High Performance Building Materials Websites

Building Brands Ep 16 Tim Bouchard High Performance Building Materials Websites

A solo-cast with Tim Bouchard, Partner / CEO of Luminus, talking about what goes into planning and producing a high performance building materials website. This includes early strategic questions, visitor flow planning, and optimized creative execution all leading to a website that serves as THE best sales tool for your potential and current customers.

Episode Links
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Episode Transcript
Tim
Welcome Building Brands listeners. For this 16th episode, I’m here recording another killer solo cast for you. In this episode, I’m going to talk about what goes into planning and producing a high performance building materials website. This includes early strategic questions, visitor flow planning and optimized creative execution all leading to a website that serves as the best sales tool for your potential and current customers. Enjoy the episode.

Tim
If you’re an owner or marketer in the building materials, manufacturing, distribution, or contracting spaces, looking to set up your brand for success now and in the future, this is the podcast for you. On this show, we talk about brand and market strategies used in the real world that grow companies and truly connect with consumer audiences. So sit back, listen in and let’s get to it.

Tim
All right, time for another solo cast with yours truly.

Tim
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Tim Bouchard. I’m the CEO and partner at Luminus. We’re a creative agency that focuses on digital specializing in brand strategy and execution through websites and digital marketing campaigns. And we do a lot of work in the building materials and building products industries. I personally have a background in professional digital design and web development for over 20 years. So I love this topic. We’re going to talk about high performance building materials websites. Well, really this topic applies to any type of industry website, but this is a building materials podcast. So we’ll weave in some industry related topics into this conversation. Over the last 10 to 15 years with the advent of search and social advertising websites have become the pivotal tool in any integrated marketing plan, and your company’s best sales tool and what’s become a little bit of a DIY slash find it yourself research economy for all of our target customers. So I’ll be touching on various elements of what we at Luminus believe makes a quote unquote high performance website and why each aspect is so important to this process.

Tim
As a creative agency that focuses on digital, we’ve always been able to hang our hat on the fact that websites we make not only look amazing, but educate and motivate visitors to take action, which is really what you’re looking for a sales tool to do for you. By this point, I’m assuming most people listening to this podcast have likely been through a website project before, whether you’re someone that’s gone out and actually found the company to work with or just been part of the process to go from planning to execution. I would guess that you probably started that process something like this with a question or a statement like “we need a new website” and that was pretty much the goal to obtain a new website, which makes sense because that’s what you’re going out to find. But really what the goal is and where it’s stemming from is you’re really looking for something where you have a need, that’s more like we need more leads, or we need more search visibility or we need more customer service options. Perhaps you need an e-commerce based site so you can sell online. Those are all reasons why you might see an existing website not really working for you anymore. And it’s not performing and it’s not matching up with what your business objectives are. Everyone comes to us. And the first thing they ask is, we need a new website. And you guys seem like you’re someone that could help us with that. And that’s all true. But in our work, what really sets the websites that we’ve produced up for success starts well before that delivery of just a website by asking a very easy one word question, to get to the reason why you need the website, which is asking “why?” Just just asking why. And it sounds really simple. But in theory, what it does is it takes you out of that I need a thing mindset and turns it into a what is the goal and the objective of you starting this process, because that’s how we’re going to help you we’re going to help you reach that goal, not just make the thing that you’re asking, which is understandable. So it’s our job to help people realize why they might need something and set an actual objective to it.

Tim
So this is really the difference between planning for just a new website and planning for what we call high performance websites. What is an objective based reason for having this website, we’re going to build something that reaches that goal for you, and provides an actual tool to help with your marketing objectives or your sales objectives. What this really does is it kind of shifts the mindset. So instead of moving into a website production and creative project, what we’re really doing is we’re starting a project that begins with strategy and then moves on to creative and production. And to be completely honest, this is also what makes a successful website project takes slightly longer and have a slightly higher cost than whipping up a site that’s more or less limited to being a quick fix online brochure where Yeah, it might have a great new design, but is it going to do something for you? Was it done without any extra care or thought, and those are the things you have to consider when you’re balancing who you might work with to do a project like this? How is the website going to be used once it’s launched, because if it’s not built correctly, it may not behave well with things like digital marketing activities, or advertising, tracking, and or even customer experience and interactions.

Tim
So you’re really trying to aim further than just having a nice digitally presented brochure of information you’re looking for something that a customer can actually interact with and gain some value from, and why shouldn’t it be an investment in time and funds though? I mean, this is the central piece and engine for all of your marketing efforts. It shouldn’t be taken lightly or it could sabotage every other marketing activity success rate. If you can’t track properly on the digital marketing activities you’re doing, what is this website really doing for you if it will not convert people when they show up to it? Why spend money to get people onto the website. So those are things you have to consider. If it’s not something you invest in upfront, it could be something where you invest in it again, because it wasn’t considered upfront and that could be just as costly but not only will it cost you more money at that point, it might cost you a delay in seeing results in what your new marketing strategy is.

Tim
So let’s talk about what a high performance website means. Starting with the question why it’s such a great question. Because even though it may not be the first thing that comes to mind, some may not even know why they need the website, they just know that maybe the competition has one up on them, or it’s someone in the marketing department and their boss has just determined that this is a project that needs to be done. We have funding for it, or it’s just been so many years since the last website was made, we should do this project. So the “why” question that we asked when someone approaches us in that situation is what we’re really trying to do is uncover the real needs that can be identified to best plan for creating a high performance website, something that actually works for the company and yield some results. So when you’re talking about strategy and approaching a project this way, you really need to either have a documented and universally accepted set of strategic goals and direction for the company goals to get to understanding what channels you play well in what sets you apart from your competition, especially for websites and campaigns, because those are things where you’re trying to not only get exposure, but you’re trying to gain the interest of the target and actually motivate them to convert to visit something, download something, contact someone or buy something, whatever it might be. So if those things aren’t documented yet, that really should be the starting point.

Tim
For a project like this. This is a tool that needs to do things for you. In order for it to do something, it has to have all the elements of what would be a strategic piece of marketing collateral, really where the starts is the most important strategic piece of information that you can provide someone or have to work through and this type of process pre project is defining what the differentiated messaging or positioning statement is for your company. This is what sets you apart from your competitors this couldn’t be more important and expands well beyond the website, any effective marketing piece will carry this message, it should all be consistent across all platforms, digital social print, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing TV, video radio, you have to have a unified message behind all of your marketing a central theme behind everything. And the website will be the catch all for this. So it must reflect that when someone lands on it. A couple examples are you the cheapest or you the fastest, most durable quickest to deliver what really sets you apart from the competition. And it shouldn’t be something someone else already claims, because that will not differentiate you. So you have to find your unique angle to the market. And this is going to set up the website for success in so many different ways moving forward. Some companies may have the statement ready to go. That’s awesome. A lot of times there’s internal marketing teams, they’ve already had these conversations. Maybe they don’t have them documented. If that’s the case, maybe they can prepare that documentation to work with someone like Luminus on doing in website execution and moving into digital marketing.

Tim
For others, it may just have to be done. It may be something that has to contribute to a high performing website moving forward. So that’s where we would start with someone in that situation. Other things to consider when you’re you’re doing the planning for website would be looking at what the competitors are doing. The people that you’re out in the market trying to compete against in your industry, what are they doing for their customers on their websites? What are they doing for their customers in a service aspect? Are there answers that you can provide in this part of the early stages of the project that will give extra credibility to the differentiation statement that you’re saying? And also, will this uncover opportunities to provide a better experience for your visitors that those competitor websites are falling short in? Is there a tool or a resource library, a certain way of converting a customer into a phone call sale or email that they aren’t doing that could be more beneficial and more value add driven to the visitor.

Tim
This is the type of information you could take into planning the site structure which changes the game for taking someone from landing on the site to helping them in their visitor flow. And how do the competitor websites look, you don’t want to mistakenly plan and design something that looks or sounds too similar to a competitor because again, you won’t be differentiated, you’ll look like you rip them off, it’ll just be a very awkward execution of launching something. So you want to you want to design to still feel like you’re x type of company, in this case, a building materials company, you’re involved in the building industry. So it should carry some themes that other websites in industry have from a design standpoint, but it should look unique compared to them as well. And a good designer can find that balance between the two. Another aspect of how to plan the strategic portions of the early stages of a website project are identifying your audience personas and who this website is for. Now, I say this but personas get a bad rap because of anecdotal stories and jokes around in the marketing profession about creating these weak profiles about simple topics like age, gender, race, financial information, and then giving them funny names like Archie the architect that humor might be warranted, despite those facts, actually still being somewhat necessary for the persona build out. The real benefit of personas is doing pain point analysis. Understanding the actual needs of a visitor on your website allows for the planning of the right content structure, and later their conversion opportunities that they will be willing to participate in, to contact you to buy or learn more, or whatever that conversion tactic might be. Addressing the need of the visitor might be the second most important thing to having the positioning statement solidified. There’s no reason to have a website unless it’s actually providing value to the people that find it. So this is one of the opportunities where you can actually identify pain points where you can create content, tools, and options for customer service that can meet the needs of the people that you’re trying to bring into your web ecosystem.

Tim
So you don’t want to leave planning the website conversion tactics like what types of thing or things are we going to lure them in with for emailing us or giving us a call, you don’t want to just guess what they would want, you actually want to understand what makes their life easier, what makes our product more appealing to them, and then build the conversion tactics around that topic. And that’s how you actually start to see a positive reaction to the conversion percentage at the end of plan visitor flow. Some companies have a lot of this documented already, like I mentioned about the positioning statement, they may have personas, they may have their competitor analysis done. And that’s great. If those things are recent, and they’ve been touched within the last five years. providing information like that up front can help move along the project. But if they aren’t documented, or they haven’t been reviewed in less than five years, then they really should be reverted to make sure that they’re still current and if they don’t exist, we need to create them because that will lead to a very successful production process of content planning and design and conversion planning and lead even further into how are you going to track results on this website. So that’s a very critical part of the early planning to get into the mindset of the website being a high performance tool for you in your marketing scheme. The information is super key.

Tim
And just to reiterate this, the differentiated positioning sets the tone for messaging throughout the website, including the content everywhere titles call to actions, general themes throughout the text. The competitor analysis kind of shows the table stakes for what you should do to get into having a new website in the industry at sort of an entry level marketing piece. From there the gaps that they fail to fill, you can identify what opportunities you have to set your website apart and make it more valuable to the target audience because the competitors don’t understand their audiences and you can build something more useful for them. That combined with really good differentiated messaging really is a win right there. And then understanding the audience personas paves the way for that useful and organized content structure that has real value paired with the types of conversions and call to actions that motivate their action.

Tim
If you’re planning on running a marketing campaign, designed to drive traffic to the site, whether it’s through optimization or paid placements, through social media or search, this work will also translate into that campaign strategy. So you’re kind of killing two birds with one stone. If you understand the messaging, you understand what the competitors are doing, and you understand who you’re trying to reach and help with this type of project for website, you can take that exact same information and apply that to planning for digital marketing campaigns. Once you launch the website, which makes these two things the website and digital marketing campaigns work in unison beautifully. Really, when you put those things together. That’s the foundation for really entering into what would be a high performance web site project. Now

Tim
Let’s talk about the process everyone’s actually used to the creative production process. Yes, everyone loves this part. Let’s dive into design. No pump, the brakes Hold up. Let’s first dive into content structure and conversion planning. So there’s a backwards logic that design dictates the structure of a website. Designed does not dictate the structure of a website. This is where pre built website themes for platforms like WordPress can kind of lead you astray without proper consideration and planning. Site mapping sets up a project for a smooth production process, even smoother than buying something that’s pre fabricated. The site structure will dictate the types of pages necessary based off of the competitive analysis and the audience insights gathered during the strategy portions of the project. So that’s kind of where you start to see that information come to fruition in actual production planning. And this leads the kind of knowing the extent of page types and each page is structure.

Tim
So this is the stuff that truly separates a high performing website from a basic brochure website is really getting down to what the purpose is for every single section of the site, and every single page within that section or page type within that section. And really, there’s like four main objectives that you’re trying to accomplish with every page of the website that you need to consider. You’re trying to guide a visitor, you’re trying to educate a visitor, help a visitor or sell someone that’s visited your site. So each purpose should align with one of those goals as part of your marketing funnel, which means most pages have a conversion opportunity for mid to late funnel activity. And that those are things that can be tracked later on once the website launches, which is very valuable from a marketing strategy standpoint. So let’s look at what early funnel pages might do. And this kind of focuses in on the guide and educate aspects of a page type purpose, the guide pages pages that are meant to get people further into the site and help them find what they’re like.

Tim
Looking for their pages that are meant to help visitors get to their desired information. So searches advanced filtration categorization pages are examples of those types of guide pages. The goal is to get a click through to a conversion page. So you can’t really convert someone on a guided page that’s just part of a visitor flow, you’re trying to get them from not knowing where they need to be to get them to a page that they should be on, which has some level of a conversion on it. And that is what you can track to start seeing how effective your pages are. The second type of early funnel page type is the educate page type. These are pages with information regarding history of the company processes for how you manufacture or value added services, the value of the product supporting content that’s more maybe how to use the product, how to install the product. The goal is to maintain a high time on page viewing along with a potential click through to conversion page. What you’re really looking for

Tim
To make sure that those pieces are useful enough to people that they’re actually continuing to read the resource, or watch the video that’s on the page, which will contribute to a high time on page. And if someone finds that educational material useful, you know, they may leave the site and then come back at a later time, or they may actually be like this product, or this material is exactly what I need. And now that I understand it, I’m going to go through to the page that’s linked at the bottom to learn more about the products or to contact someone to learn more about the service. So while they’re still an early funnel type of page, they can get people off to a page that actually has more of a conversion based purpose. So let’s talk about some of those pages to the mid funnel pages on a website on a high performance website. You’re really trying to track people into and guide people into trackable conversion situations. So in the middle of the funnel, the real good page types for this are the help pages. These are the pages

Tim
With the resources for those that have growing interest in a service or product, but they aren’t quite sure about buying yet, but these are trackable situations, you know content such as spec sheets, BIM files, digital brochures, even interactive 3d models that people can click on and move around on a page. Those are all useful tools that can help a visitor accomplish a task of figuring out how they can use a product in their job role. The goal is to elicit a clicker download of an asset that allows for an off site sales support opportunity. These are tools that they can use off on their own, that you’re providing to make their life easier, which means they’re more likely to come back and move into a more late funnel page type situation, which is the selling situations and these are all conversion based tools that show desire to purchase such as guided forms, sample cards, consultation lists, click the call button shopping cart checkouts, swatch requests, things like that the goal is to actually convert the visitor in

Tim
To a sales process, this is something where in order for them to contact you, if it’s calling they would, you would get their information over the phone. If they’re doing something online like emailing filling out a form filling out a guided form, making a purchase or requesting a sample or a swatch, you’d be collecting their information. And that’s the type of conversion that moves them into an opportunity where your sales team or accounts team can start to build a relationship with that person. They’re interested enough in the product to reach out to the company or want to get a sample. And that is an opportunity to start selling. So those are the four ways that we try and emphasize planning for each page type, the design will follow and it’ll it’ll cater to the needs of each page, but guiding, educating, helping or selling you have to have a purpose for every page that you’re planning on the site. Once you clear the content structure and page layout and visitor flow planning that opens the path to allow for the next three critical phases of the project to kick off simultaneous

Tim
And these are the ones that everyone loves seeing happen because it’s when you start to see tangible creative production, starting copywriting, design and development. We’re all fairly familiar with the design process. But let me focus on copywriting and development for a minute because these are two very important aspects to a high performing website versus just a good looking website. So in regards to design, it is possible to have a beautiful website but it will not be a high performance website without well written content. That’s true to your brand’s voice and tone, along with an intentional set of custom program functionality on the site that you can use as those help and selling conversion points for your mid to late funnel. That’s what you’re going to get with a planned website is advanced custom functionality that will work for your visitors different than just accessing information on a page like in a typical brochure site. Just a reminder, a webpage when you really break it down to its raw form is just text.

Tim
Images. That’s it, it’s text and images coated onto a page. Every page on the site requires some level of textual content that relates and informs and motivates a visitor to reach whatever goal for that page type. websites as a reminder, are usually something like 20 to 100 plus pages of content. And that’s images and text working together to form the design for those page layouts. The thing you have to consider when you’re in this project, even before this project that we’d like to poke people on, who is writing that content. Every web page is text and images, who is writing that content. There’s two approaches and it’s important to be prepared for which one you’re going to use. Utilizing a copywriter on a team like ours at Luminus to write the entire website by using a combination of things like interviews and technical bullet points and existing contents that over from your team. That’s one way we can address this. Another is having a member of your internal marketing team writing the content and having it reviewed by a copywriter on a team like ours for things like that are more brand new.

Tim
Related for voice and tone and optimization. copywriting is a time consuming and critical part of a website project. Don’t underestimate the value, but also the costs involved in getting this right. If you’re doing a project and a lot of the work is generating the content for remember that the content on the pages is going to inform and motivate visitors to convert. If that content isn’t written properly in the right voice and tone, guiding people to the right call to action, the page will fail and you aren’t going to have a high performing website. So it’s very important to get the content right, whichever approach you take, just remember how much work it is to actually generate the content for something like 20 to 100 pages on a website.

Tim
When it comes to development, any high performance website will have customized functionality built into it. The majority of this functionality will be associated with those mid to late funnel conversion tools on the site. And that all relates to helping your visitors in their mid funnel research phases and making their lives easier.

Tim
In their jobs, and then the selling phase of visitor flow, which is they’re interested in the product. And they want to know the best way to get ahold of you to get the right information and the right tools to be able to sell their client or convince their boss that this is the thing to use in their project. And that takes a very customized and unique approach to stand out from your competitors, but also to have really good tracking measures associated with those so you can tell later on what your return on investment is for the activities that you’ve planned and launched on your website. So when you pair a well written site with customized relevant functionality that gives you a high performance website that will move the needle for your business those two things are game changers. It will come with a great design any website relaunch project if you hire any decent web company will come with a modern design and layout. The difference that’s going to move the needle for the business is what do the pages on the website say to motivate your visitors to

Tim
Take an action and what tools are you providing them to take that action with that is what moves the needle for high performance websites. So when it comes to that return on investment, let’s talk about how we know that this process actually works. Any high performance website has to have a robust tracking system associated with it. This is not your set it and forget it, we install Google Analytics on your website, so we can see vanity metrics like visits and what state they’re coming from. From the strategy work done early in the project will know exactly what to track and how to pull it into a funnel based approach showing sales progress and ROI from all the activities on a website, even going as deep into what channels they’re coming from from all of your marketing activities. But if the site’s being planned properly, everything on the site can be trackable. If you have a good developer, you can set up anything on the site to be trackable. Most importantly, those mid to late funnel tools on the site in those help and sell page types that you’re planning for your visitor flow. So these are

Tim
Things like trackable phone numbers, form submissions, document downloads, interactive tool clicks, sample requests. And for some of your early stage to mid funnel activities you could have, you could be looking at your basic analytics metrics, which would be things like visits to a page and time on page just to validate that people are using those informative and guiding and educating pages that are part of your content structure. When you do this, this affords the opportunity to use tools like Google Data Studio, which you can build customized funnel reporting in, and you can pull data from all sorts of outside software’s like call tracking software. And you can use your website events like clicks and downloads that you’ve set up through tools like Google Tag Manager, your form submissions, your click to email, your sample and cart submissions. Those can all be pulled into a customized report that shows top to bottom the marketing activity coming through your website and a high performance website you should be able to see very easily

Tim
In the activity, how people are moving through this process, and what your conversion percentages, and that can all be attributed back to the source of the visitor as well are they coming from paid search, paid social organic search organic social email, that will also help you determine what channels are performing best for your market to where you reaching people that it’s actually connecting with, you may want to dial back marketing spending in channels that aren’t working for you, and move that money over to channels that are or you may might just want to increase the budget for the channels that are working for you and continue to try and improve the channels that might just need a little bit more work in their marketing strategy, but could still produce results. It doesn’t matter what you do, you can’t make those decisions unless you have the data to support those decisions. So a high performance website with really good tracking analytics will give you that data to understand what’s working for you What’s not and what changes need to be made. If you can’t understand what your site is doing for you.

Tim
Then it’s not a high performance website performance is based on measurable, positive results. And that’s the goal with any central sales tool as part of your marketing strategy.

Tim
And what are positive results? positive results would be an increase in traffic and increase in domain authority and increase in search rankings and increase in conversions and interactions on your site. Those are the types of things that are positive results that can all be measured. And those are the types of things that sites that we’ve built for clients who have taken the step to do early stretch, strategic planning, leading into good content structure and design execution have achieved with some of these processes. And that’s what we’re really looking to help people understand to get to the point where you have that high performance website. So I’ll leave you with this. Ask yourself, is my website a high performance website based on everything I’ve just heard Tim talk about, are these the types of activities we’re doing is this the approach we took

Tim
Am I getting the right types of data and results from the website that we have? Have we done enough to understand the right site structure for audiences is in this ecosystem of page types that are designed to guide educate, help and sell? Do we know what all of the purposes of our pages are? Has it just become a bloated brochure over the last couple of years? Do I know the activity and value my website’s returning with a trackable website, you should be able to take conversions and leads and do the math for how many of those turned into sales and what the closing percentage is based off of the sales and the average sales revenue. And you should be able to take that percentage in those numbers of sales and apply the average sales revenue to an actual return on investment. And if you have the channel tracking set up correctly, you could see what revenue is being driven from what channel social search paid, whatever it is, and are my digital marketing activities working in unison with my website. am I spending money to get out and digital marketing and sending it to a tool that will actually help

Tim
finish the job when someone gets to the website? Am I using even TV, radio or print ads and sending people to my website? Is that is that website finishing the job and converting them into a lead? If not, then it’s a good idea to start thinking about that why question that we talked about at the beginning of this episode, and then maybe even listening to this episode one more time, because you might be more interested in now. And I think there’s some pretty good tips in here. And I think those are things you could consider if you’re really looking to take the next step with your website project and move into that high performance tier of websites. So that’s all I have on the high performance website topic. This is normally when I asked my guests to plug their companies. For those of you that are hearing this for the first time if you don’t already know how to find out more about Luminus and what we’ve done in building materials and the sites and clients that we’ve helped in the industry. You can find us at luminus.agency L U M I N U S dot agency. You can reach me directly at tim @ luminus.agency if you have any questions and want to continue the conversation with me, I’ll be back in two weeks with a new guest and continue to provide you all insights from other building materials marketing experts, as we have the last couple of months. Thanks for listening.

Tim
If you’re interested in hearing more stories and strategic insights from industry experts, please subscribe to the Building Brands podcast on Apple, Spotify or Google. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please post a review and share with others who may be interested as well. Thanks for listening.