How Experts Confront the Content Challenges of B2B Websites
B2B websites generally have simple, well-defined goals that all end up in the same place: to drive leads and convert them to sales. Some sites necessarily take the educational approach while others cut to the chase on the Home or Hero page. This is what we do. This is how to buy the product. Case closed.
It all sounds simple, yet one of the most difficult processes in the world is to compress a lengthy or distributor-based sales process into an effective call to action and communicate the brand in all its depth, technology or know-how. That’s where the difficult dance begins.
Lead generation marketing in the B2B sphere without leaving vitals such as product specifications or critical industry language behind?
It’s not always easy to get B2B messaging right. But neither is it impossible. All it takes is an understanding between the B2B client and the parties creating a website to deliver content that is both compelling and productive. Here’s how it works.
Driving business through the site
The best B2B marketing websites have a clear grip on what drives business leads to the sales process. SEO is often critical to that process, but not all B2B websites are driven by SEO.
At the iterative level, the most important thing is to establish why a site is being created and then go for the gut when it comes to reaching customers. “Content is a byproduct of strategy,” says Ben Bradley, Managing Director and Founder at Macon Raine, Inc. a Chicago B2B marketing agency. “The problem is that some customers just want a website. You have to almost trick them into making the website and the strategic marketing platform work together.”
“One of the things we do is start with a lead generation campaign and go straight to the sales team to find out what’s working for the company, and what’s not. Then our goal is to figure out how to sell if more effectively. That drives the strategy of the website.”
All about strategy
Another approach is to send a strategist in to handle the discovery process. That’s how it’s done at Fusion92, a Chicago marketing agency where Rena Prizant works as Senior Copywriter. “The Strategist does all our background research,” she says. “That’s critical to us. Initially they are heavily involved in knowledge transfer. That means the legwork is often done for you before you begin the copywriting process. When that’s complete, we writers like to gain access to the client to do the content journalism, asking questions about specific lines of business. We look for subject matter experts within the company.”
Prizant has experience in keyword research to help bridge the gap between clients who want SEO and those who don’t. Because the end goal is still bringing customers to the website.
The SEO watershed
The watershed of SEO is something of a dividing line in the B2B world. Clients that want to compete in their business category for primary keywords in their industry had better optimize or be prepared for chronic disappointment when it comes to the position of their site on leading search engines.
Yet SEO is not a one-shot deal either. The approach at Straight North, a digital marketing agency with locations in Chicago and Fort Mill, South Carolina, is to make SEO a living, breathing part of the operative website.
That means content is interwoven with keywords driven by highly technical research to eliminate as much guesswork as possible in creating content centered around what potential customers are seeking through search terms.
The company breaks SEO activities down into manageable and understandable elements so that clients can see what is being done and why each step is important. Straight North also does site architecture optimization and off site and onsite link management with industry best practices. “Our approach is to develop content that drives search and brings potential customers through the right channels for response and conversion,” says Brad Shorr, Director of B2B Marketing at Straight North.
Digging into customer thinking
The creative processes to gather and produce web site content can reach far afield in search of corroborating data and information when copy is being written.
“Social Media can be an important discovery tool,” Ben Bradley maintains. “Especially LinkedIn. We go there to find out what customers think about the products and company. We start conversations. We need to find out why and how customers buy. It all feeds into content strategy. Sometimes it even drives it.”
Despite all the science of content generation, it is still possible for agencies to leave out some element of the message or find it challenging to get content that suits the client’s tastes. Commonly known as a “miss,” it is important when that happens to consider a collaborative approach with the client to resolve the challenge.
“Misses aren’t that common,” says Rena Prizant. “But with some clients the content needs to come almost direct from the industry sources to speak to their audience. Our goal is always to ‘say it in their words.’ But you always have to recognize that this is their baby. There’s a personal attachment to their business or company. The job at that point is to get to a clear goal and share information.”
For these reasons many agencies use an outside resource to generate web content. That carries risks as well. The transfer of knowledge through the agency to the middleman content writers can result in disconnects if the freelance source or content generation team is not truly informed on the business of the client.
At times the tools used to solicit content from clients can make all the difference. Some companies prefer recorded interviews from which they glean critical information. Others ask clients to provide inputs direct into content outlines in order to create an apples-to-apples understanding of knowledge transfer and how the content fits into the greater site architecture in terms of structure, information and call to action. Tone and flow also need to be defined.
Len Davis of Pure Imagination, Inc. in Batavia, Illinois, takes the approach of intensive interviewing and research to a new level. His company invented proprietary technology to control all aspects of a project including how clients contribute to and interact with their overall brand message.
Whatever form it takes, the content dance requires someone to lead, and that’s primarily an agency’s job. Sometimes it is performed in collaboration with an internal resource at the client, such as a marketing manager or other content manager assigned to the project. Clients need to understand the best practices of content inputs to transfer knowledge about their B2B operation from sales and marketing sources into website content.
At some point it also becomes the job of the website strategist, content writers and designers to present the brand and messaging as an actionable, holistic union of information and call to action. Then client signoff is important, but it doesn’t end there either.
“It’s all about moving people down a clear path,” Ben Bradley insists. “The other critical thing people need to realize is that publishing their site is not a one-off deal. It needs to be a living, breathing thing going forward. Even buyers need to realize that. Everything should be a test,” Bradley intones. “Of what works and what doesn’t.”
The job of content on a website is to create the best, most efficient user experience possible. That’s how content needs to be written, and how companies seeking a great B2B website need to understand the process. All content is collaborative, like a dance where one party leads and the other brings the beauty of the brand and its information to the floor.