A step-by-step guide to building a B2B Web site home page -- and a better site in the process.
Last time, we discussed how to design a better retail home page. Many of you have asked for a similar column focused on business-to-business (B2B) services.
If you're in the B2B service industry, you already have a great asset to help you understand how best to create a home page (and, for that matter, the rest of your site): your sales team. More than anyone else in the company, salespeople interact daily with customers and understand what information is relevant and interesting to the types of clients you're courting.
In the B2B world (much more than the business-to-consumer world), your Web site contains a lot of glossy sales information. It's more akin to the traditional sales pamphlet and less transactional than in the B2C world. It's like a book, and the home page is the introduction and table of contents.
How is a book put together? The author doesn't throw every page on the floor in a pile and say "read whichever page you want." There's order, storytelling, and narrative. Similarly, a home page and a site need to tell various stories and explain your services in ways that make sense to your audience. If you only have one audience (such as large pharmaceutical companies), your entire site can serve this singular audience. If you have multiple audiences (verticals), create micro areas that tell the right story, in the right order, for that audience. The story omits unimportant details and highlights the important ones for that audience.
Salespeople do this every day. They have a PowerPoint presentation aimed at the financial vertical, another for pharmaceutical, and so on. If they're good, each presentation tells a specific story about what your company does in an order that makes sense for that audience, with relevant details and case studies. It leaves out details that are unimportant to that audience.
It's long been said that a Web site is like a virtual salesperson, telling potential clients about your company. Think about how much content is on your site. When salespeople go into an initial pitch meeting with a prospect, do they bring all that information with them? Certainly not. Any salesperson worth her salt does some research on the prospective client first, then either picks the appropriate canned presentation (such as the one concentrating on the financial or the retail vertical) or creates a new presentation from scratch that contains the most relevant information about your company for that prospect.
A good salesperson is a good storyteller. Her job is to tell your company's story to a prospect in a way that makes the prospect understand, in his own language, how your company understands him, his business, and his problems. And, of course, why your company has the solutions.
Your Web site needs to do the same, and your home page is the gateway for this. If your site is really like a salesperson, then it's a lousy one. If a salesperson went into a meeting armed with only your Web site and said to the prospect, "Click something," how far do you think the meeting would go?
Here's your homework:
At the end of this exercise, you'll know whether your Web site actually has enough of the right content to be a good sales tool. You'll also have an idea of the narrative structure your salespeople use to introduce your company to a specific industry.
The next step is to create a site section that puts all those pages in the correct order and ensures the major story points (the main things your salesperson said) are clear and readable amid the rest of your content.
What About the Home Page?
Though I set out to address just the home page, I ended up talking about what makes a B2B site really work. This is important because a home page can only direct traffic to site areas. Once the site areas discussed above are built, the home page has a relatively easy job.
Questions, thoughts, comments? Let me know.
Until next time...
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