How often do your colleagues complain about your company’s website? Like many website managers of B2B companies, you’ve probably had conversations with people who are reluctant to use it in their daily business. It could be that it doesn’t truly reflect the company today. Or maybe the content doesn’t support the negotiations salespeople have with customers and the conversations Executive Management have with key stakeholders.
But that’s not how it’s meant to be. At the very least, the website needs to support the business; at best, it should drive business opportunities. So how can you achieve that?
As with any marketing or communications initiative, website planning involves some level of strategic planning. But rather than being an academic exercise, it must be a targeted, pragmatic approach that aligns your online presence with the company’s strategy, brand, offerings and value propositions – what I’ll call the four strategic pillars of the B2B company website.
Long before even beginning to consider a website structure and content, these four strategic pillars need to be defined and documented. Don’t leave a strategic stone unturned until you’re sure. Not only will you save time creating and building your website, but you’ll be confident that you’re making good decisions about architecture, design, usability and content. Indeed, this strategic planning will be the foundation for the website’s success.
Structuring your planning according to the four pillars also provides essential direction to your website content and helps you identify the key stakeholders you need to involve to create the content. For example, the strategy pillar will typically inform the content for the ‘About us’ section, which requires input from Executive Management.
To an extent, it’s a chicken-egg scenario. Certain departments and their key stakeholders need to provide input for each of the pillars – but at the same time, they inform how these stakeholders can contribute to the website. The pillars are at the heart of what many website practitioners will refer to as the website content strategy, which involves planning the content based on the intended audience’s needs and desires.
Naturally, each pillar is a massive topic in itself. Here, my intention is to explain why they are important for a website – and how you can apply them to your website planning.
Many clever people have written many clever things about strategy. But essentially, strategy encompasses how the company is set up to meet the market’s needs to provide competitive solutions sold at a profit. It encompasses the go-to-market strategy, which addresses how the company encourages the market to buy more of the company’s offerings.
Inevitably, this would have been debated heavily by Executive Management and the Board of Directors. Part of this debate involves making decisions about the extent to which the website supports the go-to-market strategy.
For example, if your company has a growth strategy based on penetrating new markets, you will need a lead generation focus. So your website needs to be created to attract and convert leads. It needs to capture visitors and play a key role in driving them through the customer journey that delivers greatest value.
But if you want to adopt a relationship-building strategy aimed at a relatively finite customer group, your website needs to be based on engaging visitors (many of whom you know by name) and encouraging them to spend time consuming the content on your website. The content needs to be informative, attractive and relevant – which is the essence of content marketing.
If you have sufficient sales and customer support resources, your website should also allow and encourage one-to-one interaction with these resources. This combination of truly engaging content and personal interaction could indeed provide a major competitive advantage.
Understanding the connection between the intended purpose of your website and the company strategy is therefore the first step. If you can demonstrate this understanding to Executive Management, they’re more likely to see that you have the interests of the business in mind and that your website will have measurable value to the business.
Strategy is typically driven by Executive Management, but it is also likely to involve HR, Investor Relations and Communications to a certain extent. You will need to engage these stakeholders to understand how the strategy should be communicated. It will be most relevant when creating content for website areas including About us/Company, Press, Careers and Investor Relations.
When you know the company’s strategic intent, you are in a good position to define the company’s value proposition.
The value proposition is the binder between strategy and the brand, but it is directly focused on your customers’ needs and how you can add value to their business. This is often the source of the homepage ‘hook’. When people visit your website, what will make them actually read or engage with the site and decide to spend their valuable time exploring your site in greater detail?
I cannot stress the importance of this – and it’s difficult to get right. But if visitors click into your website and don’t go any further, you have fallen at the first hurdle. On the other hand, if you have defined your value proposition well enough and communicated clearly and simply (in the first few seconds) how you meet their needs, some visitors are likely to begin on a longer journey through your website, taking their first steps on the customer experience you can offer them.
Defining the value proposition should be a task for Executive Management, but will usually involve Communications and perhaps Marketing, depending on the company setup. Communications will typically be involved because of their ability to align stakeholder communications with strategy, and Marketing should contribute with their market knowledge and insights – as well as their ability to add a creative edge to communicating the value proposition.
Brand and Offerings
With a firm understanding of the company’s strategy and value proposition, you can then turn to its Brand and Offerings, which I discuss in the second part of this series.Like this post? Subscribe now and get notified about new content!