Will 2021 be the year B2B websites come of age?

Last week, I heard that our local toyshop is closing down. It’s an independent business and the staff are all lovely. Another sad example of the impact C-19 has had on small businesses. Or is it?

I’ve said before that, in business terms, the pandemic has been more of an accelerator than a transformer, and what’s behind the toyshop’s failure is more Amazon than Covid (this is not a rant about Amazon, but I could certainly fill a few blog posts with my thoughts on that particularly destructive entity). 

B2B brands in every industry sector can learn an extremely valuable lesson from this B2C toyshop. It couldn’t take online orders – you couldn’t search stock online and reserve in store. It was an ‘offline-first’ business. 

It’s my view that many B2B brands could quickly find themselves in the same position as our now-defunct local toyshop, and just relying on demand-gen or ABM is not going to save them. 

This is because all the talk of being ‘digital first’ is out of date. We’re now operating in a ‘digital-only’ marketplace. I have had conversations with three B2B organisations this past week, each of whom observed that their numbers are down due to there being no trade shows or live events this year, taking away their salespeople’s main channel to market. 

2021 is going to be a year of reckoning for B2B brands (and their agencies). If you haven’t sorted your ‘digital-only’ house out, you’re going to find yourself in serious trouble. This means that without a functioning martech stack (note: functioning, not ‘bells and whistles’) and the ability to report numbers with at least some level of attribution, you will find yourself sidelined at best. 

All of this begins with something so many B2B brands ignore: your website. 

Pre-Covid, B2B brands could just about get away with having an average website, and any moans were generally aimed at their look and feel. I’ve even heard “We’re not an ecommerce company, so really the website is a brand thing.” No, it isn’t. The START POINT is that your website represents your brand well and tells a compelling story. 

But Forrester forecasts that post-Covid, 80% of the sales cycle will now be digital – a significant increase from just a year ago. McKinsey’s global B2B survey showed that 90% of buyers could entirely self-serve if they were allowed to. 

So in 2021, your website needs to deliver that much more. It needs to support a complex buyer journey, with buyers viewing 40% more marketing content than before, but in a simplified and accessible way. It needs to show thought leadership – 70% of C-suite buyers make contact with companies that do it well, but only 17% rate the quality of thought leadership highly.

And it has to be super helpful too. After all, 64% buyers say they just want a reliable source of information. 

This all needs to add up to being an easy-to-buy-from brand – you’ve got to convert visitors, not just form fills, and be ready for conversations with potential customers. 

The trade shows aren’t there any more so your website needs to take up the slack. You may not be an ecommerce company, but you need to start thinking like one. After all, a massive 7 in 10 B2B buyers are thinking of shifting their preferred vendor to a competitor due to frustrations with the digital purchasing experience.

In 2021, the B2B brands that win will be those that are truly digital-first. 

Photo by Bruno Wolff on Unsplash