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industrial web design fails

Why do so Many Industrial Website Redesigns Fail?

This is a long post, so grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable. You are going to be here for a while and thanks for taking the time to read.

We’ve all heard or read about industrial website redesigns that have failed. I’m not talking about the aesthetics of a site which can be subjective; I’m referring to a site redesign that fails to produce results. For manufacturers and industrial companies that usually means that the redesign failed to deliver enough high quality leads that turned into sales opportunities.

I’ve had many conversations with prospective clients that start out something like this, “We’ve spent a bunch of money with an outside company to redesign our website but it hasn’t done much for our sales.” Some have even gone as far as saying “This other web developer did a disservice to us.”

Understandably they are now reluctant to spend more money on another industrial website redesign. What went wrong? It’s not that the other web development company deliberately ripped off these people, though there are some unscrupulous companies out there.

Most web design companies are led by graphic designers and coders; some are also experts at search engine optimization (SEO). Their primary focus is on creating an attractive site that gets found in Google for certain keyword phrases. Well, what’s wrong with that, you ask?

There is a huge difference between an attractive but ineffective site and one that is efficient and effective in attracting the right traffic and generating the kind of leads that your sales team will be excited about because they have the potential to increase their wins. The first one is purely an expense no matter how much or how little you paid for it and the second one is a valuable asset that will pay rich dividends for a long time to come.

A web development company or web designer cannot create an efficient delivery system unless they have the necessary experience and the expertise in understanding complex industrial sales with long sales cycles. Marketing to engineers is different and it is difficult. (See my post, “Marketing to Engineers is a Big Challenge”).

The key component missing in many of these website redesign failures is that they fail to fit your sales process. Either the designer lacks the skills or doesn’t take the time to ask the right questions to understand your sales process before diving into the redesign.

6Ps of industrial website redesigns

You are probably familiar with the original 4Ps of the marketing mix — price, product, promotion, and place (Distribution) which later became the four Cs and the more modern version is people, processes, programs, and performance.

I have my own version which I call the 6Ps of successful website redesigns.

  • PRICE: Yes, price is important in the real world. The problem is the wide variance that you are likely to get when you ask for a quote. It could range from $5,000 to $50,000 or more. How do you set a realistic budget? Asking your admin assistant to call around for prices won’t help you much without knowing what you’ll get. Do your due diligence by visiting sites of web development companies. Get a good feel for starting prices, their processes and deliverables. This will help you make a quick go/no go decision based on your budget and needs. Factor in the cost of lost opportunities (sales) if the redesign fails to deliver. One of my clients likes to call this as “opportunity cost.” Remember coding is not the same as marketing.
  • PROCESS: A successful website redesign is a collaborative effort. Don’t expect the developer to work in a vacuum with little to no participation from you. You should be prepared to spend considerable amount of time at least initially and the developer should devote a lot of time in asking probing questions to understand your sales process. Don’t be coy about sharing information with your website developer (Get a NDA and Confidentiality Agreement signed before sharing any information). Otherwise it will be like going to a doctor and not telling him all your symptoms but expecting him to cure you of your ills. Preparing a detailed RFP may seem like a good idea at first but it has its drawbacks. You are essentially taking out a developer’s unique expertise and the ability to think outside the box for solutions by asking everyone to conform to your requirements. While it makes it easier for you to compare proposals by standardizing the process, the only differentiation left then is the price. I know a few marketing agencies who refuse to respond to website RFPs.
  • PEOPLE: Get sales and every stakeholder involved from the get go. Don’t wait for the President or the CEO to give his/her feedback only during the final review. Design by committee rarely works because everyone is eager to chime in with their own opinion. Appoint a point person internally who will be held accountable and responsible for gathering everyone’s input and vetting them before communicating with the outside developer. For God’s sake, don’t tell the web designer that you don’t know what you want but will know it when you see it. You and the developer must spend the time to define your target audience in greater details than just industry and job titles. Your sales people are the best people to talk to for understanding real customer issues instead of relying on your “gut feel.”
  • PURPOSE: Have a clear goal or objective in mind for the redesign. Make sure it is documented and not just in your head. Saying “we want to increase sales” is the ultimate goal but getting there is not just a matter of redesigning the site. This where the time spent initially in understating your particular sales process is so important. You’ll be disappointed if you are expecting site visitors to pick up the phone or email an RFQ/RFP/RFI after their first visit. (See Industrial Web Design – Visit to Call is Not Automatic). Focus instead on helping visitors make interim decisions that will lead to an RFQ. Guide them in a logical manner and help them make a more informed buying decision.
  • PROMOTION: SEO is important, that goes without saying. However, keyword research can only take you so far. Pay attention to the words and phrases used by your customers in describing their needs and applications. Even though some of those terms may not show up in search volumes, they are very specific to your niche or applications. You do want to optimize for those long tail keyword phrases. Input from your Sales team is invaluable here. Getting found in search engines and driving traffic to your site is only half the equation. The other half is the more difficult part and that is converting your traffic into qualified leads. Your web content must be created for human readers first and foremost, not just for search engines. Conversion optimization is very different from discovery optimization. Don’t rely 100% on SEO to drive traffic, explore other channels too.
  • PERFORMANCE: Don’t wait six months to a year to find out if the redesign is working or not. Insist on site analytics and reports. Either take the time to learn how to interpret the data yourself or have the web development company do it for you (Yes, it will cost you extra). You should get a monthly report that not only shows the data but also explains trends and anomalies so you can take proactive decisions and actions. Building an efficient lead delivery system requires ongoing fine-tuning based on KPIs, not guesswork. That is why it is important to document your website goals and objectives to measure success against those benchmarks.

Okay now that you know a lot more about what it takes for an industrial website redesign to be successful, do you think it is really worth the time and effort? The answer is an emphatic YES!

Here’ a direct quote from Linda Rigano, Executive Director of Strategic Services at ThomasNet:

“Treat your website as if you were hiring a six-figure salesperson. If you were going to put them on the street, what would you do? You’d arm them with information about the marketplace. You’d arm them with information about your products and how people use them. Then you’d put that person in front of the audience and check with them.”

The cliché, “Failure Is Not an Option” truly applies when it comes to industrial website redesigns.

Step-by-Step Guide to Website (re)Design

website redesign guide - Tiecas

A systematic approach to turning your website into a lead-generating machine for driving sales. This guide will walk you through each step involved in creating a roadmap for a successful industrial website. The steps outlined here are based on proven techniques and our hands-on experience in redeveloping and designing industrial websites that drive sales and grow businesses. Get Step-by-Step Guide to Website (re)Design »

Achinta Mitra

Achinta Mitra calls himself a “marketing engineer” because he combines his engineering education and an MBA with 36 years of practical industrial marketing experience. You want an expert with an insider’s knowledge and an outsider’s objectivity who can point you in the right direction immediately. That's Achinta. He is the Founder of Tiecas, Inc., an industrial marketing consultancy in Houston, Texas. Read Achinta's story here.
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  1. Achinta,
    Great advice for industrial marketers! Content is still king, even with industrial websites. Engineers and buyers want to be informed before contacting a company. All of your points are right on!

    • Bob,

      Thanks and appreciate your compliment.

  2. Hi Achinta

    This is a terrific post. Very thorough and insightful.

    I think many people believe that a new design, in and of itself, will improve website performance.

    It can help, but it’s a distant second to the content and the organization of that content.

    Another approach is to leave the design alone, but just add content – categories of content. Create new sections like a Tutorial section, or a Case Study section. Develop content-rich pages within those sections, add some lead capture strategies and see how they perform.

    At the very least, this gets you out of those subjective design discussions.

    • Bob,

      Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your thoughts.

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