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October 19, 2011   Posted by: Dale Underwood

Why Most B2B Websites Don`t Work


Are you spending more marketing dollars and getting less results?

Has the quality of your leads worsened to the point where the sales team complains?

If so, this article is for you.

Excerpt “If you want a lead, give something of value. Want better leads? Give better value!

Disclaimer: I found this article so compelling that I decided to post it here but the full credit goes to Brad Fallon. Brad is the author of Creating Customers Out of Thin Air: Secrets of Online Marketing for Offline Businesses. You can buy it in bookstores, but he’ll give you the pdf free if you ask nicely: brad@mysmartsuite.com

Brad is the founder of Smart Marketing, Inc. and the Smart Suite, an interactive marketing technology platform. His latest project is building the leading pure research laboratory for investigating search engine techniques and theories: www.seoresearch.com

Why Most B2B Websites Don’t Work

The problem with so many web sites today is that they are built around an advertising model – but the wrong kind. As a result, business owners are throwing away money hand over fist when they could be pulling in tons of qualified, interested prospects and customers.

If you want your web site to capture more quality leads, this article is for you. You see, there are two types of advertising, but only one kind of web site. Unfortunately, most web site designers don’t seem to know this.

Branding vs. Direct Response

In the traditional advertising world, branding advertising is the kind you normally see on TV and in magazines. The company shows a picture (hopefully something cute that gets attention) and tells something about the product. Then, the next time you are in the store, you are supposed to remember this product among all its competitors because of the more favorable impression in your mind about this particular brand.

This is the kind of advertising for big companies with big advertising budgets and money to burn. Ad agencies love this kind of advertising for three reasons. First, there is zero accountability for the ad creators. Usually, there is no way of knowing if the advertising ‘worked.”

Second, these ads are great (for the ad agency, not the business owner) because if they don’t work, the answer is usually to “run more ads.” After all, they say, a person needs to be exposed to your ad seven times in order to create an impression. Since agencies get paid based on the amount of media bought, this works out well for them.

Finally, these are the kinds of ads that win awards. Ad agencies don’t win their industry awards based on how well the ad works, but how creative and original it is. Unfortunately, ad agency awards don’t bring in new customers or pay your bills.

Direct Response

The other type of advertising is direct response advertising. Direct response ads are completely different. First, they are 100% measurable. The ad always asks the prospect to take a specific direct action, either to buy or to request more information (and therefore become a lead). In all cases, the results of each individual ad are tracked and you know with certainty how well the ads are working.

Second, direct response ads are designed to create action on the part of the prospect. Whether the intended action is to make a purchase, request more information, buy an entry-level product, or otherwise become a lead, the only thing that matters is how many ad viewers respond.

This is exactly the same thing with a web site. In other words, the purpose of a web site is one thing and one thing only: To capture as many leads as possible as a percentage of all site visitors.

Web sites should work like direct response ads

Unfortunately, too many web sites look like they are competing for a design award – at the expense of making sales. The rest of this article will help you improve the successful response rate of your web site by looking at it from the perspective of a direct response marketer. As a result, you can start capturing more leads and making more sales – without spending another dime.

In fact, more than half the battle is in understanding the right questions to ask. “How can I make my web site better?” is not the right question. Neither is “How can I improve my design?”

On the contrary, once you start asking the right questions, you’re halfway there. We could spend a week on the fine points of headlines and calls to action and the placement of the offer on the web page. But all that is secondary to the basic philosophy of what you are trying to accomplish. Once you know what you’re trying to do, you’ll spend more time thinking about how to do it – and measuring everything you try. And your results will keep getting better and better.

So, given the fact that you want to capture more leads on your web site, what direct response techniques can you quickly implement to make that happen? Now you may think there are 14 million different things you can do on a web site that could make a difference (and you’re right). So what do you focus on to make the most difference as quickly as possible?

Simple. Focus on the characteristics of all direct response ads. As we go through each one, be thinking of what changes you can make on your web site to improve each one of these areas. And remember, one of the keys to direct response marketing is to test. You don’t have to guess perfectly every time. But as you continually test one improvement against another, you’re measured results will continually get better and better.

Step One: Focus on getting a response

With far too many web sites, you can just look at them and know they are not capturing as many leads as possible. How? Because the web site does not even invite a response – at all. In other words, many web site owners seem to want to limit themselves to only talking to people who absolutely, positively want to buy from them right then.

“Are you ready to buy now? If not, forget it; I’m busy.”

On the contrary, the web site should invite the prospect to take a small step to get more information and begin a new relationship.

The good news is that many people are using the web to research products and services. But they may be very early in their buying cycle. The problem is that if they make it to your web site and they are “just researching,” there’s no guarantee they will ever be back. Indeed, most of them won’t remember your web site at all a few days later.

Sure, some web site visitors will pick up the phone and call right then, or fill in a form, or send an email. But many of them are not ready for that step just yet. They need more information first – don’t make them leave your web site to go get it!

So your challenge is to capture their contact information (especially their email address) while they are on your web site the first time, and get permission to send them more information. Then you can (automatically) follow-up with them by email (for free), providing more information and building a relationship over time – until they are ready to buy.

This seems obvious when you think about it, so why do so many web sites blow it and not even try to capture email addresses? Probably because they are used to traditional “branding advertising,” and they build their web site to match this model.

It’s probably worth noting that many web designers are from graphic design and traditional ad agency backgrounds. So this kind of design is what the web designers are generally used to making – a nice looking ad with a cute picture to capture attention, and a phone number at the bottom. If they’re interested, they’ll call.

You on the other hand, should work with your web designer to create a direct response model web site that focuses solely on capturing leads. If yours is an e-commerce site, some will buy right then. But in either case, more will buy after they visit the site – if you capture their information while you have the chance.

Step Two: Write a Killer Headline

In direct response marketing, the headline is always the most important part of the ad. It’s called “the ad for the ad,” because this is what gets more or fewer people to actually read your offer. In most direct response ads, 80 percent of all the people who see the headline will not even read the ad. So the headline has to be as strong as possible – and it makes all the difference. Even with tiny Google AdWords, changing the title can affect the click-thru rate by 100% or more.

Like any direct response ad (an ad that wants someone to do something), the headline on your web page is key. You want the site visitor to stop surfing, stay on your site, read about your company and take action by giving you their email address.

When you start testing things to improve response rates, the headline is a great place to start because the headline can make the biggest difference in the success of the sales letter or ad. Experienced headline writers know that merely changing the headline can affect the conversion rate of the exact same ad by several thousand percent. On an average sales letter, the best copywriters may spend fully half their time just writing and thinking about different headlines. It’s that important.

That being said, how does this relate to, say, your B2B software company’s high-tech-oriented web site. Simple; have a great headline on the home page to make people want to learn more about your product.

Once you realize how this works, you will be amazed at how many company’s web sites don’t even tell you what they do for a living on the home page, much less make you want to learn more about what they can do for you. When a prospect lands on your home page, the pretty design isn’t what captures their attention. It’s the headline. All the web sites that don’t even have one are simply wrong. Don’t make this mistake.

And don’t make the mistake of using a label instead of a headline. A headline isn’t just a “heading” that tells the name of your company, or describes your product, or (worse) says “Welcome to our web site.”

A headline is an overt benefit statement that tells your visitor what’s in it for them. And please, no platititudes, generalities or mere features. Your headline should be a statement of the unique benefits that only your company can say – your unique selling proposition.

Step Three: Write killer copy that tells your story – conveniently

Without getting into an entire book on copywriting, here are a few points to keep in mind to convert more site visitors into leads on their first visit. First, think of your web site copy as a 24/7 sales person sitting right in front of your prospect whenever they want to listen.

Like any good sales presentation, you need to talk about the prospect and the benefits of your product for her. Not about yourself, your company, or your features. They only care about their needs and how you can help them. Use the word “you” a lot, not “we.”

Take about benefits, not features.

And make it easy and convenient for them to listen to (read) your presentation. This means don’t make them click all over the place to read your sales message. It’s amazing how many web sites get the prospects right where they want them, and then make them go somewhere else after just a couple of points. And then go somewhere else. And then go somewhere else.

Stop that!

If you had a 30 minute sales presentation with a decision maker, would you stop every five minutes and say, “Well Bob, that’s a little about how we can lower your production costs twenty percent. Now let’s move into the conference room right across the hall and we’ll talk about our excellent warranty.”

After making him get up and move every five minutes, I think the prospect is likely to say, “No, I think I’ve got the picture. Thank you very much for the excellent presentation. We’ll be in touch.”

Silly, right? Then why do so many web site stop every few paragraphs and make you click somewhere else to continue?

Just like the example above, this is crazy. If the prospect is going along reading your sales message, he either likes it or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, he’ll stop and go do something else anyway. You’re not any better by hiding the stuff he might like on another page.

And if he’s liking it, why in the world would you want to stop every couple minutes and say, “Are you still interested? Really? Ok, then are you interested enough to click over here and wait for another page to load, find the place to start reading, skim through the fluff at the beginning and start reading again? You are? Great, just click here.”

Every single time you make him stop and think about whether he really needs to hear any more your’re going to lose a certain percentage of readers. So try to do this as few times as possible.

Just so you know, there is no rule that a page can’t scroll down. In fact, it’s a lot easier on the reader to scroll down than to continually load other pages, figure out where to start reading, and jump in again.

Again, we’re not talking about using the web site to do everything for everyone. We’re talking about how to capture more leads as a percentage of all site visitors. One way to do that is to refrain from continually interrupting them in the middle of your sales presentation.

And don’t be afraid to put your message on the home page – for two reasons. One, most links to your site will point to the home page, so why make someone have to go somewhere to get your sales message? They’re already there; take advantage of that. Two, it will help with your search engine optimization. As other sites link to your home page, the more copy (and keyword search phrases) that you have on that page, the better.

Finally, if you are using pay-per-click campaign to drive traffic to your web site, then you definitely want your sales message to be on the exact page that you are driving them to. You’re paying to get them there, so have a great headline to make them start reading, a very strong first paragraph, and enough information to get your message (and become a lead) without having to click somewhere else.

Step Four: Use plenty of testimonials, and then use some more

One thing that direct response copywriters understand is the power of testimonials. When people don’t know you, and you’re trying to get them to do something, there’s nothing better than third-party endorsements to do your selling for you, increase your credibility, and make the prospect feel like they’ll be in good company by doing business with you.

So include a “Testimonials” page on your web site. But don’t make the same mistake I saw on a large software company’s web site last week. Where they were talking about the features and benefits of their product, they had a link that said “Testimonials.” It’s good that they had them, but remember Step Three, above. Don’t make them click around to see them. Put at least some of them right there on the same page so the prospect can read them and get the full effect without having to jump through another hoop.

And put some on the home page. For getting strangers to take action, showing testimonials from other customers just like them is one of the most important things you can do. Don’t hide them! At least show one or two on the home page, and then have a link to see more.

Step Five: Don’t rely on your prospects to figure out anything – use a strong call to action for everything on your site.

One of the most important things in getting a prospect to take action, whether it’s to sign a contract or subscribe to an email list, is also the most important. You have to ask. Every sales person learns this in Sales 101 and it applies just as much to web site sales copy.

Likewise, people that write direct response copy for a living know the importance of the “Call to Action.” For example, you’ll never see a direct response ad that just lists the phone number at the bottom. I mean, if they’re interested, they’ll see the number and know to call right?


Copywriters who want their prospects to take action always, always, always tell them exactly what to do every step of the way. Listing your phone number (or your email address) is not enough. Check out this list:

Get a Self-Service Quote Right Now

Call us right now at 555-1234.

Call us 24 hours a day at 555-1234 – operators are waiting for your call right now.

The first 50 callers get a free ____. Call us right now at 555-1234.

For more information, fill out this card completely, and drop it in any mailbox.

You get the idea. But for something that’s as proven as the concept of the importance of strong calls to action, apparently few web site owners believe it. On most web sites, the best you have is a tab that says “Contact.” And you’re lucky if you don’t have to search too hard for it.

Here’s three simple rules for almost any web site:

Display your contact information on every page. The top right, or the left or right-hand column is a good place. You never know when a prospect is going to get mildly interested enough to want more information. Make it easy.

Make all of your contact information mini calls to action. Don’t just show your email address and think they’ll figure out what to do with it. Say, “For free information about lowering your costs twenty percent, just email us here.” Don’t even think they’ll know what to do with your phone number. Say “Call us 8-5 Pacific Time at 555-1234. After hours? Submit this form and we’ll get right back to you as soon as possible.”

Always give them at least three ways to contact you – however they are most comfortable. They can call, or email, or fill out a convenient form/quote request.
Step Six: Consider your quid pro quo. If you want a lead, give something of value. Want more leads? Give more value!

A certain percentage of people that come to your site may be desperate for what you sell right now. They’ll pick up the phone and call.

That’s great, but if that’s all you get you’re missing out big time. Many people are using the Internet to research products and vendors, often in the very early stages. One of the secrets to capturing more leads online is to consider the prospects that are not red hot right now.

The whole idea is to capture their email address now, and follow-up with all of them over an extended period of time until they become hot down the road. Then, you’ll be right there to help them. But only if you captured their contact information way back when they were only mildly interested.

In order to get them to give you their email address, you have to give them something – a quid pro quo. And it’s important to think about who we’re talking about. Often, it’s prospects in the early stages of research, so what do they want? Information. Research. Knowledge. Examples include:

<strong>Self-Service Budgetary Quote – our favorite! :)</strong>
White papers
Free reports
Critical check lists
Quick start guides
Product demonstrations
Free trials
Industry surveys

Of course, you can give away other things as well. “Download our free trial and automatically enter to win…”

Conclusion: Think like an infomercial, not a beer ad

If you work for a company that has plenty of money to burn on cute and funny ads, I’m not knocking it. The world can always use better beer commercials.

But if you need to get a return on every marketing dollar invested, there’s no better place to start than the Web. Through search engines, you can find prospects who are not only in your target market, but are actively researching what you sell.

But the key word is “researching.” They’re not always ready to buy right now. However, if you can get their contact information now, and follow-up, you will be right there when they become a hot prospect down the road. And unlike your competitors, you’ll already have developed a relationship.

In order to get in the door first, be there early and think like a direct response marketer. You’re spending a certain amount on each ad. Is it paying for itself or not?

Track everything. Test everything. And use proven direct response principles to convert as many web site visitors as possible into qualified, interested, red hot prospects.

About the author

Brad Fallon is the author of Creating Customers Out of Thin Air: Secrets of Online Marketing for Offline Businesses. You can buy it in bookstores, but he’ll give you the pdf free if you ask nicely: brad@mysmartsuite.com

Brad is the founder of Smart Marketing, Inc. and the Smart Suite, an interactive marketing technology platform. His latest project is building the leading pure research laboratory for investigating search engine techniques and theories: www.seoresearch.com

Thanks Brad, awesome article.

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