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We have some good news, and some bad news. Your website is the top source of new sales leads -- second only to personal connections and referrals, and more than seven times more effective than social media. However, your website still underperforms in terms of lead generation. All of this is according to a new survey by Demandbase, which aimed to learn more about how B2B corporate websites act as lead generation tools.

Optimizing the Web Experience

The 2011 Demandbase National Marketing and Sales Study outlined what is probably the biggest challenge facing the B2B market -- though companies have invested heavily in the corporate website, they are doing little to optimize the web experience for those very audiences they have worked so hard to attract.

For as much time and effort companies dedicate to making their websites just right -- from a design perspective. But when it comes to using your website’s data and analytics to evolve your company’s sales strategy, most are not doing all that they can. The survey indicates that web analytics capabilities need improvement -- only 19% of respondents report that no improvement is needed around tracking and reporting around registered website visitors. Resource constraints top the list as to why the need is so great.

Optimizing the web experience for the customer isn’t just necessary for generating leads, it’s also helpful for learning more about who your customers are. The survey showed a growing interest in creating “buyer personas” to help B2B marketers better tailor marketing strategies to the individuals within companies tasked with purchasing their products. Yet, personas don’t necessarily help you if you don’t know who the visitor is that is hitting your site right now.

Traditionally, B2B marketers don’t sell to individuals; instead they sell to companies, and by targeting prospects by company, industry and size, rather than by individual buyer behavior, they have a better chance at converting more website visitors. As a result, before marketers can create web content, they must first determine where it belongs in the business buyer’s purchase cycle. Every decisionmaker in the process should be considered, and campaigns and content must be relevant to each stakeholder’s interest.

Measure Website Performance By Digging Deeper

This isn’t just good advice for B2B companies, but for all organizations needing to understand how users engage with their content online. As well, the survey also indicates that most companies are still using stale metrics to measure their website’s performance. Your site’s traffic can only tell you so much. Marketers need to better track other types of information, including the origin of site visitors, which is an important indicator of the efficacy of various marketing campaigns. All campaigns eventually lead to the website, but unless you can distinguish between leads generated by email, search, social or display advertising, your marketing strategy isn’t effectively optimized.

Additionally, it doesn’t matter how much information your web analytics software package can report if you’re not dedicating the appropriate time to understanding what it means and using it to guide your sales and marketing strategies. Like a lot of things, technology will only get you so far. B2B companies aren’t the only ones ignoring the data, but they can probably gain the most from paying closer attention.