More than 500 B2B marketers told Forrester that their company’s website is the most effective demand generation tactic for building awareness and increasing consideration.[i]
This same study shows that B2B websites surpass digital advertising, search engine optimization, sales enablement, partner enablement, or events for early-stage demand-gen effectiveness. This means your website is likely to be the first place where prospects will get their first impression of your company and offerings.
And what a sad impression you are making!
In our recently published report, “B2B Websites Still Fail Our Customer Engagement Test” (subscription required), Forrester evaluated 60 websites across 12 B2B industries. Nearly every website we reviewed scored poorly. Most B2B marketers continue to fail miserably when it comes to creating content that buyers find interesting, interactive, or compelling.
How do we know? We looked at whether these 60 websites demonstrated content elements or capabilities that fell into 15 different criteria (see Figure 1 in the report for the full list). Firms scored a zero if we couldn’t find any evidence of a capability; 2 is a passing score, and you get a 3 for exhibiting best practices. Doing the math, 30 points or more should earn you a passing score. Unfortunately, we had to drop this threshold to 25 points just to get four firms to pass.
To demonstrate just how discouraging this is, think of a prospective buyer’s website visit as a first date with a potential love interest. If you talked about yourself the whole time, did little to relate to or engage with your date, and shared long, boring stories about what you do and what you think . . . it’s guaranteed that you would never see that person again. So why would a prospect revisit your website if it behaves the same way?
Dating Tips Help B2B Marketers Create More Engaging Content
It’s funny how dating metaphors and marketing go together. In fact, we found this article called 10 Science-Backed First Date Tips To Make Your Date Great and saw that many of the dating tips shared apply to creating engaging and empathetic content. Here are our six favorite tips from the article, followed by the advice we would give to marketers based on this latest research. See if the analogy works for you:
- Prepare for an engaging conversation. Too many B2B websites make prospects dig through pages of product offerings for the answers to their questions, instead of anticipating their questions or needs. After that initial “hello,” top B2B websites prepare to engage customers with interactive visuals and useful tools that deliver value independent of — and long before — sales interactions.
- Get your mind right. To produce content that is attractive to your intended, you have to show that you understand them (really) and share their concerns and issues. That’s what makes an empathetic listener — and marketer. B2B marketers should spend more time with customers to internalize their mindset and then adjust upcoming content marketing plans based on what you learn.
- Go from “be interested” to “be interesting.” Asking visitors who they are, keeping track of what they do, and inviting them to share feedback are easy ways to make sure your content is hitting the mark. Top-scoring marketers organize their content experience around customer sizes, industries, and roles to show that they understand the unique needs of the segments and buyers they can best serve.
- Take a deeper look at how you present yourself. High point earners stand out by offering informed perspectives on industry trends and challenges, making them an invaluable source of information to buyers. They position their company’s website as a resource for the customers’ businesses, not just their product line.
- Understand what fuels desire. Why are prospects visiting your website? Top-scoring websites use content to demonstrate that marketers and sellers have a deep understanding of customers’ business challenges, desired outcomes, and competitive landscape. They use narrative, video, and imagery to get to the heart of what it takes to tackle difficult business problems — and achieve results that have a measurable impact on the buyer’s business.
- Learn from the past. Echoing similar results as Forrester’s 2017 evaluation, this year’s analysis shows that B2B firms have yet to take enough steps to improve content engagement or build buyer empathy. Top marketers learn from past mistakes to continuously improve the engagement power of their marketing content.
Let’s be clear: Our objective for publishing this research is not to call out any particular organization for its marketing content practices. Instead, we want to show that: 1) B2B industries outside of technology also struggle to create customer-centered content and 2) B2B websites require more work immediately to reverse this trend. If you want to know how to reach prospective buyers effectively, start with your content. Chances are your first impression is not making the impact you think it is!
[i] Source: Forrester Analytics Global Business Technographics® Marketing Survey, 2018. Base: 549 marketing decision makers who deploy demand generation tactics.