, they will come. So, once their website is up and running they just set it and forget it.
A part of this mindset is the idea that a quality website is a one-time expense. The idea that you have a big expenditure of resources once and then the website should stand on its own is flawed. A great website can be within any company’s reach as long as they optimize for user experience. A part of good optimization is creating content consistently over time so that your website grows in a meaningful way. An Inbound Organizations website becomes a better resource over time. As a result, an Inbound Organizations website is an asset, not just an expense.
With that in mind, here are some concrete suggestions for improving your website so you can keep me, and all the other prospects like me, engaged.
1. You Can Help Me, but Please Don’t Give Me a Canned Sales Pitch
Get rid of the fluff. Get rid of the marketing-speak nonsense. Saying “we deliver great customer service and are value-added, sustainable, problem solvers” does not help me solve any of my problems. Worse, this type of language is arcane and mildly annoying. If you genuinely do provide great customer service, show me what that means. Tell me about your 24 hours a day emergency line or your guaranteed 1-hour response time, or whatever it is you do that makes your customer service amazing.
You can reach me through SEO by creating content that matches the topics I search. Then when I arrive, please show me how you can help with my problems. When my search is in the form of a question, please answer it quickly. You have 3 seconds. Respect my time, my click, my search, and show me with your site that you know how to do that.
2. Show Me How to Improve My Situation, In My Terms, From My Perspective
So, you’ve clearly stated what you do to help, what problem you solve, or what questions you answer now you need some meat on the bones. When I click deeper into the site, I want more. I want details about how you can help me with my problems.
To create this type of deep dive pathway through your content, you need to first understand my path through your site (how I get from Point A to Point B), and you need to make sure I arrive at the page with the solution I need. Then…
3. Show Me How You’ll Solve My Problems
Once I get to Point B, there needs to be something there. So, create great content that is not just about your product. My first step shouldn’t be the specs, the technical details, and the features. Show me you understand my application, my issues, and my situation and create content in different forms to help me.
Content doesn’t have to be a blog post. Content can be videos, case studies, infographics, articles, testimonials, animated shorts, articles, e-books, checklists, calculators, how to guides, etc.
Know me and anticipate the content I want to consume. Use your content to entice me to dig deeper, because that is what I am looking to do.
4. Share Lots of Info for Free
Give me lots of great content before you make me an offer. Don’t ask me to covert by filling out a form too soon. Ask for my information only after you’ve provided me with lots of value and established some trust.
Your catalog is not valuable to me. Your specifications are not that important until the very end of my buying journey, assuming we get there. Help everyone with great content (for free), and you’ll earn the chance to talk with me.
5. Use Current Design Ideas, Best Practice Content Management Technology, and Functionality
Show me you know the world is changing and that you are committed to helping me online.
You should have a blog because I like current, frequent, sharable, easy to consume, and easy to find content delivered to me in the format I want to read. Give me options about how often I am notified because my time in valuable and I might only have time to read your blog once a week or once a month.
Make sure your site loads fast and looks great on mobile devices. I better not need a microscope to read your pages on my phone or need a stylus to click a tiny link in the drop-down menu.
Also, please don’t fall in love with the design elements du jour or the do-dads that make the developer happy. Build it for me, from my perspective. Make your site easy to use (on whatever platform I want to view it on) with a minimum of distractions.
6. Be Better Than Your 10 Competitors That I Can Find in 30 Seconds
If I found you online, then it is just a fact that I can find any number of your competitors the same way. The chances are good that even if I like what you have to offer, I’ll probably at least check out a couple of those competitors just to see how you stack up.
Stand out, be interesting, and be unique. Have some character, be fun, be open, authentic, original, and be different. What does that look like? I don’t know, I just want it, and I know it when I see it
Seriously though, your best bet is always to be authentic. Your company has a personality. You built that personality with every new hire, every trade show interaction, every publication, every company get together or happy hour. If I wanted a cut and dry list of offerings, I’d order a catalog. I want to see your personality.
If you think you are like your competitors and it’s hard or impossible to differentiate, then guess what? You’ll end up treated as a commodity, and I will constantly ask you to give me the lowest price (if I talk to you at all).
7. Give Me a Great Customer Experience
Make it easy to find stuff, take the next steps, and become engaged. Just because I found you to start with does not mean I will stick around if you fail to engage me.
You need to bring me closer to your company and explain how you can help me. Each step, touch point, or connection must exceed my expectations.
If you’re creating engaging content that helps me solve my problems, you also need to be paring it with knowledgeable support staff. Maybe this means a chat option that allows me to ask a salesperson questions in real time. Or maybe this means engineering answers Contact Us queries for more info. Whatever it means for you, do it well.
Miss an opportunity to engage me at any point in the process and I will drop out.
8. Let Me Take It for a Spin Without Effort or Remorse
Find a way to let me take a test drive without a commitment. This is fairly common for online digital and SaaS companies, but not everyone thinks it is an option for them.
Do you make equipment, for example? Well, how can you demo that? Maybe you could demo a unit in your factory or do a virtual demo video, for instance.
But we sell a consumable? Channel your inner supermarket and give away free samples.
What about companies that sell services? Give me a free assessment or analysis. Find a way to give me a zero risk and no cost test.
9. Make it Easy to Contact You in Many Ways
Not everyone wants to pick up the phone and call you. I, for one, do like to talk on the phone, but my wife hates it.
Don’t assume we all want to engage the same way. Give people lots of options like sending an email, filling out a form, calling on the phone (your phone number on the site better be click to talk since I am probably using my mobile phone), starting a chat, or sending a text.
It should be natural and easy to connect with you.
10. Be Nice, Be Human, B2H
Don’t bombard me with spam-like follow up emails, or ask for “just 15 minutes” of my time just because I downloaded an eBook. Chances are most people aren’t going to be ready to talk to you at that point in their buyer journey.
However, when I am ready to talk to you be pleasant, happy, nice, not aggressive, and focused on my needs, not your sales quota.
11. Acknowledge That Your Website is an Asset
If you’re doing all of the above ten things, then you are on your way to treating your website as an asset. However, it is important to be aware that it is an asset.
Thinking strategically about your website (what it is, what it does, how you can improve) is essential for an inbound organization. If you’re just treating the above ten suggestions as a prescriptive list, then you’re probably missing the bigger picture. However, if you are thinking of your website as an asset in your inbound organization (as a part of the bigger picture), then you’re going to be aligning all of your assets to your benefit.
For instance, you can do all of the above ten things (or most of them) in a dedicated marketing department. Very few other actors in your company need to be onboard with an Inbound strategy to achieve the above suggestions. But if this is the case, then a lot of the hard work that your website does for you is going to be wasted.
If your website is structured around inbound ideals and methodology, but your sales department is treating leads in the same old way, you’re not utilizing your website as an asset because sales doesn’t think of the website that way.
If everyone is thinking about your website like an asset (as an important part of the bigger whole), it will be easier to capitalize on the investment you’ve made into your website.
At the end of the day, we are all human, different, unique, and special. Your website should treat me that way.
After all, your site is all I know about your company before I decide to learn more and engage with you. My experience with your site is all you have to persuade, convince, and move me to act. Get it wrong, and there will be no further conversation, and you will never see me again.
About the Author:
Todd Hockenberry founded and runs Top Line Results, a consulting firm specializing in helping manufacturing, industrial, and B2B companies change and grow using Inbound Industrial Marketing and best practice strategies for each company’s particular situation and goals.