All posts by Kara Jensen

A Look Back & a Look Ahead for B2B Marketing

The Future of B2B Marketing

At Bop Design, we work with a variety of companies in various industries to help them maximize their B2B marketing efforts. In this article, we’ve polled our creative, technical, and content teams to get insights into the current state of B2B marketing. Specifically, we’ll take a look ahead at what marketers should keep an eye on and incorporate into their strategies, as well as a look back to see what trends and strategies are fading out in popularity.

B2B Marketing Trends on the Rise

To get a clear picture of B2B marketing trends on the rise, we’ll look at various avenues and strategies that are gaining in popularity.

Marketing Automation

There is a reason this is at the very top of the marketing trends list. Everywhere you turn, someone is talking about marketing automation. Now, a large portion of the conversation is driven by companies that offer marketing automation software, such as HubSpot and Marketo, but there is a huge demand for this type of software.

As the role of marketing grows and becomes more critical to attracting and nurturing leads throughout the sales process, marketers are taking on more duties. For this very reason, smart marketers are looking to automate where they can to save time and streamline the nurturing process. However, the caveat here is that not everything can or should be automated in marketing. After all, we are all human beings and clients often want a personalized, human touch during the sales process.

Account Based Targeting

Nope, this isn’t a new strategy. What’s new, and trending, is the way that account based marketing is being used. Rather than actively working a list of ideal prospects via phone calls and in-person visits, B2B marketing strategies are beginning to incorporate less aggressive methods for nurturing these prospects. The real win with all the account based targeting technology out there, like El Toro and AdDaptive, is that it enables marketers to market only to those prospects. Rather than spending a ton of money on one banner ad on a general website, marketers can now efficiently spend their budget to get ads in front of key prospects on a target list.

White Websites

In 2017 and into the future, a company’s website can make or break the brand. In many cases, it’s the first impression a prospect gets of a brand. For this very reason, there is a trend in B2B web design towards white websites. Rather than saturating the background and foreground of a website with various colors, there is a distinctive move towards websites that use white backgrounds and minimal color. This enables the web designer to focus the website visitor’s attention and declutter the website (both of which help improve lead conversion).

Meaningful Motion + Animation

Motion and animation in web design are not the same as video. Rather, they are both design tools that enable a more fluid experience for the website visitor. For example, if as a user scrolls down a website, certain aspects of the design expand to reveal information or animate to illustrate a complicated process – this is meaningful motion or animation. Rather than being the center of the design, these tools are used to create a seamless experience for the user and educate them simultaneously. This trend is on the rise for professional web design as the user’s experience is more central to the overall B2B marketing strategy.

Subtle Interactive Elements

Gone are the days when rotating image banners and parallax scrolling are considered show-stopping, cutting-edge design tools used to make a website stand out from others. To make a good impression these days, less is more. Subtle interactive hover and motion effects applied to various elements throughout a webpage can improve the way a user navigates and incite an engaging experience that makes them want to come back again and again.

Video Backgrounds

Video, video, video. Everyone is talking about video. Everyone is now a video producer. In some cases that can be a bad thing (soooooo many Snapchat videos) and in other cases it can be a good thing (ahem, all the cat videos). Seriously though, a major trend we are seeing (and LOVE) is the integration of video into digital marketing assets, particularly in B2B web design. The video backgrounds have demonstrated value as they support the brand story and visually emphasis messaging. Check out the use of video as a background on the Klarna website.

Minimalist Style

This has been here for some time now, but it continues to be a major trend as B2B marketers are struggling in a noisy world to communicate with prospects and clients. Minimalist design basically just means that the B2B website design or digital marketing assets have clean lines, the right amount of white space to improve visual flow or legibility, and can take on any style of the designer’s choosing. Minimalism is versatile and marries form and function when aptly applied.

SVG Files

The next trend is exclusive to web design. SGVs are vector files (illustration files) that have been optimized for a website and can maintain their infinite scalability. This means icons without any signs of pixellation are able to scale up or down depending on the screen size. SVGs make for a cleaner design and help maintain quicker page loading times. Designers and developers should use SVGs whenever and wherever they can to improve SEO and to enhance the user experience.

Remarketing

Once you get your brand in front of a prospect, it’s important to stay in front of them. While remarketing isn’t new, B2B marketing strategies are implementing it more and more and in different ways. Why? Because this is often an inexpensive way to solidify brand awareness and to be readily accessible when a prospect is ready to make contact. Everyone likes to feel like getting in touch with a vendor is their idea (and not because of marketing). Remarketing is an ingenious way to stay in front of prospects so it’s “their idea” to get in touch with your brand when they are ready to start a conversation.

Press Releases

Once upon a time, press releases were a great way to improve SEO with verified backlinks to a brand website. This is no longer the case. However, press releases are still very relevant and will see an uptick in the upcoming year in terms of B2B marketing. Why? Because industry publications are still interested in the movers and shakers in their market and often turn to press releases for the latest product and service announcements. The major shift in terms of press releases will be towards better segmentation, such as sending the releases to an industry-specific audience of journalists.

Meta Descriptions

They’re coming back on people’s radar and marketers are putting more thought into the meta descriptions for every significant page on a website. While meta descriptions still won’t directly help a website rank better for any search terms, they can work as a marketing tool. A well-crafted meta description entices users to click through to a website from search results (which may help boost rankings down the road). However, make sure you don’t stuff them with keywords. Salesmanship is the key here, not search engine optimization.

Google Tag Manager

As marketers, we track everything, especially when it comes to our budgets and lead acquisition. The only drawback is waiting for an IT manager or developer to add the critical piece of code we need to be added to the website. Google Tag Manager is the solution B2B marketers have been waiting for. In the near future, more and more brands will implement Google Tag Manager as an easy way to track the performance of their campaigns and have more control over their sites.

Content Promotion

A little while back, all it took in content marketing was to create, optimize and post. This is not the case anymore as social media networks like Facebook are moving towards 0% organic reach for brands and companies. Due to this trend, there is a shift towards allocating more resources to not only content creation, but also content promotion. Once a blog is posted or a content offer is created, it’s essential that B2B brands have a strategy to pay to promote the content to their target market.

B2B Marketing Trends Fading Out

It’s tough to say goodbye, but often, it’s just time. While certain B2B marketing trends are on the rise, there are definitely a handful on the way out. Here we take a look at marketing trends you should be moving away from.

SEO-first Approach to Website Design

As we’ve mentioned before, good search engine optimization works because it focuses on the end user and not the search engine itself. However, there are still a lot of SEO’s out there who believe that optimization should be done purely for Google or Bing and, even with the best intentions, overlook the needs of the end user. As such, we are happy to see the SEO-first approach to website design fading in popularity. If you are following web design best practices for a great user experience, you are likely engaging in best practices for SEO as well (fast load times, clear site structure, quality back-end coding, etc.).

All Social Networks

For a while there, it seemed like a new social media network was launching every few months. The little social media icons listed on a B2B website seemed to be growing exponentially. This brings us to a trend that is dying out: trying to have a presence on every single social media network. Rather than trying to maintain an active presence on every single social platform out there, B2B marketing professionals are narrowing their focus and putting their energy into the one or two networks that their target market is using.

Small Web Fonts

There is nothing worse than getting to a website and not being able to read the copy. While there is a lot of discussion about Millennials this and Millennials that, we can’t forget that there is a HUGE population of B2B prospects out there that are over 40. Been to the optometrist lately? He or she will tell you that no matter what, when you hit 40, you’ll likely need reading glasses. The trend of websites using small web fonts “just to fit all the required information” is on the way out. The shift in web design is towards legible font sizes, which Google clearly states is important in website development. Even if you don’t care what Google thinks, larger header fonts command attention and larger body copy keeps it. Websites that want to keep their visitor’s attention are taking a good look at font size.

The “Fold” Doesn’t Matter

We still hear hesitant clients have concerns about “scrolling” when they’re worried a user won’t be inclined to scroll past the top of a web page. As responsive design is a standard for successful user experience across all screens, scrolling is now a subconscious response most internet users exhibit. Nowadays, if your B2B website doesn’t have a design that enables scrolling, users may get frustrated and even suffer from that physical discomfort. For this reason, the trend of trying to keep all important messages “above the fold” is quickly fading out.

Website Pop-ups

If a user navigated to your website for a specific reason and is gearing up to read the content they’ve sought after when, suddenly, a big ol’ pop-up blocks their view, there’s a large chance they will be annoyed. An annoyed user that’s casually searching the web will most likely close the window, as well as your chance to generate a lead. Why even risk it when there are way more subtle ways of catching attention without distracting the user from getting what they want? Website pop-ups that interfere with the user experience are quickly falling of the B2B marketer’s radar.

Content Silos

Over the past few years, the trend in B2B content marketing, unfortunately, has been creating content in silos. This has resulted in sales not knowing what to do with website leads, or worse,  not doing anything with website leads! It has also resulted in customer service teams not being aware of all the available resources and training tools they can share with clients.

Recently, we’ve seen a shift from this “content belongs to marketing” mentality and a shift towards cross-department engagement in content creation and utilization. Firms that share their content marketing goals with the entire organization, even engaging teams outside of marketing as subject matter experts, see a much wider adoption and distribution of the very resources they are creating. We expect this trend towards cross-department integration into content marketing to grow and affect the lead nurturing and customer service relationships.

While this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the trends flourishing and fading in B2B marketing, it’s the ones that have the most impact on future strategic planning. Have you seen any marketing trends gaining speed or sputtering out? Let us know in the comments below.

B2B Website Design Trends: Friends or Foes?

Scrolling single page websites, videos playing in the background, short-form content, pop-up calls-to-action, hamburger menus. These are just a handful of the B2B website design trends showing up across various brand websites. However, we all know that just because something is trendy doesn’t mean it is effective…cough fidget spinners cough cough.

So, which B2B website design trends are friends and which are foes? The answer typically lies in the objective of the website.

SEO & Usability Foes

If your objective is to design a B2B website that can be found online, then search engine optimization (SEO) best practices should be at the center of your design strategy. When looking to rank organically for your ideal key terms, these trends can end up being the enemies of your SEO efforts:

Scrolling Single Page Websites

Scrolling single page websites have their purpose. They allow a brand to carefully control the user experience and guide the user through a well-crafted story. However, for brands looking to rank organically, the B2B website design should incorporate multiple pages and hierarchies in the layout. This is particularly important for brands that have different types of services. Ideally, each unique service should have a dedicated web page incorporated into the design.

Background Videos

Background videos playing behind messaging is a really cool trend in B2B website design these days. It adds a visual layer of movement to an otherwise static design. The movement can help to emphasize the message overlaid on it.

While a couple of these types of background videos can create a positive user experience, too many videos or videos that aren’t optimized for web browsing will negatively impact the website’s load time. A website that takes a long time to load can create a poor user experience, which becomes a foe of the web design as it negatively impacts SEO.

Short Form Content

Short and sweet – that is generally a great rule for B2B marketing in general. It’s concise, great for user experience, and for scanning the page easily. However, if too short, it may hinder the website’s ability to rank for certain keywords. Not all short-form content is bad for SEO, but it should be long enough to effectively explain a topic.

Rather than letting short form content dominate your B2B website design, include a place for long-form content on the website. This will enable you to draft enough relevant copy to explain your products and services clearly to your audience while also letting search engines know exactly what types of products and services you offer.

Pop-Up CTAs

Everyone says they hate pop-up calls-to-action, but in many cases, they are actually quite effective if done properly. If a brand has a helpful starter guide or an insightful industry research report, these make great pop-ups. However, when a B2B website design doesn’t plan for pop-up CTAs, is overrun by them, or has pop-ups that interfere with messaging, they quickly ruin the entire user experience. Website designs that integrate pop-ups that aren’t intrusive can be the natural friend of a website’s user experience.

Hamburger Menus

We aren’t talking about Mickey D’s or that BK place here. We are talking about the collapsible website menus that look like three horizontal lines, or a rudimentary hamburger – hence the name. This trend is a great advantage for mobile web browsing but can be a disadvantage to B2B websites that cater to a non-techie audience or an audience unfamiliar with hamburger menus. In these particular cases, the hamburger menu may look clean and uncluttered, but it could hinder discoverability and limit the traffic to the subpages on the website.

Conclusion

Best practices and trends for B2B website design are continually evolving. The best approach to ensure that design trends aren’t crushing the effectiveness of your website is to consider the user experience, which simultaneously impacts SEO.

Questions about the effectiveness of your current B2B website design? Contact us today to get a personalized evaluation of your existing website design.

Scary B2B Marketing Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Mistakes happen. We live in a busy, noisy world where things are bound to slip through the cracks and mistakes are made. We are only human, right?

However, rather than simply accepting that mistakes happen, we are going to share the scariest B2B marketing mistakes along with tips on how to avoid them. In many cases, a little planning and a disciplined approach eliminate the majority of the following mistakes.

Trying to Be Everything to Everyone

This is a common mistake that we see B2B marketing professionals making. In their marketing efforts, they try to be everything to everyone. Let’s be real. While your firm may have a fantastic product or a comprehensive service, you can’t service everyone. In fact, you likely have a sweet spot in terms of the most profitable services or the ideal client.

The best way to avoid the mistake of trying to be everything to everyone is to know your target market. For example, at Bop Design, we design and build custom B2B websites, but we focus on service-based B2B firms. We do not take on e-commerce B2B clients. Why? Because we do not excel in that area. An essential component of successful B2B marketing is knowing what you can’t or shouldn’t do.

Start by building a buyer persona that is specific and detailed. Who is your ideal customer, what is their title, what are their needs, what is their experience, what challenges do they face on a daily basis, and what questions do they have for your firm? Once you build this buyer persona, you can create clear messaging that speaks directly to that target market.

Don’t worry about alienating other folks, because they aren’t the right fit for your company anyway.

Living in the Past

What worked five years ago may still work, but it may not be the most effective method for meeting your firm’s marketing objectives. We’ve heard a slew of clients say they like to rely on the tried and true methods. Sure, there isn’t any risk, but there also isn’t any chance for a larger reward.

The best B2B marketing strategy takes into account new technologies, channels, and approaches. We aren’t saying to jump on the bandwagon for every new shiny approach. Rather, simply being open to learning new technologies or exploring upcoming channels enable marketers to keep their brand relevant and reach clients where they want to be reached.

Don’t get caught ignoring new channels and strategies.

Overworking Your Audience List

We refer to this as fatigue. The reason this is a scary mistake is that the intentions are good, but driven from a selfish place. A brand or company may have tons of great things to share and product launches to promote, but they need to be sufficiently spaced out. Sending too many emails in a short amount of time that are focused on promoting your products or services absolutely will annoy your audience, whether it’s an email list, social media audience, or blog followers. Remember that these folks have shown a certain level of interest in your company and have taken the steps necessary to ensure they see your future messaging, but don’t burn them out.

Don’t abuse or overwork your audience by continually sharing content they don’t care about. While your latest special or promotion may be great, if they aren’t in a position to start the sales process, it’s a waste of their time. Before hitting send, share, or post, look at your B2B marketing content as part of a broader picture. Was your last email similar? Did your last blog post talk about your products and services too? Have you shared an educational blog post lately or just propaganda for your company?

Don’t just push out the lasted promotion or special. Think about your content from the audience’s perspective and ask yourself what value this has to them.

Focusing Only on Lead Generation

Lead generation is super important. It keeps the sales team happy and ensures a continuous stream of revenue for your B2B firm. There is a big “BUT” though. It should not be the only focus of your B2B marketing strategy. In order to maintain a positive brand experience, you need a comprehensive approach that includes brand awareness and brand recognition as well. Why? Because not all prospects are ready to convert.

Particularly in the B2B world, the sales cycle can take a long time, anywhere from one month to one year or more. For this very reason, it’s important to have a marketing approach that has multiple objectives, including lead generation, lead nurturing, brand awareness, and reputation management. And don’t forget about the low-hanging fruit, client retention. For many firms, it only takes a little bit of extra effort and a minimal cost to maintain existing client relationships (it’s recurring revenue!).

Only focusing on lead generation can have very scary results. Imagine focusing 100% of efforts on generating leads. What happens to those leads once they are in the door? Marketing also needs to take an active role in nurturing leads. Producing 20 leads is useless if they aren’t properly nurtured or handled once they come in. Marketing is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash.

Don’t get pressured into only focusing on lead generation. Take a holistic approach that considers what happens before the lead is generated, in addition to what happens after.

Scary B2B Marketing Mistakes Will Cost You

The scariest thing about these four marketing mistakes is what they will cost your B2B firm. They end up costing money, time, resources, and your brand reputation. Mishandling a lead can lead to a poor reputation. Overworking your audience list can lead to audience attrition and a diminished prospect pool. Ignoring new marketing technologies or approaches can cause your firm to miss out on potential opportunities and new audiences. Trying to be everything to everyone ensures that your firm won’t be able to properly deliver on anything. Take heed and avoid these scary B2B marketing mistakes.

Ready to revamp your B2B marketing strategy? Contact us today for a personalized marketing consultation and strategy creation for your B2B firm.


5 Reasons Why Your B2B Website Isn’t Getting Done on Time

At the beginning of a website project, a schedule is determined for design, copywriting, development, and QA. However, for a variety of reasons, B2B websites often don’t launch on the pre-determined target date.

Let’s take a look at 5 common reasons why a B2B website launch is delayed.

  1. Not providing timely feedback

This is a big one and the most common reason website projects are delayed. Often, different stages of the web design must be completed before moving to the next stage. This means a delay in the web design stage will delay development.

It’s critical that both the web design agency and the client provide timely feedback and communicate regularly. If feedback on the copy or the web design is delayed by a few days, it pushes everything back a few days. If that happens repeatedly, the days add up and your launch date can be delayed by several weeks.

  1. Missing deadlines for input or providing reference materials

As mentioned before, many pieces of a B2B web design project are reliant on other smaller pieces. For example, a web design can’t be completed without all the necessary images or content (such as white papers, team bios or facts & figures) to include on a page. It’s essential that all input for design and copy, as well as any reference materials, are provided by the deadlines set in the schedule. Missing deadlines means that other parts of the project will also be delayed. A web design agency cannot simply move on to a different part of the project while they wait for materials.

  1. Too many decision makers

You have heard the saying that too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth. This holds true for B2B web design projects as well. Too many decision makers can muddy the waters with various opinions and lack of focus. Additionally, having to run every decision by multiple decision makers will cause delays in the web design process. It’s best to assign one or two people to be the main decision makers on a project and to give them the authority to make the final call on design, copy, images, and such.

  1. Changing direction or goals mid-way through a project

This particular situation can be very disruptive to a website project and cause delays of weeks or even months. A common scenario occurs when a new person joins the website project team. They may or may not understand the process so far or may not be on board with the objectives that have already been defined. We advise clients against adding new team members to a web design project once it has already started. However, if a new person is essential to the project, be sure to brief them on the direction, goals, and objectives and make sure they are in agreement.

  1. Not having a dedicated project manager at your company

We understand that everyone at your company is already very busy with their day to day responsibilities. Often, a web design project is one more thing on a very crowded calendar. The best way to avoid any delays is to assign a dedicated project manager with decision-making power to the B2B website project. Ideally, their responsibilities have been realistically allocated to give them enough bandwidth to give the proper amount of time and attention to the project. Having a dedicated project manager ensures that one person is keeping an eye on schedules and has the ability to keep the project on track by getting timely feedback, gathering resources needed for the design agency, and making decisions to keep the project moving along.

Many companies underestimate the time it takes to build a website, so it’s important to be realistic about the impact it will have on team schedules. A design agency will do the heavy lifting, but your input and contributions are essential to creating a high-quality B2B website that makes your brand stand out among the competition.

Questions about your B2B web design project? Contact us today !


How to Make the Most of Your Trade Show Investment

Trade shows can be wonderful opportunities to collaborate with your peers, learn the newest trends or technologies affecting your industry, and create new relationships with potential partners and clients. However, they can also require a significant investment of time, resources, staff, and money.

As B2B marketing experts, we’ve helped quite a few clients create trade show booths, marketing materials, and digital design pieces to maximize their company’s presence at a trade show. We have also attended our fair share of trade shows in the B2B marketing world. In my experience, there are several steps that B2B firms should take to really get the most out of their trade show investment and ensure their time (and money) are well spent.

Collect Visitor Information

Have a plan to collect the information of individuals who visit your trade show booth. Many trade shows provide you with scanners to scan a person’s badge. Follow up by sending attendees an email that thanks them for stopping by and provides relevant thought leadership content. If you can personalize these emails with specific content pieces related to their needs, do it.

Alternatively, have an iPad setup where visitors can sign up to receive additional information. Make sure that they have an option to get on the list to receive your company’s email newsletter. If they aren’t ready to buy now, email newsletters work as a great lead nurturing tool.

Host Games or Contests

The competition on the trade show floor can be pretty steep and you may only have a small amount of time with visitors. Rather than just doling out company propaganda, provide an interactive activity or contest to engage your audience. Have a great raffle prize like an iPad, Fitbit, or an expensive bottle of wine. As a bonus to making contact and getting your brand in front of visitors, you can collect their contact information.  Other great booth draws include quiz games, putting greens, spinning wheels, and less expensive giveaways to capture people walking by.

Don’t Skimp on Your Booth

We understand that trade shows can be expensive to attend, with the investment in airfare, exhibition fee, hotels, and even your employees’ time away from their regular duties. But your booth design is not where you should be saving your pennies. Even if you have a smaller booth, don’t skimp by just getting some cheap roll-up banners. There are very affordable larger displays with professional graphics that can make your company look polished. After all, after investing all those resources, why would you want your company to look cheap or unprofessional?

Maximize Your Branding Opportunity

A trade show is a great way to put your brand in front of prospects or reinforce your branding with existing clients. Invest in compelling promotional items to get visitors to your booth. The booths with enticing giveaways always get more buzz. People love free things. My favorite giveaway is a quality tote in your company colors with a large logo. Attendees walking around the tradeshow will use your tote to carry all the other stuff they collect. Before you know it, your brand name and color is all over the conference. Visitors will literally be carrying around your logo like mobile billboards.

Get Active on Social Media

Gain exposure by posting on your firm’s social media channels before, during, and after the trade show. Most conferences have hashtags, so don’t forget to include those and link up with other attendees. This also lets your company’s followers know you are attending the conference if they’d like to stop by and say hi. It can be a great way to create another touchpoint for existing clients or prospects that you are nurturing.

Take Advantage of Speaking Opportunities

If the conference or trade show offers speaking opportunities and your company has thought leaders who can put together a relevant presentation, take advantage of it. You can cross promote your exhibit and speaking engagement, maximizing your trade show investment. The best part is that it positions your company as a thought leader in the industry and gives you high visibility in a room full of your prospects.

Focus on Educational Materials

Ditch the big capabilities brochure and provide a professionally designed guide or white paper instead. Content marketing pieces that educate prospects about your products and services are a great resource to take to shows. Of course, you still want visitors to know what you do, so you can always have a smaller company overview handout or include it at the end of your guide or white paper.

Exhibiting at a trade show is a pricey marketing endeavor, so if you are going to do it, make sure to budget properly to ensure its success.

Need help preparing B2B marketing materials for your next trade show? Contact us today to see how we can help.


3 SaaS Companies that Understand Branding

A SaaS Buyer’s Journey

A few years ago, when researching a new project management software tool for Bop Design, I did what most prospective buyers do. I came up with a list of requirements, searched the web for top project management tools and talked to other people in the industry. This resulted in a very short list of contenders—one of which swept me away with their beautiful, compelling website and charismatic sales people. Finally a tool that was going to solve all of my project management woes!

I sign a contract and start the promised “3 week implementation” period. Fast forward three months later, this expensive software is still not being utilized and my staff being trained to use it, hates it. The user-interface (UI) is confusing and the user-experience (UX) is even worse.

Unmet Expectations

So, what went wrong? The hype created in the sales process and cutting edge website, didn’t match the software experience. This is a perfect example of a poorly executed brand promise.

Your brand is more than your logo. It’s the expectations and experience a buyer has about your products and services, from the first touch point to sales engagement to user experience to customer service. A good brand aligns marketing and delivery. Let’s take Starbucks as an example. We are sold the idea of community, seasonal beverages, and fair-trade. When I go to Starbucks that’s exactly what I get. I don’t get unfriendly people, a static menu, and a lack of social-consciousness.

What Makes a Good SaaS Brand?

In this day and age where SaaS products come and go and buyers are more impatient than ever, there are several things that can make a SaaS brand get noticed and stand the test of time including:

  • A tool that solves legitimate problems
  • Clean and intuitive UI & UX
  • A tool that doesn’t require months, weeks or even days to learn
  • High adoption rates (The easier it is to use, the higher that adoption rate. No one is going to pay for software they don’t use for very long.)
  • Accurate and honest marketing

 

Below are 3 SaaS brands that are getting it right:

Basecamp

How they are getting it right

  • Basecamp’s website and their software have a consistent look and feel.
  • The home page clearly spells out use cases and showcases social proof.
  • The “How it Works” page is accurate and looks exactly like their software.
  • The software is incredibly easy to use, and that’s saying something for a project management tool.
  • It requires almost no training.
  • It has had a tremendously high adoption rate.
  • The visionaries at Basecamp are very focused on improving their flagship product and aren’t getting distracted by continually trying to create spin-off products to expand their market.

 

Slack

How they are getting it right

  • What seems like overnight, Slack has become an indispensable tool in many workplaces.
  • The user-experience on desktop and mobile is exactly the same.
  • While most chat apps are very easy to use, even Slack’s more advanced features are intuitive and require no training.
  • Their visual brand is super consistent—from their ads and commercials to website and software, it’s a consistent look that is undeniably Slack.
  • The app has extremely high adoption rates.

 

Quickbooks

How they are getting it right

  • Quickbooks has been around forever (in software years anyway) and has adapted as the market has changed.
  • Their new SaaS platform has made the software incredibly easier to use.
  • With the help of my CPA, I was able to learn what I need in Quickbooks in less than an hour.
  • The UI is very intuitive, visually appealing and consistent with their marketing.
  • Their website displays social proof and honestly speaks to their target market of small businesses.

 

The Takeaway

With the marketing of a SaaS product, make sure your company can live up to its brand promise. This will translate into long-term, happy customers.


Cool Content Marketing Ideas for Tech Firms

Whether your tech firm sells services software or products, you want your content marketing efforts to educate and engage your target audience. These efforts should result in a more educated buyer and hopefully position your firm as the best option.

As subject matter experts in your tech field, it’s easy to come up with topics to educate your ideal client audience. However, it can be tough to come up with B2B content marketing ideas that are educational AND engaging. At Bop Design, we’ve worked with a slew of B2B firms in the tech field. Based on our experience and what we’ve seen in the tech space, here are some cool content marketing ideas to make pieces that educate, engage, and inspire.

Video Demos

It’s very common to have a “request a demo” button on software websites or even some product sites. However, not every website visitor is ready to have a sales conversation yet. Rather than trying to force a demo on prospects who aren’t ready, try creating videos that demonstrate certain parts of your software or the cool functionality of your products. Video demos are great B2B content marketing pieces to educate a prospective buyer and save your sales team time by nurturing leads in the early stages. If the website visitors want to learn more, they can request a live demo that can be catered to their specific needs.

Interactive Infographics

The tech world is full of complicated things. Try using infographics to explain complicated processes or functionality in a visual and interactive manner. Maybe you have a specific process on how you develop solutions for your clients. Rather than giving them a dull one sheet with this information, try creating an infographic that visually takes the user through the process and allows them to learn more about each stage by clicking on it. This type of content marketing piece is something you can use on your B2B website, landing pages and even repurpose for videos or print material.

Here’s an example of what we do for a Flex Circuit company.

Stat-Driven Case Studies

Don’t be like all the other tech firms that write long-form (and sometimes boring) case studies. It makes your prospective buyer work too hard and takes up too much of their precious time! If you had to boil down what makes your service, software or product great to just a few measurable points – what would they be and how would you measure up? You can turn this info into statistics driven case studies that give your potential clients the info they need quickly. Remember, content marketing should be educational AND engaging (don’t forget the engaging part!).

Check out these fun, compelling short case studies for MediKeeper, a wellness portal software company.

Industry Reports 

Rather than a traditional white paper or guide, a yearly industry report is an extremely useful B2B content marketing piece for your user groups. This is something that requires more effort in developing, but something your audience can look forward to on a yearly basis. If you put in the effort and present the industry report in an engaging way, you can make your content marketing efforts highly anticipated in the industry, which not only establishes your firm as an authority in the field but makes you the go-to resource for clients and prospects.

Check out what Litmus, an email testing company creates this useful guide every year.

Recap Blogs

Whatever sector your company operates in, innovations can happen pretty quickly. A great way to take part in the tech changes affecting your industry is to write recap blogs. If there is a large conference or industry announcement, have a knowledgeable member of your staff write up the highlights, how it affects your clients/prospects, and what they need to do to adapt/implement. By getting this timely information upon your blog and sharing it with your followers, you can become the go-to resource for your industry.

An Interactive Checklist

At first glance, a checklist doesn’t seem that cool or innovative but think about all the times a checklist has come in handy for your job or personal life. When shopping for software or tech products, there is a heck of a lot of needs, requirements, and moving parts. For example, a prospect looking to purchase new software tool may have a slew of internal stakeholders who need particular functionality from the software. Write up a list of what to ask about software before purchasing to make it easy for prospects. They should be able to download the checklist and refer to it whenever they interview a software vendor. (The best part is your branding will be on the checklist and will be in front of them even as they talk to competitors).

Ready to get started with a content marketing strategy for your tech firm? Contact us to discuss content marketing for your firm.


Questions to Ask Before Designing a New B2B Website

A new website is an exciting (and sometimes terrifying) endeavor for many companies. It’s exciting because you have the opportunity to create a dynamic digital presence for your brand that truly speaks to your customers and relates the real values of your business. On the other hand, there are so many options, decisions to make, people to consult, that it can be overwhelming.

Over the years, I’ve guided hundreds of B2B firms through the web design and development process. In this post, I’ll address questions you need to ask before designing a new B2B website, both internally and externally.

I. Questions You Should Ask Internally Before Looking for a Web Design Agency

A. Why do we need a new website? What are our goals?

It’s important to have a clear understanding of what your goals are for your B2B website in order to make it a successful project. For example, a company who wants to generate more leads vs. a company who just wants to reposition themselves in the marketplace have two very different goals, which will affect every aspect of the website creation process.

B. Who will oversee or manage the project?

Even though you plan on hiring a web design agency, it will require regular input from you and your team. Decide who on your team or in your organization will manage or oversee the entire website project. Make sure this person is in an appropriate role to manage, they have the bandwidth needed to create a successful website, and they have the authority to make decisions about your brand.

C. Who will support the person overseeing the project?

The person overseeing the B2B web design project will likely need support, whether it’s gathering appropriate business information, branding guidelines, visual assets such as photos, videos or content creation. Think of who you need on your project team before you start contacting agencies.

D. Who are the final decision makers?

It’s important to keep the final decisions makers to the smallest number possible – 1 to 3 people for efficiency. The more decision makers, the longer the project will take and the less likely it will achieve your desired objectives.

E. Are there any specific features or functionality your firm requires?

Getting your requirements together before shopping will result in quicker, more accurate proposals. A few things to consider are whether you need your B2B website to connect to your CRM, Marketing Automation Tool, Third-party recruiting tools, or if you need a product gallery or eCommerce functionality. Make sure you create a comprehensive list and determine what are must-haves and what are nice-to-haves (there is a difference and knowing the priority will save time down the road).

F. What is your budget?

This is a question every agency is going to ask you in your initial discussion with them. It’s a good idea to at least have a range ready to speed up the buying process. You may need to ask your CFO or CMO for the budget range, but it will help to eliminate any agencies that are either way out of your budget or don’t have the capability to meet your complex requirements (such as a one-person shop).

G. Do you and your team have the time?

Most reputable digital agencies have delay fees. You want to make sure that if you are ready to start a project, you have the time to provide regular feedback, input, and provide assets as needed. If not, it will hold up the project and you are likely to get hit with fees and will end up paying more than you had initially budgeted.

H. What is your ideal timeline?

A B2B website overhaul takes time. If you have a new business or a small website, it will take less time. If you have a large, complicated website, it will take more time. Realistically, you are looking at a 3 to 9-month process, depending on the complexity of your project. Have a realistic timeline of when you’d like to launch your new website and then work backward from that.

Now that you’ve answered your web design questions internally, it’s time to start shopping for the right digital agency to meet your brand’s needs.

II. Questions to Ask When Shopping for a B2B Digital Agency

A. What is your experience with B2B?

You want an agency that understands the B2B buying cycle and the nuances of B2B customers, so they can build a website that will support it in the best way possible. They should be able to point to a range of B2B clients and articulate what makes selling and marketing in the B2B space different from B2C.

B. What is your experience with my specific industry?

You don’t need an agency to know all the ins and outs of your industry, but experience in the same or similar industry—plus a general knowledge of the type of customers you are marketing to—is extremely helpful. This experience and knowledge will make the process go more smoothly. You won’t spend your time as a client educating your agency about every detail of your industry.

C. What is your process like?

The agency you are hiring better have a defined process for creating B2B websites. If they don’t, get rid of them. At Bop Design, we are very transparent about our web design process and work to explain every step of the way to our clients. Our process consists of several phases:*

  1. Discovery

This is where the agency should get to know your business and your unique value proposition, target market, and the function of the website.

  1. Design

Based on the information gathered during the discovery process, the web design firm should present your company with several design options.

  1. Content

Writing the website copy is considered a separate activity from the design phase, but it often happens at the same time as the design phase.

  1. Web Development

Once the design and content are approved, a web design firm should move the project focus to the backend of the website using an experienced development team.

  1. Launch

After the website is developed and approved, it’s time to launch the website and share it with the world. It’s essential to work with a firm who is familiar with this process and will provide support for a period of 30 days post-launch.

*This is a high-level overview. For a more in-depth view of the website design process, download our B2B Website Buyers Guide.

D. Who are the people that will be working on our company’s website?

Creating a new B2B website is a big undertaking and requires multiple disciplines – project management, design, development, content strategy, writing, marketing strategy, SEO, etc. Make sure all these areas are covered and it’s not just one or 2 people that think they can handle all of it.

B2B Website Buyer’s Guide

This is a quick overview of questions to consider before you design a new website for your B2B firm. For a more comprehensive dive into how to find the right digital agency for your firm, download our B2B website Buyer’s Guide.


Drive Leads with Six Critical Web Design Elements

There is a lot you can do to drive traffic to your B2B website: on-page search engine optimization (SEO), promoting it on social media channels, search engine marketing (SEM), display ads, direct mailers, and email campaigns, just to name a few.

However, what good is all that great visitor traffic if your website if you aren’t getting any new leads?

While the purpose of a website is not solely to drive leads, it’s often the most tangible ROI of any B2B website. For this very reason, it’s critical that any B2B firm’s website is maximized for lead generation. Below are six tips to start driving more website leads.

Intuitive Layout

Recently, we explored critical considerations for digital marketing and usability along with how this impacts the perception of your brand. It’s essential that your B2B website layout is intuitive, easy to navigate, and prioritizes things your prospects and clients care about.

If your firm’s contact information and access to the products and services you offer are the main concern for prospects, put those at the top of the page. If articles discussing how your products are best utilized or a demo of your products are important to your potential clients, make those very easy to find.

There is no one best layout for a B2B website (hence why template websites aren’t ideal), but the main rule is that you don’t want your users to have to hunt for information. Make everything easy to find and enable users to get to information within one to two clicks.

Clear, Concise Copy

Get to the point and get there fast. You only have a limited amount of time to reach a potential client and show them the value of your products or services. This does not mean that you can’t weave a story, but it does mean you can’t mince words. It also means that you must be selective about what you include on the homepage and other pages. Be sure to prioritize the main benefits or values of your products or services at the very start of your copy.

Working with an experienced, professional copywriter is a great way to achieve this goal. The copywriter can take your input and expertise and finesse it into concise copy that entices prospects to convert.

Check out 7 tips for writing copy that sells for tips on writing your B2B website copy.

Compelling CTAs

A variety of compelling calls-to-action on a B2B website are crucial for driving leads. Don’t leave it up to the user to figure out what they should do next – instead, guide them on what to do next. Prompt them to schedule a consultation, take a product demo, see what customers are saying, read your blog posts, or view your product catalog. Make sure your CTAs are designed to convert visitors. Speak to their needs in your CTAs.

Trust Elements

To convert website visitors into new leads, you need to first build credibility and create trust in your brand. People are more likely to trust you if they feel like they know you. A great trust element to add to your website is actual pictures and short bios of your leaders and employees. Do not use stock imagery for these elements. Use actual pictures or professional photos taken of your employees.

Another great way to invite prospects to get to know you is by sharing images and stories of your company. Share any events your company hosts, pictures of your company’s softball team, holiday parties, company BBQs or birthday celebrations in the office. Humanizing your company can go a long way to build trust in your brand.

Third-Party Validation

You can say you’re the best at what you do, but many of your competitors may be saying the same thing. A B2B website can showcase third party validation by listing awards or including certification badges on the website. Has your CEO written articles that have been published in industry trade magazines? That’s third-party validation and should be showcased on the website. Make sure the validation sources you use are credible and related to your industry. Never make up third-party validation since this can be easily ferreted out and will significantly hurt your firm’s reputation.

Client Reviews & Experiences

Prospects want to know what it is like to be a client or partner of yours before they start a conversation with you. Client reviews or testimonials are a great way to show (not tell) prospects what it is like to be your client. This can come in the form of reviews listed on the website, quotes of reviews left on third-party review sites like Yelp, or in longer-form content like case studies and white papers.

A Lead Generation Tool

A B2B website can be a great lead generation tool when carefully designed. Use the elements listed here to entice website visitors to complete desired actions on your website.

Ready to design a B2B website that drives leads? Contact Bop Design today.


What Every SaaS Website Needs to Have

When selling software as a service (SaaS), a website is a critical piece for attracting new leads and educating them about the software itself. For many B2B SaaS firms, communicating how the software works and the value it provides is difficult to do without overwhelming the target audience. In our experience building B2B marketing websites for SaaS firms, we’ve found several elements that every SaaS website needs to have.

Showcase UI Images of Software

The user interface (UI) of the software is often the main thing a potential client is interested in seeing to determine if they want to learn more. It’s important to showcase high-quality product photos of the UI on the website, particularly if the software has a clean user interface. The product photos of the interface should take center stage on the website, be easy to find, and showcase the important aspects of the UI design.

SaaS-UI

Highlight “Take a Demo” CTAs

As you know, no one wants to buy a software license if they can’t try out the software. A customized software demonstration is the first step in showing a prospect how the software works and the value it offers them. For this reason, a SaaS website for B2B firms must have a call-to-action to take a demo throughout the website and in several spots on the home page.

Provide Videos & Webinar Demos

Not everyone wants to commit to a personalized demo right away, especially if they are still trying to determine what they need the software to do for them. We recommend having videos or webinars that demo the software on the website to allow these users to get a feel for the product. Another great way to demonstrate how the software works and the different features is through animated gifs. The best videos and gifs not only demonstrate how the software works and the tasks it accomplishes but highlights the benefits of using the software.

Outline the Audience & Use Cases

Don’t assume that your potential client knows they are the target market for your SaaS product. Take the time to outline the target audiences of your software and how they use it. If you have multiple user groups within an organization or have clients in various verticals, address this on your B2B website. Clearly outline who is using your product, how they are using the product and the benefits to them.

Provide Measurable Proof

Rather than saying that your SaaS does certain things, show what it accomplishes. Be sure to allocate space in your B2B web design to the measurable proof that your software does what it says it does. A great way to do this is with case studies or client testimonials (or reviews). If the main goal of your SaaS is to save time, show that it saved X amount of hours for a client. If the main benefit is that it makes the client’s organization or process more efficient, highlight that a certain client was able to make their process more efficient and discuss how they did it.

Create Content for Each Buying Stage

Your ideal client goes through a variety of stages during the buying process. For B2B companies, particularly B2B software as a service firms, the buying process can be long, complex, and involve several different decision makers. The best way you can streamline the process for your sales team and for your prospects is by creating content for every step of the buying stage. Start by creating content that lures them in and catches their interest in your product. Then create content that educates them not just about the features, but the benefits of your software. Also, give them all the content they need to make a case internally for your product. Think of their boss and their boss’s boss. Creating your own content marketing strategy for SaaS products is important to attract, qualify, nurture, and close deals.

Ready for a redesign of your B2B SaaS website? Contact us today for a personalized website evaluation.


Digital Marketing & Usability: Critical Considerations

At one time or another, you’ve had a frustrating online experience with a brand. Whether it was trying to access a website that took forever to load, or a website that kept important information well-hidden, or you left a website having no clue what the brand offered or how to get in touch with them.

This has happened to everyone and it’s a major failure for brands. The good news is there are several simple considerations for significantly improving the usability of a website and all digital marketing assets. Let’s take a look at these critical considerations.

The User Experience

It’s Not About You, It’s About Me

The digital user experience (or UX) is a hot topic that starts with one fundamental understanding: your B2B web design is not about your brand, it’s about your website visitors. With all the rhetoric out there, this is the essential truth and it’s critical to keep this in mind whenever you build, update, or edit your website.

Remember that you may know your website inside and out, but a visitor arriving on the homepage or a landing page for the first time has no experience with your brand’s website. Every decision your make on your website or any changes you implement should always start with the question: How does this impact/help/guide the user?

The user experience matters in digital marketing.

Speed

I Want to Go Fast!

In a world of super-fast Wi-Fi and 4G networks, speed matters. For this reason, you absolutely MUST do everything you can to increase the speed at which your website loads. This covers a wide variety of areas – from web hosting providers, how the website is coded, image size, caching and more. Always be sure to do your due diligence before selecting a WordPress website hosting company as this can have one of the largest impacts on the speed of your website.

There are a variety of free website speed tests out there, including the Google PageSpeed Insights Tool. Working with an experienced web developer ensures that you are taking every opportunity to increase the speed of your B2B website without sacrificing functionality.

Functionality

What’s in It for Me?

Speaking of functionality, another critical consideration for the user experience is that your website actually helps the visitor find what they need. If your website has a great, educational blog, but it’s buried deep in the navigation or is only accessible through the footer of the website – it’s not a value for the visitor. Additionally, you must continually check your website to make sure everything is working properly – videos should play when clicked on, menus should drop down when selected, pages should open when chosen from the navigation, images should display without distortion on the page, links should not be broken, etc.

Along with functionality, a website and all digital platforms should be accessible. Web content accessibility ensures that your design, layout, and visuals don’t discriminate against certain portions of the population. Not every potential client is 25 years old with perfect vision and flawless hearing – keep these things in mind to ensure your user experience is functional and accessible to everyone.

Minimizing Clicks

It’s Too Much Work

The last critical consideration we are going to discuss is the number of clicks it takes a website visitor to get the information they need. Think of it this way – the easier you make it to do business with your B2B brand, the better. Don’t make your potential clients jump a bunch of hoops to learn more about your product/service, get in touch with you, view your content, ask a question, or connect with you on social media. Never make a prospect or client hunt for important information (like phone numbers, service offerings, contact forms, etc.)

While it can take some creativity and compromise, always focus on minimizing the clicks to get information on your website. You can achieve this in your B2B marketing by putting the most important information on the top-level navigation and minimizing the number of sub-menus. Working with experienced web designers and web developers also ensures that the important information on your website is intuitively easy to find.

Usability Leads to Trust

Don’t make visitors think you are hiding anything from them. Taking these critical considerations into account as you build your website ensures you are providing an excellent user experience and a positive first impression of your B2B brand. A great user experience leads to trust in your brand, which helps to convert a potential client into a qualified new client lead.

Need help with evaluating your brand’s digital usability? Contact us today for a consultation.


Marketing Initiatives: When Sales Should Give Feedback

As many marketing professionals know, there is often a delicate relationship with the sales team. On one hand, you need their input and buy-in to create marketing initiatives that are useful and effective. On the other hand, you want to closely control the brand and ensure all initiatives align with your overall B2B brand.

Experienced marketing professionals know that the sales team can provide a wealth of information, suggestions, and ideas. However, one of the main struggles that many marketing professionals experience is when to approach sales for feedback (or enable them to give feedback).

In an effort to make things easier for marketing teams, ensure initiatives are effective, and to make the entire process efficient, we’ve outlined the best times for sales to give feedback to marketing.

Input Stage – Before Rollout

Sales can be a wonderful source for suggestions and ideas, as mentioned earlier. However, individual salespeople are often focused on their own goals and revenue rather than the overall brand message of the company. For this reason, it’s important to get their input but to carefully translate it into B2B branding and marketing initiatives that will be effective for the entire company.

A great time for the sales team to provide input or feedback on past initiatives is before new initiatives are ever rolled out – ideally during the idea stage. They are often a great resource for sharing what is working, what prospects are responding to, and what prospects and clients haven’t cared for in the past.

Additionally, the sales team can provide detailed information about every stage of the sales process from the beginning, middle and end of lead nurturing to the closing of the deal. B2B marketers can get a better understanding of where prospects are at during different stages of the funnel and what types of questions they have or needs to be met.

Feedback Stage – Post Rollout

Patience is definitely a virtue but is not a prerequisite for a salesperson. Remember that many salespeople live in a monthly cycle in which they have a quota to meet for closed deals. (This might be longer for B2B companies where the sales cycle is often longer than a month, but you get the idea.) However, marketing initiatives rarely deliver immediately. In fact, many initiatives take time to ramp up and start showing results.

While it may be tempting to ask sales about new marketing initiatives a week after they have rolled out, it’s far too soon to gauge whether a campaign is actually working. Instead, it’s more effective to have a longer sample timeline, such as three months. This enables the marketing team to take a more holistic, quantitative look at the initiatives to dismiss any anomalies.

Once the marketing team has a good data set on the initiatives, it’s time to check back in with sales to get their qualitative feedback. Marketing can see the number of leads sent to the sales team, but the sales team can share information on the quality of the leads, the buying intent, the closing rate, etc. This is especially helpful in the case of larger deals that take longer to close. For example, if a marketing team sends 40 marketing qualified leads (MQLs) but only three have closed after three months, it may seem like the initiatives aren’t working. However, sales can let marketing know that 15 or so of the MQLs are still in the nurturing process and reviewing proposals.

Closed Loop Feedback

At the end of the day, marketing and sales are looking to close deals and continually attract new prospects into the sales funnel. This feedback enables the marketing team to blend anecdotal information with quantitative metrics to determine the true effectiveness of marketing initiatives.


Content Planning Basics

Crafting a professional website or blog is more than just sitting down and typing up the text. To create an effective, impactful web page or blog, it’s important to take the time to plan for success. In this blog, we discuss the basics of content planning, including steps you can take to ensure the creation of useful B2B content marketing pieces.

Set Objectives

The best place to start is with defining the purpose of the content. Set content goals that are clear and easy to communicate. Answer questions like:

  • What is the main focus of this content?
  • What must be covered in the content?
  • What are we trying to say with this content?
  • Who is the end user and what do we want them to get from the content?

The objectives must be easy to communicate to everyone on your team and any copywriters or designers you are working with. By having everyone on the same page about the objectives of the content, you’ll be able to create a cohesive message.

Select the Subject Matter Experts

Even if you are working with a web design agency or professional copywriter, you still need to tap the subject matter experts (SMEs) at your company to provide input for the B2B content marketing pieces. An essential part of the content planning process includes identifying the individuals in your organization who can provide the best technical or background information about your products and services.

Additionally, you need to approach these individuals and secure their participation in the project. Be realistic with their participation and let them know how much time and effort will be involved. Get buy-in from their managers or teams to ensure that they will have the bandwidth to commit to the content project.

Create Realistic Timelines

Part of planning the execution of a content marketing strategy is creating timelines. When you plan the schedule for content creation, be realistic but don’t give too much time for turnarounds. We’ve found that giving people too much time to review something leads to further delays as things are overlooked or pushed down on the priority list. When you assign the timelines, take into account the regular workload and duties that your SMEs and others involved in the project have to attend too.

Map Out a Strategy

Simply writing down a strategy with the timelines and associated individuals can contribute to the success of a B2B content marketing strategy. If everyone has a document they can reference that has all the information they need, it will eliminate confusion. To create your website content strategy, map out what pages you will be writing in a sitemap. If you are creating blogs for your website and other content pieces, put together an editorial calendar that lists topics, authors, and publication dates.

Clearly Communicate Goals

We’ve mentioned this before, but it deserves its own section. Once you have determined the goals of your content strategy, clearly communicate them to the team. This may have to take place several times, especially if a team member begins to go off-track or doesn’t understand why the content is being created. Understand why you are creating the content and this will help you to communicate it to others in your organization and to keep your content marketing project on track.

Allocate Resources to Meet Deadlines

The biggest challenge facing B2B firms in content projects or web design projects is asset allocation. A lot of individuals are excited when tapped to help with a project, but when the time comes around to contribute, they get caught up with their day-to-day work and lack the bandwidth to execute. Be respectful of their other projects and duties, but ensure they are committed to meeting the deadlines for the project.

Planning for Success

Not every B2B content project is going to be smooth, but by following the steps here you can ensure it will get completed and achieve the goals you’ve set out. Need help planning your B2B content marketing project? Contact us today to get your next project underway.


Mobile-Minded Design for Websites

Not long ago, you only needed to think about how a website displayed on a desktop computer. Then mobile devices gained popularity (and functionality), so web designers started creating mobile-friendly versions of websites to display on mobile phones. Then there was a shift to responsive web design that served up a rendition of the website depending on the device the user was on: desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone.

Mobile-First or Mobile-Minded?

Now, there is a focus on mobile-first design. While we fully support creating dynamic websites that display well on mobile devices, at Bop Design, many of our B2B websites are designed to create a great experience for mobile AND desktop users. Our approach is to build websites that accommodate the multi-screen experience, rather than just focus solely on the mobile experience. Why? Because desktop versions of websites tend to be more robust with all the necessary functionality and resources required to create a fluid user experience.

Best Practices for Mobile-Minded Websites

As you work with a web designer on your B2B website, it’s important to take steps to craft a user experience that is optimized for all types of devices. Below are best practices and considerations for launching a website that is mobile-minded, as well as multi-screen minded.

Simplify Navigation

As you know, mobile screens aren’t very large. Trying to scroll through a large navigation menu can cause a bunch of mistaken clicks that take users to pages they don’t want to visit. This can create a frustrating experience for a mobile user who knows what they want but isn’t able to easily navigate to that screen. As you build your navigation menu, make every effort to simplify it down to the essential pages.

Make CTAs Easy to Find (and Click)

The primary calls-to-action on your website should be easily visible for mobile users. The main actions you’d like your potential clients to do must be the most visible CTAs on their mobile device. Placing CTAs at the top or on the side of the screen makes them readily visible and easy to see right away.

Also, keep in mind what it is like to click on links on mobile phones (don’t forget the fat-finger effect!) and create easy-to-click buttons or larger CTAs.

Showcase Click-to-Call CTAs

Before mobile devices were used for online searching, they were used for placing phone calls. Isn’t that amazing? What is more amazing is that people still use mobile devices to make phone calls, especially when they need information immediately or have a complex task to complete. For this reason, it’s important to have a clearly visible click-to-call option for mobile users.

Use Scrolling to Your Benefit

At this point in the adoption of mobile technologies, users have been conditioned to scroll. Use scrolling to your benefit by creating longer landing pages that the users can scroll down to find more information (rather than having to click to other pages). The major benefit of creating a page that is easy to scroll is that you can also incorporate storytelling into your B2B website design. You control the story being told by placing it along the way in the scrolling process.

Build Short Forms

Last, but not least, build short forms for mobile users to complete. It’s a fine line between capturing all the data that you need and minimizing how many fields a prospect must complete before they are fatigued and give up. When it comes to mobile, the forms must only ask for the minimal amount of information. Ask for a full name and email address or a name and a phone number, not both email and phone number. Keep it short so that the experience is more convenient for mobile users.

Conclusion: User Experience Rules

When building a B2B website for mobile, desktop, or tablet, the main thing to keep in mind is that the user experience rules. If your website, in any form, creates a poor user experience, the user likely won’t want to become a client.

Ready to get started with your B2B website project? Call us today for a website review and consultation.


Capture Website Leads Using These 3 Easy Methods

Things are going great, your website is getting a lot of great organic and paid traffic, visitors are spending a good amount of time on your website and visiting several pages per session. The only (and major) issue is that you don’t have any leads to show for all this great traffic. What’s the problem?

The problem could be that your website doesn’t have the proper lead capture tools in place to convert those website visitors into new leads.

Let’s look at three easy methods for capturing website leads.

1. Case Studies

An effective B2B marketing strategy includes a blend of both gated and ungated content. Ungated content is available for download without sharing any personal information, while gated content requires a website visitor completes a form (typically providing their name and email) before providing access to the content piece. This enables a varied mix of educational content to fill the sales funnel and nurture leads to conversion.

Case studies are excellent for gated content. Why? Because they are extremely valuable, results oriented, and are typically needed closer to the decision phase of vendor selection. Near the decision phase of the sales process, prospects are more willing to exchange their contact information for the case study. They provide the contact information with the understanding that your B2B company will contact them.

2. White Papers and Guides

When gated, white papers or guides are a great lead capture tool for any B2B marketing strategy. The caveat is that in order to be gated, a white paper or guide must provide a significant value for prospects. These are not glorified sales brochures. They should be well-crafted guides or documentation on how to effectively use a service or a product. The white paper or guide should help your prospect to do their job and to make their life easier. Here are examples of great white papers and guides:

A Practical Guide to Hiring the Ideal Candidate

How to Hire the Right Accounting Firm

Your Guide to Partnering with Recruiters

All of these white papers or guides give helpful information to prospects–they aren’t just long ads for your product or service. We should also mention here that sales brochures should not be gated. You want your prospects to be able to access these at any time.

3. Compelling CTAs

Weak, hard-to-find, or non-existent calls-to-action (CTAs) are one of the main reasons websites fail to capture leads. Easy-to-find, properly placed, compelling CTAs can turn non-performing websites into lead generation machines. There is no one CTA that works for every website. The best approach is to include a variety of enticing CTAs on a website, particularly suited for each stage of the sales process.

For prospects in the beginning of the sales process, you want your B2B website to educate them and nurture them. CTAs, like “Learn More” are a great, leading CTA.

However, these CTAs don’t capture any information about the leads, so it’s important to also have compelling CTAs that generate leads. Below are great examples of CTAs that are focused on capturing leads.

These are direct, clear, and compelling. They entice the visitor to provide their contact information. They make it easy for the prospect to get in touch with your firm.

There you have it – three easy ways to capture leads.

Do you need help with capturing leads on your website? Schedule a consultation with our B2B marketing experts to find out how to improve your lead generation.


10 Minute Intro to B2B Digital Marketing

Whether you are an experienced marketing professional or new to marketing, a quick intro to digital marketing is a great place to start. In this 10-minute guide, we’ll provide a high-level introduction to the world of B2B digital marketing.

A B2B Website

All digital marketing starts with a well-designed website. Your firm’s website is often the centerpiece of a larger traditional and digital marketing strategy. If you don’t think a website matters for your B2B firm, here are two statistics to chew on:

89% of B2B researchers use the internet during the B2B research process.

B2B researchers, on average, do 12 searches before engaging on a specific brand’s site.

(Source: Google)

If your company doesn’t have a website, how will these 89% of your potential audience find you?

A great B2B website has a professional polished design, clear branding, and a well-crafted value proposition. It also has the following features:

  • Lead Capture Tools – calls-to-action and easy-to-complete online forms
  • Blog – the easiest way to add new, educational information to a website
  • Content Offers – whitepapers, guides, case studies, ebooks, infographics, research, etc.
  • Links to Current Social Media Accounts – up-to-date LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Landing Pages for Ads – either a well-designed home page or a unique page built primarily around specific ad messaging.

A website is often the central hub of a digital marketing strategy because it hosts the blog, captures leads, serves as the landing page for email campaigns and digital ads, and enables your audience to connect with your firm via social media. If you are shopping for a new website, download the B2B Website Buyer’s Guide.

Social Media

If you think LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are just for connecting with high school friends and sharing personal opinions, think again. These, and other, social platforms are an excellent way for B2C and B2B firms to connect and engage with their audience (regardless of age or professional experience). So, does your firm need to set up accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and Yelp? The answer is no. (Phew!)

For B2B firms, we typically recommend a LinkedIn and a Twitter or Facebook page. However, you will know your audience best and can determine which social media channels are the most appropriate for reaching your audience. The key factor is to establish social media profiles that your marketing team can update regularly (post at least a few times a month) and optimize with professional branding and images.

All social media channels allow B2B firms to reach their audience in three ways:

  • Organic – share updates, news, articles, videos and other relevant information with your existing audience.
  • Paid Updates – pay to share information with a target audience (typically articles or videos).
  • Paid Ads – pay to advertise to a target audience.

It’s best to use a mix of both paid and organic posts on your social media channels. You can start out by posting your latest blog, podcast, or video blog to your firm’s LinkedIn page and then paying to boost the post to your target market via the “Sponsored Updates” feature. It should be noted that social media does not necessarily drive leads. It does, however, increase brand recognition, engage your current audience and potential clients, personalize your brand, build your authority, and extend your audience reach.

Email Marketing

We call this an oldie, but a goodie. Email marketing isn’t new anymore, but it’s a necessity for all types of businesses. In the B2B industry, email newsletters are a great way to stay in front of your current clients (think retention and upsell). Email newsletters can be sent daily, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, and quarterly. Anything longer than quarterly isn’t very effective for client retention.

A common question about B2B email marketing is what to include in the emails? Here are a few ideas from our digital marketing team on what to include in your next newsletter:

  • Recent blog posts
  • Industry trends or breaking news
  • Company highlights
  • Current specials or promotions
  • Content offers
  • Credibility pieces (like guest articles on well-known sites or certifications)
  • Links to your social media pages

When it comes to email marketing, we advise against purchasing lists from email list vendors. They can rarely provide the right audience and if that audience doesn’t know your firm, their first interaction with you (a cold email campaign) will not set the best impression. This advice does not extend to trade show lists where your company had a booth, speaking engagement, or other type of presence.

Pay-Per-Click Ads (AdWords or Bing)

Paid advertisements on search engines like Google (AdWords), Bing, and Yahoo are a great way to start driving potential clients to your B2B website. Whether you have an established website or a brand-new website, pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns enable you to target specific search terms (or keywords) that your ideal clientele is typing into the search box. Ideally, a PPC ad campaign is run concurrently with an organic inbound marketing strategy (blogging) to garner the best results.

Retargeting Ads

Retargeting ads are shown to users who have visited your website. The beauty of retargeting ads is that they are shown across a network of websites and are designed to entice users to re-visit your website and complete an action that they may not have completed on their first, second, or third visit.

A retargeting campaign is often inexpensive to run and enables your B2B firm to stay top of mind with potential prospects. They may not have been ready to close the deal the first time they visited your firm’s website, but by staying in front of them, your firm will be there when they are ready to become a new client.

Banner Ads

Banner ads used to be simple, like purchasing billboard space. You find a site your clients use, you contact the webmaster, and you purchase ad space. With advancements in software technology, algorithm updates, and intellectual innovations, banner ads are a whole category unto themselves. Now, a business typically works with a vendor to purchase ad space on their behalf and to report back on the number of people who have seen their ads and clicked through to their website. Below are a few common terms regarding banner ads:

  • Google Display Network – advertise on Google’s network of websites.
  • Programmatic Ads – uses software platforms to automatically purchase digital ad space.
  • Account-Based Marketing – uses software to reverse-engineer via IPs to target your ideal list of potential clients.

Digital banner advertising campaigns work fantastically for certain businesses, yet aren’t the right fit for other firms. Ideally, banner ads should be a component in a comprehensive marketing strategy where the value proposition and target audience is well-defined.

That’s your 10-minute intro to digital marketing. It’s not a comprehensive explanation of all things digital marketing, but we only had 10 minutes!

Have questions about digital marketing for your B2B firm? Contact us for a consultation with our B2B digital marketing experts.


7 Web Design Best Practices

bop_-web-design-best-practices_102916_opt2

Web design is such an exciting industry to be a part of, especially when you get to see innovative, lovely designs. While there are a vast amount of beautiful, functional websites, there are also a ton of ugly, overdone, useless websites.

As a B2B web design and marketing agency, we’ve compiled a list of best web design practices to ensure web designers are creating functional, useful websites.

1. Focus on Your Target Audience

It can be easy to get caught up in the concept of a website and forget about the end user. A successful website isn’t just a lovely visual piece, it’s a portal for attracting your target audience and giving them the information they need to decide if they want to become a new client.

Before we start a new B2B web design, we get the low-down on the target audience.

  • Do they know the company’s brand or services?
  • Are there several different target markets?
  • What makes them the same or different?
  • What do they care about?

A common mistake we see designers make is focusing on the target audience at the beginning and then forgetting about them at the end of the design phase. Always keep your target audience front and center, even when making changes to the design, layout and images.

2. Keep Branding Consistent

Website design that lacks consistent branding is stressful and confusing. Everyone has a friend or family member who is unpredictable. You never know what they are going to say/do/wear and they are stressful to be around. Unfortunately, there are quite a few brand websites out there who are like this unpredictable person. It’s difficult to tell what their brand colors are, what their logo looks like, how they are positioning themselves and what their value proposition is all about.

A best practice in B2C and B2B website design is to keep the branding consistent throughout the entire site. Only use the predetermined brand colors, logos, and messaging on every single page of the website. This applies to images, iconography, typography, and videos as well. A brand’s story should be evident and supported in the design.

3. Simplify The Layout

In our recent blog on How Web Design Evolved in 2016, we discussed how simplicity is becoming more and more prominent in web design. Flashy, complicated websites typically deliver a poor experience and end up being visually noisy. Effective websites often have simplified layouts that are easy to navigate and enable each design element to shine. As experienced B2B web designers, we understand that a website typically has to accomplish a lot and host a great deal of information – which can be done in a clean, focused and ultimately simplified manner. If too many design elements are competing on a website, none of them will do their job (engage the user).

4. Create Strong CTAs

The main goal of a website is to attract a target market. The next goal may be to educate the visitor. The final goal should always be to entice the visitor to complete an action, whether it is to sign up for a newsletter, download a case study, or set up a consultation. Strong calls-to-action are essential to converting website visitors into leads or new clients.

Strong CTAs should be part of the initial B2B web design, not an afterthought. They should be placed in an appropriate place in the layout that makes sense for the target market. For example, a “Learn More” button may be placed higher in the design, while a “Contact Us” form may be placed towards the bottom of the design when the visitor is more educated about a brand or company.

5. Use High Quality Images or Videos

Smartphones now have 16, 20, or even 21 mega-pixel cameras in them. Remember, a phone’s main function is not necessarily as a camera. For this very reason, it’s imperative that all images, videos, and photos included in a web design are high quality. A fuzzy image or out-of-focus picture negatively impacts the credibility of a brand.

If your brand or firm isn’t able to invest in custom photography at this time, stock photography is actually a great option these days.

Great web designers balance clear, high-quality images with sizes that don’t slow down the website load time.

6. Enhance the User Experience

At it’s very core, web design must be functional. This means that it should create a good user experience. Effective web design takes it a step further and enhances the user experience by creating an intuitive layout, telling a compelling story, and serving up what the user is looking for when they want to see it. For this very reason, seasoned web designers are taking an interest in the user experience (UX) to ensure their designs are anticipating the needs of the target market.

When looking to enhance the user experience, it’s important for a designer to put themselves in the user’s shoes. Also, it’s essential that the web designer considers how every element of the design builds value for the user and meets a need.

7. Follow SEO Best Practices

If a website is gorgeous but no one sees it, is it effective? The answer is no. Strong websites attract and convert visitors. For this very reason, B2C and B2B web design must follow SEO best practices to ensure the website is showing up for the target market.

While the list of SEO best practices for web design can be fairly long, a few best practices include:

  • Sizing pictures for faster load times
  • Internal linking to keep users engaged & on the site
  • Properly labeling images for search engines and users

At the End of the Day

At the end of the day, B2B web design can be innovative, interesting, and beautiful – but it also needs to be functional. Successful websites don’t need to have boring designs, but they do have to marry smart design with a great user experience.

What do you think is a web design best practice? Let us know in the comments below.


How Web Design Evolved in 2016: Simplify or Perish

bop_how-web-design-evolved-in-2016_102116Trends, preferences, and technology change and evolve over time. As we start to think about wrapping up 2016, our B2B web design team sat down to take stock of what we’ve seen over the past several months and analyze how web design has really evolved over the year.

White Space & Clean Designs

White space and bold, clean designs are in high demand as more and more brands are interested in seeing cleaner, less cluttered designs. Rather than considering white space or negative space as “empty,” the web design community is seeing how valuable these spaces are in helping break up content and making it more digestible for the user.

This trend is closely linked to the widespread acceptance and usage of mobile devices for accessing websites. B2C and B2B websites that utilize negative space and clean designs tend to render better on mobile and a variety of devices. 

Embrace Motion and Movement

Even five years ago, businesses and marketers were advised to avoid motion and movement on websites because the coding tended to cripple site loading time and cause a poor user experience. In 2016, this is no longer the case and motion is becoming a well-received trend in web design. Even a subtle motion added to the design via JQuery or HTML5 can add interest to a website and make it more engaging. This will likely gain popularity as businesses see how seamlessly it can be integrated into web design, without negative side effects.

Check out a few examples of cool, subtle motion on the Zendesk website and the Adept Source website.

The Gradient Is Back & Better Than Ever

We’ve seen the gradient come and go and it’s definitely back, in new and exciting ways. Now that a gradient can be achieved in web design through CSS, it’s gaining ground as a popular element of the overall design. Adding the gradient via CSS enables web designers to find surprisingly cool ways to include it in the overall layout and design of a website.

Check out how we introduced gradients into the Bop Design website.

Shortened Messaging

One of the more obvious evolutions in web design we’ve seen this year is the shortening and tightening up of messaging on websites. Particularly for B2B businesses, marketers are discovering that they don’t need a whole lot of copy to explain their unique value proposition. This has led to a broad effort in web design to capture people’s attention quickly with shorter messaging. Rather than focusing on long, drawn out explanations and benefits statements, companies are distilling their value proposition to a few words and making that the centerpiece of their web design.

Usability Over SEO

Many progressive SEO managers will tell you that usability and SEO are essentially the same, but SEO still relies heavily on written content as a foundation. Since the end of 2015, we’ve seen a shift in which companies are consciously sacrificing SEO for usability. Rather than prioritizing rising in the search engine rankings, marketers are becoming obsessed with the user experience on the website. We have found they don’t want a lot of content and are looking to make their copy more succinct. In many cases, however, they aren’t sacrificing inbound marketing altogether, as they instead focus on paid search to drive traffic to their website.

A Trend We Love

We always recommend that our clients use custom photography and video whenever possible to set themselves apart from their competitors. In 2016, we’ve seen quite a bit of buy-in concerning custom photography and video and we couldn’t be more pleased. While there can be a significant cost for custom photography and video, it often delivers a high ROI, particularly when the images help to convey their unique value proposition or tell a story about their products or services.

If there isn’t a budget for custom photography or it doesn’t make sense for the industry, we manipulate stock photography to ensure all the images are consistent or have a common element that ties them all together in the web design.

Check out a great example of custom photography on the Melfred Borzall website and integration of custom video on the First Class packaging website. Both of these examples utilize custom photography and video to tell the story behind the products and services they offer and truly differentiate these two firms from their competition. 

Accommodate Cross-Device Traffic

Another great evolution that we’ve seen fully develop over the past year is the accommodation of cross-device traffic. It’s not all about mobile anymore, it’s about ALL devices, including mobile devices. Web design is evolving to understand and accommodate the trend of users to view and access websites on more than one device. It’s not uncommon for a user to complete a search on a mobile phone, then later access the same site on a tablet or laptop, then finally view the website on a desktop device.

In 2016, web designers are focusing on making the user experience across all devices seamless by incorporating responsive design elements, including more white space and less copy on each page. At Bop Design, we take it a step further and utilize a quality assurance tool that verifies websites are rendering well on all types of devices and browsers to ensure an optimal user experience. 

Why Web Design Is Evolving

So, what is driving these changes and trends in web design?

First, the market is completely saturated when it comes to websites. Most B2C and B2B firms know they must have a website in order to compete and are discovering that in order to compete AND be successful, they must find ways to differentiate themselves.

The second reason behind this evolution is related to how busy our lives have become. People don’t have the time to evaluate 3 – 4 potential partners or companies in depth. Rather, they have to make quick judgment calls on firms in the span of a few seconds. Removing all the clutter from a web design enables a potential client to get the facts they need in the least amount of time.

Creating a strong connection in a short amount of time is the catalyst for many of these design trends and changes.

Trends Fading in Popularity

Since we’ve talked about how web design has evolved in 2016, we also need to address what it has left behind. Features and practices that were all the buzz last year can fade pretty quickly.

Here are a few web design trends that are fading out of popularity.

Content Dense Pages

The critical aspect of SEO has been content and content dense pages. Websites that have a ton of content-dense pages are on the way out. This does not mean that websites are getting rid of written content, they are just shifting from pages that are 1,000 words to shorter, less cluttered pages.

Design for Design Only

There are a handful of web designers that are obsessed with winning awards. While it’s great to win awards for your design work, it’s more important to meet the goals of the website. We can say that we are happy to see that needless design elements are starting to disappear from current web design. Design for design’s sake has no place on most websites, especially not on B2B websites that are looking to generate leads and build relationships.

Slideshow in the Hero Image

It used to be all the rage to have a slideshow featured as the hero image for both B2C and B2B websites. However, the hero image slideshow is becoming less and less popular as users have adapted to scrolling a website to get more information. With the trend moving away from slideshows in the hero image spot, web designers are replacing them with one strong image and just one to two lines of text. Simple. Clean. Direct.

It should be noted that slideshows aren’t disappearing from web design altogether. Rather, slideshows are finding a new place, further down the homepage or on internal pages. We’ve seen great uses of the slideshow for showcasing client testimonials or even a gallery of product images.

Conclusion: Simplify or Perish

If there is one overarching trend we have seen in web design in 2016, it can be summed up as “simplification.” Simplifying messaging, imagery, navigation, layout and the user experience. This is a bit of a simplification (get it?), but is definitely a significant driver in the web design industry right now.


The Essential B2B Marketing Mix

bop_the-essential-b2b-marketing-mix_093016

The B2B marketing mix will vary slightly from company to company and industry to industry, but the basics should include a mix of offline (traditional) and online (digital) components.

At Bop Design, we’ve worked with hundreds of B2B firms in a variety of industries. Here is what we have determined is the foundation of a strong B2B marketing strategy:

A Professional Website

Your firm’s website is the often the central hub of a strong multi-channel marketing strategy. Keep in mind that both prospective clients and existing clients go to your B2B website to find out information about your products and services. If your firm’s website hasn’t been updated in a few years, it’s time to update and refresh the website.

An effective, professional website will, at a minimum, have:

  • Strong brand messaging
  • Lead generation capabilities
  • Educational resources
  • Contact information
  • Trust elements
  • Links to social media pages

Depending on your client base, you may want to add additional functionality to your website, but these are the basics.

Takeaway Print Pieces

Traditional, or offline, marketing materials are still very much an important part of the B2B marketing mix. It’s critical that all offline materials, from tradeshow booths to business cards, are consistent with your online brand materials. If you’ve recently updated your website, make sure to take a look at all your existing print pieces to ensure they form are consistent with your brand and part of a cohesive brand message.

A few things to ensure are included in your marketing budget are:

  • Business cards
  • Brochures or datasheets
  • Guides
  • Stationery
  • Tradeshow booths

Consistency and reliability are values that hold true for most B2B industries. Consistent online and offline marketing materials convey these two values.

A Current Blog

We are smack dab in the Age of Information and your potential and current clients expect their partners and vendors to provide them with valuable resources and helpful information. A blog is the perfect place to share valuable information about your products or services, changes in your industry, breaking news, and other relevant information that impacts your clients and prospects.

Case Studies

Regardless of what industry you are in, prospective clients are interested in seeing real results. They want to know that your products or services are effective. The easiest way to show how your products or services work and the value your firm offers is by creating case studies.

As part of the B2B marketing mix, case studies are great for nurturing leads down the sales funnel, showcasing your past work, and highlighting your successes. A well-crafted case study includes an introduction of the issue or problem, the proposed solution, the implementation of that solution, and the results.

Online Guides and Resources

You are an expert at the products or services you offer. It’s time to give away some of your expert advice for free. Wait, what?

That’s right, it’s time to share your expert knowledge with prospects and clients free of charge via online guides and resources. You can create gated content (that requires completion of a form) before downloading, but it should still be free information. As part of a B2B marketing strategy, online guides and resources help to establish your firm as a thought leader in your industry. They also build trust in your B2B brand and set you up as a source of educational information for your prospects and clients. When they need information about your products or services or the industry in general, they will come to you first.

Paid Advertising

Paid advertising continues to be instrumental to B2B brand management and marketing. When it comes to digital advertising, there is a range of different channels and methods to choose from. We typically recommend starting with Google AdWords or Bing Ads since these can be fine-tuned on a granular level and target users who are showing intent to buy (or at least interest in your products or services). Other options for paid ads include retargeting ads, account-based ads, social media ads and sponsored updates, and email advertisements.

Wrap Up

The B2B marketing mix can get complex very quickly with all the of the channels, options, and various campaigns you might be running. However, this post is a good place to start when launching or revamping a marketing strategy for your firm. These are the main essentials to consider in your marketing budget and planning.

What do you think makes up the essential B2B marketing mix? Let us know in the comments below.


5 Things a B2B Website Must Have

5-Things-a-B2B-Website-Must-Have_082116

You want your B2B website to accurately position your firm’s brand and be a resource for current and potential clients. In order to do so, there are several things that your website must absolutely have to be effective.

  1. Clean, Organized, Professional Design

You wouldn’t hire someone who doesn’t come to an interview well-dressed, why should a client trust your company if your B2B website is dated, disorganized and unprofessional?

Users subconsciously make an immediate judgment on how something looks before they even start reading. Additionally, if your website isn’t functional, they won’t engage with it at all. A clean, organized, professional web design is essential to creating a great first impression to potential clients and building trust.

  1. Clear Brand Messaging

Clear, consistent brand messaging that highlights your Unique Value Proposition is a critical part of professional web design. When a prospect arrives on your website, they should easily understand your firm’s main value proposition: what you have to offer them.

Bonus tip – great customer service is not a UVP. Your value proposition should be unique and distinguish your firm from your competition.

  1. Outline Specific Services or Products

A strong B2B web design distinctly outlines your firm’s products or services that a prospective buyer can expect to get from you. This sounds like a no-brainer but I’ve come across too many websites that are really vague – this is especially true for service-based companies.

A couple examples of vague phrases websites use that don’t properly explain a company’s services are “we are a media company” or “management consulting.” They fail because they don’t talk about the specific services they deliver within this general industry.

An effective website answers questions like:

  • What industries do you specialize in?
  • Who is your ideal client?
  • What does a typical engagement look like?
  • Do you have a specific process in delivering these services?
  1. Credibility + Trust Builders

Your website should not just be company propaganda, rather, it should educate your prospective buyer, build trust and prove why you are the company they should hire.

Use your website to build trust by educating your clients through thought leadership content (blogs, white papers, guides). Also, another way to build credibility is through third party proof (press, case studies, testimonials, showcasing client logos, project galleries).

  1. Conversion Opportunities

Make it easy for the user to engage with your firm. Do this by making your contact information visible and easily accessible. It’s important to have a variety of options for “conversion,” depending on where the potential client is in the buying cycle.

Great examples of conversion opportunities are:

  • Sign up for newsletter
  • Sign up for a demo
  • Schedule a consultation
  • Download this guide
  • Follow us on social media.

Any of these are an opportunity for your company to keep in touch and nurture prospects into becoming clients.

Your website is often the first interaction a prospect has with your firm. You never get a second chance to make a great first impression, so be sure your website is showcasing your firm in the best possible light.

Considering a new B2B web design? Check out these web design statistics first.


Considering a New Web Design? Check Out These Stats First

BOP_Considering-a-New-Web-Design_080516Interested in a new B2B web design for your firm? Check out these statistics on website design and user experience before you start designing a new website.

These statistics will help to determine priorities for your new website design and guide your overall project. 

Web Design & The User Experience

47% of people expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. (Source: Econsultancy)

An experienced web designer working with a professional web developer can help to decrease the load time of your B2B website. Things like proper image sizing, minimal coding, and caching are a few things that will help to speed your new website’s load time.

39% of people will stop engaging with a website if images won’t load or take too long to load.(Source: Adobe)

There are a lot of things that can slow down a website, including an excessive amount of images. A knowledgeable design agency understands this and will help your B2B firm choose the right balance of images, text, layouts, etc. to ensure your website design is aesthetically pleasing but also functional.

The main reasons website visitors switch devices or give up on content altogether:

  • Images won’t load – 46% switch devices; 39% stop engaging
  • It takes too long to load – 44% switch devices; 39% stop engaging
  • Content is too long – 30% switch devices; 38% stop engaging
  • The content is unattractive in its layout or imagery – 35% switch devices; 38% stop engaging (Source: Adobe)

It doesn’t matter if your homepage has 50 cool images on it if your visitors are bouncing off the page for poor load time.

Web Design & Content

47% of website visitors view a company’s products or services page before looking at any other sections of the site. (Source: KoMarketing)

Almost half of visitors to your B2B website want to see a products or services page before navigating around the rest of the site. The products and services page should always be a priority in a website project since they are good for the user experience and they are good for SEO.

Once a visitor gets to a company’s homepage:

  • 86% of visitors want to see information about that company’s products/services.
  • 65% want to see contact information
  • 52% want to see “about us” information

(Source: KoMarketing) 

Building a website for your company is just one of the many tasks you have to accomplish this year and you likely have a limited amount of time to dedicate to the web design project. As such, make sure to focus your attention on the content that really matters to website visitors. Spend less time on the executive officer profiles and press releases and more time on the products/services and about us pages. Also, contact information should always be highly visible.

Mobile-First Design

In research done by Google, 75% of users indicated they prefer mobile-friendly sites and 50% reported frustration with sites that weren’t designed for mobile. (Source: Google)

Not only does your B2B website design need to look great and host great content, it needs to look great on mobile devices. A professional web design team will create a design that is not just for desktop computers but is also for mobile devices, tablets, etc. Mobile must be thought of early on in the web design process, not as an afterthought.

Professional Design & Aesthetics

Judgments on website credibility are 75% based on a website’s overall aesthetics. (Source: InvisionApp

First impressions are 94% design-related (Source: ResearchGate)

Do you know what your existing B2B web design says about your business? Website visitors are making a judgment about whether your website is credible based on the design of your website. This is why it’s so important to bypass creating the website yourself and, instead, work with a qualified, experienced web designer. Remember this is often the first interaction a potential client has with your B2B firm.

Colors increase web recognition by 80% (Source: IronPaper)

A B2B website design should always reflect and uphold the brand guidelines, including which colors to use. The use of a consistent color palette will reinforce your brand and create a cohesive experience for new and returning website visitors.

Need more statistics to convince your boss it is time for a website redesign? Check our Web Design Statistics for Skeptics.

Ready to get started on your B2B web design project? Contact us today for a free consultation.


What’s the Story with SEO?

What The Store of SEOAs a digital marketing agency, we spend a fair bit of time explaining search engine optimization (SEO), including what it actually looks like and best practices for implementation. Unless SEO is your job, it can be a confusing topic. In fact, many B2B marketers don’t always understand exactly how SEO works, what it looks like, or why it’s so valuable.

In this blog, we’d like to discuss the essentials of SEO – and explain it through the use of an analogy – a story.

Don’t Ignore or Undervalue SEO

The real value of SEO is that it makes it possible for potential prospects to find your firm online. There is so much competition with websites online, you need to take the extra steps to make sure your website is popping up for the right audience.

Think of your SEO efforts as writing a story and the internet in terms of a brick and mortar bookstore. Your website is your story (or book). To get people to see your book, leaf through its pages, and purchase it (or convert) – you need them to actually see it. If your book is on the bottom shelf in the wrong section, the right audience will likely never see it.

SEO is essentially the strategy for getting your book to appear in the right section to the person who is interested and looking for it.

SEO & Storytelling

On-page search engine optimization is like telling an interesting, coherent story. It starts with a good topic, has a compelling message, and includes a takeaway.

Keyword Research = Audience Research

For a story to be successful, you need to know your audience. What excites them? Engages them? Where do you need for them to see you?

The first step in search engine optimization is determining what your potential clients are searching for. Back to the bookstore analogy, if no one is looking for Delaware Recruiting Software Companies – it’s no use trying to get your book into that section. However, if your ideal client is searching for Recruiting Software Solutions – that’s where you want your book displayed.

A B2B Website = The Whole Story

Consider your B2B website to be the entire story of your firm in one package: your service offerings and your value proposition. It’s cover to cover, your brand.

So, how do you tell the story of your business and explain all the great things that potential and current clients should care about? You break it up into chapters.

Website Sitemap = Story Outline

Before you start writing the story of your company, you need to create an outline of ideas, which often become chapters. These chapters may cover things like features, benefits, services, company information, success stories, etc. These chapters form an outline of your story.

Keywords = Context and Structure

Once the keyword research has been completed and you understand what your audience is looking for – it’s time to use those keywords to create context and structure for your individual chapters. In the old days of B2B marketing and SEO, keyword stuffing was the best way to get ranked. There is a much different view of keywords these days. These days, keywords are used to give context and structure to your webpage, blog, social media post, etc.

For example, if “Recruiting Software” is your keyword focus for a particular page, it should discuss an aspect of “Recruiting Software.” Similarly, the keyword will determine the structure of the page by discussing the main topic of “Recruiting Software” with the sub-sections discussing more detailed aspects of “Recruiting Software.” Just like when you write a story, you want the page to flow logically with an overview, then the details, then a conclusion.

So that is the “Story” with SEO. SEO enables your firm to tell your story in a coherent, compelling way to the right audience AND enables your story to appear in search results to potential prospects.

Here is a quick recap:

Keyword research helps you reach potential clients.

  • Your B2B website is your firm’s story.
  • Outline your story with a website sitemap.
  • Keywords give context and structure to your story.
  • SEO enables you to tell a compelling story to your target audience.

Do you have questions about how SEO impacts your B2B marketing efforts?


Does Your Website Stink?

ReDesign EvaluationOnce the seed is planted, it’s hard to shake. Someone whispers it to you in a meeting and then you can’t stop thinking about it. “Our website does stink.”

You start to stare at it constantly looking at how many things you could change. The navigation is clunky, the images are outdated, it doesn’t even talk about your newest product or service, it doesn’t communicate your company’s brand, and it’s impossible to update without a detailed explanation and four meetings with the IT Manager.

You mention it to your boss or the owner. Your boss says that it might be in the budget this year but you have to prove it’s necessary and the value it will add.

How do you prove that your firm’s B2B website needs a redesign? Isn’t it obvious? The truth is that even B2B websites that look ok may be in need of a redesign.

Your B2B web design says a lot about your firm, so here is a quick-reference guide to evaluate whether your current website stinks and needs a redesign.

How to Evaluate Your Current Website

In order to objectively determine whether your current website needs a redesign, honestly answer these questions below.

1. Is the Design Outdated?

Are the visuals current?

Is the website responsive or mobile-friendly?

Can your website be viewed on all the main web browsers?

Do the colors of the design match your current branding and messaging?

You may hate the design, but that doesn’t always mean that it’s outdated. In order to take an objective view of your website and provide actionable insight to your senior management team, ask the above questions to determine if it is outdated. Also, check out 8 Things That Make Your Website Feel Old for more points of evaluation.

2. How Is the Functionality?

Can you easily update the website?

Does the website load quickly or does it take a few, painful seconds?

Is it easy to find information on the website if you are a first-time user?

Can content pieces be easily downloaded?

Is it easy for clients to locate your contact information and get in touch with you?

Functionality is one of the main drivers for a website redesign. Whether you are a B2C or B2B firm, customer service and the customer experience should be at the top of your firm’s priority list. If the functionality of your B2B web design is poor and current and potential clients can’t find what they need, they will assume that will be their overall experience with your firm.

3. Is the Content Accurate?

Are your firm’s products and services pages correct?

Is the information about your company outdated or old?

Does your website feature current pictures and videos?

Has your company posted a blog in the last six months?

Does your website have old pricing and brochures on the website?

If you or your sales team is constantly telling customers not to look at the pricing or services on the website – it’s time to update or redesign your B2B website. In a digital world, your clients and prospects expect to have current, accurate information at their fingertips. If you aren’t sharing the latest information on your blog – your prospects will think you are falling behind the times.

4. Can Prospects Find Your Website Online?

Do prospects say, “you have a website?”?

Do your web traffic metrics looks sad?

Is your website buried on page five of Google?

Do you competitors dominate the first page of Google?

When a client searches for your firm online, do they only find your Facebook and Twitter pages?

Did you know that the average B2B buyer is 57% through the purchase decision before engaging a supplier sales rep? Almost 60% of their decision is made before they even talk to your awesome sales team. You have likely heard that search engine optimization (SEO) is important. The main reason why it’s so important is so that your company can be found online by prospects. If they can’t find you online, but they can find a competitor, your competitor has a better chance of acquiring that client.

Need to make the case to upper management? Check out The Only B2B Marketing Stats You Care About.

5. Are You Getting Leads from Your Website?

Do potential clients fill out forms on the website?

Do prospects mention the website?

Are users visiting more than one page on your website?

Do people view and comment on your blog posts?

When properly designed and developed, a B2B website is a great lead generation tool – especially for inbound marketing. A properly designed website not only attracts visitors to your website, it also engages the visitors and gets them to complete an action (fill out a form, call for an appointment, download a case study, etc.). If your website is only an online brochure that doesn’t drive any leads – it’s definitely time to consider a website redesign.

We’d like to hear how you determined it was time for a website redesign. Let us know what was the driving force behind your website redesign.

If you need a comprehensive checklist to determine what to include in your new website, check out the Complete B2B Website Design Checklist.


Race to the White House: Website Showdown

Website ShowdownTonight’s Iowa caucuses are the first official candidate showdown in the 2016 Presidential Race. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Socialist – the 2016 Race to the White House has been nothing short of entertaining. While candidates are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on traditional media, the foundation of their communication efforts is their digital presence. In fact, eMarketer predicts the digital ad spend will reach $1 billion this election.

The centerpiece of any digital campaign is the website. So let’s take a look at the top contenders in each party and see who has the most effective website as a presidential hopeful. We’ll analyze pros and cons and elect a winner based on website presence alone. We’ll primarily be looking at design, content and usability.

Hillary Clinton

Neutral

  • Visit Hillary’s website today and you’ll find an appropriately-timed call-to-action (CTA) to make a donation. The full landing page is definitely an aggressive tactic that I’m sure will prompt donations, but could potentially turn off visitors looking to learn more about Hillary’s position on the issues.

Hilary - Landing Page

 

Pros:

  • I’m a fan of Hillary’s campaign logo – it’s clean, contemporary and appropriately represents her progressive political agenda. Those brand elements are nicely carried over to her website, creating a look and feel that is undeniably “Hillary.” Thank you for not using standard stripes and stars.
  • There is no guesswork about what the campaign wants you to do when you get to her website. The website boldly and clearly asks the user to “Join the Campaign” and “Then Donate.” It’s definitely aggressive, but necessary with Bernie nipping at her heels.
  • Right below the top section, there is a selection of articles touting her accomplishments and reasons to caucus for her. Good use of content hierarchy.
  • Her website is easily accessible in Spanish.


Cons:

  • Hillary is the only candidate whose campaign website I’m reviewing that doesn’t have a tagline. Taglines are a great way to keep you top-of-mind and quickly communicate what you stand for. Hillary has been accused of pivoting on issues and generally being elusive with the media, so I can’t say I’m surprised she hasn’t committed to a single, bold tagline.

Hilary - Home

Bernie Sanders

Pros:

  • Bernie may be the oldest candidate in the race, but you wouldn’t know it by his website. It’s super clean and full of engaging content. In particular, his “Join a Live Event” page powered by a Google map is something I didn’t see any other candidate do. The page showcases his grassroots efforts and immediately engages a user to join his movement.
  • Bernie’s direct and compelling vernacular on stage is carried over to his website. With lines like “Ready to Start a Political Revolution?”, “Are you Ready?” and “They have the money, but we have the people…” clearly define Bernie’s mission and compels a user to take action. My favorite is his footer “Paid for by Bernie 2016 (not the billionaires).”
  • The “DemocracyDaily” page is a nice addition, compiling articles from various sources that his supporters would be interested in.
  • The user-friendly navigation clearly directs visitors to the most important pages. The navigation also allows visitors to easily access more content by clicking on “more,” which brings down a cleanly designed mega menu.

While all the candidates’ websites are blue and red, Bernie has taken an edgy approach using a bright blue and muted red, creating a look and feel that is much brighter and cleaner than the other candidates’ websites.

Bernie---Home

Bernie-Map

Bernie---Navigation

Cons:

  • I can’t really find anything.

Donald Trump

Pros:

  • Donald Trump is the only candidate out of the 5 we are reviewing that uses the term “Positions” in his main navigation instead of “Issues.” It’s an interesting use of words that I’m not sure is intentional or not – nevertheless it sounds more solutions-oriented than the other candidates.
  • Trump has one of the most memorable taglines for his campaign and he makes to sure he puts it everywhere when he is campaigning (even his hat)–the same is true for his website. “Make America Great Again!”

Trump - Home

Cons:

  • The website is clean, but it’s not quite as engaging as some of the other candidates’ websites. There is limited use of photography and other media on the subpages that would likely encourage a user to spend more time on the website.

Trump - subpages

Ted Cruz

Pros:

  • Whether you like Cruz or not, the copy is very compelling on his website. Lines like “This is the Day, This is our Time” or “Join the Movement of Courageous Conservatives” evoke emotion and prompt action.
  • He too has an appropriately timed CTA, but it’s a pop-up. The pop-up can be easily closed, so a user can get to the main website content sooner.
  • He is the only candidate that doesn’t have his face front and center on the hero image. It’s his back talking to a crowd, which is a nice change. It indirectly sends the message that the campaign isn’t about him, it’s about the people. The same is true throughout the website.
  • Good hierarchy of information. Content is broken up into manageable, digestible bits of information which allows the user to easily scan and find what is most compelling to them.
  • Out of the other Republicans, Cruz’s website is the only one easily accessible in Spanish.

Cruz - CTA

Cruz---Home

Cruz---Subpages

Cons:

  • Nothing in particular stands out.

Marco Rubio

Pros:

  • I think his “Policy for You” section on his Issues page is smart. It’s not just a list of the issues he’s fighting for, but the people affected by the issues. I didn’t see any other candidates do this.

Rubio

Cons:

  • Rubio is taking a note from Hillary’s website with an aggressive landing page requesting a donation, but it’s not done with the same grace or confidence. First his message “If I’m Our Nominee, We Will Defeat Hillary Clinton” irks me because I don’t want to hear about the other candidates when I’m on a candidate’s website. I want to learn about the candidate whose website I’m visiting. Second, the predetermined donation amounts are strange at $7, $17, $5400, etc.
  • A good home page should tell a story and guide the visitor to areas of the website that are of most interest to them. Minus the initial CTA which is somewhat vague, Rubio’s home page is inundated with information – I’m not sure where to go or what to look at so I just leave.
  • Marco Rubio promises to be the candidate for the “New American Century,” but his website presence definitely does not position him as a cutting edge candidate.
  • Rubio has a broken link to his store – yikes!

Rubio - Landing Page

Rubio - Content

 

And the winner is…

Based on this very “scientific” review, Bernie Sanders is the Democratic winner and Ted Cruz is the Republican winner of the Bop Design 2016 Presidential website showdown. Both websites share three core characteristics that make them winners.

  1. Bold, clear brand messaging
  2. Clean, user-friendly design
  3. Engaging, educational content

These characteristics are universal to the success of any website and a winning marketing strategy.


How to Create an Effective Digital Brochure

Digital BrochureOne of the many functions of a B2B website is acting as a digital brochure for your firm. Regardless of the technology of your firm or industry, potential clients are looking to learn information about you online. This is where your website becomes a digital brochure to inform and persuade clients to learn more or to contact your company.

What Makes an Effective Digital Brochure (Website)?

Clear & Consistent Branding

First and foremost, your website needs to be a clear representation of your brand and your values. Branding should be present in both design and messaging. As your website is often a prospect’s first interaction with your brand, your messaging, colors, tagline, and layout should all be consistent with your B2B brand.

Learn more B2B Branding Tips from Bop Design.

Content That Tells a Story

Every story covers several questions:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why
  • How

Your B2B website content should tell a story that answers each of these questions.

Who are you? This is a two-part question. As a digital brochure, your B2B website should address who your prospect is as well as who you are.

What do you offer? The main reason a prospect is on your website is because of the services or products you have to offer them. The website content should educate a potential client about what services and products you provide in a straightforward, easy to understand manner. You may be an expert in your services or products, but your potential clients may not be, so make this information accessible.

When do clients need your products or services? By understanding your audience and knowing their needs and pain points, you can easily address when they need your products or services. For example, at Bop Design, we know that potential B2B firms need our web design and marketing services when they are looking to grow their company.

Where? This question can have different answers depending on your B2B firm’s industry and product offering. It can answer the question of where your firm is located, where your customer is located, where your company came from (history), or where your products and services provide the most value (when a physical location isn’t relevant).

Why work with your firm? Although this is one of the last questions in the list, it’s one of the most important questions and is the real driver for converting prospects into new clients. The why of your content should discuss your value proposition – what you have to offer your clients that will make their life better.

How does it work? One of the major elements B2B firms forget to include in their website content is the “how.” Simply answering how the sales process works, how your services work, or how to properly use your products educates potential prospects and provides them with valuable insight. This type of information sets you up as a trusted resource and builds your credibility with prospects.

Great Design

No matter how wonderful your content and branding are, a poor layout or overcomplicated design will turn people away from your B2B website. You may have asked yourself, “Why Can’t I Design My Own Website?” Well, the answer is you aren’t a professional web designer. An experienced B2B web designer understands the user experience, how to accurately incorporate branding into the design, and the best ways to layout all the content on the website.

Persuasive CTAs

Persuasive calls-to-action (CTAs) are instrumental in making your digital brochure an effective lead nurturing and lead generation tool. A strong CTA lets the website visitor know what they should do next. Call, Contact, Email, Read More, View Testimonials, Download Case Studies, Etc.

In order to be effective, the CTA must also evaluate where the prospect is in the sales funnel or cycle. If they are just starting the search for a B2B service provider, the CTA should invite them to learn more or download resources. If a prospect is ready to make contact, a CTA should be clear and tell them how to get in touch with your company.

Easy to Find Contact Information

This sounds simple and straightforward, but it’s one of the main reasons for frustration and visitors bouncing off your website. If your firm’s contact information is not easy to find on your B2B website, you could be losing potential clients. Even a simple “Contact Us” tab at the top of the website can enable your firm to generate more leads.

Ready to get started on your firm’s B2B website and digital brochure? Contact us today to schedule a complimentary website evaluation.

Not quite ready to take that next step? Check out our blog on What Makes a Web Design Company the Right Fit?


Web Design Basics for Non-Marketers: What You Need to Know Before Starting a Website Project

Web Design BasicsA new website launch can be an enigma for non-marketing professionals, but it doesn’t have to be.

As a web design agency, we understand that, for many B2B firms, the person in charge of a new website project isn’t always a seasoned marketing pro. As such, we’ve put together a quick crash course on the basics of a B2B web design project.

Before you start looking for a web design firm to partner with on your website project, you need to have a clear vision of your brand and the purpose of the website. Also, check out 5 Important Questions to Ask Before Starting Your B2B Web Design Project to make sure you are prepared.

Know Your Brand

Your website is going to carrying your B2B brand into the digital world. It’s essential that you understand your brand, your core values, and your main value proposition.

For marketers and non-marketers alike, branding can seem like a big fluffy idea that is tough to articulate. Check out 5 Steps to Build Your B2B Brand to get a clear idea of how to communicate your brand and brand messaging. And be sure to take a quick look at 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Branding to streamline the process.

Define Your Website’s Purpose

A B2B website can have a variety of different purposes including:

  • Acting as an online brochure of products and services
  • A credibility piece to establish trust
  • A lead generation tool to add new prospects to the funnel
  • A PR tool to control the messaging about your firm
  • An online store to sell more products
  • A customer service tool to service existing clients

While it’s a good idea to work with a web design agency that is experienced in building websites for firms in your industry, it’s also important to make sure the agency has experience creating websites with a similar purpose to what you need. The purpose impacts the overall design, content, functionality and development, so it’s imperative to determine this before or at the outset of a website design project.

Take a quick look at What Is the Purpose of Your Website by Brad Shorr to get a brief overview of how to determine the purpose of your website.

The Web Design Process

Whether you are in the early stages of hunting for a web design company or are evaluating final candidates, understanding the basics of the web design process can make your project go smoother.

1. Startup & Concept

The first part of a B2B web design process is the start-up and concept phase. Typically, there is an intake form where you will be asked basic questions about your brand, the purpose of your website, the functionality your website needs, company history, etc.

Once the intake form has been completed and submitted to your website design partner, it is followed with a creative brief call. This is a chance for you to communicate your major objectives and for the website design agency to clarify anything on the intake form. Essentially, this is a jumping off point to ensure that you and your web design partner are on the same page and focusing on the same overall concept of the website.

2. Design & Layout

After the initial intake form and creative brief, your website design firm crafts several options for the design and overall layout of the website. It’s common to get two different designs from an agency and then pick one that works best for your brand.

3. Development

Development is the phase that follows approval of the website design. Website development takes place on the backend of the website and includes coding, troubleshooting, and making the design work properly. During the development phase, your role is to provide feedback on how the website looks and functions, making a note of anything that you would like to work differently or change.

4. Publish & Launch

This final stage of the website design process is often the most exciting part since you’ll get to see the final product of all your hard work (and the agency’s) of the past 3 to 4 months. Once the website is looking great and working well – it’s time to hit publish. We recommend at least a month of reviewing and testing the live website before an official launch of the site.

The official launch is the final stage of the web design project and includes publicly promoting the website through social media, newsletters, and with additional public relations efforts.

You don’t have to be a master of all things marketing to manage a B2B web design project for your company. My best advice is to do your best to understand the process, work with a reputable web design agency, and take their advice since they’ve done this before.

Learn more about a successful web design project: Make It Live: Tips to Speed Up a Website Launch or contact us today to get started on your project.


7 Web Design Trends That Died in 2015

Dead Trends 2015Web design trends come and go. And then some die. They must die. We must say goodbye to them and move forward. Why? Because they have outlived their purpose and there is a new, better way to do things.

Web Design Trends That Didn’t Live Out the Year

Saying goodbye can be tough. Unless you are these web design trends, then it’s easy to send them on their way.

1. Skeumorphic Design

Skeumorpho-what? Skeumorphic design is the philosophy of making items on a website closely resemble what the items look like in the real world. Essentially, it means trying to create a 3-D effect on a 2-D or flat surface (like a computer screen) through the use of things like shadows, highlights and details.

Check out The Battle Between Flat Design and Skeumorphism to see a what skeumorphic design looks like.

Why did it die?

Although skeumorphic design intends to provide a great user experience by creating images that are easy to identify, it often ends up producing visual noise and clutter on the website. In addition to creating clutter, skeumorphic designs tend to be difficult to develop and are tougher to update in the future.

What’s next?

Flat User Interface Design is the current trend, especially for B2B web design. At the most basic level, it’s 2-D design for 2-D surfaces (sounds like a better match – doesn’t it?). The main bonus of Flat web design is that it is easily scalable for responsive design and reduces clutter to provide a seamless user experience.

2. Bad Stock Photography

BadStockPhotographyExampleJust when you think it’s dead and gone, BAM! Terrible stock photography hits – which is one of
the main reasons to work with a qualified web designer and not your friend’s sister’s brother-in-law’s neighbor for a web design. But seriously, those terrible photos that you’ve seen on websites (hopefully not your own B2B website) are a thing of the past, much like laser disc players. Bad stock photography can be quite hilarious, but it never builds up credibility or trust with potential clients.

Why did it die?

In a word – competition. There is a lot more GOOD stock photography out there because the stock photography market is more competitive. New vendors and photography websites have come out to compete with the big vendors like iStock. With the option to have great stock photography, why bother with bad stock photography?

What’s next?

Stock photography isn’t dead, rather it’s alive and thriving because experienced photographers are now shooting with web design in mind. What makes up good stock photography? High-quality stock photography is not cheesy with unrealistic and unnatural poses. Instead, good stock photos have natural poses (if any poses at all), are artful and balanced, and include a ratio of negative space for web copy to seamlessly fit into.

3. Cluttered Websites

Bells, whistles, pop-ups, oh my! Which is better: a neatly organized closet with shoes in their places, a hanger for belts, and clothing organized by color or a tiny room where clothes, shoes, hats, purses and socks are bursting to escape? Unless you are a roach, the clear choice is the uncluttered closet.

Why did it die?

A cluttered website tries to convey too much info and too many messages at one time. You never know where to look or what to click on. A cluttered website is like a cluttered closet, you can never find what you are looking for and frustration sets in quickly. Too many messages communicated on a website means that none of the messages are communicated properly. Cluttered websites are done, gone, caput.

What’s next?

Minimalism is the path forward for many websites. A clean design with simplified messages creates a better user experience and strong brand identity. When it comes to B2B web design, less is really more.

4. Autoplay Ads, Videos, Media

Have you ever clicked on a search result to check out a website only to have obnoxious music start blaring – or worse – an ad start playing over the top of the website copy you are trying to read? Was it a race to close that tab and get away from that site as fast as possible? Autoplay Ads, Videos, Pop-ups and other Media can make for a frustrating, annoying, irritating, aggravating experience for the user.

Why did it die?

This actually hasn’t technically died, but it’s dead to most professional web design agencies. Why? Besides the fact that it’s annoying and distracts the user from their mission in visiting the site in the first place, it can increase bounce rates and create a sense of distrust with website users. Additionally, viewing metrics will be skewed as people quickly navigate away from the video or an ad that autoplays.

What’s next?

There is no question that multi-media must be incorporated into a B2B web design to provide a great user experience. However, how the user interacts with this media should be their choice. If they want to watch the video, they know to click on it to play. If the user would like to plug their headphones into their computer before watching your product video – let them do so, don’t force it.

5. Above the Fold Or Nothing!

Previous to 2015, there was a large emphasis on making sure all content was above the fold (where the computer screen stops). However, times have changed and users have adapted to technology. Trying to shove all the necessary content into a small space on a web design no longer has any benefit.

Why did it die?

Scrolling isn’t just some old form of note taking. Above the fold design still has relevance in things like landing page design, but for general B2B website design, above-the-fold-only design is dead. Users are familiar with swipe up, swipe down, scroll up, scroll down – largely due to mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.

What’s next?

Longer scrolling websites are becoming increasing popular, especially websites that integrate unique scrolling effects like parallax. The benefit of a website that allows scrolling to discover content is that it controls the brand story and messaging, directing users throughout the site based on the content they choose to interact with. It’s also a great way to establish the look and feel of the brand by taking the user on a closely controlled journey down the web page.

6. Desktop-Only Formats

A web design that is only formatted for desktop computers is dead. Gone. Later. Sure, a desktop often has a higher pixel resolution, larger memory for quicker loading times, and the ability to display on a large screen. But the harsh reality is that websites, even B2B websites, are accessed on a variety of devices. At the very minimum, an effective website strategy needs to include a mobile-friendly version of a company’s website or a responsive web design.

Why did it die?

Don’t forget that April of this year saw Google’s Mobilegeddon roll out. (How could we forget that scramble!) Google essentially laid down the gauntlet for web developers and designers, insisting that all websites be mobile-friendly or, better yet, responsive. While separate mobile sites are still a good option for existing websites – any new website design absolutely must be created as responsive.

What’s next?

Responsive web design that keeps multiple screen engagement in mind and considers how design will literally stack-up. For example, website designers create modules on a website, knowing that modules that appear side-by-side on a desktop will begin to stack on top of each other on a mobile device. Additionally, as mentioned before, scrolling is a functionality that must be considered in web designs that want to survive 2015 and beyond.

7. Design in a Silo

When it comes to creating a polished, engaging website design, it cannot be done in a silo. Web designers can no longer put on their headphones and focus only on the beauty of a website. A beautiful website might engender “ohhhs” and “ahhhs” but it likely won’t put new client leads on your desk (or email inbox).

Why did it die?

A website that is lovely, but doesn’t show up in search results is a wasted resource. Likewise, a website that has awesome images, but no clear call to action is throwing leads away. We aren’t saying web design can’t be gorgeous, but we are saying it must be so many other things as well to be effective.

What’s next?

Web design has turned a corner and now must include functionality along with engaging beauty. In addition to considering a company’s brand, a B2B web designer must consider content, the visual user experience, search engine optimization (SEO), conversions and the back-end development of the website. A web designer no longer pulls pretty pictures and lines them up; now a web designer must take a holistic view of the entire website strategy and user experience.

Why Did So Many Trends Die This Year?

Why did so many web design trends die this year? There has been a dramatic, industry-wide shift away from what a company wants to what the client (or consumer) wants. This is absolutely reflected in web design. Web design centers around the user’s needs and wants to create a great user experience that will turn a website visitor into a new client.


5 Branding Sins

Branding SinsAren’t there normally seven sins? Yes, we know there are typically seven sins but, when it comes to branding, we are only focusing on five. Why? Because we think it’s easier to focus on five and these are the major issues that can really tank a brand and an entire B2B marketing strategy.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at the five B2B branding sins commonly committed.

Ego

We are the best, no one else matters!

The problem with committing this sin is that you are forgetting about a very, very important part of why your brand exists. The clients. Without your client audience, it doesn’t matter how great you think your brand is. As a San Diego web design and marketing agency, we’ve worked on various B2B branding projects. Thankfully, many of our clients haven’t suffered from Brand Ego. However, it’s a fairly common sin that we see committed by businesses.

Deception

We deliver on time. Well, most of the time. Well, only sometimes.

Earlier this month, we shared the wisdom of a very smart person that your brand is your promise – it’s what you say you will deliver. When it comes to B2B branding, breaking your promise is the same as brand deception. Regardless of the reason, not delivering on your brand promise can severely damage your brand’s reputation.

Human Connection

We are so cool. We are so modern. We are so impersonal.

This particular B2B branding sin can also be called authenticity. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype or the high-end image of your brand and forget about making a connection. People, whether consumers or professionals, want to feel a human connection to a brand before they invest their time or resources. Now, this does not mean that you need to be unprofessional or sacrifice your values. It simply means that your B2B brand needs to be accessible and authentic.

Irrelevance

We sell VHS tapes and floppy disks.

Brands are continually evolving (this is different from changing outright). Look at companies like Microsoft or Amazon. Over the years, their brands have evolved to stay relevant to their audience. In addition to updating their product lines, they have continually improved their overall brand value propositions to remain relevant to their audiences. As a B2B brand, you need to remain relevant to your core audience of prospects and clients.

Jealousy

Our competition’s brand is better. Let’s copy them.

It’s healthy to have a fair bit of competition in business, to understand your competition, and to keep tabs on them. What is not healthy is Brand Jealousy. If you’ve both done your job when it comes to branding, each firm has a unique brand identity and value proposition. This is what makes your brand different. Never let your jealousy of another B2B brand cause you to change your brand or mimic theirs.

Avoiding the 5 Branding Sins

Now that you know the five sins of branding, how can you avoid them? The number one way to avoid committing these sins in your B2B branding strategy is to keep your client at the center of your strategy. When creating brand and marketing your brand, continue to ask these questions:

  • How does this provide value to my client?
  • Why would my client care about this?
  • What matters to the client?
  • If I were a client, would this be important?

You’ll find by asking these questions, that not only can you narrow down your focus, you’ll keep coming back to the same core values (and your brand promise).

Learn more about what you need to know by downloading our free Branding Quick Reference Guide. Or, have fun with our 15 Crazy Branding Statistics Your Need to Know. Think of any other branding sins that drive you nuts? Share them in a comment.


4 Reasons to Use WordPress in Your Website Design

Why WordPressWordPress is a popular content management system (CMS) and blogging platform. In fact, 24% of websites worldwide use WordPress. However, WordPress isn’t the only CMS or digital publishing platform out there. So, why should your company create a WordPress website rather than using a different platform like Joomla, Drupal, Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace?

4 Reasons Why You Should Choose WordPress for Your Website

1. Easy to Learn, Use, and Update

“It’s so easy.”

One of the main reasons to consider a WordPress CMS for your website is that it’s easy to update. We always recommend using WordPress for the backend of a B2B website because it has a very short learning curve, is user-friendly, and is simple to update.

The benefit of an easy-to-use and -update content management system is that anyone in your organization can update the website. With a WordPress web design, you no longer have to submit all website changes to the IT department or an out-sourced developer and wait around for them to make it a priority. You can log in to your website, make the update, and the change will be immediate.

2. So Many Options

“There’s a plugin for that.”

Do you want to be able to optimize your meta data on each page? Do you want to make your website load faster with a caching tool? Do you want to embed forms on certain pages of your website? Are you interested in adding an easy way for users to sign up for your monthly newsletter?

There are WordPress plug-ins that provide extended capabilities for a variety of needs. Whatever capabilities your marketing or sales team requires for your website, there’s probably existing (and free!) plugin that can easily be downloaded and installed on your WordPress website. Plugins create a seamless experience for managing and updating your website.

3. Lots of Support & Security

“It’s a worldwide support community.”

WordPress has been around for over 10 years and, due to its popularity, has a huge following and developer support community. This large developer and support community has created a range of various plugins, has help sites, and forums for discussing issues and solutions. You will never be at a loss for great resources to provide the support you need to manage and update your WordPress website.

Additionally, WordPress is a secure system and rolls out updates regularly to ensure continued security for websites and blogs. WordPress users are always notified of required updates and the updates are easy to make.

4. It’s Great for SEO

“Built for people and search engines.”

We mentioned earlier that WordPress is a great platform for people as it creates a wonderful user experience. The great news is that WordPress also plays nicely with search engines. The coding and mark-up used to create WordPress websites follow best practices and, therefore, are attractive to search engines and are easy for search engine crawlers.

Additionally, there are plugins that can be integrated into a WordPress website to manage SEO data, including H1 titles, meta descriptions, meta titles, etc. Several available SEO plugins allow easy access to optimize web pages and provide instant audits of on-page optimization efforts.

We are a WordPress web design shop, so we may be a little biased when it comes to recommending WordPress as a CMS for B2B websites. However, in our experience, WordPress is easy for everyone to use (not just developers), provides a range of tools and options, has a broad support community that is easy to access, and positively contributes to overall search engine optimization.

We know that not everyone wants to spend all day working on web design like we do and we believe that WordPress is a great option for tech and non-tech professionals alike.

Learn more about the importance of picking the right backend (or content management system) for your B2B website.

(Source: WordPress)


Why Website Design Is Still Important

Web Design ImportanceBack in 2011, we published a blog post about Why Web Design Is Important. Although the blog post is several years old, the information it covers is still accurate and, in some ways, even more relevant today for B2B firms.

According to recent research, many online users said a website’s design is the number one criteria for deciding whether a company is credible or not. Since your website is often the first interaction with your brand, it’s essential that it sends the right message and builds your firm’s credibility.

In our blog post on Why Web Design Is Important, our Lead Designer Danielle discussed 5 elements of web design that can make or break a website, including:

  • Navigation
  • Brand Consistency
  • Reading Patterns & SEO
  • Content
  • Trust

Before a website can drive leads and conversions, it must establish credibility. Let’s take a look at how these 5 elements of B2B web design are important to establishing trust and credibility.

Navigation

A website’s navigation can either guide potential clients through your website with ease or cause major frustration that forces a potential client to bounce off your website. It can be very easy to get excited about flashy designs or interesting typefaces, but in many cases, simple and straightforward navigation provides the best user experience.

Danielle advises that website navigation should be grandma-friendly – meaning even your grandma can understand it.

Brand Consistency

If your firm has an established logo and brand that is used in signs, marketing collateral, brochures, etc., then that branding needs to be present in your website design as well. A major factor in establishing credibility is consistency. New and existing clients should be able to easily recognize your brand in all communications, marketing materials, and in your website design.

Why Is Consistency So Important in Visual Branding?

Our website designer answers that when visual components of a brand aren’t saying the same thing, they can make potential and existing clients uncomfortable, confused and cause them to have a negative view of your company.

Search Engine Optimization & User Experience

The visitor’s experience with your website is a major component of SEO and should be calculated in the overall design. If important information like service offerings, capabilities, or benefits are buried at the bottom of a web design, a website visitor may get frustrated and leave your site quickly – which increases your bounce rate and tells search engines that your website does not serve up helpful information (bad for SEO).

According to Danielle, a best practice in website design is to put the most important information towards the top of the B2B web design in the upper left hand part of the page – since this is where people often start to read on a website. 

Content

A website contains both written and visual content, which ideally should work together to clearly communicate your brand message and main value propositions. The main thing to remember when writing content is that it should be concise. Not only does concise content work better with the web design, it is quicker to read and easier to remember. Too much written text and images will clutter up a page and fatigue a website visitors. By reducing long text to more edible bits of text, you can allow for negative space in the design.

Negative space in a design, between images and text, allows a reader to rest their eyes for a second and limits fatigue, says Danielle.

Trust

We recently discussed the simplest way to build trust with your website, but the overall visual design of the website has a lot to do with engendering trust. Have you been to a website that looks like it was built back when the Brady Bunch was on the air? An outdated web design can make a firm look like their services are outdated. Additionally, sloppy, poor, disproportionate, or busy designs can all fill a website visitor with doubt and mistrust. Working with an experienced web designer who understands your firm’s objectives and is more interested in catering to the user experience is essential to building a B2B website design that engenders trust and builds relationships.

The last tip from Danielle is that website design is an opportunity to create a user-friendly environment where current and potential clients come to get helpful tips and learn more about your business.

A website is a functional piece of any successful sales and marketing campaign, but don’t forget that good web design is important to attracting new clients, building credibility, and converting leads. Learn more about branding your website with these 9 steps to creating a B2B website that fits your brand.


Make It Live: Tips to Speed Up a Website Launch

Speed Up LaunchYou’ve made the decision to build a new B2B website for your firm. While there is a lot of work that goes into building a new website and it does take time, the end result is usually a vast improvement. At the end of the day, the most important step in the project is to make the website live.

What can you do to speed up the website launch and make it live?

Let’s take a look at how you and your team can streamline the process and get that awesome new B2B web design approved and live.

Before You Begin

Web design isn’t your job or your industry. You aren’t a web design firm so it can be tough to know where to start and what you need. As an experienced web design firm in San Diego, we’ve launched hundreds of websites. Before we begin working on a design project for a B2B firm, we ask what type of functionality the website needs to have and what are the main necessities of the project.

Define website functionality and list basic necessities.

We often advise firms in the very beginning stages of interviewing web design agencies to have a solid understanding of the functionality and basic necessities of the website. This makes choosing the right web design firm easier and ensures the agency is the right fit. For example, if the website needs a shopping cart feature, you can choose an agency that has experience adding shopping carts to websites.

Have a Content Plan

Whether you are having the B2B web design agency write content for your website or you are writing the content internally, you need a content plan.

Determine:

  • Who’s going to manage the content process?
  • Who has the bandwidth to write or edit the copy?
  • Who has final copy approval?

One of the biggest factors that can delay a website launch is not having the final content ready to go. The delay can be caused by various factors. In some cases, the person(s) elected to write or edit the content doesn’t have the bandwidth or time to do so. In other cases, the final reviewer or technical reviewer isn’t available or has other priorities. The best way to avoid these types of delays is to have a plan and get buy-in from the decision makers and doers that will be involved.

Limit Decision Makers

It would be wonderful if all the decisions for a website could be made by one person. Very rarely does that happen. However, it is possible to nominate certain individuals to be the main decision makers if the objectives for a B2B web design project are clear.

Elect capable, responsible decision makers for the web design project

While a team of people can provide feedback on a new web design, the ultimate decision should only rest with a handful of people.

Don’t Aim for Perfection

A great B2B website is a continual work in progress requiring updates, additions, and deletions. It will never be a perfect thing that can be left to run on its own. Expecting a website design to be absolutely perfect can be a major inhibitor for the actual launch of the site. There is a quote that we often refer to:

Perfection is the enemy of progress.

This quote is often attributed to Winston Churchill. Whether Churchill made this statement or not, it’s highly relevant to B2B web design projects. Now, make no mistake, our web design firm does not want to launch a flawed website. However, it’s simply a fact of life that the longer you look at something and review it, the more changes you will want to make. When a website gets to the point where the content is great and the design is finished, it’s time to launch it.

Letting Go

If you’ve spent the last 3-4 months working on a brand new website, you are highly invested in its success. The great part of a B2B web design project is that you will have this wonderful website to show for all your efforts. The catch is that you won’t have anything to show for it until it’s live. Letting go of the website and launching it is easier said than done – but is a necessary step to launch. Remember:

It’s always possible to make edits and changes to a website after it’s live.

If a new web design is far superior to an existing website, it’s time to launch it. If 24 of the 25 employee bios are completed and up on the website but the last employee is on vacation and won’t complete his or her bio for another few weeks, it’s time to launch the website. If a website is 99.9% complete and all you are waiting for is one paragraph buried deep in the website to be edited, it’s time to launch the website.

Get Internal Buy-In Early On

You are happy with the web design and are ready to see it live, but you can’t get internal approval to launch. This can be very frustrating. A great way to avoid this type of issue popping up and delaying launch is by getting internal buy-in from decision makers and contributors early on. We advise clients to make sure the IT team is ready and on board and to get all their specifications at the beginning of the project.

A major delay can happen in development if the back-end specifications are not clear or not communicated properly.

By bringing in IT and other decision makers early on and getting their sign-off, you can smooth the way for launch and put all the necessary parts in place to support an effective launch.

Make It Live

As a San Diego web design firm, we want to make a website launch as easy and seamless for a client as possible. We’ve launched a lot of websites and fine-tuned the process to eliminate common problems. Find out more about what you need to know to have a smooth web design project (link to download).

Ready to get started on a new B2B website for your firm? Schedule a free consultation today.


Winning B2B Web Designs

Winning WebsitesAs a San Diego web design firm, we work with a variety of B2B firms on redesigning and launching new websites. A major myth that we encounter on a daily basis is that a functional, educational B2B web design is always boring. We try to bust this myth at every chance we get. At Bop Design, we firmly believe that business-to-business websites can be engaging, dynamic, and exciting!

A winning B2B website creates a strong connection with prospects and clients while properly upholding the branding of the business. While great web designs vary by look and feel, they all have four major components.

Bust the Boring Myth

The prevalent myth is that only companies that are targeting consumers directly can be exciting and that business-to-business company websites will always be in the boring category. This is a myth!

Salesforce recently published an infographic called “The Psychology of Sales and the Human Mind,” which takes a look at how emotion affects buying decisions. Did you know that buying decisions are based on 20% logic and 80% emotion? By tapping into the emotions of potential customers and building a website that is exciting, a B2B firm has a better chance at truly connecting with prospects and converting them into leads.

I Do What I Want Responsive Website

A responsive B2B web design is always a winner, not just for the SEO benefits, but because it truly caters to the needs of a prospective client. By creating a website that is adaptable and can be easily viewed on every device, your firm is creating an online presence where prospects can interact with your website according to their preference.

Many of the B2B firms we work with currently are choosing to go with responsive web design. As smartphone, tablet, and laptop usage continues to climb and eclipse desktop browsing, a responsive website is a must have to connect with prospects and give them the functionality they want.

Don’t Design, Tell a Story

Web design can be beautiful, functional, and engaging all at once. In our experience, many B2B companies have really cool services or products that provide significant value for a customer. However, they can get bogged down in the details of services and features and forget what really matters and how awesome their brand is. For our B2B web design clients, we highlight the value propositions and characters of the brand in the design to garner engagement.

A strong web design does more than give information about products and services, it tells a story. For instance, a parallax homepage design is often a great way to narrate a story and engage the website visitor. An example of using design to connect and engage is a website we created for Bradley & Company, a private wealth management firm. The design visually guides you through what the first three months as a client of Bradley & Company would be like, helping you see and understand what it’s like to be a client of the firm.

Use It or Lose It

To use a common phrase, at the end of the day, a website must unequivocally be useful. If a B2B web design is not useful, you will lose potential customers to your competitors who have user-friendly, helpful websites. Before we begin any San Diego web design project, we determine what our client’s website needs in order to be useful. Ask yourself whether prospects and customers need an educational blog, do they need to see contact information at the top of the page, do they need a breakdown of services and fees, do they need to know how something works, or do they need tools to help them implement your services at their own business?

What makes a B2B web design a winner is that not only is it useful and functional, it’s engaging, responsive, and exciting. At Bop Design, our number one commitment is to break the boring B2B web design myth and deliver functional, useful websites that create strong connections with potential prospects.


4 Tips for a Consistent B2B Brand

Consistant BrandingOne of the major factors behind a successful brand strategy is consistency. Without a consistent B2B brand strategy, there is confusion, which can lead to mistrust or the wrong perception. Whether you have recently created a brand, rebranded your firm, or are looking to revamp your existing branding strategy, we have 4 tips to help you create consistency across your entire branding strategy.

1. Standardize Everything

The first step in creating a consistent brand is standardization. Once you have built your B2B brand, make an effort to define, document, and standardize everything associated with your brand image. This can be a major endeavor, but once it’s completed it is easy to maintain.

Define and standardize fonts, imagery, tone, messaging, mission, and values. It’s important to make sure everything appears consistent. For example, if your firm’s name has “Inc.” at the end of it, determine whether this will be included in all your marketing, sales, and business communications. Even standardizing something as minor as the “Inc.” on your name will create a stable image for your clients and prospects.

2. Check Your B2B Website

Do you know what your B2B web design says about your brand? For many consumers and professionals, a firm’s B2B website is either their first contact with the firm’s brand or is how they learn more about the particular brand. Your website design absolutely must accurately reflect your brand. If you’ve recently completed a rebrand or if your website is outdated, it’s likely time for a new web design.

When evaluating how your brand is portrayed on your B2B website, check the consistency of messaging in the copywriting and the general look and feel. If your B2B branding focuses on luxury but the look and feel appears cheap or the copy focuses on cost-effective pricing, it’s time to update them. Additionally, take a look at the layout, services highlighted, and calls-to-action. Do they fit with what your branding communicates? For example, if your B2B branding is all about efficiency and time savings, your website should portray those same attributes in layout and usability.

3. Elect a Brand Cop

If your firm has more than two employees, you will need to elect a “Brand Cop” or a “Brand Czar” to oversee and enforce all brand guidelines. The benefit of electing one person or department to act as a branding watchdog is that you can control your brand and image very carefully. Once you have determined who will be your cop or czar, make sure everything is funneled through them before publication or circulation (this includes form emails).

Why do you even need a brand cop? As new people are added to the team or your service offerings expand, branding can tend to get watered down. Even by accident, members of your firm can alter your B2B brand simply by creating a new sales email template or creating a new client communication. A centralized B2B branding review person or team will catch minor changes that could end up modifying how the brand is perceived.

4. Communicate Internally

We’ve worked on a slew of Orange County and San Diego web design projects and we always advise our B2B website clients to communicate major branding or website changes internally before launching publicly. A new B2B Brand or Rebrand is fantastic news that should be shared with the team to elicit excitement and boost morale.

Communicating B2B brand guidelines internally also eliminates confusion, encourages knowledge sharing, and shows honesty and transparency. All of these things invite internal buy-in. Remember that every single person in your company represents your firm and your brand in one way or another. Clear communication creates a united message internally and externally.

A B2B branding strategy is more than just a logo design. A successful branding strategy creates a consistent message across all channels of communication.


What Your B2B Web Design Says About Your Firm

What Web Design SaysJust like a business card or a brochure, your B2B web design gives certain overt and subtle cues about your firm. From the layout of your website design to how your website displays on a smartphone, your website tells current and potential clients more than you think it does.

So what does your B2B web design say about your firm?

Outdated Design: We Are Too Old School

If your website design hasn’t been updated in the last five years or so, it’s outdated. An older, outdated web design tells prospects that you don’t care about recent advancements in technology or current trends. Many potential clients take an outdated website to mean that your company is outdated or has fallen behind the times. You could have the most current, cutting-edge equipment and techniques in use at your office, but potential clients will think that you are trying to send emails from a typewriter.

Check out what makes a website look old and outdated. If your website has any of these features, it’s time to contact a San Diego web design firm for a new website.

Responsive Web Design: We Listen

It’s very name, Responsive Web Design, says it all. A website with responsive design finds out what device the visitor is using to access the website and then serves up the right layout for that device. A responsive web design lets potential clients know that not only are you integrating current technology, you are taking the first steps to listen, accommodate, and make it easy for them to be a client. Being able to view your website on any device means that users can get information from your website, learn more about you, and get in touch with you in a way that they prefer and is convenient to them. When it comes to customer or client service, listening, convenience and responsiveness are three important factors. Make sure your B2B web design exhibits these things.

Easy to Navigate: It’s Easy to Work with Us

Why would you make it hard to learn more about your company or get in touch with your sales staff? That’s what a potential client thinks if your web design is tough to navigate or it’s difficult to locate information. In many cases, the visitor gets frustrated, curses your site and your company, and leaves, never to return again.

A simple, straightforward website layout without much hierarchy in the navigation helps visitors and potential clients find the information they need with the least amount of clicks or scrolls. Web designs that are easy to navigate demonstrate that your company is easy to work with and understands what information current and potential clients need.

Great, Helpful Content: We Like to Help

Similar to how images and text are essential in a brochure design, so they are in a San Diego web design. Only showcasing sales driven content on a website tells potential clients that your number one objective is sales. Your number one objective should always be a great client experience.

A B2B web design that hosts educational, easy-to-read or view content tells prospects that not only do you care about their needs, but your firm is a credible and authoritative resource on the products or services you offer. Credibility is one of the main differentiators in the market that also enables firms to charge a premium.

In our experience as a San Diego and Orange County web design firm, the most common mistake we see is when B2B firms view their website from their own perspective, and not from a potential client’s perspective. Shifting the focus from the company to the customer and the solutions they need is the best way to create a strong web design that rocks!

Starting a new web design project? Check out our B2B web design checklist to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered.


10 Do’s and Don’ts of B2B Branding

Do's and Don't BrandingMany people believe branding is simply the creation of a logo and tagline. While a new logo and tagline may be several of the deliverables of a B2B branding process, they aren’t the sum of the process. When it comes to creating a new brand or refreshing an existing brand, there are a variety of factors to take into consideration other than logo design and a catchy tagline.

In our experience with B2B branding, we found people tend to either undervalue or overthink their brand. To help make the entire process smoother for B2B businesses, we’ve compiled a short list of 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Branding. Follow these tips to stay on track and make branding your business a successful process with an ideal outcome.

Do Consider Your Audience

The best place to start is by considering and analyzing your ideal client. Who are they? What are their needs and challenges? Clearly define your audience and their pain points. Knowing whom you are marketing to enables you to appeal to them in your strategy.

Do Focus on Your Strengths

This sounds like a no-brainer, but we find that sometimes companies can’t clearly articulate their strengths. It’s absolutely essential to determine what your firm’s strengths are and how they add value for clients. Create a list of all the strengths of your business. Get input from your sales team, customer service team, and management. Once you have a comprehensive list, cut it down to a maximum of 5 strengths and ensure they are all relevant to your clients.

Do Create a Strong Mission Statement

Settling on the strengths and values of your business will help you to write and refine your mission statement. Your mission statement must be concise, specific, and written down. Consider the mission statement to be the mantra of your firm. Successful professionals and leaders often ask themselves, “Is this decision or action inline with our mission statement?”

Do Be Consistent

Narrowing down your strengths, client needs, and mission statement are integral in developing a B2B brand. As you continue to craft your brand marketing strategy, your key to success is consistency. For example, if you are focusing on “efficiency,” make sure you carry that message throughout all your brand-related pieces. The very nature and layout of all your marketing and sales material should portray the feeling of “efficiency.”

Do Differentiate Yourself

Your firm, employees, services, and model are unique. The most effective brands take extra efforts to differentiate themselves. In a world of options, potential clients need to clearly understand what differentiates you from your competitors. Make it clear what makes your firm and your services unique and valuable.

Don’t Rush the Process

Branding or refreshing a brand can be a streamlined process, but it still requires informed input and creativity. Firms going through a B2B branding process risk creating a lackluster, vague brand when they rush the process. Working with an experienced branding expert or consultant is a great way to ensure you are spending enough time, but not too much, on the various portions of the branding process.

Don’t Try to Please Everyone

Effectively managed businesses employ a diverse group of individuals. While this is great for innovation and ideation, it’s not always conducive to collective agreement. When it comes to branding, a lot of people in your company will have an opinion. However, at the end of the day, only a few of those opinions really matter. Identify the main stakeholders in the branding process and ensure they have final decision ability.

Don’t Say You Offer Something You Don’t

This is another common sense statement that doesn’t always seem obvious. Typically, when someone is trying to say they offer something they don’t, it’s not always to be deceptive. In many cases, they like how it sounds and think it’s what the client wants to hear. These people often think they have the best product or service on the market and they can later convince a client of its worth. This tactic is dishonest and usually fails, causing mistrust in your brand.

Don’t Copy the Competition

Even if your competition has great ideas and strategies, never copy them. Your firm is unique and different. Copying a competitor makes it look like you don’t bring anything new or different to the market and does nothing to make you stand-out.

Don’t Minimize the Importance of Branding

A product or service is rarely so great that it sells itself. Even industry giants like GE, Apple, Microsoft, and Sony value and promote their own brands. Your branding and service or product often become inextricably linked, so creating and upholding a strong brand ensures the image of your products or services is strong as well.

Common issues come up during the B2B branding process, but they can be avoided or quickly managed by understanding how they detract from the process. By keeping these Do’s and Don’ts in mind during your B2B branding project, you can streamline the process and create a great result.


A Glossary of Key Branding Terms

Glossary TermsUnless you are a seasoned marketing professional, all the terms people throw around when discussing branding can be confusing. We work on B2B branding projects everyday and understand how all the lingo can appear to mean various things to different people. To provide clarity, we’ve compiled a short list of key branding terms and their definitions. Knowing all the terms is especially important for a B2B or B2C firm who is thinking about a marketing overhaul, creating a new digital strategy, or considering a re-brand.

Ambassador – A brand ambassador is anyone who works for your company and interacts as a representative of the company. An ambassador can be a Sales Person, Executive, or even a Customer Service Representative.

Awareness – How many people are familiar with a company and its products or services. Awareness should be gauged on a scale of Poor to Great, which measures how well people know what products/services a company offers and what a company is all about.

Brand – The term originally referred to livestock owners who would mark their herd with a distinctive symbol for clear identification. The term now refers to how a target market distinguishes one company and it’s values from a similar company.

Branding – As a verb, it’s the process of discovering and communicating the overall image of your firm. As a noun, it’s the image you project in the market to your target audience.

Collateral – An all-encompassing term referring to any and all marketing materials used for a company. This includes brochures, presentation templates, email signatures, email templates, business cards, data sheets, case studies, etc.

Culture – Every B2B firm and B2C company has a unique set of beliefs, customs, way of thinking, and standards of behavior/work. For many companies, having a clear understanding of the culture is essential to communicating the brand.

Customer Service – Every member of your organization is responsible for an excellent experience for clients. It can make or break your firm’s brand.

Guidelines – Refers to a short list of rules and requirements for representing the company visually, in text, and in person. The more specific the overall rules, the more cohesive an organization will appear to potential and existing customers.

Identity – All of the unique attributes that define your company are considered the Brand Identity. Business Name, Logo, Tagline, business card, products and services, dress code, etc, are all things that combine to create the identity of a brand.

Image – How a brand is perceived by its target audience. The way a brand appears to potential customers or clients is essential to the success of a company.

Intangible – Brand assets incapable of being touched. These all work together to create the essence of the brand. Intangibles include trademarks, expertise, designs, etc.

Logo – A unique design or custom symbol that acts as the identifier of a brand. It is a visual representation of a firm’s brand.

Marketing – Marketing covers all the activities related to creating awareness, interest, and leads in a company’s products or services. Typically, Marketing acts at the brand police for an organization.

Message/Messaging – Often referred to as “Brand Message” or “Brand Messaging,” it is the main value proposition of a company’s services or products. The brand message communicates what the brand is and what separates it from competitors.

Mission Statement – An explanation of the overall goal and major values of a company. This statement often guides the B2B branding process.

Personality – Any identifying factors about a company specifically related to how it interacts with public. Many B2B firms create a “brand personality” to define the attitude of the brand, how it portrays the company, and relevant beliefs.

Re-brand – A process of taking a look at the overall identity of a company and making changes or revisions to the identity. Often an intensive procedure that includes input from major stakeholders and impacts all levels of an organization.

Recognition – The level to which your target audience can identify your B2C or B2B brand and services or products based on your name or logo. Best Buy, Target, Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all examples of companies with strong brand recognition.

Tagline – The condensed slogan that typically accompanies the company logo and captures the essence of the brand.

Tangible – Assets that can touched or felt, like buildings, property, products, and packaging.

Target Market – The desired potential customer audience. The best way to determine who is in your target market involves creating a “customer profile” of a fake person who represents your ideal client.

Value Proposition – What your client gets when they pay for your product or service. It usually includes the major advantage of choosing you over a competitor.

Vision – The future of how your company will look and operate. Vision dictates the goal setting and B2B branding efforts of your marketing and sales strategy.

Going through the B2B branding or rebranding process is an exciting time for a company. Don’t get overwhelmed by the process or all the terminology involved.


Responsive Web Design & Google

ResponsiveResponsive web design is not just a buzzword in B2B website design or a passing trend to ignore. Rather, it’s the new standard in professional web design and search engine optimization.

What Is Responsive Design?

First, it is not synonymous with mobile optimized design. Responsive design is called “responsive” because it responds to the user and the device used to search the internet. All of the content, images, videos, and structure of the website remains the same on any device but shrinks or expands to accommodate the screen size. In other words, a desktop user and a smartphone user will see the same website, but as a different size.

A mobile optimized website isn’t “responsive” in the same sense as a responsive website. A mobile optimized website is a secondary website that web visitors are directed to when they access a B2B website on a mobile device, such as a smartphone. A business with a mobile optimized website has two websites, a desktop website and a mobile website. The websites are independent of each other and need to be updated separately.

Google Says Yes to Responsive

Google has the largest share (67%+) of online search by a huge margin. While Bing and Yahoo are also contenders, their market share is nowhere near the amount of Google. This is why so many web developers, marketers, and SEOs follow the guidelines and best practices created by Google. Google not only says that responsive design is great, it recommends responsive design as the top website configuration.

One URL to Rule them All

There are a number of reasons that Google recommends responsive design for websites. One of the main reasons is that a responsive website has only one URL and the same HTML across all devices. This makes it easier for Google to bot crawl the website, index the pages, and categorize them according to its algorithm. Anything you can do to make your B2B website easier to crawl can positively impact your search engine rankings.

Better User Experience

Google continually talks about improving the user experience. A responsive website creates a better user experience because the website is viewable on any device the user is employing to search online. A website that conforms to the needs of each user reduces the bounce rate of a website because users don’t get frustrated and leave a site. Website visitors who can easily access the information on a website enjoy a great user experience.

A responsive B2B website design also makes sharing links with other users easy. If a user shares a link to a website from their mobile device, a desktop user that clicks on the link will see a website that is expanded to fit the desktop screen. Anticipating the needs of your website visitors always creates a better user experience.

The Mobile Movement

Statistics show mobile web browsing outranks desktop web browsing. This means that people, including professionals, are using mobile devices to access web sites. Also, it’s common for people to use multi-screen browsing, meaning they may access a website on desktop, then a laptop, and then later on a smartphone. A responsive website ensures that a B2B website design looks great and functions well on every device a user employs to search online, including smartphones.

The bottom line is when web users are happy, able to view content and images, and get the information they want and need, then Google is happy. A responsive B2B website design is an effective way to create a great user experience while improving your search engine optimization too.


Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore Your Tagline

b2b-tagline-brandingA tagline, also called a slogan, is a brief sentence that encapsulates your company values. It serves often as a means to clarify your business, but can also instill trust, build dramatic effect and keep your business top of mind.

Creating and choosing a tagline is typically part of the branding process. As marketing executives go through logo designs and branding packages, the tagline shouldn’t be an afterthought. A successful tagline will keep your prospects interested, a bad one can turn them off and onto your competitor.

In this post we’ll outline what to consider when picking a tagline, but first…

Does your business even need a tagline?

Outside of behemoth brands like Nike, Coke and Apple, when was the last time you saw or recalled a tagline? Last year, AdWeek deemed the tagline as a dying advertising trend, noting that the most loved taglines were created before 1975. AdWeek continues that tagline started as a method to shorten lengthy ad copy. But as time progressed and ad copy itself became shorter, taglines seemed less necessary.

This isn’t to say taglines are incorrect in principle, it just means our way of thinking about them also has to change. For B2B industries, a tagline may still prove to be valuable. For one, they’re rare so it’s a chance to rise above your competition.

When considering if one is truly needed, think of how your business is perceived in the marketplace. Is your value proposition already clearly established? Or is it unknown? For newer businesses or one’s lacking in previous branding, a tagline may help accelerate brand recognition. Remember to think long term, a tagline is not a campaign slogan and should have longer staying power.

Our two rules to a successful tagline

Concise

Brevity is hard—really hard.  For B2B industries with robust service offerings (think engineering and medical fields), it’s easy to want to make every part of the business feel included. Condensing a complex business into a short, emotional sentence is a challenge, but not impossible. Instead of looking inward, focus on your customers and buyer personas. What are they demanding from your business?

For example, consider accounting firm Grant Thornton. At its core, the firm is responsible for the same services as their competitors (business advisory, audits and tax consulting). Instead of saying they’re “revolutionary in audit strategies,” Grant Thornton’s tagline states “An instinct for growth.” Without naming any of their actual services, they instead address the core need of their clients (growth) and how they’re the best at it. Even better, it keeps their audience wondering and interested.

Not too vague

Yes, I know this seems contradictory of the first rule. In an attempt to say everything at once, many B2B taglines are too vague. Avoid fluff words that are overused like “innovation,” “excellence” and “premier.” Since your competitors are probably explaining themselves the same way (who doesn’t believe their company is the best?), they do nothing to differentiate your business.

Instead, focus on communicating your company vision. Where do you want to go? Who do you want to serve and how? Accenture does a great job at a short tagline (three words total!) that also communicates exactly what they hope to achieve. “High Performance. Delivered.” emphasizes their values of high-end technology to bring effective results.

Ideas for a tagline

You can go in many different directions for a tagline. Mood and tone can be modified to fit the desired message you want to convey. Here are some of our favorite directions you can take:

Empathy

This is a popular choice among marketers as it expresses understanding and presents a solution to their audience. Vacasa is a vacation home search database with the succinct tagline of “Vacation rentals made easy.” While seemingly straightforward, the tagline acknowledges that planning a vacation rental is stressful and their service can help.

Trustworthy

A tagline is also a short message to introduce your business to a new prospect. Creating a trustworthy message instills credibility and gets the prospect more interested in learning about your company. Tech support provider NetCom3 Global, Inc.’s tagline is “We improve PC’s”. It’s simple, but it also reinforces trust in their services. A word of caution with trustworthy taglines: avoid stating “America’s Best” or “#1 Choice” if you can’t back this up.

Stress

Another option is to build a sense of urgency or stress, encouraging the client to learn more about your solutions. Cisco Systems, Inc. states with their tagline “Tomorrow Starts Here.” Creating a sense of urgency to stay ahead, customers are compelled to partner with Cisco.

Wonder

We’re not talking imaginary friends or far away lands. Even a “stale” B2B industry can excite and inspire. Sempra Energy’s tagline reads “For everyday life.” It’s relatable, it’s fresh—it stimulates the imagination by having customers thinking of the many ways Sempra affects their everyday lives.

Need to Deliver!

A tagline is most effective if you can deliver on it. If you can deliver on your tagline’s promise and utilize it consistently on all marketing channels, you will begin to hear clients and partners repeat the tagline. That’s when you know you have an effective, sustainable tagline.


Designing for Conversion: Where Form and Function Collide

Web Design Form FunctionFinding a balance between form and function is a daily challenge for web designers and marketers. A website with breathtaking imagery and pithy headlines could look great to a visitor, but without conversion strategies in place it’s just a pretty picture.

It’s important to have design that converts and conversion tools that are well designed. The below are our top rules to keep designers, marketers and sales teams happy.

Evoking Emotion

Urgency. Happiness. Acceptance. Confidence. What do you want your prospective client to feel when they visit your website? A website can evoke emotion from a variety of angles, but most commonly it’s expressing the mindset of your industry. Finding pain points, stressors or upcoming challenges can incite a visitor to take action with your business.

In addition to creating an emotional response, design should present a solution. While emotion varies based on industry, even B2B website design can addresses a visitor’s needs, desires and goals.

For example, instead of simply stating, “Project management is difficult,” Basecamp’s homepage outlines the features of their service that make project management easier. Basecamp knows poor project management puts collaboration, employee morale and the bottom-line at risk. Their playful tone and design expresses understanding and drives visitors to partner with their business.

Stressing Usability

Effective design and usability go hand in hand. Believe it or not, your visitors don’t know what to do next after landing on your website. Instead, your website design should give them options based on their needs.

For designers, page layout plays a strong role in conversion. Elaborate navigations, cluttered content or bare to the bones pages are all putting your usability at risk. Focus on 2 – 3 paths you want the website visitor to take. This could include reading your “About” page, browsing your business blog or getting to the “Contact Us” form.

Health insurance provider Humana has the challenge of balancing two different audiences: current customers who log into their portal and new prospects. Their website gives equal weight to both audiences without sacrificing user experience, by placing the portal login clearly at the top and balancing navigation options based on new visitors’ needs.

Simplifying Desired Actions

Design can have a lot on influence over whether a prospect chooses to contact your business. Most importantly, designing straightforward, eye-catching calls to action helps make that decision easier for the customer.

Designing for actions on a website should be simple, but also varied. Simple means straightforward copy and contrasting colors that draw the prospect in. Varied means actions are prevalent on multiple pages of your website (not just the homepage) that address the page content and buyer stage.

Web analytics provider KISSMetrics has taken simplified conversion to a whole new level. Featuring a homepage with one primary conversion option, visitors have to spend seconds extra to navigate to other parts of their website such as pricing, their blog or case studies. While all industries couldn’t simplify this much, it’s an interesting practice to see how much you can take away without hurting conversion.

A successful website is one that converts and brings in new business. Keeping these general rules in mind, evaluate your current website and see what areas it could use improvement in.


Build Credibility on Your Homepage in 5 Seconds Or Less

CredibilityMany businesses think the presence of a website makes them a credible business—with little regard given to user experience or design. But let’s say your website is at least a step above that, are you still building value to prospects?

New visitors to your website may have a general idea of what you do, but you also face the following hurdles:

  • Their perception may be inaccurate
  • They’ve already researched your competition
  • They’ve seen bad reviews of your business
  • They’re unaware of your business

These hurdles are a “make or break” moment for visitors—who often make up their minds within seconds of visiting your website. So how can your B2B website squash any concerns or misconceptions?

Feature customer testimonials

Plain and simple, customer testimonials let your prospects know you’re legit. On top of that, it tells them you’re awesome to do business with! Reach out to past top clients and ask if they’d be willing to provide a few sentences about your business. Focus on gathering testimonials that communicate specific or measurable outcomes like improved sales, employee morale or productivity.

Universities are a great example for featuring testimonials. UC San Diego’s Leadership of Healthcare Organizations faces the additional challenge of convincing busy healthcare executives to join their Master’s program. To convince prospective students that the program is worth their valuable time and money, testimonials are placed directly on the homepage from high-level executives—driving home the quality of the education and the potential outcomes.

Include news coverage and special events

If your business received positive press coverage, put that front and center. A popular choice among websites now is to include an “As featured in” bar showcasing publications who have covered your business. It’s a quick way to build credibility for visitors when browsing your homepage.

But what if you’re a new business or just don’t have press coverage? Featuring speaking engagements or company-hosted events serves the same purpose—showcasing your business as recognized in the industry.

Put thought leadership upfront

If your business has a blog, don’t bury all that content under other pages. Bring the blog to the forefront, displaying a link to it in the primary navigation. By doing so, a visitor will at least recognize that you’re keeping your website updated with relevant industry related content.

An added bonus is featuring a blog roll on your homepage with the most recent posts. This also encourages visitors to click deeper within your page and become more engaged with your business.

Highlight business partnerships

Many B2B businesses work behind the scenes for larger recognized brands. Think of engineering, manufacturing and technology businesses—oftentimes they’re creating products and services that support or integrate with Fortune 500 companies. Showcase your business partnership to illustrate to prospects that your long-term partners rely on you.

Showcasing passionate employees

If a returning visitor is convinced of your credibility and is now ready to get personal—they will navigate to your team bios. Build some of this personal connection on your homepage with a brief statement from the business owner, president or senior executive. While it doesn’t have to be a full bio, it can communicate why the business was started, what they value and where the executive comes from.

Financial planning firm Planning Within Reach builds trust and credibility with a brief statement from their founder on the homepage. In just three sentences, a visitor is put at ease when reading why the firm was founded and how it can help individuals in need of financial planning.

In addition, if your office features a robust team, think of placing a (professional) group photo to put a face to your company. Or if your board of directors has influential professionals, bring their photos to the forefront.

Share past awards or accolades

Received any past industry awards? Your visitors love to know they’ll be working with an award-winning partner. Even if your business hasn’t received any recent awards, check your Yelp page or local listings for any positive ratings. To say you’re a BBB certified business with five stars drives home your value.

Case studies or outcomes

Visitors love to see your past work—it allows them to quickly envision the level of quality they can expect from you. Have a great project that you recently executed? Bring it to the forefront of your website.

A popular choice among design agencies and architecture firms are project galleries as a helpful way to communicate your capabilities. Construction firm R.A. Burch created a rotating slider that started with a photo of their most influential project.

Before & after images are also a helpful method of driving home your businesses value and credibility. If your service delivery helped increase sales or other key metrics, show the comparison stats.

Don’t forget

All the above ideas are options to put on your homepage, but shouldn’t all be used at once. Your homepage should be clean and easy to navigate, so pick the most impactful option.


How To Choose a Logo

Choosing A LogoDesigning a logo for your business can be a challenging undertaking—involving time, resources and internal debate. Sometimes the logo choice is clear, but too often a logo design is held up when the decision making becomes harder than it needs to be.

We understand—a logo sets the stage for the rest of your brand. Many times it’s the first thing your clients will see and use to remember your firm by, so it should be taken seriously. So here’s what you should keep in mind when presented with logo redesign concepts:

It has staying power

An effective logo can last you for decades. Don’t pick a logo that’s “trendy” or may become irrelevant over time. It’s best to avoid over stylized fonts or design gimmicks like gradients and drop shadows that will go in and out of style. Instead, plan for success. Business owners hope their company will grow year upon year. A logo should be there with you along the way.

It’s unique

Going against the norm is sometimes difficult. In B2B, where so often the logo is a stylized version of the company name using a typeface, think instead of how your logo could differentiate your business. Icon-driven logos are a nice way to present your brand with an image that leaves a mental “stamp” in your prospective clients minds. For example, CPA firm McGladrey utilizes a logo pairing their name in a sans serif font and a simple icon. While the icon is abstract and simple, it expresses growth and partnership.

It’s versatile

A logo can have a myriad of applications. Aside from the obvious (letterhead, business card, website), today a logo can be found on just about anything. Think of pens, golf shirts, car wraps and more. Even if you don’t think your business will be sponsoring a golf tournament any time soon, you may donate to a cause or receive an industry award. Your logo should easily apply to the needs of these applications.

It’s simple

The whole point of a logo is to build recognition. A simplified logo (think Target, Nike, IBM) makes it easier for prospects to process your brand. Humans are bombarded by imagery everyday, so creating something that is easy to recall helps your business long-term.

It doesn’t say everything

While this goes along with simplicity, it’s vital to point out that your logo doesn’t have to communicate every component of your business at first glance. A literal logo design can pigeonhole your firm. Going back to McGladrey, their business has grown from CPA services and tax consulting to include retirement resources and wealth management. Their logo doesn’t visually represent any of those practices, rather it’s an abstract metaphor, leaving room for future growth and new service deliveries.

It’s consistent

The application of your logo must be extremely consistent. That’s why companies (big and small) utilize brand guides that dictate how a logo should and should not be used. It’s the consistent application over and over again that helps the client link the brand mark with the company. This consistent application is made easier when the logo is both versatile and simple.

Don’t overthink it

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or uninspired by options, remember that picking a logo doesn’t need to incite some overpowering emotion. Many times business owners focus too long on a logo, going through ten or more revision rounds, forsaking the benefit of having a professionally designed logo in the first place. Remember, you don’t need to love it right away. Ask to see the logo in a few applications (e.g. on a website homepage, a business card, social media profile) so you can gain a better picture of what it looks like in its “natural environment.”

Limit the peanut gallery

This is a critical step to pick out a new logo. Logos in the end are very subjective and should ultimately reflect the vision of its leader. With this in mind, limit the number of opinions to no more than three trusted colleagues. More than that and you’ll receive contradictory feedback and no decisions.

Over time the consistent application of your logo and the forward momentum of your business is what gives your logo or brand mark its real value. When the Target executives first saw their logo, their socks weren’t knocked off.  It’s the application of their logo, corporate culture and tremendous business growth, that have given strength to such a brand.


What Makes a B2B Brand?

what-makes-b2b-brandYour brand is more than just your logo or your tagline. It’s about the internal and external environment of your business—and how you choose to communicate within it. Everything your business does and says reflects on your brand—so it’s important to maximize its potential.

You may already understand the importance of branding, but what goes into a B2B brand? When undergoing a brand refresh, is your strategy covering all the important elements?

First, where does “brand” come from?

The term “brand” originated with livestock, when individuals would physically alter their herd with a distinctive symbol in order to differentiate it from others. Now branding has evolved beyond just a visual mark as a way for the public to distinguish one business (and their unique values) from another.

There are two distinct sets of assets that define your brand: tangible and intangible. Oftentimes the tangible (or “visual”) component is the most obvious, but it’s important to not overlook the intangible components (or brand “essence”) as well. These intangible assets oftentimes have a greater impact on customer perception and—most importantly—sales. Here is what goes into the tangible and intangible assets of a brand:

Tangible Brand Assets

Logo and tagline
A well-crafted logo and tagline starts the baseline perception of your brand. It drives home your brand promise and uniqueness. What’s important to remember is it is not the be-all-end-all for a brand—it’s simply an anchor for the ship.

Name and trademark
Trademarking your name, logo and key visual assets are a critical step in solidifying and protecting your brand identity. While many businesses will work to trademark name and logo, it’s important to think of other key assets such as unique products, services and other valuable assets so your entire business is safeguarded.

Messaging
While undergoing a rebrand, you should be revisiting mission and vision statements. Ask yourself if tone, verbiage and audience are still appropriately addressed in the current messaging. This messaging should trickle down into everything your business uses to communicate with clients, from brochures to daily emails.

Website
Today, a well designed website is worth its weight in gold. Data shows that if a user doesn’t like your website, it’s an indication to them that the company doesn’t care. Consider what your website says about your brand by visiting it with your ideal client in mind. Or better yet, visit with a specific goal in mind to gauge user experience.

Collateral
From business cards to billboards, your marketing and sales collateral reflect your brand. Key visual components, such as color, typography, style of photography and logos on collateral, should always be consistent. This means no logos stretched across a presentation slide or sticking to a limited color palette. It may seem nit-picky, but these mistakes often translate to your audience as unprofessional and lazy. Keep in mind, branding is all about repetition, the more consistent your brand is represented, the more likely it will be “branded” in the minds of the audience.

Intangible Brand Assets

Company culture
There are no shortcuts here—the company culture you build will be the culture your clients perceive. Your audience and strategic partners like to see the expertise within your business and how much you value it. That doesn’t always mean posting funny staff photos or publishing information about holiday parties. Company culture can be communicated in daily appreciations, success stories and even your office design and environment.

Industry expectations
While company culture is important, there are certainly parameters put on your brand based on the industry. It’s important to acknowledge these expectations, but also think what about your business makes you different. For example, corporate financial firms face industry-specific rules and regulations, so instead of harping on “compliancy” as a main brand trait, focus on customer service, staff expertise or other unique service offerings.

Customer service
Customer service is often the most overlooked, yet most important, part of a brand. It’s at the frontlines, and for larger companies customer service is the only time a client will hear from your business. Ignoring processes and failing to improve in customer service is a quick way to lose your brand credibility.

Customer experience
Tied closely with customer service, customer experience is the sum of every touch point a client has with your business. This includes discovering your service, the purchase/sales process, and future customer cultivation. Your brand should remain consistent during a customer’s experience and if elements are changing (e.g. logo redesign, merger, client point of contact), communication is key to ensure their experience remains positive.


New Website Launch: Nth Generation

Nth_WebLaunchCloud, security, big data, networking. Today’s IT world is rapidly changing and Nth Generation is here to help businesses navigate. Through their transparent consulting and professional guidance process, Nth serves a variety of clients in high data and security needs industries such as hospitals and education. Nth Generation came to Bop Design with a dated website design that pigeonholed Nth’s expertise as simply a product reseller—not a long term partner.

Nth Generation’s unique value proposition is their belief that large, information-dependent organizations need the support of a technically advanced, vendor-neutral IT advisor. The new Nth Generation website communicates at the forefront that businesses have choices when choosing an IT solution. Nth Generation is there to filter through the possibilities and create a solution based on the current budget and needs of a company.

The new website features three main areas—Solutions, Services and Technologies—to clearly explain their approach and partnerships. The Solutions and Services pages communicate their expertise in the IT world and the best practices that they follow when implementing a project. The Technologies page a transparent listing of their “vendor agnostic” approach and strong partnerships in the industry.

The website acts as an effective conversion tool with Nth Generation created resources. The Nth Blog, content library and video library all position the brand as a thought leader while capturing valuable ideal customer leads.

Finally, to position the brand as a leader in security and big data, the Nth Generation website was built using responsive web design to address potential clients across all web devices (e.g. laptop, tablet and mobile).

Before

Nth_Web_Before

After


Why Variety is the Key to Successful Calls to Action

Effective CTACalls to action (CTA) are an important component to any B2B website. Acting as a special banner, button or graphic text on a webpage, a CTA is meant to prompt the website visitor to perform a specific desired action and continue down the sales funnel.

So what makes an effective CTA? One word: Variety. Keeping your CTAs diverse and fresh keeps your prospective client interested in your business. Here are the two most critical components of an effective CTA:

Varied Content

In B2B, a service or product is being sold that impacts an entire organization and often involves the input from multiple decision makers. Therefore the sale is more complex—often resulting in a longer decision making process.

If your website only features a “Contact Us” page or a newsletter signup, you’re missing out on the potential for visitors to move faster through the buying process. While effective, that content can only support certain stages of a sales cycle. For example, a visitor discovering your website for the first time may not be ready to subscribe for a weekly newsletter, but they would be open to downloading a tip sheet or watching a video.

Oftentimes this content is already lying around your office (literally or figuratively) and just needs refreshing for the web. Here are some new content ideas that can make great CTAs:

  • Infographic illustrating your service or onboarding process
  • Portfolio or project gallery
  • Customer testimonials
  • Case studies
  • Sales sheets
  • Recent presentations
  • White papers
  • eBooks
  • Archived webinars
  • Videos
  • Articles
  • Press or awards
  • Blog
  • Social media

All of these CTAs address a different type of customer. Here is an example of using varied content for one buyer journey:

Buying stage 2

Varied placement

This may seem like a “no-duh,” but too often CTAs can only be found on the homepage or the same CTAs are found on single every page—causing a visitor to ignore it. It’s important to consider every page on your site and the different actions a visitor may take depending on what they’re browsing.

Here are three examples of effective CTA placement and variety:

1. NexxCom Wireless “About Us” page

NexxCom-1

NexxCom Wireless is a provider is high frequency, high performance broadband wireless networks. The “About Us” page is the introduction to their business and their unique value proposition. Because website visitors are reading an “About Us” page to better understand NexxCom, the featured CTA is to download an introductory white paper on the state of the industry.

 

2. Competitive Edge Research & Communication “Public Affairs Professionals” page

CERC_CTA_blogpost

Competitive Edge provides political polling and research analysis. They serve eight different audiences—all with varying needs. By creating audience specific case studies, this CTA is intended to build creditability in Competitive Edge’s experience and expertise among Public Affairs Professionals.

 

3. Nth Generation “Video Library” page

Nth_CTA_blogpost

Nth Generation hosts a robust video library of customer testimonials, past speaking engagements and general education. A visitor who takes the time to watch any of these videos is deep in the consideration phase, which is why the second CTA is to get them in touch with an account representative.

 

Take Away

Calls to action are critical in creating a website that acts as a lead generator, but too often it’s an afterthought in the design process. Creating tailored CTAs based on visitor interests and position within the buying cycle will ensure these desired actions aren’t ignored and effectively convert your visitors into future clients.


From Fitness Website To Full-On Lifestyle Brand

Fitness WebsiteFitness businesses are booming these days. With so many health and fitness websites popping up, standing out among your competitors is key. Gone are the days of offering only basic tips and philosophies. Consumers are now aligning themselves with sports and health brands that they feel share a like-minded perspective. The great news is that any health and fitness company can take some simple branding steps to immediately engage with clients in a long-lasting and meaningful way.

Here’s what to do:

Get clear on your message. What is your unique offering? What is your business all about? Startup branding is all about boiling down your unique value proposition into one or two sentences. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. A focused and simple approach is best. Get clear on what your company does best, what sets you apart from your competition and what your ideal client profile looks like.  This information will be the foundation for your messaging platform and makes it easier for prospective clients to remember you and what you stand for.

Create a consistent visual and tonal identity for your brand! Don’t confuse your readers with contradictory tones of voice or an unmemorable logo. Just like your messaging, your visual brand should set you apart from the competition. Develop an internal brand guide that explains how your logo should be used, what type of communication styles should be used and when, how you speak to your clients and official fonts for marketing materials, including your website and newsletter. Consistency is key to creating a memorable brand.

Listen to your clients. Ask them what topics and questions interest them the most. Engage with them. When you do, you’ll find that they become more dedicated to your brand. When your health and fitness website moves from a one-sided interaction to a two-way conversation, clients relate to you more like a trusted friend than simply a business. Plus, listening to your clients is simply a good business strategy.

Release regular content. Part of any good business branding strategy is to release regular and relevant content. Not only does this continue to support your ongoing SEO efforts but it also provides an opportunity for repeat engagement with your clients. Whom do you consider a better friend—the one who reaches out through email once a week, or the one you only hear from once a year? Your clients feel the same way. Familiarity breeds affinity, which ultimately leads to sales.

Create opportunities for further engagement. Webinars, retreats, events, products, etc. Not only can these become additional sources of revenue for your business, but they are also opportunities for your clients to engage with your brand in a physical way. Once your unique brand position is clarified, these become chances to spread your message to the masses and start converting clients into evangelists.

Set a solid foundation for your website by creating a consistent flow of communication between you and your clients. This will prove to be a critical step toward setting up your lifestyle brand for success.


What Is Influencer Marketing and How Can It Help Your Brand?

Influencer MarketingStrategic advertising and public relations will help build awareness of your brand, but word of mouth recommendations reign supreme.

According to the 2013 Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising, up to 84% of respondents say they consider “earned advertising” (word of mouth and recommendations from friends and family) to be the most trustworthy element in their purchasing decision-making process.

Influencer marketing is another way of describing word-of-mouth advertising. It centers on attracting the interest and loyalty of a few key individuals (rather than an entire target market)—individuals who have a clear, demonstrated influence over potential customers.

As noted, these can be friends or family members, but with the advent of social media, word-of-mouth is also digital. Many of us now look for advice and guidance to influencers on various social media platforms—advice and guidance that often directly shapes our consumer decision-making process. It makes sense to focus your brand-building efforts on influencing the influencers, so they can share news and recommendations about your brands with their networks —resulting in a potentially dramatic increase in the range and scope of awareness of you and your business.

Influencers can:

  • Write an article or blog post about your business.
  • Promote news and information about you.
  • Invite you to become a guest blogger on their site.
  • Share links to your original content with their fans or followers.

Who are the influencers in your field? Such individuals can be industry experts, popular bloggers, high-profile thinkers and others. If some of these people are already part of your professional network, it’s worth your time to make sure they know something about you and what you do. Keep in mind influencers can have a vast following, but “niche influencers” with a relatively small following can still have a sizeable impact on your brand.

Read the influencers’ blog posts. Comment on the posts, while making sure your comments add value. This makes you a more significant part of the ongoing discussion and will likely catch the eye of the influencer. Nowadays, you shouldn’t be adding links to your website within the comment as this automatically reads as spam.

A demonstrated record of participating and adding value is the start of the most important aspect of influencer marketing—building a relationship with individuals whose words carry so much weight with others. Relationship-building steps include:

  • Following influencers’ social media accounts.
  • Retweeting their content.
  • Inviting them to provide a guest blog on your site.
  • Posting a guest blog on the sites that they follow.
  • Asking to contribute a guest blog on their sites.

If you’re just discovering who the key influencers are, take a close look at their blog posts and get a sense of their fans as well. Chances are, these people are equally passionate about the subject and might also be valuable influencers in their own networks. It’s certainly helpful if they become familiar with your brand, too.

Forging relationships with key influencers takes time. Be patient in your communications with them (the hard sell won’t work). The process is similar to cultivating prospects for an eventual sale. Success rarely comes overnight. Your goal is to foster trust and that requires a concerted, ongoing effort.

Influencer marketing can favorably affect all of your business objectives, as long as you stay focused on building a long-term relationship and adding value to the online conversation.


What to Expect During the Website Redesign Process

Website-Redesign-ProcessNo business website can afford to stay static for very long. As technology and market conditions change, a company’s website must follow. Customers’ evolving needs demand that periodic redesigns take place. So it’s best to know what’s involved in the process and what you can do to produce an effective website redesign.

Identify your objectives. Many businesses are moved to redesign their websites in an effort to (a) increase lead conversion rates, (b) promote greater user engagement and (c) make the site more user-friendly. Whatever your goals, they should be clearly defined at the start so that both you and your website design team know precisely what you’re looking for. Every decision that’s made during the process should grow organically out of your original stated goals.

Build your design team. Long gone are the days where the same person designs the website, writes the copy and codes it.  Your website is a foundational element in your marketing communications mix, so it’s critical all aspects of a redesign are considered.  Here’s a list of critical members on a design team:

  • Creative Director / Marketing Director –  ensure your strategic marketing objectives are met and that your brand is presented in the best light possible.
  • Project Manager – your day-to-day contact to manage and schedule all the moving parts of a website redesign process.
  • Web Designer – determine the look and feel and functionality of the website to ensure it’s user-friendly.
  • Web Developer – build, code and test the website so the design is translated perfectly and functionality requirements are met.  The web developer can also recommend appropriate hosting for the new website.
  • SEO Strategist – conducts keyword research to optimize the site.
  • Copywriter – creates and/or edits content along with integrating SEO keywords.

Understand the redesign process. Each design team works differently, but in general, the basic process includes these steps:

  • Discovery (Determining Objectives, Keyword Wishlists and Research)
  • Planning (Site Maps, Content Strategy, Keyword Recommendations)
  • Design (Wire frames, homepage and subpage designs)
  • Development (Coding, testing and content entry)
  • Launch (Setting up any page redirects and submitting site map to search engines)

Your input in several critical areas is absolutely necessary for the design team to achieve your stated goals. This includes providing a list of “must-haves” for the site, a list of pages, branding and style requirements, and providing the necessary content (more on this below). As part of the process, the designer will do the following:

  • Present various page template designs for your review
  • Gain consensus on site map, content strategy and keywords
  • Program necessary functions and applications
  • Add content (text and images) to working website
  • Test the website for use in various browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE, etc.)

Deliver the best content possible. An effective website redesign is only as good as the content the design team has to work with. Work on generating content that compels visitors to read further—from the home page or landing page all the way to clicking on “Buy.”  Most design teams can assist with optimizing the content with keywords best suited for your business which will help boost your standing in various search engines. Content for forms and calls-to-action are also needed, however you can rely on your design team to present these in the most effective way possible.

Assist in the testing phase. Once the new website is set up and approved, designers will want to test it before the official live-date. During this quality assurance phase, you can help by checking off the following items:

  • All pages look and function as demonstrated in the mock-up
  • Identify any glitches
  • Testing all forms and making sure they are going to the correct email addresses and/or CRM
  • Ensure content is accurate

It’s a good idea to launch the new site during times of the least traffic – for B2B companies this means after normal business hours. This gives you and the design team the opportunity to pinpoint any kinks and make needed repairs when the fewest visitors will notice.

Use Google Analytics to measure user engagement. It’s not enough to unveil a flashy new website. You need to know whether your original goals are being met and how visitors are responding to the changes—in terms of increased traffic, reduced bounce rates and the degree of social media sharing that’s taking place.

Google Analytics is especially helpful in measuring customer engagement for B2B companies. Here are some key metrics covered by Google Analytics:

  • Visits: How many times users visit your website
  • Unique visits: The number of unduplicated visits to your site (different from one user’s multiple visits to the same page or site)
  • Pageviews: The total number of pages your visitors view
  • Pages/Visit: How many pages, on average, each visitor goes to (the higher the number, the more visitors are interacting with the site)
  • Average visit duration: The number of pages a user clicks on during a visit
  • Bounce rate: A bounce rate measures how many people visit one page of your site and then leave. Here’s where a compelling call-to-action leads visitors elsewhere on your site.
  • Percentage of new visits: The percentage of visitors who have not previously been to your website

Understanding the data provided by Google Analytics will enable you to modify your strategy and tweak the newly designed site to be even more effective.

One further point to consider before embarking on a website redesign: Do your best to limit the amount of input provided to the design team. Generally speaking, “design by committee” involves a time-consuming approval process and risks having too many opinions dilute or permanently alter your original redesign objectives.

This blog post was originally published on the SCORE Small Business Success Blog on February 20, 2014.


New Website Launch: The 200% Company

200-Percent-WebsiteYou’ve probably heard about giving 110% percent. But what about 200%? That’s where our most recent website launch comes in. The 200% Company is a professional sales growth firm, specializing in reinvigorating sales by analyzing business organization, management, sales techniques, internal obstacles and untapped opportunities.

The 200% Company approached Bop Design with a website lacking in brand recognition and credibility. The firm recently underwent major modifications, changing the name and business model of the company. Bop Design created a contemporary website that effectively explained the unique new business models of The 200% Company. An entire website content overhaul was completed, implementing new copy that could clearly define the value of The 200% Company and how they work with a business regardless of size, industry or stage of development.

Under “How We Do It,” the website clearly explains package options for clients based on available time, resources and needs. On each package page there are clear calls to action, such as to download a white paper describing The 200% Company’s unique growth approach or to download a free chapter of The 200% Company book.

Website design was kept simple and incorporated the existing assets such as the logo and book cover. The new website homepage immediately introduces the brand and their unique value proposition, promising that hiring The 200% Company will build clients’ “dream companies.” With a target market of owners, CEOs, board members and investors, it was important for the new website to quickly draw the audience in to understand how the consultation process unfolds.

Finally, case studies and client testimonials further enforces the success to The 200% Company’s business model—showing businesses from a variety of sizes, industries and struggles thrive.

The website is now live at The200PercentCompany.com. To talk to Bop Design about your website needs, contact us today.


8 Things That Make Your Website Feel Old

Old-WebsiteWe’ve seen it before. You stumble upon a website and it just feels… old. Stale. Out of date. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but something about the company homepage is making you bored and uninterested. Many times clients come to us feeling the same about their own website and it’s our job to pick apart the elements that are dating the website and, ultimately, the brand.

If you find your website with one or many of the following design challenges, it’s time to invest in a redesign:

1. Dated Screen Resolutions

Is your website not fit for mobile and tablet? Or worse, is it still not even sized for a laptop? It’s frightening to find a website still at 800 x 600 pixels, but they’re out there. Incorrect or unnecessary screen sizes make your website difficult to navigate for modern day technology and can communicate to your customer that you’re just not up with the times.

2. Too Much Flash

Finding an excess of Flash on a website homepage makes us cringe. Most of the time it’s not well-done or captivating animation or isn’t on part of the website that should even be in Flash (e.g. the navigation bar). Incorporating Flash on a website was a good idea 10 years ago, but today most website users’ are using non-flash supported technology (e.g. smartphones). Therefore, instead of seeing your animated website, it’s only gray boxes.

3. Table Based Design

While still used in some digital marketing tactics – such as email marketing – a website with the majority of HTML done in tables translates as boxy and limits the potential of newer web development coding. While any ol’ visitor may not recognize the table-based layout, oftentimes this design method is one of the primary consequences to a websites perceived old age.

4. Poor Hosting

For every additional second it takes a website to load, page abandonment rises. While there are a few factors that play into slow response time, one of the largest and most costly is partnering with a poor domain hosting provider. These archaic services not only charge an arm and a leg, but also conduct poor practices such as hosting multiple domains on a single server.

5. Default Fonts

There are a variety of web-safe typography options out there – so going with Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman is selling your website short. The “type of type” used can dramatically change the look and feel of a website. Using a designer font sends a professional and refreshing message to a website visitor – differentiating you for your competitor.

6. No Social Platforms

Today, if your company isn’t utilizing at least one social media platform and having “follow us” features on the website, it discredits your business. Lack of social media shows the company isn’t innovative, short-staffed and uninteresting. Including social media buttons is essential, but remember that also holds you accountable to updating the platform with engaging content.

7. Lacking Customized Landing Pages

With inbound marketing on the rise, sending your website visitors to a homepage, about page or contact us page during a marketing push is unacceptable. Whether it’s to find more information, download a white paper or read a blog post— web users are savvier than ever and expect a link to not require them to dig around more on your site.

8. Your Last Website Launch Was During the Bush Era

When was the last time you refreshed that website design? Has it not been touched since the launch date? Sometimes a website will look old because, well, it is! Typically, a website design should last about five years. Once it starts hitting kindergarten age, it’s time to refresh and tweak the design to meet new standards.