Simply because they’re aimed at companies, B2B websites have a bad tendency of being tremendously dull. This is a huge waste. No matter how resolutely professional any given website visitor might be, they’re still human, and accordingly responsive to creativity.
But it’s understandable that B2B businesses can be very reluctant to try different things on their websites. While the average B2C business is kept afloat by a large pool of customers, it’s not unheard of for a B2B business to rely upon a small selection of big clients — and no one wants to be responsible for making a website change that ends up alienating an important business partner.
As such, it all comes down to being creative in a calculated and careful way — knowing your audience extremely well and showing personality and trustworthiness without ever straying from usability standards. Let’s take a look at how you can use particular features to make your B2B website more creative.
Interesting and creative web visuals
The impact left by a strong hero image is more immediate and powerful than can be achieved through text placed in a similar position. If your B2B website already has some degree of polish, you’ll most likely have some high-quality imagery in prominent positions — but is it interesting?
Imagine that you’re a SaaS company providing a project management service. For your lead image, you could have a business person looking very professional while using your software. That would be entirely reasonable and appropriate… and very boring.
What if you went down a more symbolic route? You could instead have an image of someone happily and comfortably juggling (and I mean literally juggling) a variety of business-related items: a clock, a file, a laptop, etc. It still heavily nods at the point of your service (saving people time, making business easier), but it’s considerably more interesting.
Personable and transparent copy
Formality isn’t an inherent strength in the business world. It’s just part of a broader toolset. If you’ve dealt with a variety of B2B clients, you’ll know that there are times to be resolutely professional and times to relax a little. Your website should offer a nice middle ground — serious about the work your company does, but relaxed and confident in its approach.
For a start, remove all the cliches from your homepage. You don’t need to make any over-the-top claims about how you plan to transform the world with your business unless you actually do — and if you’re realistic, you must accept that most businesses don’t. There’s nothing wrong with being in business simply because you enjoy what you do and you’re good at it. If that’s the case, just say so.
And project a friendly tone. There’s a decent chance that a B2B relationship will involve meeting (or at least speaking with) the client at some point, and you don’t want people going into a meeting with you feeling that you’re an emotionless robot. We’re not consistently rational in how we choose the businesses we work with. If you like someone as a person, you’re more likely to view their business positively.
A compelling business story
Every business website has an ‘About Us’ page, but it’s easy to make a terrible one that does more to drive people away than to attract them: simply spout yet more cliches and give a ludicrously generic account of how your business was created. Don’t do this. Instead, tell a simple and honest tale of what led you to where you are today.
Don’t worry if the story you come up with isn’t all that interesting, because in this case it doesn’t really need to be. It just needs to be genuine. If you manage that, and get your personal perspective across in the copy, the readers will find it compelling — provided you come across fairly well, they’ll root for you and want to see you succeed.
And if you can tell the story in an inventive way, even better. Tell it as a poem, or exclusively through illustrations. Give a timeline with highlights. Even the least eventful tale can be given some pep if you format it well.
Convenient tools for businesses
What’s more creative than actually creating things for your website? Every business can benefit from adding to its USPs, and a great way to do this is to identify some kind of function that would be valuable to your visitors and provide it on your website for free.
A shipping business could provide a shipping calculator, for instance, or an accountancy firm could offer a tax calculator. If you sell a large range of B2B products, you could create a quiz to help visitors figure out which of your products are most relevant to their interests.
We all enjoy some interactive content, and gamification is a big focus in the UX world these days for a good reason. Through creating a useful tool, you can accomplish all of the following things:
- Demonstrating your expertise in your field.
- Showing that you’re willing to give extra value.
- Entertaining your visitors.
- Rapidly proving site relevancy (if given prominent billing on your homepage).
If you don’t have an in-house developer or a development agency you work with, there are options out there for creating custom calculators such as uCalc. How viable that option is in your case will depend on the nature of your business, but give the idea a lot of consideration, and maybe even consult your clients to see what tools they might find useful.
Branded merchandise items
If you’re confident in the quality of your B2B brand, why not provide the option of getting some branded merchandise? The copy and designs will give you further chances to show personality, and you’ll be able to wear your own merchandise at meetings to show team unity and consistency. You can even offer a free t-shirt to every new client, which sounds trivial (because it is) but might have a surprisingly significant effect! Physical objects can build relationships in surprising ways.
If you already sell products or services (your current site has an ecommerce component), then you can simply expand on that operation — if you don’t, then you can set up an ecommerce store specifically for that purpose. If you need to create a store, consider using a well-supported option like Shopify’s self-driven webshop package (readily compatible with merchandising systems such as Merchify) and configuring it to serve as a subdomain of your current site. That way, you don’t need to send users away, and you can style the page to fit your main site theme.
So, to recap: we’ve looked at how you can make your B2B website more creative by providing interesting visuals, making your copy more personable, telling a compelling business story, providing useful free tools, and selling branded items.
If you really invest some time and effort into adding some creative flair to your B2B website, you’ll find that it will pay off in the long run. You’ll have more to talk about with prospective clients, and you’ll stand out relative to your more generic rivals.
Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert from Ecommerce Tips — an industry-leading ecommerce blog dedicated to sharing business and entrepreneurial insights from the sector. Check out the latest news on Twitter @myecommercetips.