B2B website development is a major, high-stakes undertaking. Whether you are creating your site for the first time or doing a major refresh, here are 11 of the most effective strategies and steps to help you get where you want to go.
Before reaching out to an agency for your B2B website development, create a roadmap. Doing so will help you locate the agency with the best fit for your needs. Take a little time to consider such issues as:
- High-level goals for your site. Do you want to be more visible in search engines? Increase your credibility? Or do you have other goals?
- What’s good (and bad) about your current site? Which content stays, which goes, and which needs to be re-written? Have you search engine optimized (SEO) your content? Of all the functionalities your site could have, which are “must haves” as opposed to “like to haves”?
- Be realistic about time and budget. Typically, it can take anywhere between three and six months to create a professional services website from start to finish. Creating complex sites takes even longer. And the cost of a new site can range between $25K at the low end and well into 6 digits at the high end.
- Skip the RFP. Preparing an RFP and reviewing proposals requires a lot of your time and effort. But doing so rarely gives you the information you need to make your best decision. A better approach is to look for firms that have created high-quality work for organizations like yours — or that have been recommended to you.
Here are 11 key strategies or steps you can expect following your selection of an agency.
- Project launch
Review technical requirements, such as marketing automation, CRM, and other elements. Indicate key competitors’ websites, and then identify which ones you like and why. Share any stylistic or aesthetic preferences, as well as any concerns about content, analytics, or SEO. Last and most importantly, discuss your prospective buyers and other key audiences, and what specific actions you want from each audience when they visit your site.
- Create a new site map
Aim for a simple structure and navigation. If you have a blog, plan on keeping it — and if not, consider adding one (keep in mind that expert content drives new website traffic and leads). Consider adding a resources section or library containing valuable content with which to engage visitors and build your list. “Lock down” the site map before starting design, and make sure to discuss any impending changes to the structure.
- Write the creative brief
Beginning with the homepage, identify what elements will appear on different pages. Discuss whether it would help to create “pathways” to guide different audiences to the content they need more efficiently. Also consider creating an offer strategy — i.e., where it would help to promote various offers for downloadable content, both content that is available to all, as well as more valuable content that resides behind a registration page. Keep in mind that your offer strategy should align with your firm’s goals — whether those goals are to increase the visibility of your experts, bring in new business, or attract new talent. Describe any creative or functional elements you want and what, if anything, you want to avoid.
- Start the writing process early
The more “real” marketing text (known in the trade as “copy”) that you can give the designers to work with, the easier it will be to evaluate their design concepts. If your site is going to have SEO content, make sure to convey the keyword phrases for all appropriate pages. Then the writer should immediately get working on essential copy, starting with the homepage. Pay close attention to headlines in particular to ensure that they express your key messages or SEO phrases.
- Expect to see 2-3 initial designs
Agencies have different approaches to providing clients with design options. In most cases, you can count on your agency to present two different design concepts. Some of these concepts can be fairly conservative and expected, but at least one should take a more daring approach. Each approach should strive to differentiate your firm visually from competitors.
- Choose the design approach
If you’re working with a good B2B website development team, you should expect to see at least one design approach that feels about right. Even if you are not completely in love with it, choose it as a starting point. Do not focus on specific photographs or other imagery yet — instead, try to react the design as a whole. You should need no more than one or two rounds of revisions to reach a design you can approve.
- Create the remaining layouts
Generally, the design of the rest of the layouts — that is, for secondary or other categories of pages — goes quickly. Count on working closely with your design team. Take the time needed to evaluate any recommended images, and choose the ones that work best for you. Task your internal web development team with identifying any problematic design aspects before they begin coding.
- Build responsive templates
In addition to SEO copy, another way to optimize your website is by using responsive design. This is a design and coding technique that lets your website display legibly on many different types of devices. Your B2B website development team should present designs that show how the site will appear on a phone and tablet.
- Construct the site
Once you have approved all styles, designs, and requirements, send all files to development at the same time. Doing so will make it faster and easier for the team to catch inconsistencies.
- Conduct comprehensive testing of the site
Testing should be done by multiple reviewers, including developers and designers, as well as others who know nothing about the site. It’s fine to begin testing even before the site is finished. Be sure to give yourself a week or more to conduct testing before you launch. Pay special attention to content, looking for any typos, formatting issues or broken links. Keep a record of any bugs you find.
If your schedule permits, do a “soft launch” of the website to give yourself sufficient time to find and fix bugs. Then, after a week or two, everything should look good, and you can formally announce your new site. If possible, having your soft launch on a Friday is best, because it keeps the public exposure of any bugs to a minimum, since traffic is generally lower over the weekend. If you can’t do it on a Friday, choose a day when your team can be available to troubleshoot and fix problems.
Developing a website is a classic example of a project with many moving parts. But by choosing a good partner, keeping your eye on the ultimate goal, and following the best practices outlined above, you can greatly improve your likelihood of a smooth, rewarding process. Best of luck!
Latest posts by Elizabeth Harr (see all)
- 11 Strategies for B2B Website Development - April 7, 2018
- The Power of Marketing During a Leadership Transition - January 29, 2018
- Evaluating Your B2B Marketing Plan: 5 Areas of Focus for 2018 - December 29, 2017