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!

 

Are large B2B companies any better at digital marketing?

A blog post this week looking at how the top 500 Fortune B2B companies approach digital marketing made for interesting reading.

Featured on Clickz.com Matthew Sweezey’s research painted a detailed picture of poor execution when it comes to critical areas like data capture, conversion and follow up. Only 25% of companies were routinely using forms within their content to stimulate engagement and discussion, most used forms for general conversion but asked way too many unnecessary questions creating a barrier to conversion. And, only 55% followed up a web based enquiry within 48 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of us don’t work for Fortune 500 or FTSE 100 companies. But this data is relevant because it highlights the golden opportunity for us in smaller enterprises, and how a little technical know-how and application could go a long way in improving outbound marketing, lead generation, conversion and customer service.

As most of us are not the leader in our chosen field, we have to be nimble and agile to take advantage of opportunities that come our way. It’s encouraging that larger companies, it seems, are not always so responsive and attentive to customer needs.

Perhaps you can see one or two things in this that you can use to your benefit as you market yourself, your business, your products and services over the coming months. It’s certainly given me something to ponder on.

Do you work for a large company? Is the digital marketing better/worse/easier/harder?

 

Selling B2B digital marketing to the C-suite

Need to get buy in to resource and investment in digital marketing? Keep reading to learn five ways to get the investment you need.

 

Whether it is ‘intangibles’ like up front strategy, planning and goal setting or ‘tangibles’ like websites, blogs, email systems, databases, social media accounts and more, you need to be able to bring your colleagues with you.

Arguing the case for an investment in digital marketing involves an understanding of the rules and vocabulary of the boardroom.

You have a digital footprint

Everything you and your business does online helps create a digital footprint which has immediate and far-reaching implications on your brand. Customers can make a spontaneous first impression of your capability and credibility so it is important to get it right. With some customers the impression made, the quality of presentation and substance of the content are so fundamental that poor first impressions rule you out for life.

The ability to track and trace

Encouragingly, digital marketing can be tracked in much more thorough ways than other more traditional techniques. An investment in overt migration of traffic towards websites, landing pages and other content hubs is a smart move and getting a view of impressions, clicks and visits helps to establish what works, what is valued and what is not. With the advent of the download, customers are now prepared to exchange contact data in exchange for worthwhile content that will aid their understanding of a given topic or help them in their role.

So, is it any wonder that if you don’t have a strategy that illustrates where you are, where you want to be and how you are going to get there, then when you ask for investment, senior managers appear reluctant?

The benefits of a digital strategy for a business are straight forward and clear:

  • It can deliver immediate, measurable return on investment.
  • It provides a consistent platform for brand communications and amplification in the most important, growing and innovating area of modern business.

Five things to remember when convincing senior and financial management about digital investment

1. Remember, they need your expertise

It’s not that the boardroom is hostile to the concept of digital marketing. A lack of confidence and lack of knowledge probably makes your board nervous. From their kids spending all their time on Facebook, to complicated smartphones to the rise of app culture, the value to B2B isn’t always easy to draw.

It’s your responsibility to bring them up to speed and always make recommendations with the company’s best interests at heart. Simple quick wins might involve internal training, shadowing on projects and visits to conferences and exhibitions to immerse in the industry. This will help you understand issues, trends and fuel strategic thinking.

2. Understand the language of finance

Those empowered with rubber-stamping business investment are invariably concerned about risk, return, cost and savings. With accountancy at their core, their perspective is the removal of excess expense. Consequently, unsubstantiated trends and crazes, new platforms – anything without a reasoned and robust strategy behind them – are not going to get financial backing.

3. Make attribution your friend

Marketing is all too often viewed as an extravagant overhead in many companies and is constantly under scrutiny. Finance Directors can be uncomfortable with marketing campaigns that cannot be measured, partly because of the rather mystical approach to attribution and the squabble that often takes place between marketing and sales teams.

But explaining the principles of media attribution models and the move away from ‘last click wins’ models can really help foster an understanding and buy-in to digital marketing expenditure. It can also help you explain the value of activities which are likely to be more effective in brand building and demand generation than traditional approaches.

4. Paint a picture of an improved future

Or so you might think. Try to build a compelling argument that makes the case for investment in marketing activity based on generating leads (risk), reports greater visibility of results (return), automating previously manual tasks (cost), delivers service at a reduced cost (save). It doesn’t have to be immediate – future time and resource cost savings are as powerful as real time ones.

5. Paint a picture of a future without it

Demonstrate, especially drawing on big industry trends and the activities of your primary competitors how not investing will actually have a devastating effect on the long term profitability of the business.

What challenges do you face in requesting (more) digital marketing investment? Share your challenges and tips below.

 

 

Download the new 440 page Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing eBook from Amazon today – for Kindle and Kindle apps for all devices and computers. 

 

Image credit: Telegraph blog

Ten reasons your B2B digital marketing probably isn’t doing what it should

Unfocused marketing activity generally leads to unsatisfactory results. This is magnified online where it is very easy to pour time and effort into tools that promise much but fail to deliver.

If you are marketing products and services to other businesses, return on investment is critical. If you aren’t thinking strategically you are wasting company time, effort and resource and not only harming the prospects of the business but also your own career prospects too.

Here are some common problems and ways to overcome them.

1. You’re directionless. Companies without a digital strategy don’t have clear strategic goals for what they want to achieve online in terms of gaining new customers or building deeper relationships with existing ones. Setting goals provides direction, makes it possible to decide on the best digital tools to use to support your business and sets a benchmark for evaluation.

2. You don’t have a powerful offer. A clearly defined Online Value Proposition (thanks Dave Chaffey) will help you differentiate your online service encouraging prospects and existing customers to engage initially and stay loyal.

3. You don’t know your online customers well enough. Google Analytics will help with volumes but won’t tell you how they think or what they want. You need to use other forms of feedback to identify customer need in order to optimally meet them.

4. You don’t know your online market share. Customer demand for online services may be underestimated if you haven’t researched this. This will make it difficult to know how you’re competing. Requirements online will be different from traditional channels with different types of customer profile and behaviour, competitors, propositions and options for marketing communications.

5. You’re not integrated, you’re ‘disintegrated!’ It’s all too common for digital to be placed in a silo whether that’s a specialist digital marketer, sitting in IT or a separate digital agency. Failing to integrate with other marketing activity is a missed opportunity and something you should work urgently to address.

6. You don’t have enough people/budget. Insufficient resource will be devoted to both planning and executing digital marketing activities and there is likely to be a lack of specific specialist skills, which will make it difficult to respond to competitive threats effectively.

7. You’re wasting the people, time and money you do have. Even if you do have sufficient resource it may be not deployed optimally. This is particularly the case in larger companies where you see different parts of the marketing organisation purchasing different tools or using different agencies for performing similar online marketing tasks.

8. You’re not optimising. Hopefully every marketer managing a business website employs Google Analytics. What is often missing is the reporting to senior management. An agreed strategy places a focus on the basics, which include goals that allow progress to continuous improvement of the key aspects like search marketing, site user experience, email and social media marketing.

9. You’re not agile enough to catch up or stay ahead. If you look at top online business brands like Blackberry, Dell, FedEx, Norton, Siemens as well as more consumer focused brands like Amazon, Tesco and Zappos, they are all dynamic – trialing new approaches to keep and/or gain online audiences.

10. More nimble existing and start-up competitors are likely to gain market share. If you’re not devoting enough resources to digital marketing or you’re using an ad hoc approach with no clearly defined strategies, you will lose out to your competitors.

Q: What other challenges do you face as a B2B marketer tasked with digital marketing?

Ten Linkedin business marketing mistakes to avoid

Many millions of people using Linkedin are missing out on the fantastic brand building opportunities new Linkedin presents. I say new because after several years of under-investment, Linkedin has gone functionality crazy of late.

Give your Linkedin profile a spring clean today, avoid these ten all-to-common mistakes and start to take the most of the platform as an unbeatable research and business development tool as well as an incredible brand builder.

1. Poor or non existent profile pictures. Who wants to see a faceless profile or worse a company or brand logo. Not me. As with all social media, add a profile picture.

2. Lack of clarity in titles and descriptions. Use keywords that best represent who you are and what stand for do.  That little box that tells you how many times you’ve been looked at – its down to keywords.

3. Lack of focus on achievements and what you add. Too many people fixate on titles when they should be focusing on your impact on sales, brand launches, new initiatives, or improvements in quality, process, training or operations if you are not in a commercial role.

4. Failure to use all available opportunities to promote via the profile page. There are some great links and embed opportunities. Use them. Add your website, a blog, a Twitter account, a Slideshare account.

5. Not having a thought out contact strategy or approach. Are you connected to all the people you’ve ever worked with rather than the people you want to sell to? Time to rethink who you want to be connected to by researching people using the search function, identifying key companies and seeking opportunities to informally approach them through Groups (see below). And don’t let Linkedin send a default invitation request. Tailor it giving a reason to connect – reference to a group, common contact or other common ground.

6. Not enough or over use of the status updates feature. Linkedin status updates containing tweets is one of the most frustrating parts of logging into new Linkedin. If you’re not careful a handful of people will take over your feed – luckily they can be hidden without dis-connecting. On the other side, don’t be a Linkedin bore. Update once / twice a day with something useful.

7. Not enough or over use of testimonials. These should matter. The best testimonials come from former managers, clients or customers. Asking your peers, team or suppliers to provide references just seems lame. Go for quality over quantity on this one. .

8. Being a lurker not a contributor in Groups. I estimate 1% of a Linkedin group’s membership actively engage in discussions within the group. What a missed opportunity. Getting involved in groups of like minded people is the cornerstone of the Linkedin experience. There is a group for almost everything on Linkedin. Search and sign up for one to try it out. There will be discussions taking place that you can add value to today!

9. Not building reputation through Answers. Like groups, this is a great feature to really build your profile as an expert in your field but as it is hidden away in the ‘More’ tab it is overlooked. Browse the categories and begin to provide feedback and recommendations to questions posed by other Linkedin members, worldwide.

10. Not fully populating your Company Page. This feature has developed in recent months with opportunities to add specific products and services linked to targeted landing pages and your Linkedin member colleagues.

Q: What other mistakes do you see made on Linkedin and how can they be avoided?

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.

Business blogging – my post for Smart Insights

My latest effort for the influential UK digital marketing blog, Smart Insights went live today. In it, I offer a dozen ways to kickstart your blog writing – which should help ensure you never run out of things to blog about ever again.

The highlights include:-

1. Solve an industry problem.

2. Use data to make your point.

3. Comment on breaking news.

4. Be provocative.

5. Provide a resource list.

6. Focus on keywords.

7.  Use existing material.

8. Report the news.

9. Write a round up.

10. Write up an event.

11. Write up a case study

12. Offer guest posts.

For more detail please visit the blog post and also click on my name to read my previous B2B marketing related posts on 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.

Making the case for Facebook in b2b marketing

The first of my two part series exploring how business-to-business marketers are using Facebook has recently gone live at Smart Insights.

The aim of the first post was to assess the contributing factors to using (or not using Facebook) and to start to outline some of the strategies that might be deployed.

 

Facebook offers tremendous opportunities to develop deeper ties with customers and prospects and to tap into their perspective and insights. I challenge any B2B company to review the 64 approaches above and not find one that they might benefit from.

I’ll be following it up with a post highlighting some examples of best practice B2B best practice. Should readers have come across some examples that would be worthy of sharing, please do drop me a line or leave a comment below.