A properly designed website can easily connect manufacturers to tech pros, including IT directors, CIOs, facilities managers and other purchasers. But a poorly designed one is basically a waste of digital space. Today’s internet users, be they tech professionals or be they consumers, won’t waste their time searching for a site that doesn’t appear near the top of searches, is hard to navigate or doesn’t easily enable them to find the critical information that they are seeking.
B2B web design for manufacturers targeting other businesses isn’t all that much different from website design for business-to-consumer websites, according to Peggy Heimer, who handles web design for Bernard and Company, an industrial advertising/public relations firm that includes among its clients Siemens, as well as manufacturers of honing, grinding, gear-making and other machinery, and FEF – the metalcasting trade association.
“They all have different audiences you have to take into consideration,” Heimer said.
Heimer and Clare Richards, web designer for Vye, a marketing firm that represents Kern Laser Systems. Mead Metals, Separators, Inc. and a variety of other manufacturing companies, in separate interviews, agreed that simplicity is a critical component of website design for today’s manufacturers.
But simplicity doesn’t mean leaving out critical information that the targeted audience needs to be able to find the site and the needed details, be it product specs, details of a job opening or other critical information.
“The website needs to be able to meet the needs of all the targeted audience, Heimer said. Some searchers will know exactly what they need, like a particular tool or a particular machine, Heimer said. “Others searches are much more generic.”
Website design continues to evolve. So not all of the best practices of five years ago are the best practices of today. Similarly, not all of the best practices of today will still be best practices of the future.
That said, here are eight B2B web design trends for today’s manufacturers:
1. Meet Google and Bing Search Standards
The higher the site can rank in Google and Bing searches, the more apt it is to be seen by the target audience. The standards themselves consider a number of factors and can change over time as Google and Bing adjust their algorithms for rankings, so it is wise to keep abreast of any changes. A couple of key factors:
- Use unique tags for photos and other content
- Have good key phrases in text
Research the phrases that the target audience would use to find the site, or items on the site, such as products the manufacturer makes, the benefits derived from using the product or expertise of the company and its employees in particular area(s) serving particular industries.
“Get into the head of your clientele and think about what key terms they would use when searching for you,” Heimer said. Some searchers will know exactly what they need, like a particular tool or a particular machine. Others’ searches are much more generic in their search terms.
“It’s always important to drive people back to your website without having to pay for Google ads,” Heimer added.
2. Include Critical Information
The website should serve as more than just a marketing tool for a manufacturer, website designers agree. It should also include spec sheets for engineers, and everything else in one location for staff. “It’s important for the website to become a trusted informational source,” said Nicole Zermatt, a media communications developer for Bernard and Company. “It has to show that the company knows the product that it is making and that it knows the industry.”
3. Keep It Simple
While it’s essential to have the key SEO terms that will drive Google ratings and draw the target audience to the site, it’s also essential to design the site in such a way that the key information is there but the site’s design is simple and quickly navigable, Richards said. “The more you can simplify the experience, the better.
4. Consider Social Media in the Website Design
“You need to focus off your site as well. You need to be on all of the social media platforms, because that also has a big part in what drives Google for your website,” Heimer said.
5. Target Audience Should Drive the B2B Web Design
“Get to know the clientele,” Heimer said. “They’re more than just what they produce. There is a lot more to them. The website should be a marketing piece for your sales staff.”
6. Use Quick Quotes Page
This is an opportunity that many manufacturers miss in their website designs, Richards said. “This is an easy-to-access landing page that enables people and prospective clients to get an estimate on whatever their product is.”
Mead Metals added a quick quote page last year and the submission (for quotes) increased 130 percent, Richards said. “The value in a quick quotes page is that it gives the website visitor a form they can fill out and get a quote in a few hours. This shows their clients that they are very responsive.
7. Offer Call to Action Buttons
These should be strategically placed throughout the website, according to Richards. For example, a button for quick quotes is offered throughout several of Vye’s clients’ websites. This will help drive a prospect deeper down the sales funnel.
Similarly functioning quick quote apps should be offered in a manufacturer’s social media pages as well, Richards said.
8. Prominently Display Careers Information
Recruiting and retention are critical concerns right now in manufacturing, Richards said. According to a report from the Manufacturing Institute, finding the right talent is now 36 percent harder than it was in 2018, even though the unemployment rate has nearly doubled the supply of available workers.
So Richards recommended bringing the careers page forward to main navigation, too often it’s at the footer or buried deep within the site. The careers page itself should include details like pay scale, benefits, etc.
“One thing manufacturers struggle with is talking about pay and benefits in an open format,” Richards said. “You’re competing with other manufacturers for the same employees.”