As marketers, we love buzzwords don’t we? Like magpies, we’re attracted by nice shiny new tags for ‘things’ that we’ve been focusing on (albeit under a different tag), since marketing time immemorial. Important things like getting to grips with the needs of our clients and customers, understanding how they use and engage with the products and services we sell, and monitoring how these needs evolve over time in line with business, economic and technological advance.
Proudly, I’ve been a professional marketer for over 25 years, and as a constantly switched on curious mind I’m obsessed with emerging marketing concepts and technologies. I take daily inspiration from published papers on new ways of thinking and I’m always seeking out lessons I can learn from other b2b marketers and marketing ‘experts’ around the world. I have a Kindle stuffed full of marketing and business edgy thinking, alongside the travel and psychology e-books (and some chick lit – yep, guilty as charged!).
I’ve been on the marketing side-lines to witness a proliferation of buzzwords, acronyms, new frameworks and marketing models for a good few years. If I’m being totally honest, fundamentally not a lot has changed – the core principles of marketing success still apply. However, change in the way in which we execute and deliver our marketing, has been off the scale, and the pace of technology-driven solutions to analyse how well our marketing investment is performing gets more prolific by the day.
Enter stage right User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX)
‘User Experience’ or ‘UX’ is one of the marketing buzz-phrases of choice right now, based on the conversations we’ve been having with clients. In fact, we’ve delivered more ‘UX’ projects in the last six months than ever before. We also seem to have amassed a small but expertly formed team of UX obsessives within the agency, who are totally dedicated to the granular insights to be gained from a well-mapped out UX process. It’s a hot topic in b2b and we’re all over it with knobs on.
It’s safe to say that many people currently see User Experience (UX) solely as part of a website design process. But as the discipline continues to grow and evolve, this way of thinking needs to be applied to any touchpoint which allows a customer to interact with your brand, service or product(s). At this point we start to step into the territory of another zeitgeist buzz-phrase ‘Customer Experience’, or ‘CX’, which will be my follow-up blog!
As b2b marketers, it’s our job to make sure that all customer interactions flow together seamlessly, delivering a ‘one brand’ experience. UX is a constantly evolving art and science; it doesn’t stand still and new learnings can be picked up from every micro-engagement your clients and customers have with your business.
So, it’s fair to say that approaching your website from a UX perspective will pay dividends when it comes to engagement metrics for a number of compelling reasons.
Reason 1: Great UX improves your b2b SEO
A poor user experience makes it difficult for search engines to navigate and index your site, which is bad for search rankings. A well thought out user experience will actually help the search bots find your content and figure out what it’s about and how it should be ranked. So think intuitive navigation and clean sitemaps and focus on ensuring that every page on your site can be found within three clicks or less. In addition, the more time users spend with your content, the better it will perform across the search engine results pages (SERPs) and a well-structured and easy to navigate site, will mean that users will be more interested in what you have to say and will be less likely to abandon your site.
Read more: task orientated web design
Reason 2: Great UX drives b2b lead engagement
People want to engage with content that helps them to solve a question or that benefits them on some level. So, delivering an engaging experience that is built around two-way communication will encourage interaction. It’s therefore critical to include smart onsite interaction, signup forms, social feeds and sharing options, making these interactions seamless to deliver a better user experience. User interaction will give you valuable feedback, too, making it easier to identify changes you need to make to gain more brand buy-in. However, not many people are going to put up with a bad user experience. Frustrate your users, and your leads, engagement, and conversions will quickly plummet as a result.
Reason 3: Great UX strengthens b2b brand messaging
B2b brands that offer a consistent online user experience are able to effectively set expectations about their company, its products, its services, and its brand promise. Though you can’t always influence the experience delivered by a certain channel, like social media for instance, you can certainly control the content you publish, messaging tone you use, and the frequency in which you communicate through your website. A critical part of online marketing is seeing that users recognise the brand, no matter the device being used. User experience influences this, so make responsive cross-platform design and messaging adaptation a priority.
Reason 4: Great UX creates brand loyalty
You could have the most amazing web content in the world, but it will still struggle to perform if you’re delivering a poor user experience. Content that delivers a good user experience acquires more repeat visitors than content that doesn’t. Good UX will consider intuitive navigation, unambiguous icons, sensible layout, clear calls to action, responsive design, and more. Great UX compels users to return to your content and share it with others. This is important, since recommendations from colleagues and contacts are the most trusted type of promotion in b2b. Great UX influences brand attraction and builds trust with users because it keeps visitors in the flow, moving from one interesting piece of content to the next without distraction or delay. This is a crucial step in driving repeat visits, purchase and brand loyalty.
Reason 5: Great UX drives lead quality
When visitors arrive at your site, the homepage should quickly and easily navigate them to a desired action, seamlessly, and then every step of the way throughout the user journey. It’s safe to say, that the better your site usability and the fewer distractions you build in, the more focus can be placed on what matters – calls to action or conversion points. A good user experience ensures that product messaging is consistent, contact forms are easy to find and fill out, and any downloads offered are easy to access. Providing a fluid experience is an easy way to increase sign-ups, contact requests and conversions, driving better lead generation and ROI. Similarly, a good user experience will be clear about who your products and services are designed for, helping you to filter out enquiries from non-suitable leads.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘Experience’ as “an event or occurrence which leaves an impression on someone”. For me this neatly sums up what we should be focusing on when considering UX in b2b. All too often we can get lost in the science of a UX project, forgetting that a user experience must first and foremost be created for humans, not bots. So involving your customers in the process to validate your internal thinking will pay dividends.
Following best practices for UI and UX will significantly increase conversions, but the most effective way to engage users is to simply solve the problem the website was built for. After all a helpful and memorable user experience will keep them coming back for more and isn’t this what it’s all about at the end of the day?