Regardless of niche, B2B buyers want in-depth information without spin; they don't like mystifying language or hidden messages. Buyers want content that answers their questions about your products and services, and they want your advice for how these solutions fit together. Whether you call it "being down-to-earth," "writing honestly" or "being frank," transparent communication online is an essential component of inbound marketing success.
Most of the time when we talk about issues surrounding transparency, we're talking about improvements to your marketing content—blog posts, explanatory articles, and value statements that users consume directly. Most marketers themselves tend to think of message and tone in terms of written content.
However, if you're a fan of Marshall McLuhan or believe even just an ounce of what he preached, you know that there's more to messaging than just content. In fact, the structure—i.e. the medium—within which you write your content can be even more important. It's no mistake that inbound marketing is centered on websites: on a website marketers have most control over how content and structure interact to influence the buyer's perception. Within websites, the way you structure a user's experience and present message-laden content has a huge impact on what concepts the visitor walks away with.
If your goal is to communicate transparency and a clear vision of how your company can help its buyers, then you must consider how web design and site architecture inform that message.
Here's a preview of where this article will take you:
• How does an inbound approach inform/specify design characteristics?
• How do "blogs" change the tone of interaction with visitors/prospects?
• What's the best unifying approach to messaging and site construction?
Understanding Inbound Marketing as a Specific Approach to UX
Generally, user experience (UX) is an idea thrown around by web developers who have to design for a wide variety of website visitors. What most people don't understand is that from a marketing perspective, UX isn't just about users' needs—it's about marketing strategy. While users might have their own preferences about browsing a website, Inbound marketing defines a specific UX that expedites the time between an initial site visit and an eventual purchase.
An inbound approach recognizes that when a user visits your site, the web design should help them reach opportunities to "convert," i.e. provide their contact information in a form. It's not just about presentation; it's about having goals for where visitors go. It's also about providing visitors with well-placed information that they'll find helpful and informative.
The conversion process should happen as efficiently and naturally as possible. Often, non-inbound website design agencies will talk about CRO—conversion rate optimization. It's not a bad idea in and of itself, but it doesn't provide much context for how conversion really happens. When inbound marketers think about conversion, we look at the time it takes for users to move from one stage of the buyer's journey to another, which we track by conversions and page visits. We recognize shorter time between conversions isn't always better, but we try to build efficiency in each stage of their journey.
Sure, it can be really nice for a visitor to find your blog and go directly to a landing page. But, most inbound marketers also recognize that visitors interested in buying usually need to consume plenty of material before converting. That's why we plan in navigation opportunities, in-text links, and mildly interruptive content, like mid-page CTAs or side bars—to appeal to visitors' natural inclination to redirect their attention. Inbound marketing UX is about creating an immersive content experience, to help the user trust your company as an authority in your niche.
Content Structure Plays a Big Role in Messaging & Tone
Most people don't think about the fact that having a "blog" is really more of a matter of structure than a decision about marketing. (Having lots of content is essential to digital marketing success, but the fact that it's in blog form is mostly insignificant.) Additionally, few marketers understand just how much flexibility a blog can afford in communicating with your prospects in a transparent and open way.
Consider, for instance, the difference between site page copy and the text within a blog post. On a site page, most companies should stick with a professional tone, with clear, concise language explaining services, products, and their value. A blog, on the other hand, sets you up to explore individually titled topics, much like a magazine or newspaper would. I like to say that blogging gives you an excuse to talk about your company. If we put out the advice we do on The Whole Brain Marketing Blog anywhere else, it would seem out-of-place or overly promotional. Becuase it's on Weidert Group's site but feels structurally different than our site pages, we have far more flexibility in our messaging.
With a blog, any company can connect with visitors in a more creative, down-to-earth fashion. The flexibility to show success, provide commentary on your industry, or give helpful advice is unparalleled. That's part of why inbound marketing emphasizes blog use in creating a strong inbound user experience: Blogs enable marketers to connect quickly and promptly guide visitors to conversion opportunities.
Use Storytelling to Unify Your Messaging and Design to Achieve Transparency
Whether we're talking about website pages, blog articles, landing pages, or other forms of content, the best way to unify your messaging in both copy and design is to understand content and media together as a story. Check out our recently updated explanation page for inbound marketing. On this page, we've set the tone visually and in-text by crafting the entire page as an illustrated story. Every paragraph leads to another while each central object carries page's tone and theme as the user scrolls.
In our blog, we try to make every blog post a component of a larger story, represented by the form and function of The Whole Brain Marketing Blog. Our blog navigation at the top of the page directs users to subthemes of our advice-focused blog, and our sidebar contributes to the larger story that the Whole Brain Marketing Blog tries to tell, by informing users of the most popular posts, key contributors, and opportunities to get more involved. In addition, we let people explore topics further by leading them to a CTA. All of these elements would be included in a lesson on Inbound Marketing 101, but we strive to tie them all together through a story-approach to layout and design. By having a centralized story that unifies text and design elements, we're able to better connect with visitors with a transparent, open explanation of inbound marketing.