December 8th, 2023

Core Deliverables for Manufacturing Websites

Author: Eric Lynch
Eric Lynch
Partner & Director of Business Development

Shopping for a manufacturing website? Here’s what you need.

For decision makers in the manufacturing technology sector, selecting the right partner for your website rebuild goes beyond a baseline price comparison. That’s because a website project is really a web dev, brand, and marketing project all rolled into one. Executed correctly, it has the potential to transform your business:

  • By positioning your brand as a cutting-edge innovator, it can earn you a seat at the table of larger accounts.
  • By raising the prominence of your key resources, it can change the nature of conversations that happen between customers and prospects alike.
  • By telling the story of who your company is and where it’s going, it can help you attract the talent you need to get there.

Identifying an agency that’s including the right components in your web package is not straightforward. Every development firm has a different process and many don’t focus on brand development or marketing. On the flip side, many marketing agencies who advertise websites may be relying on prepackaged themes or page builders that will slow down your performance—and that’s before you get into the different needs and strategies of B2B vs B2C businesses.

Our own expertise spans brand, marketing, and web development, and our focus on the manufacturing technology sector means we know exactly what these businesses need when they’re approaching this kind of project. Whether you’re talking to us or another agency, here are the baseline deliverables that should be included in your scope of work.

1. Clear brand statement.

Even if you plan to handle writing the copy in-house, the design of your website should be grounded in a clear statement of purpose—something you, your employees, and your customers can all quickly grasp and recognize as true. As the headline of your site, it will set the tone for the overall look and feel, including what images are selected to support it. Without a brand statement, your website is likely to feel incoherent and unconvincing.

Many web designers will use lorem ipsum text as placeholder copy at different points during the process, and there is nothing wrong with that. But if you’re talking to a team who plans to turn over a fully lorem ipsum site when they’re done—and you don’t have another team providing them with branding and copy—then you’re going to find yourself struggling to match your brand to the website rather than having your website fulfill your brand.

2. Visible call to action.

When someone visits your website, do they know what to do? Too often, manufacturing websites leave the ball in the visitor’s court. But a funny thing about human psychology is that most of us like to be told what to do (to an extent). Making decisions is tiring. We want to do as little work as possible to achieve our desired outcome.

You can make the work your visitors are doing on your website a lot easier with an unmistakable call-to-action (CTA). Your top-level CTA may not be what everyone wants to do right away, but it should be your highest-priority action. CTAs of a lower hierarchy will guide visitors deeper into your site or help them navigate sub-pages.

The bottom line is your visitors should never hit a dead end where they have no clear next step. If they do, then their next step will be to close your window and leave the site.

3. Clean, orderly navigation.

As users move deeper into your site, the navigation menu will be their lifeline back to familiar territory. A menu that is cluttered, overly complex, or poorly labeled will only confuse visitors and leave them lost and frustrated. On the other hand, a navigation menu that is hidden or overly stripped down can leave users struggling to find what they need.

Fortunately, website architecture has evolved from the days of side panels and hamburger menus. Today’s solution is mega navigation—a more developed menu that allows for more robust design without overwhelming the visitor.

4. Deeper content than listings of products, services.

In the manufacturing industry more than others, it’s common to see websites where the owners have treated their navigation menus as just that: menus. They list products and services, but few of them get their own page of content. These shallow listings make it hard for pages to rank well on search engines, and they also limit the business’s marketing capabilities. If products and services don’t have pages, then they don’t have URLs, which means your team can’t link to them.

Product and service pages should be listed among your design mock-ups, and when those designs come in, they should be for robust pages that allow you to highlight the value proposition and key differentiators of your business. You’re not just showing what you have, you’re telling a story about why your customer needs it.

5. Having industries and applications instead of just products and services.

Visitors with clear purchasing priorities are likely to head straight to your product and service pages. But what about those who are still in the research and discovery buying stage, who may be open to new solutions, or who are looking for long-term partners with expertise in their field?

Industry and application pages give you a new angle to pitch the unique value proposition of your business based on specific audiences. For example, if you’re a QC business selling visioning systems and all you have is a product page, your visitors may go straight to the page of the product they bought before.

But if you’ve recently improved your systems with new technology specifically for autonomous vehicles, then an “Automotive” industry page can showcase that technology among your range of other products, while an “Autonomous Vehicles” applications page might attract the interest of someone in the agriculture industry who’s recently invested in self-driving tractors.

6. Are there resources? Are they gated?

Next question: How deep is your bench of high-value resources? I’m talking about white papers, case studies, brochures, purchasing guides, sales slicks, etc. Do these resources exist? If they do exist, are they open for anyone to download, or do you require users to enter their email (what’s known as gating the content) to be mailed your resource?

Not all content needs to be gated, and leaving some content ungated can give visitors a taste of what you offer while also building some good will. But putting your most high-value pieces behind an email download helps you identify marketing qualified leads, and creates a pathway that can help you nurture those contacts toward making direct contact with your team.

7. Is there a blog? Are articles regularly posted?

Blogs have become commonplace on many industry websites. What’s less common is seeing them updated with regular, high-quality content. Many businesses rely on them solely for the sporadic news update, which means that, instead of showcasing your business’s activity and thought leadership, you’re only broadcasting your lack of engagement in your industry.

Imagine the opposite scenario. Instead of a wasteland of dated press releases, your blog is a record of timely, insightful articles. Your archive shows regular, consistent posting on topics covering a range of relevant ideas across all your service industries, and visitors can easily explore related articles, becoming better informed about your business and its value proposition as they go. How’s that for a core deliverable.

8. Does your content cross-reference?

A key part of making content findable is placing it in relevant parts of the site where visitors can discover it, even if they don’t navigate to a resource page directly. If a visitor is browsing your industry pages, for instance, you’d want them to see case studies that are relevant to that industry. If someone’s viewing a service page, you want them to see blog articles that are relevant to that service.

Your site architecture can make this possible—and it’s a key reason to work with a custom-built site rather than one that relies on page builders. By tagging and categorizing your content, you can then develop page areas that will pull from your library to place case studies, white papers, and blog articles where they’re most likely to attract attention.

9. What does the contact/quote form look like?

Finally, let’s talk about your contact form. This is often the ultimate destination for visitors on your site. The goal of a well-structured form should be twofold:

  1. It should qualify form submissions so that spam bots and bad leads don’t get through;
  2. It should maximize the number of qualified leads so they aren’t put off by a lengthy process.

Your contact form can qualify leads by including fields for the user’s job title and company URL, their project budget, and a brief description of their needs. Or it can prompt users to schedule a call directly with an account rep, or offer to email a custom quote to the address they provided so that your service team can be in direct contact.

Your website is more than a URL.

At the end of the day, the biggest threat to the success of your website overhaul is not thinking big enough. Your digital presence has a far-reaching impact on your brand, and a well-built site can have potential beyond merely keeping up with the competition.

If you’re considering a rebuild of your manufacturing technology website and want to learn more about how to set your project up for success, why not schedule a complimentary needs-analysis call? We offer commitment-free strategy sessions to help you gain clarity about the requirements of your project, refine your expectations around budget and timeline, and define the questions you should really be asking when you begin vetting agencies. Just pick an available time on my calendar, and let’s talk.

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