Mindsailing recently won an Aster Gold award for a national health care client’s B2B website. We’re proud of the recognition we received, but the real accomplishment will be in helping more folks in the industry navigate an ever-changing and increasingly complex assignment.
How to succeed in the plan/design/build process of a B2B website?
The pressure for digital excellence continues to rise. According to Forrester, 68% of B2B customers prefer to research independently online. And according to Google, 71% of these searches begin with a generic query.1 This means they are searching by their needs and not your solution, features or benefits. We should be able to respond to that, right? Unfortunately, not really. Here are some of the top challenges we’ve seen our clients face.
Common challenges for B2B website planning, design and build
· Competing objectives. Digital, brand, sales, service and marketing teams are all tasked with specific goals. But what if those goals compete inside a website? For example, what if making something mobile-ready limits your ability to engage a CXO with the right content? What if achieving domain authority requires changing some long-standing key messages?
· Varying degrees of digital expertise. Everyone has some digital experience, but not every stakeholder is an expert — especially with the rate of change happening in the search, social and mobile environments. How can you serve up the right insights at the right time to help guide internal decision makers and inspire their confidence?
· Shared authority. By design, there are many voices and motivations within your company, often with very strong and differing opinions about the website. What techniques can you employ to satisfy each stakeholder and reassure them that their mandates will not be put at risk? How will decision-authority be determined?
· Speaking to a diverse set of audiences. Even if you only sell one product or service, the number of people involved in B2B purchases is now said to be up to 6.8 people.2 How will you address that range of users on your site? What user personas have you developed? How defined are your customer journeys?
· Defining the right priorities. Website design and functionality impact operational, financial, sales and marketing functions. How will you project, prioritize and measure that impact to satisfy everyone? Will your requirements document suffice? What analytics need to be in place? How will those analytics be shared and acted upon moving forward?
· Remembering websites are never done. Often there is a big push for a website to go live. Depending on the size of the enterprise, this can take months or even years. But results are only achieved well after a site launch. Google needs to register your content, and users need to visit, share and work their way through your sales funnel. Content needs to be refreshed to stay relevant and search-worthy. SEM, social and marketing automation needs to be engaged. How will your organization sustain support? How will you convince them that is a key success factor?
Digital leaders can find success
1. Build the right team or set of teams.
Typically, an internal team includes an executive sponsor, representatives from sales, product, marketing, brand and your own internal digital experts. Sometimes there can be gaps as employees transition in and out of key roles.
The right agency(ies) can round out that expertise and help you close gaps. They can bring an unbiased viewpoint, providing insight that internal perspectives may not see. The right vendor can facilitate workshops to build consensus, confirm decisions and educate stakeholders on the latest best practices in user testing, information architecture, system integration, user journeys, SEO, SEM and social. According to the Harvard Business Review, one of the biggest obstacles to meeting goals is a failure to align.3 An agency can help you accomplish that internally, while demonstrating an ability to coordinate with other external partners you engage.
Success means: Finding a vendor that has proven to act like a partner.
2. Employ a process that drives excellence while reassuring stakeholders.
Stakeholder engagement is the key to success. And your process should appropriately involve, educate, inspire and respect each role at every step. Websites can sometimes be fraught with politics or uncertainty, and navigating those barriers is just as important as digital excellence.
Discovery presents an early opportunity to engage and inform stakeholders. It’s also an opportunity to look for differing viewpoints and areas of confusion or tension. Your agency should be adept at stakeholder interviews and shared data reviews.
During Planning or Strategy, the expertise in search, social, marketing automation, digital platforms and content is documented. Letting your agency share insights with key stakeholders reinforces your goals and sheds light on potential challenges going forward. It also confirms that each stakeholder has been heard and acknowledged. Your agency should be adept at facilitating workshops and gaining agreements on site requirements, user persona, keywords, wireframes and testing methodologies.
The Design stage is often the most fraught. There are real technical requirements to meet, and many stakeholders don’t have a line of sight into those demands. Often it seems like their vision has evaporated. Agencies can act as an unbiased partner and help explain why design, content and functional choices get made and how they can evolve going forward. All of these decisions are critical — 38% of people say they will stop engaging with a website if the design is flawed.4 User testing can also offer strong validation into the wisdom of these design decisions.
Collaborating effectively with internal stakeholders and other external partners brings out the best from all parties. And the larger the organization, the more flexible the process will need to be. Your partners are there to offer expertise, guide the process and respond to changing demands.
Success means: Guiding an approach that can connect to all stakeholders while responding to changing business needs and dynamics.
3. Quantify success metrics
Large projects like websites need objective compass points that everyone can rally around and use to anchor their decision making. These can depend on historical data, but don’t need to. For example, if the broader group agrees to revenue goals, conversions, domain authority, and even a go-live date, this can facilitate decisions and prioritize activity. These are business needs that layer above page views, time on site, downloads, shares and other actions that happen throughout the sales cycle.
Success means: Reaching agreement on the value a website will bring to the business, then socializing it across the organization.
4. Optimize the schedule
With so many competing priorities, it can seem nearly impossible to gain momentum. We’ve seen almost every trick in the book used to motivate teams into action, and we’ve seen the goal posts move. Your agency partner can help you take advantage of opportunities to steam forward and focus decision-makers at key intervals. They can also help you stay in front of key dependencies and prepare for any related implications.
Success means: Making milestone dependencies and action items easy to understand for all stakeholders.
Are you looking for a partner who can adapt to changing business dynamics and new technologies? Get in touch.