In designing – or rebuilding – your company’s website, it’s vital to take the time to think about what your site’s visitors are likely to want from it, and what you want from them. Those two are rarely quite the same, so finding a proper balance between them is key to your site’s success.
Your website’s visitors are likely to be seeking…
Entertainment: Generally, this is important for B2C sites such as Disney.com or MTV.com; it’s not typically a goal for B2B site visitors.
Education/information: Your visitors may be –
- evaluating your company’s financial health for an investment recommendation they are preparing
- seeking background information on the company for an industry magazine story
- researching your product/service space and the vendors in it for an industry analytic report, a future buying decision, or simply self-improvement
Solution to a specific problem: They may be –
- seeking a career change
- looking for support on a product they recently purchased from your company
- comparing your product/service with those of competitors as part of an imminent buying decision
…and by the way, they’re usually in a hurry while doing any of the above; even though they may be getting paid for the activity, the longer they spend on your site, the longer it takes them to complete today’s work, the later they get home, and the more annoyed with them their spouse and kids become. Not something you want your site to be responsible for!
Your company, on the other hand, may have some or all of the following goals…
Be different/unique: as in, “Let’s not have our site look like everyone else’s.”
Deliver the company’s “message”: Of course, you want the site to tell visitors why you exist and why they should care.
Reinforce company brand/identity: If your company has gone to a lot of offline expense to establish a branding strategy, then certainly you want your site to be as consistent with that strategy as possible.
Generate leads: Certainly from Marketing’s perspective, much of the point of having a B2B site is to identify prospective customers and capture their salient information so that you can incubate them over time toward a potential sale.
…and most companies will also accept the goal of meeting their visitors’ legitimate goals for information/education and problem-solving, to the extent this doesn’t conflict with the company’s goals (and in many cases, they’re really quite congruent).
This is precisely where the notion of balance comes in; it’s all about maximizing the area of overlap between the company’s goals and those of its web site’s visitors, and minimizing the tension between them. This leads to a set of do’s & don’ts: Do make it as easy – and efficient – as possible for visitors to find what they came to find. That means…
- do use summaries of information (putting additional info behind a “more info” click for the interested), rather than many paragraphs of material developed for other media that will require tedious scrolling here;
- do try to anticipate the kinds of information that visitors will want to find, and ensure that the site provides clear paths to that info …which needs to be clear content with relevant value;
- don’t use a unique – but annoying – Flash intro that risks dispatching your visitors to a competitor’s site without learning the first thing about your company;
- don’t express your company’s desire for uniqueness through an idiosyncratic navigation scheme, but instead put things where users typically expect to see them and don’t identify them using internal company jargon (e.g.: “Xtreme Consulting” for “Professional Services”, or “Markets” for “Industries”).
Do revisit your messaging and ensure that it clearly communicates your company’s essence. Many corporate “taglines” are more about creating a positive association or mood than actually summarizing your business; if yours is in that category, you can’t rely on it alone as your homepage “elevator pitch”.
And by all means… Do set your site up for generating leads. Generally speaking, do so by offering something of perceived value (a white paper, blog, event/webinar) and placing your contact-info capture form on the path to the download area. Ideally, your capture form will provide a bit more info on the selected item, and will be of manageable length: 6-10 lines of data, not 15+ …you’ll have plenty of time to gather further info on the prospect during the incubation period.
By harmonizing your company’s goals with those of its site visitors as much as possible, you should find that both can be realized with little difficulty. That means both a profitable company and happy visitors/prospects… it’s a win/win situation!