There is a movement afoot to make B2B websites more productive demand generation tools. It’s about time. The key to prospect engagement is focus, perspective, content and ease-of-use.
You have 15 seconds to “hook” a prospect who is busy and is clicking through because something prompted him or her to find you. From the first nanosecond they hit your page, it’s your game to lose. Anything not clear, not easy, not obvious, not intuitive or anything irritating prompts an exit click.
Remember nobody is buying on the first visit. So the website must be geared toward the beginning of, what you hope will be, an extended selling conversation. Unfortunately too many sites are geared toward the end game.
The principle objective of that first page view is to quickly and persuasively communicate
• Who you are
• What you offer
• What makes you different
• Why you should talk to us
• What the prospect should do next
Next can be the next instant or sometime during the next year. The first page they see has to be aimed at engaging your most likely customer. You have 15 seconds to sell them on spending a second, third or fourth 15 seconds with you. It’s the business equivalent of flashing bedroom eyes across a crowded room. It’s not easy, the formula is different for each industry and each buying universe and there is no cyber Spanish Fly.
But there are “best practices” that give you a better-than-average shot at getting and keeping the attention of jittery prospective customers.
1. Create a separate “front door” – a separate home or landing page for prospects. Don’t confuse them with all the stuff your customers, your employees or your investors might care about. At this point they have no emotional or intellectual investment in you or your products and services. They hardy care so don’t overwhelm them.
2. Direct their behavior. You have their attention for a moment. Use UI tactics and design to limit their navigational choices. Point them to what you want them to see, read and react to. Don’t just apply the save navigational scheme as you have on the site your customers access. Don’t get carried away with consistency at the expense of action. Do NOT necessarily mirror the navigation on the client site because it gives prospects too many chances to escape One of my clients had 130 different possible choices on their home page. Wanna guess how many leads they got?
Limit their choices. Layout no more than 3 or 4 navigational pathways and mark them clearly. Typical pathways identify offerings by task, by job function and by product set. Make it easy to find and easy to understand what you offer. Enforce a 3 click rule -- the answer to any foreseeable question should not be more than 3 clicks away. And navigation should be consistent, persistent and interlaced so you prospects can jump from one pathway to the other without having to return to the Home page.
3. Present everything from the prospects’ perspective. Focus on predictable pain points or needs. They care about what they care about. If you intersect their concerns, the door opens a sliver. If not, adios amigo. Often their concerns are based on their job title or the functional responsibilities they have. Usually these are similar across companies in an industry or sector. Anticipate this and display your products or services in ways that speak to prospects’ roles or tasks.
4. Focus on user benefits. Prospect only care about what they win by using your products or services. They are not constantly gazing into their navels and glorying in the features of each product nor are they daydreaming about the latest and greatest refinements and additional bells and whistles baked into the next generation of your stuff. Tell them plainly how what you have will make them faster, more profitable, less hassled, happier, smarter, richer, more productive or more likely to keep their jobs.
5. And before they can discount these claims offer them something; preferably something they will understand as immediately valuable. Make the offer in LARGE TYPE and place it prominently and consistently above the fold on the first page they see.
6. Get prospects involved with the products or services as quickly as possible by using these well established tools and tactics to engage them.
l Trial Use from the Home Page
l A free trial download offer
l A Readiness Survey or Quiz
l Flash tours or product demonstrations
l Comparisons of your stuff versus your competitors
l Product samples or simulations
l Videos of client testimonials and use cases
7. You want to immediately communicate the idea that your product or service gives its users a competitive business advantage. And you need to prove this quickly and persuasively by sharpening the value statements and relating them to prospects’ needs and adding a sense of urgency. You cannot be bashful or reticent. The copy has to be catchy, involving and as promotional as you can be. Take a problem-solution approach to presenting products and their benefits. Images should directly relate to the benefits of using your products or services. Graphics or a grid display of products; their uses and intended users goes a long way to making things clear and easy to understand quickly
8. Prospects will trade data for valuable content but solicit the minimum amount of data to begin a back-and-forth conversation. The more information you require; the more incentive a prospect has to abandon your site and you. At this point there is no relationship and no reciprocal emotional connection. So start by asking just for an e-mail address. It gives you basic opt-in permission and it requires the absolute minimum action and commitment from the prospect. Build-in opportunities to collect an e-mail address at many points throughout the site. Once you have the e-mail address you can ask a prospect questions, gauge his or her satisfaction with your site or your tools and begin to establish if they are truly a lead by assessing their true level of buying authority, need, budget and timetable.