In 2011, a company’s website is its face to the world. It’s where customers and prospects will interact with the company. It’s where relationships are made or are broken. The website is also where the Gen Y customer prefers to interact. The web is where customers can communicate 24×7 on any device with the company.  Leading business-to-business (B2B) marketers who realize the importance of an effective website put the website at the foundation of all marketing efforts.

Today an effective B2B website is built with easy to manage open source content management systems (CMS). These systems allow non-technical staff to easily update content and add new functionality by adding modules without writing a line of software code. They even have modules to publish content to an iPhone.

In addition to being built on a CMS, the focus of today’s modern B2B site is to engage the customer or prospect with compelling content. What does “engage” really mean? For B2B marketers it means providing content that informs the customer or prospect and moves them through a sales and marketing funnel.  The end is goal is a purchase or initiating contact with sales.

Here are ten critical components of building a effective B2B website. If you follow these tips, you can make a significant impact on your marketing ROI and turn your website into an inbound lead generation machine.

  1. Build your website site on an open source content management system like Drupal, WordPress or Joomla. What’s a CMS?  It is a piece of powerful software that manages your entire website.
  2. Hire a web designer to create User Interface (UI) templates for the CMS. Make sure the designer has experience creating templates for the CMS you plan on using.  If your budget is really tight, consider purchasing a Drupal, WordPress or Joomla design template from Templatemonster.com.
  3. Add modules to the CMS to optimize the site for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Install Google Analytics modules to measure and track what draws visitors to your site. Optimize your website for SEO. Put keywords in the title, keywords and description tags.
  4. Create custom landing pages for specific search terms. What are landing pages? They are pages on your site that a designed for SEO and have a forms to capture customer and prospect information.
  5. Integrate your website with Salesforce.com or SugarCRM. If your sales team uses a CRM system, leads from your website should be automatically published to your CRM system.
  6. Integrate your website with a marketing automation tool. A marketing automation tool will allow you to collect additional behavioral data on your site visitors and allow you to conduct lead nurturing with drip email marketing programs.
  7. Add a blog to your website. Publicize your blog on other websites to generate inbound links and boost your search rankings.
  8. Create a monthly email newsletter and allow users to subscribe via your site. Use your blog as a source of content for your newsletter.
  9. Publish how-to videos on YouTube and publish the YouTube links on your site. Once you have 10 or more videos, consider creating a YouTube channel. Recently published research shows that having video content published to YouTube with the right keywords can have a significant impact on Search Engine Results.
  10. Consider leveraging social media channels to communicate with your customers and as an employee-recruiting tool. Publish a company profile on LinkedIn.  Use Twitter to handle customer service and support questions. Put icons and links to your social media channels on your website.

At the end of the day, the primary purpose of your B2B website is to cost effectively promote your business and generate revenue. When you type your business’s import keywords into Google, you should be showing up on page one of the search results and site visitors should be converting into leads.  If this isn’t happening, maybe 2011 is the year you redo your site and turn it and inbound marketing machine.