If you are a manufacturer or a provider of technical services, your website needs to be aligned with the buying process of your prospects and customers. Today, technical buyers and engineers expect suppliers to have a substantial online presence with a website packed with relevant content in a variety of formats and easily searchable. Is your site ready for this shift in expectations or do you need a website redesign?
I’m sure you’ve read many times that engineers hate marketing/marketers and they want only the facts. Those punch lines and stereotypes may be amusing but they won’t really help you come up with an effective site redesign. How do you engage engineers and technical buyers on your website and build deeper relationships and achieve higher conversion rates?
Rule #1: Natural or organic search engine optimization (SEO)
In the research phase of the industrial buying cycle, engineers and industrial buyers tend to use broad keywords and phrases that describe their current problem. Unless your website shows up in the initial phases, you are probably not going to be considered in the next step, which is the comparison stage.
It shouldn’t be an afterthought because retrofitting SEO after the redesign is typically not very effective and usually costs more.
Is SEO a DiY (do-it-yourself) job? That depends, see my earlier post, Do-it-Yourself Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Your WordPress Blog. It takes extensive knowledge, expertise, experience and a lot of detailed work in order for your website to be ranked high for specific keywords and phrases in Google and other major search engines. And yes, it does cost money.
To complicate matters even more, it is a moving target since search engines are constantly changing their algorithms and most of it is not public knowledge.
According to Jill Whalen, CEO of High Rankings, “The solution is for all business owners to insist on SEO right from the start. If your designer isn’t an SEO expert (and most aren’t), it’s critical that they be partnered with an SEO consultant so that they’re not designing invisible websites. While the cost of entry for a small business is going to be higher, investment will pay off many times over later on.”
Rule #2: Content comes before redesigning your website
Avoid the site redesign cycle of frustration by first developing a clear game plan for creating or repurposing existing content for the new site. The key here is to serve up relevant content that matches the prospect’s state or stage on the decision making process.
One-size-fits-all site content will not help you engage. Build a library of various content assets such as published articles, white papers, online demos, webinars, videos, technical specifications, datasheets, case studies and customer testimonials. Video testimonials are far more credible and impactful than plain text. The same holds true for video white papers.
Your site visitors are typically coming from general search engines and/or industry verticals like GlobalSpec or ThomasNet. Try to reinforce or continue the same experience by helping engineers search your content by part number, specifications and keywords.
The more detailed and specific information you can provide with the least number of search queries or clicks, the better will be the user experience. This will lead to your visitors bookmarking your site for future reference and becoming a valuable resource.
Rule #3: Create interaction and shareability
Nothing happens until your site visitor takes some sort of action. Passive reading of your content will not move the prospect any closer to his/her decision to buy from you. To improve engagement, build interaction into your site.
Let’s say you are a developer of custom software for the Upstream Oil & Gas industry, you probably have a page or more on your site describing the various features of your software. Instead of creating long pages of static text, use bullet points for each feature to satisfy scanners and readers while feeding search engine bots with keyword rich text. Now add a slideshow of screen shots for those visitors who prefer a more visual experience. Even the simple action of clicking on “Next” to move from one slide to the next will increase engagement and retention. See rule #4 for other ideas on creating interaction.
As an added bonus, you can share your slideshow with much a larger audience by uploading it to a site like slideshare. It will help to drive more traffic to your site where you could build a deeper relationship with them.
The shelf life of your content is pretty short because new information is generated very quickly on the Internet. Extend its life by making your site content shareable via social media, RSS feeds and forward to a colleague.
In complex industrial sales, researchers often do not have the authority to make the final purchase decision. However, they do have a strong influence. Therefore, the easier you make it on them to share your site content, the more likely you are to be included in the final shortlist of vendors. (See D.I.S. Creates Content Marketing With Lasting Impact).
Rule #4: Build credibility and gain authority
The Internet has made everyone into a publisher of content. That’s good news but it also creates a credibility problem. Whom do you trust when you are looking for authoritative and credible information?
According to AIChE’s survey of chemical engineers, members are looking for solutions tailored to their specific needs. They prefer access to “live experts” on technical questions. When these engineers visit a website, they want a mechanism by which they can ask technical questions and expect a response live online or by e-mail within 24 hours of submitting a question.
Engineers and technical professionals also showed a preference for interacting with peers and end-users by using community boards and engineering forums.
Another great way to showcase your in-house experts and expertise is to add a blog to your main site. Allow your engineers, R&D personnel and technical support people to post content in their own voice. Expert technical articles build authority in your industry or niche and help to “humanize” your corporate website.
Rule #5: Use social media judiciously
Social media is slowly gaining acceptance within the engineering and industrial community. There is still a lot of debate about whether social media is truly useful in industrial marketing. Instead of taking sides, I say use it to your best advantage.
Select the best social media outlets depending on where your target audience hangs out and use them for starting your conversation. The objective here is to drive people to your website, which should be the hub of your online marketing.
Instead of thinking of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter as lead generators, use them to increase awareness and drive traffic to your website. That’s where you can use your content to segment your visitors, profile them based on their actions, capture pre-qualified prospects, leads and registrants for your webinars and downloads. Another advantage of using social media is increasing your “likeability quotient.”
Don’t ignore social media’s ability to quickly announce new blog posts, articles, webinars and events. This is a lot quicker and cheaper than organic SEO. I have even read statistics where Facebook is now drawing more visitors than Google.
While social media marketing may be cheap, it is not free. It does take time and resources to do it well and produce results.
So if you are still counting on your static, brochureware website to generate leads, you may be sorely disappointed. It may be time for you to seriously consider a website redesign. Don’t just stop at lead generation, use your redesigned website to move your visitors deeper into the conversation and help your sales team convert more opportunities.
Download our free guide, Step-by-Step Guide to Website (re)Design where you will find useful tips and a systematic approach to turning your website into a lead-generating machine and driving sales.