Ultimate Home Page Website Guide for B2B Startups

Remember the game Plinko?
Jan. 29, 2024
Otto Pohl

If you have a kid, you might have heard of a Twitch (and now Kick) streamer named Roshtein, who livestreams himself playing casino games up to 10 hours every day to an audience of over a million people. I’ll let you do the praying for the future of humanity, but I will credit Roshtein with repopularizing the classic game Plinko.

I remember Plinko as a game on the gameshow The Price Is Right. Contestants drop a token at the top and then hope it lands on a big payday at the bottom, while Bob Barker (later Drew Carey) provide encouragement. When I recently saw a clip of that game I realized that it’s the visual representation of how most startup websites treat online traffic. You open your site to the public, let them bounce down whatever content you’ve prepared for them, and pray they land on Buy at the bottom.

There’s a better way.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but guidelines-that-fit-most is likely all you need right now. I’ve created and edited hundreds of startup B2B websites, and I learned from seeing (and making!) pretty much every mistake in the book.

I want you to win. I’m not worried about “giving away” all my ideas because great founders hire other people to create more hours in a day, not because they couldn’t do it themselves. If this guide gives you all you need, just send me a thank you!

These are the 7 things your website home page should do:

  1. Describe the value that your company creates. How will my life become better?
  2. Describe how you create that value. How are you able to solve my problems?
  3. Provide social proof. Letting customers and partners validate you shifts the visitor mindset from “is this even for real?” to “how am I the last person to hear about this?”
  4. Show that value being created. This might be a smiling user with a screenshot, it might be a product photo, or a graphic showing your process.
  5. Provide a next step. Be clear what action you want me to take, and make it easy.
  6. Describe the benefits. Starting from the top, prioritize and highlight everything great.
  7. Target explicitly. If I’m in your target demographic, I should feel this site was built for me.

Customers > Product. Before I go into depth on the points above, keep in mind that your website should address the customer from their perspective. Your product is only what helps the customer achieve success. Show that you understand their pain and their dreams. Structure the site around who they are and what they need, not abstract product names. Meet them where they are.

Describe the value your company creates.Your top-of-page headline should describe how you make life better for the customer. This should be something that the customer knows they want before they learn about your company. Check out Vendelux, which sells conference attendee lists to event marketers. The top tagline: “Meet More Customers at Conferences.” That’s the value the company creates and is something everyone knows they want, even before they learn about the solution Vendelux provides.

Describe how you create that value. How does Vendelux help you meet more customers at conferences? They offer “AI-powered insights on attendees and sponsors of 160,000+ B2B events.” For Precision Neuro, their Value is “Restoring freedom through brain–computer interfaces” and they describe how they create it with “We’re building powerful, minimally invasive brain implants that will help provide breakthrough treatments to people with neurological conditions.” In their case, “restoring freedom” is too vague not to add a bit of description about that they do, but then the bulk of the explanation is left to the subhead. Potentially at the top, but more likely lower down on the page, be sure to compare how your product is better than conventional alternatives.

Provide social proof. It’s always more powerful when someone brags about you, instead of you bragging about yourself. Bring in whatever proof points you have—customer logos, quotes, 5-star review counts, press quotes, anything. If you’re very early stage, use logos of your incubator, grant provider, partners, or university, and upgrade as soon as you can.

Show that value being created. Drift has a happy user and some screen shots. Stepfunction has customer photos and screen snippets. Kadeya shows their water vending machine. Irrigreen’s water sprinkler background video is kind of mesmerizing. We’re a visual species—play to it. If you can combine social proof with the visuals, even better.

Provide a next step. A website is an action verb. It should move visitors down the conversion funnel. Even if you’re pre-launch and you’re just trying to capture potential interest, feed the interest and get their email address. A website not working to convert is like the proverbial tree falling without anyone around to hear it. So: add a prominent button or link high up and then throughout the site to make it clear. For products or services that clearly take more salesmanship to sell, potentially including a call or demo, there’s still a benefit of adding a “Buy Now” button at the top: it makes it clear that you’re ready to do business. I can’t tell you how many startup websites I have visited and wondered if the medical device, construction material, or AI-powered tool is actually available yet. If your sales cycle is long, then best practice is to have a “Learn More” or “Book a Call” meeting link next to the Buy Now button. The button sets the expectation and frames the interaction. The Learn More button provides the realistic next step.

Describe the benefits. This one probably comes easy to you, but I see them done in the wrong order all the time. “Only takes 5 minutes!” is great, but only after you’ve convinced me that I want your product or service in the first place, otherwise that’s still 5 wasted minutes. So save your “fast, cheap, and easy” benefits until you’ve impressed upon me how amazing your thing is.

Target explicitly. If you’re targeting blockchain engineers, like Transpose, then write the page clearly for them. Most founders struggle with the tension between wanting to serve everyone and focusing on their first market. Just remember—Amazon’s first slogan was “Earth’s biggest bookstore.” All Bezos did was focus on book buyers. If he hadn’t crushed that first market, I couldn’t have bought new wireless headphones and Italian 00 pizza flour from him last week.

Other points and potential items:

Headlines: I don’t ever want to see another section descriptor moonlighting as a headline, like “Benefits” or “How It Works.” Use that space and font size to sell. Every headline on Spendesk carries its weight.

Videos. Animated explainers, happy customer interviews, your founder’s TED talk. It’s all great. Just know that they’re typically more expensive, have a longer lead time, and are harder to edit, so they often are quickly out of step with the rest of the site. When you’re ready to put down the big money like the Watchman heart implant, you can make really cool videos.

How It Works. This section is often worthy of a whole inside page, but there’s nothing wrong with highlighting the 3 easy steps to using your product. Talebook highlights how their service works and invites you to a full inside page on it.

Comparisons to popular alternatives. When your product is clearly competing with existing alternatives, consider a comparison chart or similar. Again, this might often be detailed on an inside page. Many companies find they get significant traffic from a “competitor vs mycompany” google search, like slite.

More social proof. I dare you to try and have too much of it. Case studies, a carousel of customer quotes, a highlight of awards you’ve won. Elektra Health features client stories.

Address obvious objections. Some products or services evoke the same set of objections. For example, Visitor.us helps visitors to the US purchase cars. Aside from really needing to focus on social proof, we spent a lot of time creating and simplifying a graphic that explained why Montana is the best state in the union to register a vehicle as a foreigner.

Some company types that differ the most from the framework:

  • Pre-revenue health sciences. I normally caution against selling to investors on your site, but if you are well before major prerequisite milestones such as in-human trials or FDA clearance, your customer audience is investors. When you’re years away from even potentially selling your product, your product today is essentially a lottery ticket for a potential huge payday. So mentioning things that would appeal to investor, like market size, is perfectly reasonable.
  • Stealth or near-stealth. I’ll work with startups that are still refining their invention and they need a web presence, but something that doesn’t reveal too much. Obviously, cut back on a lot of the sections above. But still: provide a next step, such as email signup.

I’ll post articles about how to optimize the rest of your site soon. In the meantime, get busy on your home page!

Otto Pohl is a communications consultant who helps startups tell their story better. He works with deep tech, health tech, and climate tech leaders looking to create profound impact with customers, partners, and investors. He has taught entrepreneurial storytelling at USC Annenberg and at accelerators across the country. Learn more at www.corecommunicationsconsulting.com