The pains and gains of a new B2B software website

Some of you might not enjoy this blog, as I’m going to be brutally honest about the challenges involved in creating a B2B tech website.

When we meet new customers, we conduct a thorough analysis and diagnosis of their current situation. Unlike many others, we don’t do this to sell a service.

We take all the detailed information gathered and create a roadmap to address the challenges and lay the foundation for what is needed.

One significant obstacle to growth is their digital footprint, with the website being a major component.

This blog will candidly explore the pains involved in this process.

By the end of reading this, you may feel one of 3 things:

  1. Disagreement of what I have stated – (in which case leave me a note in the comments)
  2. Insight about a subject you don’t know much about – which may one day help you in the future website endeavours 
  3. A thirst to learn more, question more and a feeling of elation that now you understand the complexities of embarking on a new website project. (I hope it is this one!)

Also just to be clear – we do not build websites. 

We consult and project manage, working alongside designers, developers and clients to streamline the process.

Having worked in the digital marketing space for decades, I have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of website designers and developers. They come in all shapes and sizes from one man bands focussing on a specialist website technology, up to large scale teams with a variety of programming skills.

Neither of these really matters when choosing a website partner. 

The web agency is the problem

I have been let down and in turn let down my clients due to shoddy workmanship, lack of attention to detail and lack of LISTENING to the need. 

I have also been pleasantly surprised by process driven management, proactive questioning, constructive feedback and HONESTY.

The client is the problem

Now, for the clients involved in website projects, you are also much of the problem. You either don’t know what you need, and rely on the designer to do design, and design,and  design again – continuously not happy because it isn’t what you want, but you don’t know what you want, or why.

Or you know what you want in your mind but have not communicated it.

The moral of the story here – you need to be clear on what you want, what is the purpose of this project, then why, and when it needs to be completed – and then the website agency can bring the how (we hope)! 

No one can do it all 

A rule of thumb I have learnt along the way:

Developers are developers – I have rarely found a developer who can design well 

Designers are designers – they can make things look amazing but often design things that cannot easily be translated into responsive website design, in turn giving the developers a headache. 

You don’t often get one person who is an excellent designer and developer although I have met a few on my journey. Hence small web design companies need to be reviewed – do they have the mix of skills internally to deliver on look and feel and functionality and usability.

Also will they be designing the website, or are they using a theme and squeezing your vision into that theme? This may influence the initial cost, however it may also cause you problems later down the line, if you go down the wrong route.

Communication is key

You may already have learned this the hard way, however both designers & developers have mixed communication skills! 

This is a very good reason to have a project manager or client manager who can translate and work between the designers, developers and client, to ensure the smooth running of the website project. 

Why B2B software sites are unique

Selling software is complex. As we already said communication between technical web teams and creative web teams can be a challenge, the same goes for communicating software and technology. 

Buyers don’t really want to know how your system works, how many bells and whistles are on it. They want to know it solves their problem better than any alternatives. Therefore much of this comes down to your communication via the website.

When designing a B2B software website you need to have a clear vision – who is this for? What does it need to do? How will you help buyers to buy? 

A list of features is not going to cut it. Using the same generic USPs as the rest of the market is not going to cut it. You need to be clear on your value proposition and what you offer.

Planning the website project

Think of it like building a house: 

  1. You first need to know what you want 
  2. You need to design the look and feel but also the functionality 
  3. Once you have designed it (if anyone reading this watched Grand Designs you will know the design always changes even just a little) you can start on the foundations, the footprint of the building 
  4. In order to build the walls you may need a bricky to lay the brick, the steel works for any joists, the glaziers for the windows, the roofer. Sometimes the brickies can do this too, but you get the point. To build and make the external watertight you need a lot of different skills and planning. If the bricks are laid poorly, then the windows won’t fit. If the joists are too short – then the roof could collapse
  5. The interior is then often plastered by a plasterer, painted by a decorator, tiled by a tiler, plumbed by a plumber and wired up by an electrician
  6. The final furnishings are done most likely by yourself, or an interior designer based on what you like, what you want the rooms to do for you and how you want to feel in them. Possibly this is also planned out in the early stages but executed at the last hurdle. 

What do you need for your B2B software website build

So let’s break that down we need fo a B2B website: 

  • A need – think, why do you need a new website or design in the first place?
  • A goal – what does the website need to achieve in order to be a success?
  • A deadline – without one this project will go on and on! However, make sure it is a realistic one.
  • An idea of you overall ROI. This will help you calculate the amount you are willing to invest (and note i use the term invest as the goal is this will be your asset to gain new business and make new revenue). A common mistake I have seen time and time again is under or overpaying for a website.
    • If the purpose of the website is to support the growth of your business over the next 12 months, and you need 20 more clients over that time each with an ARR of $200k = That’s $4m if you are only willing to spend $4k on a website – is that going to get you where you need to be!?
    • On the other hand I have seen big agencies charge ridiculous amounts for a poor product, just because of their brand. Hundreds of thousands of dollars for an ill conceived, poorly designed, generic brochure site. 
    • Get your planning right – and you will have a much better idea of how much you might need to invest in a strong website asset 
  • A visual designer – the branding and look feel, colour pallet, images, call to action buttons and forms
  • A UX designer – how the website will work and engage the users in the most effective way, how the human mind works and interprets data
  • A front end developer who makes the UX work, within the framework of the visual design
  • Content / copywriter to turn the messaging into emotion and storytelling. Not just delivering 
  • Analyst/dev – implement tracking to monitor and deliver insight on performance. 
  • Marketer – to promote and drive potential buyers to the website and other digital touchpoints. 

There are so many moving parts when it comes to planning, designing and building a B2B software website. And beyond that, there is no point having a brand new site ready to go and no way for potential clients to find it. 

Key Takeaways

When embarking on such a project, my key takeaways are these

  1. Plan, question, and plan again. I don’t mean some shoddy brief you have put together for agencies to pitch you. You need to really plan what this website is trying to do. Go right back to basics. 
  2. Find the right partner – based on the priorities you need from them. Get a partner who fills the weaknesses you have. AI can make you a good looking website, but it can’t understand your needs and gaps in your resources. So when you are looking for the best partner in the project – be sure to know what you need from them first.
  3. Treat it as a partnership – all too many times I have seen clients dictating to agencies, rather than working cohesively on projects. Don’t fall into the master servant relationship as it does not end well. Neither party ends the project how they would like. 
  4. Engage a project manager – a 3rd pair of eyes who is agnostic, to steer the ship in the right direction when the client, designers and developers are too close to the detail. This is priceless and in my experience has shown huge benefits
  5. Communicate – there are 100’s of project management tools out there but they are only as good as the people managing and updating them. Not everyone gets on with them, however some can be great. Whatever the system, a PM tool, spreadsheet, video recording, transcript or even email bulleted lists – Make sure all decisions and points are noted so as not to lose them in translation. 

What can we learn from this

It can be daunting embarking on a new website project. It can also feel like a lot of time and money being invested into one area. So it is imperative it goes as smoothly as possible. 

In order to get to where you need to be, there may be some pain, there may be a few hiccups on the way, but if you embrace a plan and focus on the needs the gains are all there for the taking. 

If you need some direction or guidance on any of the areas mentioned above, we have been there before. So feel free to reach out. And good luck!

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