Why Retrofitting Industrial Website Redesigns Usually Don’t Work

industrial website redesign

Industrial website redesigns are major undertakings, not something you want to decide or do in a hurry. They require careful planning and input from many stakeholders for them to succeed. I’m talking about redesigns that turn industrial websites into productive and effective sales tools.

Many industrial website redesigns fail, not because of a lack of effort but also for many other reasons. The sad truth is that most of the pitfalls can be avoided by the website redesign team. I’ve seen some of these cases firsthand, and I’ll share them with you in this post.

Industrial website redesigns are not just marketing projects

I’ve had manufacturers and engineering companies approach me because their last redesign was handled by their in-house Marketing department or outsourced to an outside web developer.

These people have the necessary skill set to create a good-looking website, but the classic mistake they make is to think it is their sole responsibility. They don’t take the time to get feedback from Sales, Management, and other stakeholders during the planning stage. They work in isolation and show a draft to these stakeholders, asking for their feedback.

It is human nature for people to come up with their own suggestions for improvements lest you think they haven’t taken the time to do their job of reviewing. Suddenly, everyone is an expert at website redesign and development. As a result, the website project comes to a screeching halt because it may mean going back to the drawing board and starting from scratch.

Content for websites can’t be an afterthought

Jeffrey Zweldman on content and web designContent development for websites must go hand in hand with the redesign; retrofitting can be a disaster. I’m not suggesting that the same people must do both, but the developer and the content creator must work as a team and constantly communicate.

The messaging must be on target for the new site to attract the right audience and convert those visitors into qualified leads. You are not going to persuade engineers and technical professionals to act with more meaningless marketing fluff.

It is not that owners and decision-makers at industrial companies don’t care about their website content. I’ve heard many reasons for holding off on website content until after the redesign is almost done. Here are the ones I’ve heard most often:

  • We don’t have any money to hire an expert industrial content marketer (Budgets are always tight)
  • We know our business better than any outsider ever will (True but are you an expert at marketing?)
  • Writing copy can’t be that hard; we’ll do it ourselves (No one steps up to produce copy)
  • Nobody reads anymore, and we just want industrial buyers to find us in Google and call our salespeople who will tell them everything they need to know (The phone hardly ever rings)
  • Most outside copywriters don’t understand our technical business (Our in-house Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are too busy for copywriting)
  • Engineers don’t like marketing; they just want the facts. We have plenty of product datasheets and catalogs to provide them the right information (Those can’t highlight your expertise)

Product specifications, features, and benefits are important at the top of the funnel. Still, those alone can’t create true differentiation for an industrial company when there is parity in value propositions. Bring your technical expertise, knowledge, and experience to the forefront.

The pandemic has resulted in many trade shows being canceled; engineers are turning to supplier/vendor websites for information they feel is technically accurate, current, valuable, and relevant to their work-related challenges. (Source: 2021 State of Marketing to Engineers, TREW Marketing and GlobalSpec).

industrial website redesign: supplier websites are valuable to engineers

Is the industrial website redesign built around your content marketing strategy?

That may sound like a rhetorical question; unfortunately, it is very real. Sometimes there is a disconnect between upper management and the team tasked with the site redesign. Let’s take the example of a manufacturer that has decided to go all-in with e-commerce for selling directly. That’s a strategic business decision made by the executives. However, the Marketing department is tasked with generating qualified leads using industrial content marketing.

The new e-commerce site was tightly integrated with their ERP system and took over a year to develop. However, the outside development team failed to talk to the Marketing department. As a result, there was only one page on the new site that was dedicated to engineering services and solutions. Marketing people had to go back to the developers if they wanted to add pages and/or a blog. This made it virtually impossible to do content marketing and produce results. There was enough frustration to go around in this situation.

The moral of the story, industrial content marketing strategy, and industrial website redesigns are connected. Neither can be effective if they work independently of each other.

Also, refer to my previous post, Using CAD and BIM Files in Manufacturing Content Marketing for a content marketing strategy that produces results if you target engineers and architects.

Spend the time to plan before you start redesigning

Again, this may sound obvious without stating it. However, I’ve seen too many web developers dive right into wireframing and coding without taking the time to really understand the sales process and how the new site fits into that workflow.

Compounding the problem is the fact that not too many of them have hands-on experience or the understanding of long and complex industrial sales cycles involving many stakeholders. They try to force-fit their general knowledge of B2B websites.

It is crucial to first develop an effective website redesign strategy that is closely aligned with your content marketing strategy and your sales process with all that is at stake.

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