Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Focus on the 3 most important tasks for your website

I look at a lot of websites and it seems to me that most of them look the same. 

The websites I spend most time with, those promoting B2B software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, follow a similar layout. There’s a logo in the top left and a few navigation tabs on the top right of the page.  Below there are a few frames usually highlighting key features, often illustrated with icons.  The more effective sites will then present a call-to-action, like an offer for a free trial.
All have a prominent headline at the top, usually superimposed over a photo or an illustration.

Consistency is a good thing

I don’t think this makes websites boring.  Actually, I think the consistency is a good thing. 

For visitors, they already have a good idea of how to navigate the website.  They know, for example, that clicking on the logo will get them back to the home page.

And these standard layouts usually present well on smartphones and tablets.  Visitors can see what they want to see even on a smaller screen.

Focus on the 3 tasks that matter

The more standard website layout is a good thing for marketers, too.

They’re relieved of making tough choices about where to put the navigation bar, what to show in the top frame, what to put in the footer, and dozens of other decisions.

Instead they can think about the things that really matter:

  • Explaining what problem the product solves
  • Building credibility and trust
  • Collecting contact information from prospects.

These are the key tasks for a website marketing a B2B SaaS solution.

Explaining what problem your product solves:  

The headline – the information in the top frame – needs to clearly and concisely show the visitor that you can solve a problem for them.  And the visitor should grasp that in a few seconds.

Remember that most SaaS buyers are busy people juggling lots of priorities.  You can’t ask them to work too hard to figure out what you sell. (See “Why your prospects are ignoring you.”)

Another tip here:  The headline is about the visitor and their problem.  It’s not about you and your technology.

Building credibility and trust:  

The website should help convince the visitor, your prospective customer, that they can trust you. 

A SaaS solution is essentially a promise to deliver something of value over the life of the subscription.  The prospect needs to know that you can actually deliver.  (See “SaaS marketing is about promises, not products.”)

Earning credibility could be done by showing your success with other customers, maybe showing logos or “happy customer” quotes. 

You could show your deep understanding of the challenges facing customers, sharing your expertise or explaining that you’ve had first-hand experience in their market.  This is where papers or blogs can be helpful.    

Collecting contact information from prospects:   

The website needs to efficiently collect contact information from visitors that show an interest in your solution.  That’s information you can use to cultivate contacts into qualified opportunities. It’s what turns your website from just an online billboard into an effective customer acquisition program.

Asking for contact information is usually most effective when you offer something in return, such as a free trial, a helpful paper, or expert guidance of some sort.  Visitors aren’t likely to “sign up so we can stay in touch,” without more specific information.  Nobody needs more spam.

I really don’t know if marketers miss the choices and flexibility from the earlier days of website design.  But I do know that it doesn’t mean less work.

While we’re no longer thinking so much about layout, we should instead be thinking hard about the message and the call-to-action.  Those are the things that really matter.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Going viral is over-rated

I won’t lie to you.  If one of my videos went viral, I’d be excited.  It would definitely be cool to see the “views” tick up into the millions… or even the thousands. 

But here’s the thing.  I wouldn’t expect that avalanche of views to translate into an avalanche of customers.

And if you’re marketing a B2B software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, neither should you.

Marketing B2B SaaS solutions is a journey

Here’s the hard truth:  marketing a B2B SaaS solution isn’t easy or quick.  There’s a tortuous journey from a “view” to a “buy.”

After you’ve piqued their interest with a clever video, then you’ve got to walk the prospective customer through several more steps.  Perhaps you invite them to a webinar, offer a white paper, show them a live demo, or entice them into a free trial.

At some point, if all goes well, you’ll get an opportunity to prepare a proposal and eventually win a paying customer.

The point is this journey takes time.  Remember that the folks you’re marketing to usually aren’t spending every waking hour evaluating your solution.  They have other priorities that get in the way.  (See  “Sometimes Prospects Just Aren’t Ready to Buy.”) 

B2B SaaS solutions aren’t an impulse buy

Of course, there are things you can do to convert more leads into qualified opportunities and paying customers and keep them from getting get stuck somewhere in the process.  And you can try to accelerate the process.  (Get in touch with me if you need help.)

But there’s really no way to skip the whole journey, hopping directly from “view” to paying customer.  A B2B SaaS solution usually isn’t an impulse buy.

Don’t expect a viral video to work to short-cut the process. 

There’s no magic marketing tactic

And by the way, the same goes for any other marketing tactic.  No single email, webinar, trade show, or blog post will do the job either.  Not by itself. 

If you’re looking for the magic [fill in your favorite marketing tactic here], stop looking.  There’s no such thing.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Are you giving up on your prospects too soon?

One of my clients told me a story that they’d just closed a large new deal with a prospect that’s been in their pipeline for a long time – as in 2 years’ long time.

And that’s not some crazy outlier.  They’re working other opportunities that have been in there for well over a year.

This is not how it’s supposed to go

In the ideal world, prospects step through a simple, straight-line process:

-  enter the pipeline as a lead
-  convert from a lead to a qualified opportunity
-  convert the opportunity into a “closed won” or “closed lost”
-  renew existing customers, critical for success of software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies.

And one of Marketing’s job is to speed up this process.

Of course, when I plot the real-life process with my clients – not the ideal-world process – I don’t come up with anything quite so simple.  Most prospects follow a more convoluted path and they start-and-start along the way. 

The pipeline isn’t a straight line.  It’s full of loops. 

A prospect searches on one of your paid adwords, comes to your website, signs up for a free trial, and spends time on your pricing page.  Or maybe they go even further and request a call with Sales.  (Of course, you’re conscientiously tracking this with your marketing automation system, assigning points to the prospect’s lead score all along the way.)

So, you escalate the lead and pass it over to the Sales team.

But then it all comes to a halt.  Six emails, three voice mail messages, and one LinkedIn request later, the sales person still hasn’t connected with the prospect.  The lead gets looped back to Marketing for further cultivation, and they may stay there for months before they show any renewed interest.

And that’s a simple version.  You’ve probably seen prospects that have gone through this loop from Marketing to Sales and back to Marketing two or three times before there’s a final disposition.

Why is it so complicated?

Sometimes prospects don’t follow the straight and simple path just because they’re not really qualified.  No matter how carefully you design a marketing campaign, you’ll inevitably pull some bad leads into the pipeline.  It happens.

But lots of times your marketing campaign reaches precisely the right prospect, someone eminently qualified to buy your product… and they still go through this start-stop and Marketing-to-Sales-back to Marketing loop.

This is especially common when you’re marketing a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution.  Remember that the prospect has a lot of other responsibilities besides evaluating your solution.  (See “Your prospect has a day job.”)  They may have been able to dedicate a chunk of time to an initial exploration, but then got distracted by other priorities.  They can’t carve out the time to work with your free trial, answer your emails, or get back to your voice mails.  

Keep prospects on the radar screen

Don’t give up on these prospects.  Over time, some number of them will re-engage.  The reason they initially looked for you will bubble back up on their list of high-priorities.  You can even try to turn up the urgency for them.  (See “Why your prospects are ignoring you.”)   

Find a cost-effective way to stay in front of them.  I’ve seen newsletters, tips, or other helpful advice that goes out on regularly work well.  You should provide an easy way for the prospect to indicate that they are ready to re-engage, though it’s best to avoid a constant harangue of “please, please, please return my phone calls.” 

Some prospects will move faster than others.  But when they are ready to move ahead, you want to be there.