Bent out of shape because of low B2B website conversion rates? A fix is in

broken navigation on B2B websiteEver met a guy who said, “Man, I love sitting in the middle of a traffic jam. It’s just so…relaxing” ?

If yes, he would also say, “I love spending 30 minutes on a B2B website to get product information. Those sites that give me the same info in 3 minutes are stupid.”

Traffic snarls cost the global economy hundreds of billions of dollars every year in wasted fuel and lost time.

Poorly designed websites similarly  are huge revenue sucks (a faulty button on the website of an online retailer cost them $300 million per year in lost sales).

But if everything goes according to plan, there are chances that the traffic problem can be solved.

Software that can create real time traffic flow maps using data from GPS sensors and accelerometers embedded in most smartphones is now being deployed in some cities to keep traffic moving constantly and even solve the problem of neglected potholes. It’s a fascinating example of Big Data and crowdsourcing in action.

But what of the problem of navigating through poorly designed sites that are failing to convert prospects to clients?

Contrary to what you might think, it’s not limited to getting a snazzy new logo or a better tagline.

Making B2B websites more responsive and user friendly

A large number of B2B websites today are glorified brochures. The content is static and outdated, navigation is broken and useful information like case studies, spec sheets and contact details are either non existent or gated behind complicated forms.

User experience on them is at par with driving on most Indian roads that are full of potholes and pushcarts and cows and crazy drivers.

With clogged roads drivers have no option but gnash their teeth and bear it. With a crappy website visitors have the option of hitting the back button if they can’t immediately find what they are looking for.

This means if your website is broken and you have no idea how visitors are interacting with it you are potentially loosing money hand over fist.

Why Google Analytics and co are not enough

For long, analytics programs like Google Analytics were being used to fix websites and increase conversions. But these products show aggregated, anonymous data and they can’t trace how a particular person behaved on the site.

However sophisticated and next generation analytics programs that combine real time web analytics, lead scoring, recommendation engines and social CRM can tell you all that, and more.

Here is a use case that’s the online version of real time traffic monitoring and management system. Some of it is possible today, some of it would see the light of the day within 5 years.

Joe Forsyth is a mid level manager at an Inc. 500 company that plans to invest substantially in billing software this fiscal. He is tasked with drawing up a shortlist of vendors.

You are a company that sells highly rated billing software that perfectly meets Joe’s requirements.

Joe lands on your website from your LinkedIn company page. He browses your site and clicks on three customer case studies that are available without registration. Behind the scenes, the prospect analytics software notes the activity and starts working.

On his way home from office, Joe reads one of the case studies and tweets out a link. Following another call to action on your case study he signs up for your newsletter. The email ID that he uses is tied to his Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

Based on his onsite activity and publicly available information pulled from social profiles the software categorizes him as non technical influencer-one of the 4 buyer personas you have set up in the backend.

Joe’s email ID is automatically added to the non technical mailing list. Joe won’t get the auto responder series which talks about the technology but he will get the one which talks about business problems, cost savings and client stories.

Every time he completes a call to action, the software will assign a pre determined score that reflects his receptiveness to a sales pitch.

But the software won’t stop there. Provided certain conditions are met (e.g. cookies not deleted and IP address remaining the same) every time Joe lands on your site the system will actually customize it so that he can get to the content which is more relevant to him first.

Basically, what the system does is YouTube-ify or Amazon-ify your site by adding a content recommendation layer.

Meanwhile, uncertainty  in Joe’s company has forced a hold on all new acquisitions. Joe keeps getting your emails, and he opens some of them. But he does not click through, and that reflects in his lead score- it’s tapering off.

Cut to three months later.

The marketing budget is now been cleared and Joe has got the go ahead for new acquisitions. Because you have been continuously engaging with him, staying on top of his mind and sharing with him useful information that incidentally helped him ace a presentation a week ago he is pretty gung-ho about exploring whether you can solve his problems.

He goes over to your site and completes a bunch of high value calls to action-downloading spec sheets, playing with the ROI calculator and filling out a survey.

The prospect analytics system recognizes Joe and accordingly adjusts his lead score to reflect the higher chances of conversion. It sends out a notification to you that chances of Joe responding positively if you reach out to him are excellent.

And soon enough, an email from you inviting him for a demo is sitting in his inbox.

The future of deep dive analytics

A bunch of companies- tiny startups as well as established companies are designing these analytics packages with varying levels of features. Most of them, like CANDDi, a UK based startup operate on the SaaS model.

Full disclosure: CANDDi is not a client and I am not recommending them- I haven’t tested the software. A LinkedIn contact from the company clued me into the capabilities of this new class of analytics suites.

The ability to tailor content on the fly based on the visitor’s profile, which they claim to be working on especially excited me, considering how much content out there is noise.

Other companies working in this field include HubspotKissmetrics, Marketo, Pardot and Vero. While each has different terms for their products  the bottom line is to let users move from a spray and pray marketing model to a more focused and smarter one that wastes less time and increases conversion rates.

BTW, all this is assuming that companies are diligent with maintaining user privacy and have a transparent policy about how individual information is stored, processed and disposed off.

A question

What tools or strategies are you using to fine tune the user experience of your website? Are you satisfied with the conversion rate of your website, and do you think investing in tools to understand individual  viewer behavior is overkill?

Image courtesy Scalino

About Bhaskar Sarma

I am a conversion copywriter, content and growth marketer and I work with B2B companies to build user acquisition systems, decrease churn, and increase conversion rates. If you have an underperforming website, are bleeding users and customers, or have trouble educating and communicating your value to your market let's talk

  • Lisa Gerber

    Hi Bhaskar,
    Great examples here. The closest I’ve come to using this technology is Hubspot and we’ve found many limitations re: the lead nurturing as well as the customized landing page development. For that reason we had to plug in an email marketing platform and our own LPs with GA codes. I’d be curious to hear what others say and I know Hubspot is constantly updating.

    • Bhaskar Sarma

      Hubspot has certainly pushed the boundaries when it comes to content and inbound marketing. I have seen demos of their product and while I have not really played with it they seem to meet the needs of multiple people.

      BTW, what’s LP?

      • Lisa Gerber

        oh, sorry. :) landing pages. :)

  • Adele Revella

    Your example would be marketing nirvana, Bhaskar. If it works, this would solve a pervasive problem for buyers and the B2B marketers who hope to persuade them. I certainly haven’t seen this working yet, but I can see that the convergence of buyer behavior and technology could be converging to get us there within a few years. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. 

    • Bhaskar Sarma

       I can picture a whole host of marketers going “Squeee!” like a six year old who got her favorite present on Christmas if this scenario plays out. :)

      And trust me, I will be doing a lot of squeeing and gleeful handrubbing.

      From my conversations with Felicity at CANDDi, I understand that they have been able to implement a number of the ideas laid out in my use case.

      Regardless, I think as algorithms get more sophisticated and the number crunching capabilities of software get better marketers will be able to approach the effectiveness of in person sales online in the next 5 or so years.

  • Stephanie Tilton

    Terrific – and desirable – scenario that you’ve painted here, Bhaskar. I can’t help but be reminded of how some marketers believe marketing automation software will magically help them connect with prospects. To make this all work, someone needs to map the right content to each action and prospect type/interest. In other words, conducting research to understand your buyers doesn’t go away. But as Adele says, it’s exciting to see new technologies that are bringing us closer to this nirvana.

    • Bhaskar Sarma

       You have hit the nail on the head regarding content mapping, Stephanie

      If you look at the bigger picture all these shiny bells and whistles will work only when backed up by content that’s relevant to prospect needs. Otherwise it’s the equivalent of people snapping up books and stacking them in a home library, never opened.

      Marketing automation can replace many things people do but if someone assumes that installing an intelligent next gen analytics program is the only requirement for increasing sales I have a beachfront property in Montana going cheap for them.

  • Fred

    Hi Bahskar, it’s Fred from CANDDi, thanks for the article. The use case you’ve described is indeed highlighting the current evolution of the internet and one thing CANDDi has been focusing on: automatically recognizing & understanding individuals, customizing the browsing experience and providing business owners with the ability to identify interesting prospects. Other companies such has Google have built an entire ecosystem where they know who’s behind the computer at all time (logged on G+, gmail, android, youtube) to improve the targeting of results and ads. Prospect analytics goes in the same direction and enables this for any website. It’s a big change from aggregated statistics and one size fits all websites but it’s real and happening now.

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