Thank you for tuning into Ketchup Popsicles, the podcast about getting leads and closing deals. I'm your host, Ryan Mack. Let's get started.
Meet Crystal Mackling
Ryan Mack: Thanks for joining us for another Ketchup Popsicles episode. We got a good friend of ours and a partner at Peer, Crystal Mackling. Hi Crystal.
Crystal Mackling: Hey Ryan, thanks for having me!
Ryan Mack: We are gonna talk about websites today, so… it has become a conversation with every client we have, every purchaser is talking about how they're getting educated, and I just thought why not bring you on, talk about what you have seen over the last couple of years in trends what you've seen in your career as a trend, and maybe some tips tricks for some of the listeners to start evaluating their site, get an idea of what they're missing, and then start putting a plan in place to get this piece updated and humming, 'cause I think, as you're going to educate us, we're gonna realize that this is a very important thing.
So give us a little background: I've heard bits and pieces of some of your stuff, but you've been doing this for a long time, and I've seen a great transition, so talk to us about where you've been...
Crystal Mackling: Yeah, I really have been doing this for a long time. So I went to school originally for design, and design has always been this big part of who I am and I've been really passionate about it, but back then web wasn't really much of a thing, and so there were very few opportunities to get formal education and web design and development.
And so it became something that once I got out in the real world, I started thinking for myself in terms of jobs, and I was self-taught in development and really started diving into usability studies and following some of the greats like Nelson Norman.
I have had the opportunity to work for a lot of different corporations on their side of things, what we call the consumer side in B2B sales websites, and then eventually found my way over to the agency side of things, which I thought was the best transition for me being able to help these businesses improve their marketing, and their websites, and the way that they show up online.
So I've seen a lot of different companies over the years come in with struggling websites, and the fact that we can turn those around into a really productive member of their sales team is really rewarding.
Your website is a lead magnet & consumer educator
Ryan Mack: I like the way you say that, yeah, it is amazing how much we... Especially in sales, how much activity and dependency, the success of a sale was on the actual rep - not saying that it's not today - but the website does a lot of lifting for us now.
I think it's just gonna get more and more power in the sales process, and so I would love to touch on some of the things that you're seeing: trends, best practices, maybe some mistakes, if you've got some common errors that people will talk about.
I wanna start by just understanding as we have transitioned as buyers, as we transitioned into this more digital experience on our phones, on desktop, whatever. How have you seen the website change to meet the needs of that customer?
Crystal Mackling: Yeah, it's so true. When you say that the sales process has changed so much, it used to be people hitting the pavement going door to door, they'd pay their binder, their brochure and have their packets and leave-behinds, and now... It's up to 60% of the sales process is already done by the time you get to be [with the customer] for the first time, and it's because of everything online: there's so much opportunity to go out and research problems that you're having before you need to even pick up the phone and call and talk or a real person.
We’re all just used to hiding behind our devices - it’s the evolution of where we are as humans, but it makes it even more important for you to have a hard-working website that communicates all of these things that you used to be able to rely on your sales reps to do.
Ryan Mack: I agree, and as I think about myself as a consumer and the sites that I go to, what I'm looking for, how quickly I can transition, if I'm not getting the answer that I need to something else, and kind of leave those poor folks that couldn't quite get the message across quickly… I've already bounced and left, but a lot of my experience and probably the folks that are listening is interacting with consumer sites, but we're also talking about business-to-business sites, selling to other businesses. What's the difference? What are we looking at here?
Crystal Mackling: Well, I think most people think of “if I need a website,” they think of like “I have to sell a product online, I have to have a pair of shoes or a widget of some sort that I'm actually selling,” and that's more of what we would call consumer website.
But when it comes to B2B, for the most part, a lot of B2B products fall within the services category, or it’s a product that comes with a very high price tag here, like software, and you have to think about the buying journey that your customers are gonna go through.
It's not just one decision-maker for starters, it can be an entire team... It could be that you have to sell this up to the board, and so the higher the price tag is, the harder you've gotta work at that sale and the longer that sales cycle is.
So, there's a couple of different things that a website does when you start to look at it from a B2B standpoint, it needs to show that you're a subject matter expert in this area.
It needs [to show] the big picture of what it's like to work with you as a long-term partner, because that’s something that comes along with those service-based companies: we're gonna be in this together as a partnership, and we need to know what that’s going to be like.
Ryan Mack: So in B2B you've got, like you said, a long sales cycle. You've got potentially multiple purchasing personalities: you can have compliance executives, departmental leaders, board members.
Depending on how expensive your product is, what we've seen is: the more expensive, the longer the sales cycle, and that means that means that this site is going to need to produce information about how to use [your product or service,] who uses it, what it was like when they used it, and what type of success they had, companies that [you’ve] worked with, features, benefits, stories, thought leadership… and that's just some examples of all of those.
You need to just keep ripping new content constantly to keep this thing moving. I think that makes perfect sense to me, when I look at it through that lens of how much information I'm trying to collect in that initial stage of the buying process...
Crystal Mackling: Yeah, you're right, they are collecting a ton of information, and to your point about having great content on your website: because of the sales cycle is long, they're gonna come back to your site numerous times, they're gonna refer other individuals that are involved in that decision-making process to your site, and everyone's gonna have a little bit of a different stakeholder position, and so you have to have content that talks to each of their pain points.
You also have to keep content fresh. Let's say your sales cycle is several months: they come back in month one, and then they come back in month three, and now you've got something new on there that's grabbing their attention and continuing to grab hold of them as a potential lead.
Evaluating your current website with the Grunt Test
Ryan Mack: So, for the folks that are listening today, whether it's marketing directors that are trying to evaluate, “Is our site where it needs to be?” or it's business leaders that are debating, “Should I go and make this purchase [of a new website?]” … What are some things to look at to figure out, “Is my site good enough where it is right now? Or do I need to get better?”
Crystal Mackling: I think one of the very first things that you can do is what we call the Grunt Test. Think if a caveman comes to your website, and takes a look at it. Within like, three seconds, could he grunt “yes” or “no” that he knew what it is that you’re selling. You want to make it that clear.
I think you mentioned this before, Ryan, about the short attention spans and the fact that you can open another browser easily, and go find another provider within seconds. This is where design comes in: you wanna look great, you wanna draw their attention in, and have a very professional-looking website because that is the first thing that's going to attract them and get them to stay.
But after that: really the copy is what starts to take hold. I'm looking at your site and reading the first line of text on your website, can I say “This is for me,” or not?
Ryan Mack: Yeah, I agree, and I tend to scan myself, as I'm going through stuff and I just need to know that the headlines and sub-heads are basically communicating everything that I need to know.
You said they'll come back to the site when they wanna know more, I find that even in a session of being on somebody's website, I'll do this cursory passthrough: home page, scroll down, pop over to price - just to see, are we just generally in the neighborhood, or is my perceived value of your product and the price so far apart?
So from there… then I'll probably look at some features, then I might even go back to the home page, and then I'll probably go back to the pricing page where I'm trying to just understand more and more and more.
If they're good at pinging me with stuff, retargeting and things, I'll go back and then I'll research and they'll keep me on the hook, so... No, I totally agree with it.
Common website mistakes
Ryan Mack: As people that are looking at their sites, or when they're going through the process, you gotta have some common mistakes that folks are making, and what are some of those? You don't have to name names - unless you wanna say Peer made a mistake, then you can throw us under the bus, but are there any common errors that you see in the build process?
Crystal Mackling: Yeah, I think we see a lot of the same errors happening, we'll say mistakes you make over and over again from site to site, and some of that is just because things evolve and change, and some of it is maybe you didn't employ the right person the first time around, or the right team, to help you build your site.
It's so, so important to have just something as simple as a lead magnet on your site, offer up some sort of educational content, some sort of value in exchange for an email address, that's how you start to collect those leads and like you said, nurture them, so then you wanna communicate... Your B2B, you have a longer sales cycle, you wanna continue to communicate with them, they may not be ready to talk to you on day one, and so how do we stay in touch and show value?
The way you operate on a website, it's not a book, you're not sitting down to read a novel, you're scanning - we all have short attention spans, we're trying to figure out quickly if this site or this company or service is for us, and so we move quickly around the site, and I think another big mistake that I see is having just way too much copy on their website. It's all the same font size and its paragraphs and paragraphs of trying to explain who they are and how they add value, and that's just not the way that we as humans digest that information.
Like you said, we're scanning around, we're looking for things that stand out to us, we're not interested in the company that's just talking all about them and how great they are. We wanna know how that company helps solve our problems and what it's like to work with them.
Ryan Mack: When we talk about the copy and how people put too much, I also see these people failing to, as their site responds down and it gets into mobile, cut that copy.
Your site does not need to be communicating the same exact content at a desktop level that it does at a mobile level, because we talk about scanning? Massive scanning on a phone.
It is one scroll, you cannot litter it with a whole page of words. I feel like some website designers don't realize that it's okay to just cut chunks of copy out as it responds down, you can hide these blocks of content and sum it up in a sentence instead. One sentence on mobile is gonna look like a paragraph anyway,
Crystal Mackling: 100%, you're so true, you're so right there, it is gonna look like a lot of content. Also, you think about if you've got a slower connection wherever you're at, it's eating up more of your data and it's taking on load with more of the content, you have to think about what sort of experience they're having on a mobile device, and you do wanna cut that down and you're right.
I think a lot of designers think about that, they think that everything that is on the desktop needs to be there on the mobile version, and just by purely making it go on the mobile version, that is enough and it's not… You have to think of that arena, what does someone on a mobile device really needs from you at that moment.
Ryan Mack: What about load times?
Crystal Mackling: Yeah, so load times, people have a short, short attention span. If your site won't load in under three seconds, they're on to the next tab. I bet you could even cut that down to a second - that's just showing how important it is to have a site that loads quickly.
Making your website work for you
Ryan Mack: So obviously communicating what it is that you do, how you do it, who you do it for, the team members that are going to support it, how do you make this thing work for you, how do you make it start generating leads? What are some little tactics that you implement?
Crystal Mackling: First off, one of the easiest things that you can do to start generating leads is to have a blog.
It's one of those low-risk areas. I don't know, I think a lot of people are scared of having a blog, and it's really one of the most important ways that you can draw people in and then continue to communicate with them over the long haul, you can message them when you have a new blog post, and if you put out really great content and you are a thought leader in your area, you're gonna have the information that they wanna hear.
Also, having some paid content or more valuable content, it's something that's a little bit beefier than a blog post. Don't be afraid to give away your secrets and put together an e-book that tells exactly how you would execute something. I think a lot of the times, companies are afraid to put too much information out there, but in the long run, if you think about who your buyers are: they want someone else to do it for them, they don't wanna do it themselves, they're all time-starved, they don't have the time to do it, but the fact that you're showing them a peek behind the curtain and how you would do it, breaks down that wall really quickly, and so it gives them an opportunity.
And then, the great thing is, is you can ask for contact information and exchange for that piece of content because it is valuable, so having some sort of lead generation form on your website that then collects name and email, or maybe even a phone number.
Give away the secret sauce
Ryan Mack: So, going back to your point about giving away your secrets or making it something extremely valuable: It was probably five years ago, I think... I can't remember if it was Pipedrive, HubSpot, or Nutshell, but one of the CRM companies had a lead magnet where they built a CRM in Microsoft Excel and were giving it away.
They're basically showing you, here it is for free, you'll track your contacts, you'll track your deals… but there was no automation to it, there was no co-working inside the same document.
What it helped me understand was that, “Man, I really need to use this tool, and it is super annoying that no one else can get in here,” and immediately the value exceeded the price, almost within a week, I understood so much more around why I needed to be paying for a CRM.
That's just a really great example of a lead magnet that I thought was great. They were giving you something that was competing with them, but they had so much faith in the product that they knew you were never gonna choose an Excel document as cool and functional as it was over a collaborative real-time tool.
Crystal Mackling: And that's a great way to get past that initial, I guess, that initial objection that some people are gonna have with your product or service. “Well, why couldn't I do it this way? Why couldn't I build a cheaper website, why I couldn't I just manage it?”
Well, hey, guess what? You can! And here you go, we're gonna show you exactly how to do it, we're gonna give you a document that will allow you to build it there, and we're so confident that you're not gonna like that experience, that we're gonna give that to you for free because you're gonna try it and you're gonna realize, there's got to be a better way.
Websites are actually sales reps (and they're worth the $)
Ryan Mack: I know a lot of people feel like websites are expensive, and I think they are unfairly comparing freelancer rates, especially now with Upwork and Fiver and offshore freelancer rates, which is even lower to agency rates, to internal teams doing it.
What is it that usually, as the price gets more expensive, what's driving some of that cost?
Crystal Mackling: Websites get a bad rap, I don't know what it is. Everyone thinks the kid next door can do this in their basement… People definitely don't wanna pay for a website, and they get a lot of sticker shock when they see those initial price tags that come along with the website.
You have to think of the value that a website brings in.
Let's start with this question, Ryan: how much would you pay for a well-producing sales representative on your team?
Ryan Mack: Oh, I mean somebody that's closing deals? And B2B? Six figures for sure, I mean that's just... Even if it's base plus variable, I’m throwing down.
But now that you say that, it would give me heartburn to think about throwing down $100, 000 on a website, but keep going, I see where you're going.
Crystal Mackling: I mean, you definitely don't have to spend [that much]... People can spend over $100,000 on a website, but you don't have to to have a great working website.
However, you do have to think about the value that that website is bringing in: it is like having a sales representative, one that doesn't take any breaks or vacation, and he works 24 hours a day, and he says all the right things.
That site is out there doing the work of what one [sales rep] could be doing for you, and if you can get it working right and you do all the right things, that's gonna bring in a lot more leads than what a sales team could be bringing in for you.
So, you have to think about the value in that aspect, and you also have to think about why they are so expensive. To create a good website, you're looking at needing different skillsets and individuals to get involved. You want someone who understands the strategy behind what it is that you're trying to market and sell, you want a good copywriter who can say things quickly and who can really get into the pain points your customers have and speak to them in a way that's going to attract them to the product. You want a great designer who has experience.
And this is like with any industry: you pay for the level of experience. Yes, you can hire an entry-level graphic designer to do something, but that's not going to bring the value that someone with many years of experience and [knowledge of] usability is going to bring to the table to give you a very professional looking site.
And then there's a lot that goes into the coding: we want a developer who really understands how to design a site so that it loads quickly, and that it follows all of the rules that Google puts out there that can damage your reputation if you haven't coded your site correctly...
Ryan Mack: Yeah, I agree with you all the way: you gotta compare it to a working part of your sales team and that investment.
So then you say, “Okay, well, I'm gonna do a $20,000 website now,” now it actually seems too low because I'm thinking [of comparing it to] somebody that's gonna prospect and work contacts hard… $20,000 sounds like below minimum wage.
I think that's a great analogy. I think it's a good way for them to realign their expectations with an apples-to-apples comparison, so... I totally agree with that.
Remodeling your current website
Ryan Mack: Okay, so for the folks that maybe don't know if their site is good or what they need to change, or the ones that are contemplating switching over: What do you recommend that they do, what's the process of starting to maybe look at redoing your site.
Crystal Mackling: Yeah, I think if you're starting to think that your website is getting a little outdated, a little old and smelly, it needs to have a refresh - especially if you're not getting any sort of results from it or if you don't have an opportunity to collect leads from your site.
Start by asking some friends and family, “What do you think of my site? Does it look a little dated? Are the graphics outdated?”
That's usually a good place to start. Beyond design itself, I think every two to three years, it's always a great idea to update and refresh. You're not always having to start from scratch, but if it's been more than three or four years, you probably are gonna have to do an overhaul. Technology changes at such a fast rate that the code your site was built on three to four years ago is outdated and needing a bit of an update in order to keep your site fast and compliant with Google.
Google actually downrates you in search results, if you're not playing by all the rules that they've put into place.
Ryan Mack: That's a good point. Would you also recommend to people that as part of their process, they need to be putting in those lead magnets? You talked about the site, and you were also talking about the assets that can drive people further into the funnel, is that also something that you recommend they look into at the same time?
Crystal Mackling: Absolutely. I would 100% recommend you have a blog on your site. I think a lot of businesses think, “Oh, blogs are for the mommy bloggers,” and things like that.
Look at what a blog can do for you through the entire lifecycle of your sales process: you can use it to attract new leads, you can use it to continue to push those articles out and keep in contact with individuals throughout the different [buying] stages.
If you have a long sales process, it's a great way to stay in contact, and it's a great way to combat objections. You can write a blog post on common objections or questions that you get in the sales process, and when you get those popping up when you're talking to a customer and they're like, “Well, what about…” You can say, “Oh hey, we've got a blog article on that,” and you send it. It just gives you another way to explain it to them.
Ryan Mack: I love that idea. So that it's not you delivering the objection response, it's the blog as the bad guy. That's such a great idea, I’m gonna write this down...
Some of these takeaways have been great:
- [Comparing the cost of a website] apples to apples with a salesperson
- Using lead magnets to collect prospects 24/7
- Making sure [you're not] holding back good information because [you] feel like it's going to give the competition an edge
Ryan Mack: Whatever. Sell better, sell harder. You should never be afraid of your competition.
This has been awesome. I would love to give people a way to connect with you, maybe give 15-30 minutes if they have questions? If they're not looking to buy, they just wanna know, “Is my site a piece or not?”
Crystal Mackling: Absolutely. If you guys wanna throw it in your show notes, throw a meeting link to my calendar, and if anyone wants to get 15-30 minutes with me, I'll take a look at your site.
Ryan Mack: Yeah, that's great. I think that would be very helpful. Don't call me, I don't know anything about this! I go to Crystal for all of it.
Well, thank you, this was a great conversation. I actually wanna follow it up with part two: I'm want to get deeper into some of these assets that people should be thinking about because I just don't see enough of them on these B2B sites.
Ready for Crystal to take a look at your website? Set up a 15- or 30-minute meeting with her!
Want to be the next guest on Ketchup Popsicles? Follow Ryan Mack on LinkedIn or send him a message.