Five ways to use creative design for a stand out B2B website

Delivering high impact creative design that has a positive impact on user interaction with your B2B website

Most of the focus in web design inevitably falls on the process that delivers the look and feel for a website. But well thought through visual branding can help to differentiate your offering and develop credibility.

Your website should be representative of your company and its design needs to efficiently and effectively convey the personality and values enshrined in other marketing material. If there is an existing brand used as part of other marketing communications, apply it to the website environment. An established brand offers an opportunity to quickly tap into design elements that customers are already comfortable with and can identify with.

Think about these five ways of developing a creative impression you can be proud of – and one that dovetails with all the other ways customers come into contact with your business.

1. Templates. For layout structure consider keeping it simple by using three main page layouts: one for the homepage, one for content pages (with different layouts for product or service categories and products in some cases) and one for form pages. For example, your homepage will have a different layout from a landing page for a PPC campaign. Keep the elements in these layouts constant. This will help keep your visitors from feeling lost.

2. Colour. Avoid using lots of colours by focusing on two to four colours consistent with your brand for your templates and call to action buttons.

3. Typography. Make sure your website type is legible and consistent with branding. Use fonts, font sizes and font colors that are easy to read. For easier page scanning, use bullet lists, section headers and short paragraphs. If your site is English language-based, make sure information flows from left to right and top to bottom.

4. Images. Images can be a powerful element to any website but you need to use them wisely. Every image is transmitting a subconscious message to your audience and sometimes the result is different from what you might expect. Many businesses use stock photography that can cheapen your brand. If you must, give stock photo shots a colour treatment makeover to develop your own style. Cropping or manipulating the angle can create a bespoke photographic style but it is always better to have your own. In all major tests, photos of real people outperformed stock photos in terms of preference.

5. Animations, gadgets and other rich media. Avoid anything unnecessary. Using Flash animations because they look cool is the wrong strategy. In most cases it’s best not to use animated background or background music. Only use rich media like video and animations to help support content and information. Carousels or sliders are becoming more common in business sites to convey proposition and promotions.

Industrial brands like Ingersoll Rand and BOC take different approaches to how the use design in their website strategy, but both are geared towards trafficking customers to content as quickly as possible.

 

 

Through combining brand colour, shape, typography, photography, graphics, sound and video, good website design can create atmosphere as well as consistency in identity. This can also help provide a framework to support the functional requirements a site needs to have as well as the content it should contain to deliver a superior customer experience.

Next up: Making websites fit for function. Subscribe by email to make sure you don’t miss it!

 

B2B marketing and Seth Godin’s concept of art

Seth Godin’s current concern lies in encouraging more people to break free from the shackles of self-doubt and to create work that matters. Work that can be considered as art. Art is a state of mind and good, valuable, productive work will, he argues, always find an audience.  Andy Warhol had it right some years ago too.

I’m para-phrasing slightly of course but the concept resonates (as so many of Seth’s do) with me because I’m attempting to sit in the 1%  of people who are trying to create art and do something a little different in my field of speciality.

Celebrating B2B Art

There isn’t a huge amount of art in the broad world of B2B marketing – this despite attempts to celebrate great B2B art like the B2B Marketing magazine B2B Awards showcase event, this March.

The simple truth is that money still, in large part, matters. What ties all the brands together in the B2B Marketing showcase is the scale of available resource. I don’t see any heavy industry players, manufacturers, small professional services businesses – only the likes of Google, British Gas and BT – themselves all well known hybrid B2B/B2C businesses.

My attempt at Art

It’s bold, exciting and uncomfortable in equal measure opening yourself and your business up. This Marketing Assassin blog (reinvigorated for 2013), my conference and webinar presentations, my Twitter feed and my new b2b digital marketing ebook are all examples of my own trying to do something different and give back. I’ve crammed a lot into nearly 20 years promoting business products and services and this is just the beginning of approaching things in a different way.

Art doesn’t have to be complicated, creative, innovative, dynamic, and/or provocative. It simply has to mean something to the people that come into contact with it.  Even better if it can add value in some way, help, resolve, inspire or galvanise a particular onward journey or course of action.

Q: How are you attempting to inject art into your B2B marketing?

Image credit: Polymer Arts blog 

B2B Digital Marketing Priorities 2013 – my webinar and slides!

This past Friday (11 January) I joined Dave Chaffey for the Smart Insights Marketing Priorities conference on Bright Talk – where we and seven other leading digital illuminaries  offered our assessments on important digital elements marketers should consider for the coming year.

I encouraged B2B marketers to master the basics using a seven step approach to effective and meaningful B2B digital marketing – acting as a teaser for my new ebook “Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing” published exclusively on Amazon in December.

I used the analogy of being more owl like and less magpie like in terms of being seduced by shiny new digital things – instead following a robust goal based digital strategy.

The presentation focused on the importance of getting websites and SEO right before investing in any form of online promotion.

The webinar is embedded below. Or feel free to use this link to launch it at Bright Talk (you may well have to log in). The slides are also available separately on Slideshare here – and have been updated to reflect the feedback from the three votes as well as increasing the size and resolution of all the case studies.
A BrightTALK Channel
This was my first webinar so you can see we lost some time towards the end because of the questions and polls.  Do leave feedback and any questions below and I’ll be happy to moderate.

What are your B2B digital marketing priorities in 2013? Share below.

Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing – ebook B2B case studies

The interest in my new 440 page ebook Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing (co-authored with Dave Chaffey) and now available from Amazon for Kindle and Kindle apps, has been overwhelming and I’m thrilled to be able to answer questions.

One of the recurring questions is around the companies and case studies profiled in the book. As Amazon’s Look Inside feature doesn’t really help here (and because B2B covers a very broad spectrum of companies), I figured I’d pull together a quick list of the companies included so you can make your own decision to purchase.

(in rough chapter order – websites, search engine optimisation, content, social, CRM and email and integrated campaigns, evaluation)

The Engineer, Blackberry, BOC, UPS, Oliver Valves, Acer, Dell, Barclaycard, Skanska, Mint, Github, Ocean Spray ITG, RS Components, Salesforce, Atlas Copco, Mettler Toledo, BASF, Smart Insights, Nokia Siemens Networks, Espresso, BrightTalk, William Reed, Tata Steel, GE, Eloqua, HML, Packworld, Corning, Knauf, 3M, BDB, o2, PWC, Ingersoll Rand, Cisco, Saint Gobain, tna, The Construction Network, Gorvins Solicitors, Meltwater, Tyco, Claremont Interiors Group, Anglian, Google, Egan Reid, Hubspot, Experian, Active Profile, Perkin Elmer, Adobe, MarketBright, Marketo, Yahoo!, ThreeUK, Klout, Litmus.

I hope this convinces you this really is a true B2B digital marketing publication and not one looking at the B2B arm of predominantly consumer brands and businesses.

Get your copy of the book now by clicking here.

Why B2B digital marketing requires a new approach

There has been a very good reason why this blog has been left unloved for much of 2012. I started the year musing on the lack of credible B2B digital marketing texts available to modern marketers – so decided to write one.

In this blog post I lay out why it’s needed and what you can hope to get from it. Much more on B2B digital marketing to come over the weeks and months.

Marketing in complexity

Understanding, interpreting and delivering on customer needs has been the foundation of marketing for over one hundred years. Many business­-to-business (B2B) organisations are already successfully using digital marketing in specialist sectors like financial and professional services, IT and software, manufacturing, engineering or science.

Businesses have been buying and selling products to one another for hundreds of years. But, don’t let anyone tell you that B2B marketing isn’t different from marketing products to consumers. It is. B2B marketing often involves communicating challenging and niche product benefits to hard to reach and hard to engage B2B decision makers, through a complex purchase cycle taking them from unaware to purchase.

B2B requires a specialised skill-set and understanding of the psychology, the gestation period, differing information needs and complex operating environment in which specifers, influencers and decision makers work together to procure products and services on behalf of their companies.

Scarcity of advice

Yet, for business marketers, there is a limited amount of good quality, specific advice and best practice available to draw upon for the unique challenges and opportunities available from digital media.

Visibility in Internet search for B2B marketers is key. Companies that follow a stepped approach that creates touch-points, positive first impressions and a tangible interest to customers will see a return on digital marketing investment.

Up until now, there have been surprisingly few books or guides which address the unique challenges of promoting business products and services online, whether these are for companies which don’t sell online who are focused on lead generation and customer communications or online B2B retailers.

B2B marketers can still learn something from the many texts that focus on how global super brands like Apple, Starbucks, Coca Cola and Unilever build and promote their portfolios. Yet, it is often hard to relate what they do with their multi­million dollar budgets and unrivalled resource relevant to B2B campaigns.

Until now.

In my new (and first) full colour, 400+ page case-study and best practice packed Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing (published in association with Dr Dave Chaffey and Smart Insights), you’ll learn how to create a plan or simply work through all the issues you need to think about to make online B2B marketing more effective.

Available now from Amazon for Kindle and for all Kindle apps across a wide variety of PC, Mac and smartphone devices (check your app store, it will be free) it covers all the areas you need to review to take your online marketing to the next level if you market to other businesses.

These include:-

– creating a strategy and setting measurable goals

– building effective, high impact relevant websites

– optimising digital marketing for search

– using content and inbound marketing

– harnessing the most appropriate social media tools to engage target audiences

– developing deeper calls to action and eCRM

– using analytics to improve digital marketing

I hope it helps you to determine a clear pathway to improved digital marketing for your business and one that gives you the success you demand. Do please feedback, either here, on Twitter copying me @renepower using the hashtag #BrilliantB2B, via Linkedin.

And if you want to leave a review on Amazon, please feel free – nice ones may qualify for a kickback of some kind in 2013.

7 steps to brilliant b2b digital marketing; Preview at On the Edge, 10 October 2012

The blogging has been slow through 2012 because I’ve been working on a major project – a book dedicated to be b2b digital marketing. This work, published by Dave Chaffey’s Smart Insights website looks at a robust 7 step approach to digital marketing for b2b companies taking in strategy, websites, search, inbound content marketing, social media, lead generation and CRM and analytics and evaluation.

I’m very excited to say the book will soon be available from Amazon and iTunes (late October 2012) and for a limited time only it is available to Expert Members of the Smart Insights website. Visit http://www.smartinsights.com/guides/brilliant-b2b-digital-marketing-ebook/ to join the site and get the book early, and hundreds of other digital marketing resources for the next 12 months.

The first step of pre-promotion of the book took place in Manchester this week where I chaired and opened the On the Edge digital marketing event. The slides below give a flavour of the thought process under pinning the book and why it should be so useful to so many people.


There is nothing like this book for b2b marketers in the market right now. It has been been a labour of love and contains hundreds of best practice tips and dozens of b2b specific companies including 3M, Atlas Copco, BOC, BASF, Blackberry, Ingersoll Rand, Knauf, Nokia Siemens, Oliver Valves, Saint Gobain, Salesforce, Skanska, UPS and many more.

I’m thrilled to almost be at the point of release. Expect much more from me over the coming weeks on this exciting project and how can get involved in it.

Going beyond the status update – content marketing for b2b marketers

So this is my first blog post in a while since migrating the blog in it’s entirety from wordpress.com to a self hosted platform.

I wanted to share my presentation from the recent B2B Marketing Summit, in London on 14 June 2012. At this multi stream event, 150 b2b marketers had the opportunity to attend conference presentation across 4 streams including content marketing, social media, data and lead nurture and generation.

In opening up the day in the content marketing stream, I talked around an eight step approach to get people thinking more strategically about content – focusing on audience and their information needs at different stages of the buying process.


Please share the presentation if you agree with the central proposition and offer a comment or two on your own b2b content marketing challenges below.

Business blogging – my latest for Smart Insights

My latest effort for the influential UK digital marketing blog, Smart Insights is my third post in a series on business blogging. This piece concentrates on ways to ‘seed’ your blog posts once they have been written and published – so they are seen by as many people as possible.

 

The highlights include:-

1. Promoting it on your own website.

2. Using blog indexes.

3. Using email.

4. Using Twitter.

5. Using Linkedin.

6. Using Facebook.

7. Using bookmarks.

8. Using other content formats.

Visit the blog post to read more and also click on my name to read my previous business marketing posts on topics including social media for business, email marketing, using video in B2B and two posts on Facebook, one on how to use Facebook for business and one with lots of relevant Facebook business case studies showing best practice.

8 key issues to review to ensure your business blog supports company goals

My latest effort for the influential UK digital marketing blog, Smart Insights went live today. In it, I offer eight ways to ensure your blog does all it can to achieve company goals, including

1. Staying on topic.

2. The importance of keywords.

3. Being helpful.

4. Ensuring ‘stickiness’.

5. Following a formula.

6. Talking in multiple voices.

7.  The importance of good design.

8. Lead nurturing.

It’s the second in a series on business blogging. Click on experts and my name to read my previous B2B marketing related posts on social media for businessemail marketing, using video in B2B and two posts on Facebook, one on how to use Facebook for business and one with lots of relevant Facebook business case studies showing best practice.

Hope you find it useful.

2012 resolutions and commitments

Seth Godin explained yesterday the importance of commitment. To me, making a commitment and making a resolution are different – commitments are long term, new year’s resolutions by their nature are short-lived and likely to fail.

And Marc and Angel Hack Life offered great advice on ways to achieve better balance, productivity and all round well being in 2012.

What do you want to achieve in 2012? Do you shoot small (realistic, in the niche) or reach for the skies? Whatever your resolution, it needs commitment, otherwise it is an empty self promise destined for failure.

For what it’s worth and to give me something to check back on through 2012, here are mine.

1. Create a blog (and wider online brand) for The Marketing Assassin that adds value to the people that come across it and come to rely on it. Facebook page? Linkedin group? YouTube channel? Slideshare page? Downloadable free and paid  content? Yup, all in time.

2. Write 150 blog posts here in 2012 (that’s 3 a week). All, more provocative and hopefully more useful than the 330 which have gone before. (Helpfully, WordPress has just kindly sent me some killer statistics on what my readers like!)

3. Publish a book. Expect it by the middle of the year. The topic and platform you’ll have to wait for. There will be deal for subscribers, contributors and fans.

4. Build profile as an authority on digital and integrated B2B marketing at conferences and seminars throughout 2012.

5. Secure additional blog and column writing opportunities on digital and integrated B2B marketing.

I hope you join me for the ride. And I hope you can share the ride with people who you are in turn riding with!

Let’s make it a year to remember.