Historically, marketing for industrial and manufacturing companies was largely geared toward funneling resources into traditional sales, trade fairs, and ads in industry publications. Websites were an afterthought, at best.
Fortunately, most manufacturing companies today see the benefit of websites, primarily as a lead-generating tool. Even if a conversion doesn’t happen directly on a website, a company’s site plays a role in consumer perspectives about brand, quality, and customer service. Research shows that even in situations where a company is not selling their products online (as is the case for most manufacturers), B2B websites tend to be a frequent conversion point on the sales funnel.
There are several considerations in the design of a manufacturing website that will determine if a manufacturing website is maximally effective. We’ve collected five critical best practices for manufacturing websites and five examples of industrial websites done right:
1. Simple and Clear Navigation
Few experiences online can be as frustrating as a website that is hard to navigate. That’s why a simple and clear navigation is a must for manufacturing websites. Cisco (Open in new windows) uses a two-level navigation structure to effectively manage a large website with a lot of content. By creating a straightforward navigation menu that lets the user find their way around the site, did a fantastic job of improving user experience.
Cisco’s top navigation bar is a five column drop-down menu that directs visitors to the larger sections of the website. However, it’s their secondary navigation, unique for each section of the website that really makes navigation easy. For example, their Servers division has clear items laid out: Products, Solutions, Services, Benefits, Support, and For Partners.
2. A Well-Placed Call-To-Action
Even for manufacturing companies, your website should be a place that helps you grow your business. The best way to do this is to have clear next-steps on your website for visitors. For many manufacturing companies, the main call-to-action involves a lead generation form. “Start a Project,” “Request a Quote,” or “Contact Us” can all be effective messaging for buttons that drive to a contact form.
For IBM (Open in new windows), they drive visitors to their Power Systems division to design their own server. Their call to “Design Your Own Server” is a great example of a clear CTA. Free of excessive imagery and content clutter, IBM’s CTA is designed to draw the user’s visual focus and leads their viewer right where they want them to be… engaged in the sales funnel. Their button copy, “Get Started Now” suggests urgency and action, making it clear to website visitors there won’t be a long wait time.
3. High Quality Imagery
Many manufacturing websites are still relatively outdated, and their imagery can be even more so. A high-quality graphic that tells your viewer exactly what you do is critical. For many manufacturing companies in long supply chains, quality product imagery clarifies what device, piece, or material that you manufacture.
Lockheed Martin’s (Open in new windows) use of the F-35 Lightning II on the homepage is a great example. It tells the user the sophisticated technology their company is responsible for. The modern, exciting feel is also an effective brand message, reinforcing Lockheed Martin’s positioning as a state-of-the-art company.
4. A Great Hero Message
For many visitors to a website, their first few seconds will determine if they will convert into a lead or not. Your home page hero message generally represents the most-read words on your entire website, and it is essential to quickly and clearly inform the viewer exactly what it is your company does and the value you provide.
Zeon Chemicals (Open in new windows) does a great job of presenting their value statement in five words: “Innovative Elastomers. World-Class Service.” The message instantly clarifies what they manufacture (in this case, they are elastomers manufacturers, not rubber manufacturers).
In addition to quickly informing the user of their corporate purpose, Zeon’s new site is also one of the fastest loading sites we looked at. With page loading speeds of under one second, Zeon ranks in the top ten percent of websites in terms of speed. Because page load time is a now a ranking signal for SEO, a fast site is crucial.
5. Effective Content Marketing
The most effective B2B content marketing takes place on a company’s own website. By utilizing existing material for fresh content and linking two in-house e-magazines on their Construction page, John Deere (Open in new windows) makes great use of effective content marketing. While content marketing pieces often serve as an inbound marketing strategy and represent entrance points for website visitors, they can also be value-adds to visitors who come into your website through other channels. By putting your most effective content pieces on your main landing pages, you allow all of your visitors to be informed and engaged through your content.
In addition to effective content marketing, John Deere (Open in new windows) also makes great use of quality images that engage the viewer, letting them know immediately what the company is about.