Brochure-ware is dead. Bury yours today.
We all know how traditional B2B website design differs from their B2C cousins. B2B websites are typically more “get to the point,” lacking the glamour and glitz that consumer-facing websites incorporate to try to make their brands more engaging to visitors.
The assumption web agencies and their designers make here is easy to understand: harried corporate managers, purchasers and decision makers don’t want to be distracted with big imagery or a lot of “puff” — they just want to get info on the product or service they’re looking for and move on.
With that in mind, we’d argue that no website, B2B or B2C, should ever be distracting, or make getting information about a product difficult. One of the best examples of this is the ever-cited Apple website: it’s a consumer-focused site, but still relies on very simple clean design and easy navigation — little in the way of bells and whistles. (Although interestingly Apple has recently added full-size background images to its homepage.)
But back to B2B Website design… the designers at Concept 5 propose something of a paradigm shift (gosh I hate that expression). Instead of designing B2B companies’ websites as staid, logo ‘n text-only, make them, well, interesting, for a change.
There is a rationale for such crazy talk: as reliance on the Internet continues to grow, and becomes more and more a part of our daily business lives, a website simply must stand out in the crowd to make an impression. In other words, there was a time when just having a website at all made a B2B organization appear forward thinking. But those days are gone, compadre.
Brand Strong or Die
By now, even the most hardcore B2B companies – manufacturers, heavy industry, you name it – need to start taking a bit of risk and aggressively branding themselves online, much like consumer oriented websites have been doing for years.
Why? I gots me four good reasons:
- Your Prospects’ Expectations. The manager or purchaser visiting your website has become accustomed to full-size, modern-looking, interesting websites. In his or her mindset, the web experience isn’t delineated by B2B or B2C — it’s just the web. So, if you’re B2B company is relying on 2009 brochure ware for its website, you’re creating a lackluster impression on your prospect from the moment they hit your homepage. Now why would you want to do that?
- Competitive Advantage. If your top competitors having boring B2B websites and you offer a far more engaging online experience, well, just as our B2C cousins learned years ago, you win. You better believe potential customers are opening multiple browser windows and comparing your company directly to your competitors. That’s just how people shop these days. For anything. So stand out.
- SEO. I have written before about how SEO as it existed is a dead or dying game. A fresh website, on a modern back-end and platform, however, is always going to ultimately fare better in search rankings than an outdated website. Newer codebases and site functionalities take SEO into account from the ground up – from their very core. Older websites don’t.
- Usability and Lead Generation. As all of us at Concept 5 always preach, just having a “Contact Us” form on your website is no longer enough. You need a strategy, and website, designed with lead generation in mind from the get-go. Maybe that includes social media, or landing pages, or web video, or assertive email data collection or any of another dozen tactics.
The point is you need a modern looking website on an up-to-date back-end to seamlessly incorporate the best online marketing strategies for your organization.And let’s not forget mobile and tablet responsiveness. Really, don’t forget it. But a B2B professional is sitting at behind a desk using her PC to access my website, not using her iPhone, you’re telling yourself. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
A Tale of Two Manufacturing Websites
In conclusion, let’s take a look at two websites that I believe to be potential competitors. I know nothing about machine fabrication – I’ve never worked on either website or spoken to either organization. But I’m putting myself in the shoes of a businessperson who needs a machine fabricated…
Website 1. Bear Ridge Manufacturing – www.brmf.net
This website has an outdated look and feel. It has a fixed page width of 1095 pixels and lacks any mobile or browser responsiveness. (for non designers, this means the pictures and information on the pages aren’t flexible and cannot adapt to a wide or skinny browser window.
This website does has a homepage slider (interactive content that moves), but it is served using Flash. Uh-oh! Flash is an outdated application for most uses. It doesn’t display on an iPhone or iPad, for example.
The site design is very out of date, with tiny navigation, a grid background and a copyright year of 2006. 2006!
I could continue by why kick a man when he’s down?
Website 2. Brimes Industrial – www.brimesindustrial.com
Hmmmm. For something as B2B as machine fabrication, this site looks sorta interesting. They have an engaging animated slider on the homepage – nicely showcasing their products. They have clear and somewhat modern navigation and basic web responsiveness.
And, what’s that? Gosh! Video! They have a bunch of videos right up on their homepage! Is this the website of the smash TV hit “Portliest Housewives of Ohio” or maybe some new boy-band? No, it’s a B2B website for machine fabrication, and yet, it has video! whoa-nelly!
The point is someone there gets it. This website, including the videos, probably didn’t cost too much. But it’s playing by today’s rules. As an aside this just happens to be a Long Island-based B2B, which we love. Woo hoo!
So, if you need some good ‘ol fashioned machine fabrication, and you have both of these websites up, side by side, which contact form are you more likely to complete? See?
There’s an ancient Latin saying: De inimico non loquaris male, sed cogites. “Don’t wish trouble on your enemies, plan for it.” Invest in your B2B website and online marketing now. If you don’t your competitors will.