When Should We Update Our Website?

When onboarding new clients, the first thing I do is have a sit-down to learn more about their company, goals and challenges. During that discussion, just about 100% of the time, they will admit their website could probably use a “refresher” and redesigning it should be an early priority.

They’re right — for many businesses, a website is the most important tool to attract and convert leads, so we often end up investing a lot of hours into a redesign from the start. These projects can demand a big initial time investment and leave clients waiting nervously to see the results.

A redesign calls for hours spent researching, planning, designing, developing and testing. And as we’ve written before, some clients experience a post-launch slump when leads don’t immediately come flooding in the door.

One way to avoid this dynamic is to take a different mindset when it comes to websites and change from thinking of it as a project that requires a massive undertaking every few years, to thinking of it as a living tool that should be updated and improved regularly.

In this post, I’ll explain how by following a growth-driven design (GDD) template, you stand to create a platform that better serves your customers and saves you time and money in project costs.

Traditional Tactics v. The Internet

According to my internet search of “how often should you update your website?” many reputable sources believe a company should do so every two to three years. In theory, this timeline helps keep audiences engaged with their brand. Some sources claim you can wait up to five years if your website continues producing results, but both of these suggestions hold a flawed understanding of what a website is really for in the first place.

To state it simply, your company website isn’t about you; it’s a tool for users to engage with you. If you’ve been repackaging your website every two years and writing a self-congratulatory press release about your heroic efforts to “listen to the people,” stop.

Today’s analytics tools give companies enough data to understand what your users want on a daily basis. As your users grow and give you more data, you should use this data to make website updates that make their lives easier. Enter growth-driven design.

The Benefits of Growth-Driven Design

GDD is the marriage of your marketing and sales data with your website. Rather than undertaking a herculean effort to build a completely new site every couple years, a GDD mindset involves continuous, ongoing updates that take less time and yield smaller improvements than a traditional website overhaul.

Think of GDD as a series of sprints in which you tackle the biggest priorities and assess the results, rather than one marathon in which you try to address everything at once and hope for the best. See below for a visualization from HubSpot:

By integrating your real-time data into incremental updates, you take an informed approach to reshaping your website to best speak to your customers.

Yes, converting to a GDD mentality entails the same planning and preparation kick-off phase that accompanies a traditional redesign. As with a traditional site overhaul, you need to identify your target buyer profiles, create sitemaps, plan and update your customer journeys. However, once your site is live, rather than forgetting about your website for a couple years, you use data to optimize it regularly.

This could look like any of the following scenarios:

  • After reviewing how users are navigating through your site, you discover customers aren’t interacting with a specific e-commerce link on your website, so you adjust its location to facilitate their buyer’s journey
  • You discover users are overlooking a poorly placed CTA and it forces them to take unnecessary steps to get to a piece of content. So, you find a new, more effective home for that CTA to send them directly to your marketing materials
  • A particular email capture form isn’t redirecting users back to your website, so you create a response that shows them similar content they may enjoy

Rather than waiting another two years and spending $80,000 to rebuild your website, return to the platform in three months and make small, data-driven decisions about how to improve your customer’s experience.

If you have the resources to return to this initiative every month, you’ll be spending fractions of the amount from a full rebuild and arrive significantly under budget at the 12- or 24-month marker.

Ongoing Improvement

Now that you’re thinking of your website as a tool for your customers and not a gift you presented them with, listen to them. Surely you’ll have your internal goals for the site’s performance, but by switching to a GDD mentality, you’ve agreed to validate or kill any assumptions you’ve made about your website. You’re probably already using A/B tests for your marketing materials — now you’re just using them on your website to pave its way forward.

In this model, customers are essential to the design process. With every user who visits your website you gain valuable information about how you can better facilitate positive experiences.

Of course, a new way of thinking may come with some speed bumps, so be sure to create SMART goals for your new design method. Create a plan to return to your website as often as makes sense for your company and before making changes, share your data reports with your sales and marketing teams to make informed decisions about how to make your website stronger.

Results

In a survey conducted by HubSpot to highlight the impact of Growth-Driven Design, agencies around the world reported that on average, new sites were launched in 60 days with GDD, compared to an average of 108 days when using traditional web design.

In the same survey, agencies also reported that six months after launching, websites drove 14% more visitors, 16.9% more leads, and 11.2% more revenue when built with Growth-Driven Design rather than traditional web design.

If you’re unable to allocate monthly resources to rebuilding your website, find an agency who can help develop your site or marketing materials in a strategy that aligns with your ongoing goals.

The purpose for your B2B website

Imagine the B2B world before the web. How did potential prospects learn about you and how did your existing customers get information they needed from you?

  • For prospects, they evaluated the value of your brand and solutions based on advertising, brochures or other materials, and most importantly the value that your sales person offered them in terms of connecting how your products addressed their pain points and solution needs. Your sales team members (either outside or inside) were the real catalyst of building trust, engaging prospects in exploring solutions, and bringing the buyer to the point in their journey where they made a decision.
  • For your existing customers, the engagement came through support. They called in for support, dealt directly with service team members in person, took training courses, and of course, continued to interact with your sales person as they checked in on them to keep them happy.

Those two groups, prospects and customers, still want information from you today, but you now have to employ new tactics to engage them effectively using your web site. So, within this context, let’s discuss how prospects and customers find your B2B website and what content you must offer each — which leads us to your B2B website purpose (or purposes).

Customer support and up-sell engagement

Let’s start with the easy one, the purpose of your website for existing customers. It’s in your best interest to try and deliver certain types of support to your customers on your website, before they tie up valuable support resources with email or phone contact. With that said, you should ensure that you purposefully organize and populate content on your website to provide two critical opportunities for your customers.

Self-serve content for common support issues – Providing high quality support content on your site not only makes customers very happy and productive, but, as just mentioned, also allows you to staff efficiently and focus on business growth. Consider providing support content like FAQs (frequently asked questions) as a searchable knowledge base, recorded training videos or webinar style screen shares, cross-reference tools for product replacement (depending on what you sell), and certainly quick access to find who they can contact for support (maybe chat support as well as email or phone options).

You should make the support area of your site very clear in navigation and may have to consider the value of public content vs. private content (where customers must login to access) to make sure that prospects can see key public content that may help build trust with them as they explore you as a provider.

Finally, show off your positive support statistics and customer satisfaction ratings. Make your infographics (98% first-call resolution, etc.) visible so that customers and prospects can hear that story and trust you even more.

Content that promotes new “up-sell” or “cross-sell” opportunities – The second opportunity exist because an existing customer is always a good prospect, right? They trust you already so this is low-hanging fruit for selling upgrades, add-on products, or cross selling into other parts of their business.

With that in mind, remember that this content is different than your home page or general prospect content. Don’t make the mistake of lumping that together. The message you will use in marketing to this group is different and should be uniquely developed. Use your support opportunities, your regular customer transactional emails (billing, support follow-up, etc.), your customer newsletter, and any area on your site frequented by customers to promote links and/or content to new product information, education, and calls to action that will engage them with sales again.

Added insight – Don’t forget to motivate your support staff (inside support or field support personnel) to identify leads for up-sell, cross-sell and pass those along to sales. I work with one company whose field service group were responsible for identifying existing customer leads that resulted in $24M in sales in the past year.

Engaging prospects

The second significant purpose of a B2B website, and the one that likely deserves your attention first, is to engage prospects. I know this is a given.

Not one but many landing pages – The first nuance is about how prospects “land” on your website. I deliberately refer to prospects “landing” on your website because in web lingo, when someone clicks on a link to your site or your URL, they “land” on your site. The page they land on is called the “landing page.” Why is this important?

It is important because it is vital for you and your marketing team to view your website not as a single landing page site (your home page), but as an opportunity for many customized and purposeful landing pages that you can utilize across targeted marketing tactics and custom messaging.

Your home page is a primary landing page. It is vital that your home page speak directly to prospects about their pain points and needs and how you can solve their problems and deliver value. Your home page should not be a catalog of what you sell, the story of your history, or other things that I would call “we” things. In other words, your home page should be about “you” (your customer – each segment you are wanting to engage).

However, beyond your home page, the real value is ensuring your site has a collection of customized landing pages you utilize for targeted campaigns. Some of these landing pages may be existing pages on your site (those one might find using your menus) but other pages may only be used as a landing page for a tactic and not available through menus.

Say you run a paid search campaign that specifically targets buyers that are concerned about cyber security at their power plant. You are a power equipment and power management software provider. You would not want to direct them from that search to your home page. Sure, you may have something about cyber security on your home page along with everything else, or a menu item for cyber security, but why make the prospect work to find what they were specifically searching for? They won’t do that. If they don’t see the direct topic that relates to what they were searching for in the first 10-15 seconds, they will leave.

The answer then is to create a specific (or use a specific page) landing page that is all about cyber security. Just imagine if you were searching for “how do I protect my utility plant from hackers.” What would you want to see when you clicked on the link?

When you view your website as a collection of potential landing pages for those searching the web, your focus shifts from just organizing your menus to ensuring that you are producing the pages and content that will directly support your targeted campaigns.

SEO is not optional – Consider the statistic that “Organic web search clicks outnumber paid nearly 12 to 1” (“10 search behavior statistics you need to know!” –business2community.com). Organic web search clicks occur when someone searching the web finds some of your content as a result of that search (on the first page normally). This is not paid search. They are not finding an ad you have bought for that keyword. This means that for businesses as a whole, more people (12 to 1) are actually finding links to existing content on their web sites.

To take advantage of this, your B2B website has to be optimized for search engines to find and like your content. This is where SEO best practices, SEO experts, and content strategists bring you value. SEO itself, is not just adding the appropriate meta data (keywords) into your HTML code or through your CMS (content management system – like WordPress). It is evaluating the types and value of content your site is providing, along with that coding, to effectively promote your content to those search engines. For that, I recommend you at least start with a professional consultant to develop a solid plan and ongoing action items.

A few brief tips to keep in mind as you lead your team to have the most engaging website possible.

  • Don’t let IT own the website. A website is a marketing tool and marketing should be in full control. They will need some technical support from IT or an outside firm but marketing should have the full ability to add, change, delete content without waiting for some IT people (even outside firm) to make that happen. Any site that cannot be maintained by marketing is a failure.
  • Pass the “cover your eye” test. Open your website home page and cover up the logo. Now, if you pretend you are a prospect reading your site, could this content exist on ALL of your competitor sites? In other words, can you quickly identify the unique value you bring to prospects that differentiates you from others? If not, then you are just any site in your market.
  • Google paid search is likely an “ante” in today’s search world. Google search sends 10x more traffic than the next leading referrer (“10 search behavior statistics you need to know!”  –business2community.com).  With that kind of traffic delivery, you should at least consider paid search until you can firmly establish your own organic search results rankings. Paid search is akin to print advertising from a few decades ago. It is the branding in the marketplace. 
  • Answer the questions your buyers are asking. As you develop your market segmentations, buyer personas, needs and messaging, make sure your team comes up with a list of the top questions (maybe five or so) that your ideal buyer is asking when they are looking for solutions. Now, check that your home page (and other key entry points on your site) are answering those questions.

eCommerce

The last key purpose of some B2B websites is to actually provide the ability for prospects and customers to purchase products. That is a topic I am not going to delve into here but I did want to mention it. This is certainly a significant purpose and you would likely want to ensure you have outside professional consulting help in planning and executing on the content, technology, privacy/security issues required to offer this on your site.

B2B website investment – Your website can deliver great value and should get the right attention in terms of your investment to ensure it fulfills these three (or two if you don’t have eCommerce) purposes. This requires investments in:

  • strong market segmentation and audience segmentation
  • value proposition / messaging content
  • purposeful organization based on messaging and audience
  • ongoing content management and SEO
  • ongoing new content postings to keep feeding search engines
  • strong analysis of web analytics for continuous improvement

When prospects find you in their research and engage with you, or when your customers are delighted on the level of support they can get on your site, it’s all worth it.

Marketing investments you can’t skip (just because you lack resources)

As a one-person or small-staff B2B marketing department, there is likely a tension between executing campaigns/tactics that are visible to the rest of the company and internal marketing investments (which are foundational to delivering the quality and results for those campaigns/tactics). I get it. Your management team wants to measure every dollar you spend. However, an important part of your role is to make sure that a few fundamental, but less-visible, marketing tasks are completed. These are the marketing investments you will need to make behind the scenes to truly be effective in creating the kind of marketing that will deliver visible and measurable success to your company. This is the stuff you can’t skip!

Customer Conversation Mapping

This process has to be a collaboration with key sales team members that have the best understanding of the current market. Having an outside facilitator of this process will keep the group focused and prevent the group “drinking its own Kool-aid.” The goal is to have a conversation map view for each specific customer segment you target. It looks something like this:

customer conversation mapping diagram

For each pain point, there will be corresponding drivers, UVPs, etc., so you can draw a line from each pain point to “map” them across where there are duplicates – thus, it is called a conversation map.

These conversation maps will now provide key insights and usable documentation for creating messaging to engage each customer segment as well as messaging and conversation points useful to your sales team.

Fine-tuning your “Categories of One”

In all the years I have spent in and around marketing, I believe the hardest thing for any company to accomplish is to accurately and effectively identify their TRUE unique value propositions. Why do I use the phrase “categories of one?” Because unless your company is planning on being a real winner based on volume and/or price, you are going to have to assist the company in identifying what truly makes them unique. In every market segment, you have to move towards a category of one: prospects don’t compare you to anyone else immediately but instead see you as offering something wholly unique.

A great initial test for this is simple. Go to your company home page, cover up the logo, and then ask yourself and others what, if anything, on that page is something that only your company can claim to offer (meaning you could not put a competitor logo up there and it still be true).

You cannot always be a category of one; You may be in a highly competitive market. However, you can work to find what will move you towards a new category of one within that market. If you can’t, well, you better hope your products are a lot cheaper than other products.

Content Development – Content based on messaging to engage buyers

Once you have developed messaging (and NOT before), you are ready to produce and/or reproduce/refine content to engage your prospects.

You and your product/services group of subject matter experts are responsible for producing two kinds of content: (1) sales-enablement content, which provides key information, speeds/feeds, background, messaging, etc. to sales people, and (2) customer-facing content, which should ALWAYS have your defined messages at the center (as the outline or repeated often in the right context.).

Earlier, I mentioned that you will need to invest in content development for each and every segment that you are trying to reach. Why? You cannot ask your customers to do the work of “translating what you believe your values are into their own context (language of market, market needs, etc.). If you are marketing to an automotive audience, they don’t want to read “vague” messages that could relate to anyone or read messages that are obviously not targeting them. That just won’t work. So get your core content and then adjust that content (many times just a veneer of segment-specific stuff) so your target audience will see themselves in the content.

Also make sure your content connects with prospects at different stages of the buyer’s journey – those that are just becoming aware of your company, those that have some interest, or those wanting to dig in and learn more and evaluate how you solve problems for them.

Website Review – Making it about your Prospects/Customers

The last item on the list of stuff you have to do before you really start “marketing” is to go back and review your website. As with content, many company websites start as a dumping ground for everything “we do.” That is not going to get you very far in terms of search engine ratings or engagement.

There are only three ways that someone is going to find their way to your website:

Direct

A small number of people (partners, employees, existing customers needing service or looking for contact information, or someone that heard about your name from somewhere) are going to just type in the address.

Searching for answers to their problems

Either through free (search engine optimization) or paid (you paid for search terms) search results potential customers will be searching on terms that relate to the problems they are facing and what they might consider as potential solution avenues. This means that your website has to have content focused on customers (“you” the customer), the challenges they face, and the value of what you are bringing them.

Responding to some offer (e.g., paid search, media placement, email offer)

People click on a link provided in an ad or other form of offer pushed to them or that they find on some media site. If the offer engages them enough to click, then they expect to go to a page that continues that engagement (it’s like you got their attention to learn more and now they want to learn more about that exact context).

With that said, you have to create a website organized around how people find you. Your home page is going to primarily get those that know you, so direct them quickly on how to contact you for service, refer a customer to you, give you feedback, or understand how much more value you can provide them (up-sell).

Your paid search and paid advertising efforts should always direct people directly to a “landing page” that continues the same conversation (contextually). For example, if they click on an offer that says, “Click here to learn more about food safety,” you don’t want them to just land on your home page. You want to direct them to a page all about food safety that has offers that engage them.

If you pay for a search term related to something like “solar energy panels,” you don’t want them to land on your home page where solar energy panels is just ONE item on the page (where they have to hunt for it). Make sure you have a landing page that is just about solar energy panels and then perhaps has a sidebar with other services or links.

I think you get the point here. You cannot use your website as one destination. Your website should be many destination pages based on the specific marketing you will be doing and how many segments you are reaching.  Your potential audience does not want you to put the burden on them to find their audience-specific or context-specific content. If they are responding to something you have deliberately targeted by search or audience to them, then they expect you to deliver that landing page that engages them in that context.

Which Conversion Attribution Model is Best for You?

It isn’t uncommon to find a diverse mix of channels and tactics in demand generation and marketing plans, and this is to be expected as each tactic has different strengths and weaknesses. The big question for marketers, however, is how to demonstrate how these diverse tactics effect conversions or e-commerce sales.

The answer to this big question is conversion attribution modeling or methodology– which we can define as a set of rules that dictate how credit for conversions or sales are assigned to the different touch points and tactics within a campaign or conversion path. For the longest time, there wasn’t as big of a focus on conversion attribution modeling, and for the most part only the last tactic that a user interacted with got credit for the conversion. This is all fine and dandy, except for when your limited marketing budget is shrinking and you need to show how each tactic of your marketing and demand generation campaign is instrumental in driving conversions. Now, in the modern marketing landscape, there are a wide variety of conversion attribution models that marketers can use:

Last click attribution

Last click attribution gives 100% of the credit for a conversion to the last tactic that touched the user. This is typically what most marketers are familiar with and does a pretty good job of identifying which tactics are good at generating conversions in a vacuum. However, the drawback to this model is that it neglects to show how other tactics keep your brand’s message at the top of the mind of the user.

First click attribution

First click attribution gives 100% of the credit for a conversion to the first tactic that touched the user. This model does a good job of showing which tactics were the best at grabbing users attention from the start. The downside is that this model doesn’t give much visibility into which tactic ultimately made the user break down and convert.

Linear attribution

Linear attribution takes a more holistic approach to showing how users that converted came to do so; it takes all of the touch points and tactics that a user interacts with before converting and divides the conversion evenly between them. For example, if a user clicks on an email, sees a display ad, and then clicks on a social media post and then ultimately convert, each of the tactics are awarded one third of a conversion.

Time decay attribution

Time decay also – like the linear model – gives fractional conversions to all of the tactics that a led to a user converting. The difference between the two is that the time decay model weights the tactics that were closer to the actual conversion higher than those that happened earlier in the cycle, accounting for people forgetting messaging over time.

Position based attribution

Position based modeling is essentially a hybrid of first click, last click, and linear attribution. It weights the first and last interaction significantly higher than the remaining tactics, giving both a holistic view of the conversion path as well as demonstrating which tactics are initially grabbing users attention and driving the final conversion.

Which do you choose?

So which conversion attribution model is the right one for you? The short answer is that it will likely be valuable to take a look at each model and see the different insights that will make themselves apparent.

Does it make sense to spend another $20k on an online display campaign? Take a look at the linear or time decay attribution and see how well it kept potential users engaged leading up to a conversion. Want to figure out which tactic did the best job of grabbing attention and attracting new users into their funnels? Take a look at the first click conversion attribution model. Trying to discern which tactic was the straw that broke the camels back and finally made users convert? Then last click attribution is the model for you.

At the end of the day taking a look at how your marketing and demand generation campaigns performed from a few different lenses will ensure that you aren’t missing any valuable insights and demonstrate the value of using diverse tactics to reach your audience.

Managing Multiple Clients

When I was the creative lead for multiple clients, I was often tasked with considering what a client needs, understanding what they want to achieve, and balancing it with limited resources.

It was inevitable when managing multiple clients that a disruptive situation with one of the clients would occur. How would one handle that situation while still providing an exemplary level of service for all the other clients?

Here’s an example of a disruptive situation that occurred about year ago when a project manager inadvertently overlooked a client’s pressing timeline. The client grew increasingly concerned about making the deadline due to the potential for lost revenue. A good way to ease the client’s mind is to tailor a plan of action specific to their needs.

Always take careful consideration not to disrupt other clients’ timelines and put together an adjunct team to ensure not only that you can meet the deadline, but to delight the client!

Being a one-person marketing department

Victoria Anders hiking near an alpine lake in Washington state

Being a one-person or very small staff marketing department in today’s marketing world often feels overwhelming. Just considering MarTech choices alone, chiefmartec.com is now charting 8,000 different solutions available for you to evaluate (see Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic).

Even removing that daunting task, you or your small team, are tasked with the responsibility of – take a deep breath – marketing strategy, market research, market segmentation, segment persona and pain point identification, value proposition identification, messaging conversation mapping, customer messaging, branding, media research, media strategy and planning, media negotiation and purchasing, media execution and performance tracking, marketing automation, lead nurturing, marketing content creation, ad creative, demand and lead generation planning, lead delivery, and overall marketing lead performance measurement to be accountable to sales and your business. Whew! – that’s all!? Well, I may have missed a few things. Oh and, you most likely do all of that with a relatively small budget and limited support in the organization.

Did that stress you out? This series of articles is to offer specific lessons learned during my time as a one-person marketing department and in a small staffed B2B marketing agency.

The truths you may face

Unless you happen to be superhuman, you are dealing with many these truths:

  • Being a one-person department doesn’t allow you to short-change the full requirements of full-service marketing making major sacrifices in results – you don’t want that!
  • Today’s B2B marketing execution environment requires a vast repertoire of knowledge and skills that span multiple marketing and MarTech disciplines – and you likely can’t find time to learn them all.
  • You get bombarded with offers from agencies to do digital marketing, SEO optimization, paid search, lead generation, account-based marketing, marketing automation, creative, content creation, media buying, and so much more – and you are not sure how to even evaluate the service or the firm offering the service (i.e., what is the offering, who is good or bad, what will work best, where you should start given your budget).
  • You only have so much money and you only have so much time you can invest – even with the commitment to work extra, you have to go home sometime!

A marketing playbook for success

This series of articles is designed specifically to cover the unique challenges that one marketer or small marketing staff face. The end goal is to accelerate the overall process enabling you to deliver all of the full-service marketing deliverables required to drive sales success for your business.

Here are some topics I will be covering. I am honest enough to admit that I want to leave it a little open-ended in case I have a genius moment and remember something good I forgot to add.

  • Filling the gaps
  • Defining what success will look like
  • The marketing investments you can’t skip
  • Marketing content