Writing a Strategic Plan for your B2B Industrial Website – Whether Redesigning or Continuously Improving
Whether you’re embarking on a website redesign project or seeking to make agile improvements over time to an existing industrial website, starting with a solid strategic plan at the outset is the most important step. After all, who hasn’t heard the old adage, “Failing to plan = planning to fail?”
Your plan needn’t be onerous or overly complicated, but it must be thorough enough to ensure that efforts toward a new and/or improved industrial website (whether the execution is done internally or externally) drive your business toward increased sales and marketing success. All too often, too many cooks are in the kitchen. Competing demands from different departments can allow the primary focus and objectives to be overpowered by internal politics or individual goals. The designer may have one vision, the developer another.
We find it’s best to start from a strategic roadmap that’s focused on marketing goals, and then allow all of the disciplines (design, development, copy, SEO) to weigh in and collaborate from there on how best to produce it. This often results in changes to the strategic plan, of course, but starting from that initial plan helps to keep everyone collaborating efficiently.
If you’re redesigning an industrial website, sometimes this type of plan is called a strategy brief, creative brief, creative strategy brief or RFP (although RFPs can often be much longer and sometimes restrictive). If you’re making iterative improvements to an existing site, it can simply be referred to as a sprint planning document.
Before starting any website strategic plan document, you should think through:
- What are your overall website goals and objectives?
- Who is the website for? (Your ICP and key personas)
- What products or services are your primary marketing focus and the basis of your positioning?
- What are the critical actions that you want users to take, in order to become MQLs and SQLs?
- What key features should be made prominent to engage users?
- What content have you identified that is critical to engage, inform, and inspire users to take action?
- What is your navigation and homepage user experience strategy?
Create a strategic website redesign plan
Your goal in this activity is to create a plan 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 look at 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. Likewise, turning internal production teams loose with a blank slate might or might not yield the most strategic outcome. With your website acting as the hub of all of your marketing, it’s important to have a strategic stake in the outcome.
Here are our guidelines for the areas you should cover in an initial planning document that you can flesh out into a fully fledged creative brief or strategy brief in subsequent steps.
1) Needs and Goals
Current state: Consider your website as it is at this moment. What’s working? What’s not working?
Competition: Which companies are your top three competitors? Take a look at their websites and figure out where you have the opportunity to gain market share with a more effective industrial website.
Top 3 lead generation, marketing, brand and content goals: Write them out in concrete terms. In addition, describe the desired future state.
Top 3 KPIs for the website: These are up to you to determine. Usually, they are an increase in lead quality, an increase in lead quantity and a traffic and/or engagement goal. You may have other goals, as well.
2) Audience (ICP & Key Personas)
Ideal Customer Profile: This refers to a company, not an individual. Think about your ideal customer’s company size in dollars and people, project size in dollars and annual budget in dollars. In addition, what are the types of projects, needs or applications your ideal customer comes to you for? Which industries or groups of industries constitute your ideal customer? Finally, is there a practical geographical limitation, or a desirable geography?
Primary Persona (Influencer) and Primary Persona (Buyer): For both, answer these questions: What is their age range? What is their day like? What keeps them up at night? What do they call a solution? How do they search for it? How do they benefit from your offering?
3) Positioning & SEO
Draft Positioning and Reassurance Statements: What does your company do, who do you serve and what’s unique? The positioning statement will eventually need to be very concise. The reassurance statement is where you can include additional supporting information.
Primary Keywords: Which keywords do you know are important? Are there any keywords for which your site already ranks well?
SEO/Positioning Notes: If SEO and positioning don’t line up yet, provide your team some guidance on how to proceed. Both need to be authentic to what your company actually delivers to customers.
4) Critical Actions
Sales-qualified leads (SQLs): What is the primary CTA for SQLs and what critical content is missing to support SQLs?
Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs): What are the action mechanisms for short-term and longer-term MQLs, and what content will support MQLs?
5) Feature Prioritization
In your initial plan for the website, write out what you know in four areas: what the project MUST include, SHOULD include, COULD include and WON’T include.
6) Content & Content Strategy
Content is the biggest stumbling block in many website projects. Begin with a rough draft content strategy and timeline. By what date will you be committed to having enough quality content to launch? There are different approaches to creating content internally and/or with external help. Select one of the following for your copywriting needs, filling in the number of key pages:
- We will need interviewing, writing, and editing services for approximately __ key pages.
- We will need writing services, working from a draft from our SMEs, for approximately __ key pages.
- We will need editing services, working from rough drafts generated internally, for approximately __ key pages.
7) Homepage and Navigation Rough Draft
Draft the main navigation, knowing that you can revise, rename and add to it as needed. Think of it as the Table of Contents for your website. Also draft the sections of your homepage, knowing you can revise and refine this as you proceed.
Prioritize a plan for agile rollout to an existing website
If you’ve gone through the above exercise, you have a good starting point for an industrial website redesign project, which will generally follow a fairly prescribed waterfall process (wireframes, design/copy/SEO, development, launch). If you’re working on improvements to an existing industrial website, you’ll have the benefit of seeing smaller, impactful changes sooner, but you’ll need to do some additional planning.
Looking over all of the proposed items in the strategic plan, evaluate and prioritize based on:
- Which items will yield the biggest impact?
- Which items are the easiest to implement?
This will help you put together a project plan that allows you to tackle the quickest, and most important items first, before turning your attention to potentially longer-term improvements.
Next, evaluate how many hours, per person, your team can devote to the project per week or per month. With the aid of realistic time estimates from the people doing the work, step out a plan over the course of weeks or months. A tool like Trello will allow you to see what activities are planned for the current “sprint” (which could be a week or month increment, in most cases) and which are planned for the next sprint.
Invariably, additional ideas will come up in the process of actively improving a website, and you can always evaluate whether a new idea is more important or urgent than what was already planned. If it is, it can take precedence and bump the other activity to a subsequent sprint. If it’s not more important, the new idea can be added to a backlog for future evaluation.
As you begin to make progress on your task, keep the original plan front and center, but don’t be afraid to treat it as a living document when new information is uncovered that steers the strategy one way or another. Just keep those marketing goals front and center.
Holding regular check-ins on progress and weekly or monthly sprint meetings will help to keep everyone focused on the tasks at hand and also evaluate whether too much, or too little, work is being assigned. This will be useful information for planning future sprints that are realistic and attainable.
Plan how marketing channels interact with your industrial website
Finally, while your industrial website is the hub of your marketing, it’s not the only element. If you’ve been following the steps above and working with an SEO specialist during the process, your industrial website should be performing well from an organic search perspective. However, it’s also important to have an ongoing and continuously improving plan for other channels that can amplify your industrial website content, drive more qualified traffic to your website and get your website, with its useful tools and content, into the hands of prospects when they’re ready to engage. This plan needn’t be complicated. Write out simple bullet points for how your website can support and/or interact with prospects and visitors from:
- Organic search
- Paid search / PPC – Google, LinkedIn
- LinkedIn outreach
- ABM campaigns
- Trade shows and events
- Printed materials
- Training content
- Sales conversations and emails
- Networking conversations
- Social media
- Email campaigns
- Distribution partners and retailers
Especially when you take into account all of the channels and activities above, it’s clear that your industrial website is a living, breathing, crucial part of all of your sales and marketing channels. Your industrial website strategy is a rudder that keeps everything heading in the right direction. It should be fleshed out and updated over time to remain a relevant, strategic guide.
Looking for a deeper understanding of when, why and how to redesign your B2B industrial website? Check out a webinar, or learn more about our upcoming on-demand virtual course, B2B Website Strategy for Lead Generation.