Some people think a website doesn’t matter. They are very wrong.
I went through the websites of 25 startups and growth-stage companies that we’ve worked with in recent years, and below I’ll share some basic trends, along with my personal analysis on website efficacy. These startups I reviewed are all in the B2B industrial tech space, but I think the overall analysis applies to most enterprise tech startups.
There are a ton of ways to break down tech startup websites, but I will focus on three key elements: 1) the main page, 2) the sections, and 3) discussion of customers.
Let’s start with the main page – this is precious real estate that is often poorly utilized. The most important part is whatever is initially visible on the screen before you scroll (optimized for both desktop and mobile, of course).
Do: Have customer logos right below your header, they should be the first thing visitors see – and link to case studies wherever possible. Your customers and their success are the most important things on your website. Most startups instead have a brief company/product description in the hero section (AKA top frame) of the main page – this is fine, but customers and case studies are better. Incorporate an effective call-to-action that will begin guiding your visitor through getting engaged.
Don’t: We see lots of company updates/news here, this is bad – people don’t know what you do yet, they don’t care about the release of version 7.0 of your solution, or what conference your CEO is speaking at. A new customer win is perhaps the only compelling news (ideally including the case study). Avoid having too many frames, videos, or animations here, pick 1 or 2 semi-fixed items (customers, company/product overview, etc). Don’t confuse the visitor by incorporating too many elements to focus on.
Next up… the sections of the site, almost always a set of navigation links located within a menu on your main page. There is a wide range in how many pages/sections a website will have, and where they will take the visitor. One-page websites offer an intuitive experience, as the visitor simply needs to scroll down the page, and won’t get sidetracked while clicking through other pages. But if your website contains too much information to be presented in a single page, make sure the site architecture flows naturally.
Do: Keep it simple, 4 or 5 sections. Most companies have a product/tech breakdown, industries and/or use cases served, company news/resources, the generic “about” section, and “contact us”. Most companies don’t have a section titled “customers” or “case studies” – not having customers and case studies is a mistake. If there are 1 or 2 additional truly unique things about your company, you can add additional sections.
Don’t: A lot of companies get the categories right, but have content repeated in confusing ways on multiple pages, or put stuff in the wrong places (ie explaining the industries awkwardly on the product page). Some companies will create an entirely new page for something negligible when it should be a sub-item of another section. Tons of startups have superfluous nonsense page like a “Discover” section that is full of random incoherent items. And avoid coming up with cute names for the standard pages and sections, just call them what they are so visitors know where to go.
If there is one thing you can take away from this article, it’s this: your customers and their success are the most important things on your website. Let’s take a moment to focus specifically on this element of a tech startup website.
Do: Share your customer logos, as many as you can. Beg your customers for permission if you have to. Order them beginning with the best brands. This should be the first things visitors see, on desktop and mobile. Logos are the most important first thing for visitors to see, but I firmly believe case studies are THE most important thing on your website. Even if the case studies need to be anonymous, develop them, be as concrete as you can about ROI, and make them as easy to find and abundant as possible on your site.
Don’t: Your “customers” are not “partners”, so don’t call them that. If you do, then your prospects will be confused about whether they are real paying customers or just some fluffy acquaintances. Have separate areas where you outline customers vs. partners. Unless of course you have few public customers, in which case it’s fine to lump them in with the partners in order to make that display appear less empty.
There are many other important aspects of a tech startup website, but those three are a good place to start.
Beyond the website, it is essential for enterprise tech startups to have clean, concise pieces of marketing collateral. The most important of these are case studies, tech/solution overviews, and something that outlines a pilot program (if you offer pilots… and if you don’t, you need something prescriptive that describes at least how you start working with customers). Ideally these are 1 page long, or 2 pages if need be. Most executive buyers will not read more than 1 or 2 pages. That 19-page industry brief you’re writing about digitization in the manufacturing sector… stop writing it. We’ll cover collateral in another article.
You’ve probably noticed that as companies get bigger, their websites increase in complexity to the point of being confusing and often completely useless. This doesn’t have to happen. I challenge you to think of a solution or category from a large tech vendor – go to their website and see how easy it is to navigate to the relevant information.
Bottom line: when someone visits your website, within seconds, they should you have awesome customers, and that these customers get measurable value from your products. They should know what you do. The site design does not need to be state of the art, but good enough that you don’t seem bankrupt – a novice can build a decent looking WordPress site on GoDaddy in a weekend.
Get the website right. It’s less work than you think, and it really matters.