How To Plan a B2B Industrial Website Redesign That Increases Lead Quality and Quantity
If you’re like many B2B marketers, you’re overstretched, trying to “do it all” while catching up to modern marketing methods that seem to be changing on a daily basis.
You know that your website is the hub of your marketing, your brand’s most visible asset, and your biggest opportunity for marketing success in a post-Covid world. But where to start?
Maybe you have a website that was redesigned recently, but simply isn’t performing well, or maybe you have an aging website with a mountain of outdated content to sift through.
You’re probably working with numerous internal stakeholders whose needs and opinions must be considered in any planning efforts, and you might be facing increasing pressure to get the website working better—yesterday, if possible.
This article is your guide to getting a strategy- and marketing-first website project off the ground.
Your end goal: increasing the website’s value as a marketing tool and increasing lead quality and quantity, while also: supporting the sales team, helping existing customers, attracting talent, pleasing internal stakeholders, producing a positive ROI, being easy to update into the future, connecting to other systems, and meeting all of the other criteria that make for a successful project. The website has a lot of jobs to do!
Whether it’s time for a redesign or you intend to make agile improvements over time, this guide will step you through eight principles to guide the process.
- Principle #1: Define the needs and goals
- Principle #2: Know your audience
- Principle #3: Articulate who you are
- Principle #4: Guide visitors to critical actions
- Principle #5: Prioritize features
- Principle #6: Plan critical content
- Principle #7: Organize the homepage and navigation
- Principle #8: Write the strategic plan
Principle #1: Define the needs and goals
Also known as: Current state – future desired state; analytics, KPIs, benchmarks
“Begin with the end in mind” is a useful approach to planning any initiative by working backwards from what you want to achieve. For your website redesign:
- Identify what’s working and not working currently
- Understand your current performance/analytics
- Clearly define objectives and goals for your website
To clearly define objectives and goals for a new website and make the business case for the expenditure, you’ll want to identify what’s currently working and not working. You might know on a gut level, but be sure to take a close look at your analytics so that you really understand the situation. The last thing you want to do is embark upon a website project without clarity on why it’s needed.
Some people might not want to participate in planning but will get more interested when there are designs to see. This can derail your progress and create scope creep! Scope creep leads to budget increases and timeline delays.
It’s important to have a project brief that clearly outlines your goals. If you don’t plan them out now, you’re looking for your external agency partner to do this work for you, and they can’t be the subject matter expert on your business and its needs.
If you’re counting on going through a process of interviewing multiple agencies, or working with a design/dev team to do the bulk of the planning for you, you might not end up with what’s in your best interest from a marketing standpoint.
Make sure that any agency has experience and a declared specialty in your industry, to ensure that they can guide you in a direction that will ultimately help your business succeed, instead of padding their portfolio or awards list.
Better yet, since ultimately your career success hinges on the results, arm yourself with some knowledge so that you can be an active, collaborative contributor to the planning process, and help to ensure that your future state will bring you success.
Note – Windmill Strategy does provide industry-aware planning for our customers in the B2B industrial, technical and manufacturing space, but we’re providing this guide in order to help a wider audience, and give you some insight into the principles we think about in our process.
To determine your website’s current performance, start by calculating the number of leads coming from your website on a monthly basis and the percentage of them that are of good quality. From there, set goals for improvement in lead quality and quantity, and use an ROI calculator to measure the potential benefit of website improvements. Look at leading indicator metrics such as overall traffic, bounce rate, and time per session.
Learn more about defining the needs and goals
Principle #2: Know your audience
Also known as: ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) and Personas
- Identify your highest value customer groups and define your ideal customer profile (ICP)
- Interview customers to get more detail on what they’re looking for (or shortcut by talking to sales)
- Create high-level personas
First and foremost, you need to define your audience and their needs. Seeing the entire website through the eyes of your highest value customer groups and what they’re looking for will guide a good customer experience and greater lead generation.
To be clear: your ICP describes the ideal company that is your customer. Personas describe the individuals within those companies. Both concepts are important, but we recommend keeping it simple by focusing on ICP first, then high-level personas.
You can interview customers to learn more about what they’re looking for. You can also go straight to the sales team to talk about ideal customers and what customers want. Search for patterns among who is a good customer or what makes a good sale or project, and prioritize them.
You or your sales team might say, “We’ll sell any of our services to anyone who wants them.” Well, of course you will, but planning based on this scenario will not create a website that is a fine-tuned lead-generating marketing tool! Focusing your website on your best prospects and guiding them along a path toward what you most want them to do will make your website a fine-tuned lead-generating marketing tool. That doesn’t preclude serving other customers, too.
Read more about knowing your audience
Principle #3: Articulate who you are
Also known as: Positioning & SEO
- Clearly outline what you do, who it’s for, and why people should care in a draft positioning statement
- Identify critical services/products and revenue drivers
- Identify key SEO keywords
Does your website’s initial view clearly outline what you do and who it’s for, and why prospects should care? If not, this is one of the highest-impact activities that you can embark upon, and also one of the easiest to implement, once the wordsmithing is done.
Spend some time crafting a draft positioning statement for the homepage hero. Clarify the positioning first; tweak the wording later, if needed.
Identify your most critical services, products and revenue drivers, which should be featured prominently on your redesigned website. What are your most important applications and industries? Search engine optimization will be important:
What keywords do you think your best customers are using to describe your offerings as a whole and your specific products or services? Identify topics and sub-topics, including product names and generic terms. Many keyword research tools are available to help.
These are important building blocks for B2B website success.
Learn how to articulate who you are with positioning and SEO
Principle #4: Guide visitors to critical actions
Also known as: MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads), SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads), CTAs (Calls to Action)
Define how your website fits into your digital marketing strategy and sales strategy so that the site is planned around marketing success (vs. just being an attractive website or something that primarily pleases internal stakeholders).
- Define your SQLs (primary CTAs)
- Define your MQLs (soft conversions)
- Define user flows/paths toward MQLs and SQLs
- Define how your website fits into your digital marketing strategy and sales strategy so that the site is planned around marketing ROI.
Don’t let what “looks nice” or a laundry list of requests from internal stakeholders drive your website design. This risks its most important function: generating quality leads. Most UX designers at reputable marketing agencies know this by now, but some do not. Take charge of the strategy to make sure that your website is built as a purposeful marketing tool, with thought given to how it will attract, engage and convert prospects.
You’ll need to plan user paths and calls to actions for sales-qualified leads (SQLs, a.k.a. hand raisers who are ready to talk to sales) and MQLs (marketing-qualified leads, or soft conversions—people who might download gated content or subscribe to content).
Create a plan for how MQLs can be nurtured and monitored for engagement, so that sales can reach out at the right time. How will you plan for multiple personas to navigate through case studies, industry/application pages, blog posts/resources, gated content, service/product pages, about, contact and home pages? There are many touchpoints in a B2B digital marketing strategy.
Learn how to guide visitors to critical actions
Principle #5: Prioritize features
Also known as: Managing multiple stakeholders and wishlists, competitor research, prioritization via MoSCoW
Get as much clarity as possible right out of the gate. This will help you avoid scope creep and unwelcome surprises later.
Multiple stakeholders on your team will all want different things, and it can add up to everybody wanting everything. It’ll help to take a step back and remember that the website is meant as a communication and sales tool to appeal to and serve your customers and prospects—it’s not a reflection of your company’s org chart or internal departments. You’ll need to:
- Plan & prioritize features, while managing team expectations and avoiding scope creep
- Get input from internal stakeholders
- Perform competitive research
- Prioritize and justify your plan according to revenue and business objectives
Make a list of features that addresses organizational and sales needs and things you’ve learned from customer interviews about what customers need and want. Take a look at what your most marketing-savvy competitors are doing on their websites and see what you might be missing.
Once you’ve gotten input from everyone on the internal team, too, begin prioritizing, putting the marketing and sales needs front and center. Think through what are the “must haves” and the “nice to haves” that could be prioritized later, after the most impactful items are taken care of.
A phased approach to redesigning your website could be the best move—your site will go live with what you really need sooner and you’ll use your budget more strategically.
Avoid creating a “laundry list” RFP—the one that’s packed full of requirements that might not be relevant to your marketing strategy and might even contradict one another.
The MoSCoW process brings some objectivity to the process of prioritizing features, which can help make team members feel heard and acknowledged, even if their most-wanted feature—a dealer portal, let’s say—is a “won’t have” this time around but is slated for a second phase a year from now.
Learn how to determine the right features for your website
Principle #6: Plan critical content
Also known as: Content Strategy
Content strategy is the ongoing process of translating business objectives and goals into a plan that uses content as a primary means of achieving those goals. Here, as elsewhere, planning and prioritization are key.
- Create a prioritized list of needed content types
- Create a plan and accountabilities to jump-start content development
Think through the user paths and features noted in earlier principles, and note what content is needed to support them. What content is already in existence in some form and just needs to be updated?
What content is ready to go? What content will need to be created from scratch? What could you do, immediately, working primarily from what is already partially formed?
Now, before any website redesign is even started, is the best time to create a prioritized list of needed content types so you can jump-start content development.
Most website project stakeholders end up being the primary content writers, and you’ll want to give yourself as much of a leg up on this portion as possible. In addition to knowing what types of content need to be put into the UX (see Principle #7), you can begin prioritizing what needs to be created.
Writing content, and allocating time to write content, is the number-one issue that delays website projects. Even though it seems like you have a lot of time, don’t wait. Set milestone deadlines and have someone else hold you accountable to meeting weekly deadlines, so that progress gets made on time.
Learn how to translate business objectives and goals into a plan
Principle #7: Organize the homepage and navigation
Also known as: UX, User experience
A user’s experience on your homepage, prompting them to stay engaged and go deeper into the site, is in large part a function of the main navigation and site structure. The customer or prospect needs to know they’re in the right place—that your content is relevant and valuable to their business needs.
- Define your main navigation and site structure
- Create a wireframe of your homepage
Define preliminary site architecture and UX for your website, in order to strategically guide the production efforts and outcome, and guide the customer’s experience.
Your website team should be able to perform this step, but, by being informed on what makes a good UX strategy and how the pieces work, you can ensure success, provide informed feedback, guide an internal team, and avoid design by committee. We have some recommendations on how to construct a homepage that turns visitors into leads.
Lean how to organize your homepage website user experience for your industrial marketing website
Principle #8: Write the strategic plan
Also known as: Writing the brief, Creative Brief, RFP, Sprint Planning
- Create a plan that allows you to drive a website redesign toward success.
- Prioritize a plan for agile rollout to an existing website.
- Plan how marketing channels interact with your website
Create a brief that you can send to prospective vendors and/or an internal or freelance team that creates clarity on the need and allows you to drive the strategy toward success.
Many companies contact multiple agencies with more or less a blank slate request of “we want a new website.” They see how the companies each approach the problem and solution, and choose a firm based on which approach they like the best. If you do it this way, you might just choose the firm that was hungriest for the work and willing to do the most solutioning before they get paid; this might not generate the highest quality result for you..
Instead, ideally, you want apples-to-apples quotes, and a true comparison of how well each company can understand you and address your unique needs (vs. fitting you into their vision or proprietary tools). By having a clear picture of what your goals are and how to strategize the project up front, you’re a more informed, empowered buyer.
However, on the flip side, you might be tempted to get overly formal and call this an RFP, or include a wishlist of everything under the sun (after all, you’ve gathered a lot of ideas up until now). If you do this, you may not be taken seriously by some vendors, and others will have difficulty seeing the most important pieces through the noise. Focus on the most important elements, and include the MoSCoW framework as a way to guide the process.
Many higher-quality agencies steer away from engaging in RFPs as they’re too restrictive, and because it’s common for companies to send out a blanket RFP to a large number of agencies and simply select the lowest bidder. The best approach is to do your homework and hand-select a small number of possible partners.
Don’t call it an RFP, but do have a plan.
Learn how to write a strategic plan for your B2B industrial website
This guide is just an overview of the things to consider as you start a website redesign or agile improvement project. To learn more about all of these topics, watch our recent webinar on planning your B2B industrial website redesign to increase lead quality and quantity, or request information on joining our upcoming on-demand virtual course. Happy Planning!