The purpose of most industrial websites is to attract visitors and convert them into leads, or to directly drive sales through e-commerce. While industrial websites are similar to other company sites, the most successful industrial websites have specific features that engage their users and keep them coming back.
If you are considering a website redesign or refresh, the following features can be valuable additions to an industrial website that needs to be an active contributor to sales and marketing goals.
Customers and potential customers visit an industrial website to learn about a product or service, and for expertise and guidance. While it is common for companies to use their website as an online brochure that talks all about their capabilities, offerings, experience, customers and even their company founding and history, all of this should self-promotional content come secondary to the most important information on any website: addressing your buyers’ problems, and how you can help solve them.
By speaking directly to your customers’ needs, you will capture their attention in a compelling and useful way, and they will be more likely to spend more time exploring your site or taking further action (such as subscribing to a newsletter or requesting a consultation).
Visitors will come to your website looking for different kinds of information, and will prefer content in different formats. Some people like to quickly skim a webpage and then click to get more in-depth information on a specific topic, while others prefer to download an ebook or white paper that they can take and read in full. Still others enjoy receiving regular information in the form of blog posts or newsletters. It’s important to offer content in different formats to reach these different audiences.
Two crucial content formats for industrial websites are:
1. A Blog
Today, studies show that most customers do their own research and get 60% through the buying process before even contacting a sales person or company. This means that it’s critical to provide information about your products, services and expertise to potential customers in an easily accessible and useful format. A blog is a great tool to enable industrial companies to publish content and attract website visitors through organic search results.
The keys to a successful blog are:
- A regular publishing schedule: While quality is more important than quantity when it comes to blogging, your blog readers will expect content on a regular basis. Whether that is once a week, or more or less (we recommend 2-6 posts per month), keeping a consistent schedule will help grow your subscribers, keep them engaged, and will support SEO and Google content indexing – all of which helps more people find your website online.
- Educational, not self-promotional: Successful blogs offer insight and expertise, without trying to sell anything. Identify a list of your buyers’ challenges and problems, and offer information that can help solve them.
- Commit to the long haul: Blogging takes time and adequate resources, plus a commitment to stick with it over months and years, not just a few weeks. It is a worthwhile sales and marketing strategy that will prove itself over time as your subscriber base grows.
2. Gated Content
Gated content (also referred to as an “offer”) is high-value, more in-depth content such as ebooks, white papers, tip sheets and case studies that help prospective buyers solve common problems and do their job. By creating this content in a format that is nicely designed and can be easily downloaded, you can offer it for free in exchange for contact information via a simple online form. This is a win-win: it provides useful information your website visitor (now a lead), and gives your business a way to follow up with additional relevant information to nurture the lead through the sales funnel.
An online form for collecting contact information is most effective when it is located on its own landing page – a website page that is created specifically to capture a visitor’s information using a lead capture form (or conversion form). The form should be basic – name and email address are sufficient -- to avoid “bounces” (when people leave a page without entering their contact data or downloading the gated content). Each landing page and lead capture form should also only relate to one specific piece of content to make it simple and easy for website visitors to understand what they’re getting in exchange for their contact information (and to keep the page short and to the point!).
A website can have multiple landing pages, each for a different piece of gated content. In fact, studies have shown that websites with more than 15 landing pages generate far more leads than those with few or none. That may sound overwhelming at first, but you don’t need 15 landing pages right away! Start with one or two, and then continue to add valuable, gated content and before you know it your website will be a lead-generation machine.
Email List Building Tools
Related to the lead capture forms on landing pages, other email list building tools also collect visitor’s contact information so they can receive information and periodic news on relevant topics. Building an email list is an effective way for industrial companies to stay in touch with prospective buyers and retain existing customers. Websites can collect visitors’ email contact information in many different ways, including conversion forms, subscription forms, and live chat.
Lead Generation Tools
Landing pages with conversion forms for turning visitors into prospective leads are just one way industrial websites can function as lead generation tools. Other possibilities include RFQ forms for visitors to request pricing and initiate the sales process, as well as marketing automation tools that use the contact information obtained via conversion forms to send leads a series of lead nurturing emails. Most visitors aren’t ready to buy yet, and marketing automation can help industrial companies easily pull leads through the buying process.
Ways to Get in Touch
Believe it or not, many websites don’t make their own contact information easy enough for visitors to find and use. This can include phone numbers, contact forms, live chat, forums, resource pages and FAQ pages. Making contact information visible, accurate and easy to use can often lead to RFQs and sales opportunities.
Most websites currently get 30% of visitors on mobile devices, and that number is quickly rising and will soon overtake desktop visitors. If your industrial website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re essentially closed for business to a huge category of visitors. In addition, Google favors mobile-friendly websites and often penalizes those that aren’t with lower page rankings and less effective SEO. The two main considerations for a mobile-friendly website are that the site structure is functional and readable on all mobile devices, and that it loads quickly.
Social Media Presence
Many industrial marketers think social media doesn’t work in their niche, however that’s often a huge mistake in your marketing mix. Social media can be a huge boost to an industrial company’s sales and marketing, however it needs to be done strategically. Which social media sites do your buyers use most frequently? If you don’t know, then it’s time to do a bit of research. Once you find out where your buyers are (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat… the list goes on!), then become an active presence on that platform. Promote your content (blog posts, case studies, ebooks) and share links to other relevant third-party content that your buyers would find useful. Over time, you can build a following that can be valuable for engaging with your buyers, understanding their problems and what solutions would be most valuable to them, and building relationships with influencers in your industry.
Online product catalogs can be helpful for buyers and a sales boon for industrial websites, however they must be done well. If it is difficult, confusing or too time-consuming, buyers will likely seek out a different resource (i.e. your competitor). Search functionality, filters and taxonomies can help visitors find what they need, and leading ecommerce platforms (like Shopify and Magento) use best practices and established design patterns to maximize ecommerce success.
For industrial websites that are only administering sales quotes but not selling, a product catalog (that is searchable and filterable) should send users directly to an RFQ form. The form should let users submit general RFQs, and those for specific products and multiple products. This process can be designed similarly to an ecommerce checkout process, allowing users to add many products to a quote request list to create a single RFQ.
Using website analytics tools (like Google Analytics, which is an excellent free tool) will help you understand who is visiting your website and how they use it. It collects data about where your visitors come from, how long they spend on your site, what pages they look at, what content is most popular, what devices they use, who is converting to a lead, and more. This data will help you measure what’s working and what’s not based on real data (rather than making assumptions), set goals and make changes based on real data. To see real, near-term growth in your website metrics, accelerate the strategies that are working and drop those that aren’t.
Your industrial website isn’t a static billboard on the Internet — definitely not a “set it, and forget it” type of thing. It’s a dynamic tool that should be integrated with other marketing and sales efforts. To function properly, your site requires ongoing work as visitors’ behaviors change and web technology advances.
Creating an effective industrial website is a key piece of effective online marketing. It’s a challenging endeavor that requires knowledgeable resources and an adequate budget to be a serious contender in any industry. Get more strategies and tools for creating a top-notch online marketing program by downloading our free ebook, “Step-by-Step Guide to Online Marketing”.