Industrial Website Design Strategy — Guiding visitors to critical actions to generate MQLs and SQLs
Your B2B website has a very important job. It must attract, educate, inform, engage and ultimately convert new prospects of two types: those who are ready to talk to sales, and those who are in-target but not yet ready to buy.
If they’re not ready to buy, you want them to be engaged enough to provide contact information so that you can continue to nurture the lead.
How do you guide visitors into taking action? Maybe you’ve heard that the key to a great user experience is to look at your website through the eyes of…a user! True, but it’s a two-way street. The best B2B industrial marketing websites will give prospective customers exactly what they need and are looking for, but also provide them with what you, as a vendor or solution provider, need the user to know. You want them to feel that they’re making an informed decision—and to actually be informed—when they choose to take action on your website. You also want to make it very clear and simple for them to act.
An industrial website design that successfully generates marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs) is a happy marriage of what the user is looking for and what you need them to know in order to be convinced that you’re the answer.
Recommended B2B SQL and MQL strategies
For your website to be great at its primary job—converting visitors into MQLs and SQLs—it’s important to first make sure that you’re attracting the right people, and that it’s clear to them what you do, in a language that they understand. Once you’ve addressed that, it’s time to think about what you want them to do.
For most marketing websites, the answer is simply “give us their contact information.” With contact information, you can:
- Have the sales team follow up and close the deal, or
- Market to the contact and nurture the relationship until they’re ready to buy.
If your products are suitable for e-commerce, or sold through a distribution channel with those capabilities, you might want the user to make a purchase, but in this article we’ll focus primarily on options A and B.
To cover both options, a B2B industrial website must provide:
- adequate overview information on what you do, typically on the homepage,
- overview and detailed information on your products and service offerings,
- case studies,
- information about the company and its history, and
- an easy way to make contact.
In the next section, we’ll take a deeper dive into each of these bullet points.
Ultimately, your industrial website design needs to check the boxes for all of the questions that a prospect might be asking, consciously or subconsciously, as they visit the website. Can this provider help me solve my problem? Do they understand my situation? Do they have experience and knowledge from doing similar things before? Will they be easy to work with and help me succeed professionally? Do I trust them?
Intertwined with the critical information and pages on the website, you’ll need to suggest next steps, in both subtle and straightforward ways. These next steps are the critical actions that result in MQLs and SQLs for your company.
Drive SQLs or Sales Qualified Leads from primary CTAs
When a prospect completes an online form, they trust you enough to share their name, phone number and email address and agree to talk to your salespeople. Technical audiences tend to only take this step when they’re convinced you can solve their problem and they’re sure they can derive value from talking with you.
To guide prospects into filling out your contact form, your industrial web design has to provide information that convinces them you can solve their problem. Beginning with the homepage, which orients a prospective new customer to your business, each section of the website should answer certain questions:
- Homepage: Does this company do what I am looking for? What differentiates them? What areas do they focus on, or what specific products/services do they offer? What is their specialty?
- Product/service pages: What are the specifics on how their offerings work, and will they be compatible with my problem/situation?
- Industry/application pages: Does this company understand my unique needs, and are they experienced in my specific application? Have they done this enough that they know more about my problem than I do?
- Case studies: How has this company solved unique problems before? Do they have the experience to solve my problem? How do they go about solving problems, and what is the process like?
- About: How long has this company been around? Can I trust them to continue to be around, and to be a key supplier into the future?
Once you’ve convinced them—better yet, while you’re convincing them—you want to make it extremely clear, simple and easy for them to take action.
Typical calls to actions (CTAs) use language like “get a quote,” “contact us” or “start the conversation.” A CTA can take the form of a button in the upper right-hand corner of every page, as well as a prominent callout or simple form on the footer of every page.
Product and service pages, as well as resource articles, should also end with a text-based CTA that connects a problem discussed in the article with how you can help the prospect.
CTAs should be pervasive (on every page), so the prospect sees the patterns for where they’ll show up on any page they visit, and never has to think hard about finding a place to click once they’ve determined that they’re ready. If someone is on the fence and has to hunt around for a button or form, they might decide to put off making contact—which leaves time for a competitor to gain their attention and capture the lead.
CTAs should be tasteful and fit in with the overall design of the page, but they should attract attention rather than blend in.
Attract MQLs or Marketing Qualified Leads from soft conversions
Visitors to your website aren’t always ready to buy, and in that case they don’t want to waste their time talking to salespeople. In fact, at any given moment, it’s often the case that most of your total addressable market is not ready to buy. Your goal as a marketer is to be top of mind when they become ready.
Website visitors who match your key personas but don’t have a project or need on their radar right now are likely prospects for the future, and you can start building trust in their eyes now. The goal is to convert their anonymous web visits into an exchange for their contact information, so that you can nurture the relationship in a helpful, non-salesey way, priming them for a future purchase and supporting positive word of mouth.
For these visitors, you want to keep useful information flowing without putting up a lot of barriers. These early-in-the-process researchers might be very interested in and actively reading your product or service content, industry information, case studies and other resources. When you keep the information flowing, without a required form or “gate,” you gain the trust of this audience. The practice of gating content is not an all or nothing proposition, however.
There are types of content that are a “value-add,” providing additional detail, depth and career-influencing advice, and these offer great opportunities for a reasonable exchange. With a well crafted industrial website design, the prospect sees enough potential value in the gated material to be willing to provide their email address to gain access to it. Examples of this type of content are white papers, calculators, e-newsletter or email subscriptions, and webinars. The more compelling your content and offerings are, and the more you’re able to demonstrate and provide value to website visitors, the more likely you’ll convert them into subscribers and eventual customers.
Opportunities for MQL conversions are a bit more varied and nuanced than the SQL CTAs. The MQL conversion CTAs are more situational, as compared to the SQL CTAs that are ever-present in the same places throughout the website. Think of the MQLs as something like a conversational tool, to be offered when it makes sense in context, vs. the SQL CTAs that are ever-present in predictable locations.
We recommend always showing the prospect a portion of the content of whatever you’re gating, in order to gain their trust and entice them to read the rest of the resource. The mechanisms for prompting an MQL conversion can include:
- A form that pops up a fourth or a third of the way through a lengthy white paper article, asking for an email address to continue reading.
- A webinar overview page that outlines the topics covered and key takeaways, paired with a registration form.
- A calculator that gives high-level results on a web page, but provides the opportunity to access a more detailed result after filling out a short form.
- An exit intent popup form, which pops up when a visitor is about to leave your website, offering a message like, “Before you go, download this useful whitepaper or guide on XYZ topic.”
- A short form to subscribe to insights and articles within the resource section of your website.
How to define user flows/paths toward MQLs and SQLs
Now that you’ve seen some of the patterns that work for gaining conversions, the next step for your unique marketing situation is to map out what your MQL and SQL conversion points are, and then figure out how you’ll get people there. You need to determine the right language for CTAs and put those CTAs into place, and you need to make sure you’re offering useful content. This is something you might have to build out over time as you consider the evolution of your industrial website design.
When an in-target, ready-to-talk-to-sales prospect visits your website, attract them with the right language. What words might they use if they were talking to you instead of looking at your website? Would they say, “I want to get a quote” or “I want to talk to an engineer”? Think through this, and even talk to the sales team about what your target prospects might call this stage of the buying process.
Use the most succinct and universal version of that language for your ever-present contact/get a quote button in the upper right corner of your website header, and use a more conversational version in the universal website footer.
When someone earlier in the funnel, or not even in the buying process, visits your website, this is more nuanced. A good way to map this out is by starting with valuable content or information you have now that would have a high value to your prospects, or content that could be easily generated or adapted in the future. Here are some examples:
- If you have several high-quality articles around a specific topic, you might be able to repurpose them as the basis for a comprehensive whitepaper.
- If you’re emailing your marketing list regularly, it’s a no-brainer to give people the ability to sign up for news and resources on your website.
- If you have a very useful existing PDF such as a materials guide, or another tool that helps in the specifying process, it could be a candidate for a page that shares some of the information, but asks the prospect to fill out a form to gain access to the full resource.
- If you have a marketing automation tool like HubSpot in place, it’s very easy to set up an exit-intent form on your website to give visitors one last chance to take action before they leave the site.
The key with MQLs is to make creating these conversion points a priority, and to continue adding them throughout your website as you generate content, in places where it seems natural and where you’re genuinely offering added value to the prospect.
Planning your website around marketing strategy and ROI
By incorporating named, planned CTAs for both SQL and MQL conversions into your website strategy, you’ll see improved traction over time as you measure your lead conversion in terms of quality and quantity.
Start measuring now, including implementing a deal quality report to measure the quality and source of all of the conversions on your website. Initially it might seem disappointing to see conversions that are “just” MQLs. Building that list, however, allows you to multiply the results of your email and content marketing efforts as the list is nurtured over time. As MQLs begin to convert to sales prospects, they’ll already be pre-sold to a greater degree than those that just found out about you.
To ensure that this list remains engaged, and you’re actively reaching them (without driving them away by trying to jump into sales mode before they’re ready), work in multiple touchpoints and avenues, including remarketing ads, ongoing email campaigns based around educational content, webinar offerings. Internally, monitor engagement using lead scoring, which is a process that can be automated to let you know exactly how engaged the prospect is with your content, and can alert sales when a prospect might be ready for a conversation. .
No wonder B2B and industrial website strategy is complex. These websites are much more than attractive postcards. They’re hard-working multitaskers.
Guiding visitors to critical actions is one of our eight key principles for a B2B industrial website design strategy. Your goal is a site with engaging content that answers the questions that your prospects are asking and offers them clear opportunities to provide their contact information.
Looking for a deeper understanding of when, why and how to redesign your B2B website? Check out a webinar, or learn more about our upcoming on-demand virtual course, B2B Website Strategy for Lead Generation.