The elephants in the room during this discussion are usually represented by the CXOs—the ultimate persona that all companies want to attract, engage and sell to. However, these people are not likely your website's greatest fans or visitors.
- Too busy
- Relegating research to their staff
- Responding to referrals from peers and colleagues
- Focused on big-picture, business-imperative strategies which most solutions don't address
- Distrusting of vendor content at face value
- Irritated with company websites focused on the company, rather than their needs and interests
- Frustrated at their inability to find what they need quickly
- Disappointed in the lack of strategic thought leadership represented
*Note that this applies to CXOs at mid-size to large enterprises, not necessarily SMBs who may wear many hats, including doing online research.
So you're sitting there thinking, well, we can address this. We'll just change our website and design it to win over those picky CXOs!
Stop right there. The realities represented in those bullets above aren't likely to change just because your website gets a facelift and focus. Build it and they will come doesn't apply here.
The course of action with a higher payoff is to design your website for the staff doing the research and building the business case. I have to tell you that in creating nearly 70 personas in the last year, not one of them has been a CXO in relation to a website content strategy.
This doesn't mean you don't need content that's worthy of CXO attention - it means that getting that content to them will probably not be a direct route. Or, if it is, it's an executive roundtable or a specific thought leadership asset that you can place in front of them. Even if they're interested in that one piece, this doesn't mean they will begin trolling your website.
Additionally, if you design your website for an audience that doesn't trend toward visiting it, you've left the audience that will show up with nowhere to go but to a competitor's site that speaks to them.
By the same token, orienting your website for end users will also not drive the results you need. These folks hang out in customer communities and forums where they can interact with peers and get support and insights from experts for product use and resolving issues. They don't care how many awards your company has received or that your CEO is speaking at an industry event they aren't attending.
This leaves those in the middle of the spectrum. The people responsible for researching solutions to priority problems, building the business case and selling your ideas/solution internally. The content for those who sign off and those who use the solution on a day-to-day basis will, for the most part, be exposed to them by these folks.
Defining The Role of a B2B Website
Although websites should be designed with a primary audience in mind, the role of your website can become a bit convoluted. This is especially true when you consider all the departments that have a stake in the property.
Some possibilities include:
- PR wants the latest news to shine front and center
- Product managers what their collateral to have top billing
- Demand Gen wants gated content and calls to action that capture contact information prominently displayed (notice I did not say leads)
- Branding wants everything to reflect the tone, style and creative they've defined
- Web designers want template standards adhered to
- Sales wants customer stories featured, along with ROI tools and TCO calculators
- Social media wants icons and feeds in the eyepath
I could go on, but you get the point. This is a lot of stuff for one web property to accomplish. It's hard to make everyone happy and attempting to do so defeats the purpose. But, the real problem is that there's one stakeholder that's totally unrepresented in that list, the most important one — buyers.
For each of the "wants" of the stakeholders above, unless it serves the story that will attract and engage buyers, your website will fail the audience litmus test.
Develop A Process for Passing the Website Litmus Test
- Start with the personas most likely to visit your website
- Do the research to find out how they'll get there and what will attract them
- Develop possible scenarios across channels they frequent and determine how best to connect the dots (your website analytics can help with this, so can social media monitoring)
- Given these routes, figure out which pages each persona is most likely to land on and where you want them to go next (or what you want them to do)
- Build connected pathways with content and storylines
- Focus on the problems they need to solve and then (only then) on how your products and services enable that to happen.
- Take a hard look at your home page and figure out how to hook each of them when they land there. Is it obvious what they should do? Is the promise of what they'll get compelling enough given their priorities?
- Also assess your homepage for anything that will cause them to click the back button (your biggest enemy) and fix it.
- Remember you have only 3 - 5 seconds to convince them to stay
Essentially, if you are designing your website to engage Tom, Mary and Dennis, you need to look at it as if you were Tom, then Mary and then Dennis. Better yet - give someone who's not steeped in your site a description of Tom and what he's interested in, have them step into his shoes and visit the site for 5 seconds. Ask what caught their attention. Better yet if you can use an actual Tom, do that.
The turf wars over websites need to end. If your website is not contributing to business objectives, its not built for the audience. It doesn't matter what you think, what your boss thinks or what anyone else in your company thinks unless it's adding relevance for the audience your website needs to attract and engage.
Does your B2B website pass the audience litmus test?
If not, you're wasting time...