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Optimizing Web Sites to Convert New Buyers

August 01, 2015

A b-to-b company’s Web site is a primary information source for new buyers evaluating its offerings – and the most effective way for the company to reach these buyers

Buying a house for the first time is a stressful experience for most; not only is a house likely the most expensive purchase someone ever makes, but it is also one with a complex, lengthy buying process. To mitigate this complexity, an entire ecosystem of businesses such as real estate agents, mortgage brokers and real estate information sites has evolved. 

Despite the complexity of b-to-b purchases, even senior-level buyers often rely heavily on the information they find on seller and third-party Web sites. This places a premium on a Web site’s ability to convert a new buyer’s interest into actions that lead to a closed sale. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we review the characteristics of new buyers and discuss how to optimize the fundamental elements of a Web site to convert potential new buyers into leads.

Understanding New Buyers

In order to optimize a site to convert new buyers, marketers must understand the characteristics that differentiate these buyers from existing segments. Consider the following characteristics:

  • Unfamiliarity with the company and its products and solutions. Because new buying centers and personas have not previously engaged with the company, their knowledge and experience may be limited. To convert these new buyers toward an eventual sale, the Web site must address and mitigate this lack of knowledge.
  • Broadly defined needs. Compared to current buying centers and personas, companies are likely to have less detailed information about new buyers. Therefore, the Web site should be designed to address a relatively broad range of anticipated needs in order to ensure the right information and interactions are available for each new-buyer persona at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
  • Limited relationships with the company. With new buyers, a company cannot cite previous engagements with the buyer to help make its case. Instead, the Web site must build trust with new buyers to ensure that they are willing to continue through the buyer’s journey. /span>

Requirements for Converting New Buyers

Based on the characteristics of new buyers, the following expectations must be met for a Web site to optimize new-buyer conversion:

  • Content and interactions that engage quickly. With limited knowledge and no previous relationship with the seller, new buyers must investigate to determine if its offerings can meet their needs. If they are unable to quickly perceive potential value or have trouble finding relevant content, they are likely to disengage. The Web site must inform and educate new buyers not only about the seller’s offerings, but also about relevant business issues and benefits, as well as promotions and offers specific to these buyers’ concerns. The site’s navigation, page layout and visual design must highlight and guide new buyers to this content in prominent locations.
  • Multiple ways to explore content and interactions. New buyers may be searching for information in various ways, depending on their view of the business problem they are trying to solve. To accommodate these preferences, Web site content can be organized in multiple ways (e.g. by product category, job role, business issue or industry). Review available information on new buying centers and buyer personas to understand their probable content and interaction preferences. If this information is not available, initiate or participate in an effort to define appropriate persona profiles. Navigation paths and content that match new buyers’ preferences and mindsets should be deeply embedded into the structure of the Web site.
  • Graduated ways to increase engagement. Web sites should contain multiple, graduated calls to action that provide several engagement choices. This allows buyers to pace themselves as they progress toward purchase – without being immediately pushed into the sales process. Examples of graduated calls to action include signing up for a newsletter, joining a community, attending live and virtual events, initiating an online chat session, or talking to sales on the phone or in person.

Implementing New-Buyer Conversion Optimizations

Given that Web sites serve many purposes and audiences, it is unlikely that an entire Web site can be immediately and comprehensively transformed to focus on new buyers. Optimizations should be applied gradually to avoid detracting from the Web site’s other objectives. We recommend the following sequence:

  • Implement multiple navigation paths. Accommodating multiple navigation paths should be the first priority, because this makes it easier for new buyers to find the content they need. This improvement positively affects the experience of all visitors and should be implemented as soon as possible.
  • Provide content and interactions that target new buyers. Creating content and interactions to meet new buyers’ needs may require significant investments of time and resources across multiple functions. Expedite deployment by defining a limited set of core assets that can be developed in an initial phase. Subsequent phases can then deepen and broaden the range of available content and interactions. Additionally, processes should be created and resources assigned to ensure that the content is updated as buyer needs and preferences change or additional insight into buyers is validated.
  • Implement new methods of engagement. As with content, creating new methods of engagement (e.g. live chat, gated content, online communities) may require significant lead time, as it necessitates new infrastructure and processes. To reduce the time to deployment, review the most likely new-buyer journeys and prioritize the most useful and impactful new methods of engagement.
  • Redesign site navigation, layouts and visual design. Placing this step last may seem counterintuitive, as it affects how the site and its content is actually viewed by the targeted new buyers. However, this step is unlikely to yield hoped-for results until the site’s content and methods of engagement are ready to support new-buyer conversion.
  • The Sirius Decision

    Optimizing a Web site for new buyer conversion requires a cross-functional team with representation from sales, marketing and product marketing. This team should first identify the new buyers to target, and determine the priority of this effort vs. efforts targeting current buyers. The team can then execute the steps outlined in this brief, confident that the results will support company goals and won’t conflict with efforts focused on existing buyers.