Small B2B businesses often settle for basic web sites that lack calls to action.

I’ve long noticed that many of their web sites come across as nondescript – just offering some basic navigation and general text with a few images along the way.

I decided to document their efforts in detail with the “Small Business B2B Call to Action Study,” which includes 200 U.S. small businesses (randomly selected from the ReferenceUSA database). I set some loose parameters like companies with fewer than 100 employees in manufacturing, construction, professional services and other industries.

Presented by Small Business Trends, the 30-page study includes a companion checklist with dozens of tips and insights about how to design and structure web sites for a wide range of conversion opportunities.

homepage call to action

Here are some of the highlights:

  • 70 percent don’t include any distinctive calls to action on their home pages, such an e-mail newsletter or a free report about an industry topic.
  • 72 percent don’t feature calls to action on interior web site pages.
  • 82 percent don’t promote their social media profiles.
  • 96 percent of home pages don’t include industry how-to guides or white papers on their home pages.
  • 27 percent don’t include a phone number on their home pages.
  • 31 percent that do display a phone number don’t put it anywhere that stands out.
  • 68 percent don’t reference an e-mail address on their home pages.
  • 38 percent of web sites that do include an e-mail address tend to tuck it away in the footer.

The study is also summarized in a “Small Business Mistakes” infographic.

small business mistakes infographic

Rather than simply summarize the data, I included actual examples in the study – the good and the bad. For example, the report includes screenshots that show how some companies understand calls to action. But other small businesses aren’t likely to win over prospects because they can’t even get the basics right (featuring “logo goes here” on every page doesn’t make a great first impression).

It’s not that visitors can’t connect with the small businesses. It’s often not too difficult to track down a phone number. But I’m amazed that so many web sites bury it at the bottom next to a copyright symbol. I presume that’s just because a web designer made that decision. Intuitively, a small business owner can say, “Please place it at the top of the page.”

Generally, small businesses do have some type of “Contact” or “Contact Us” navigation tab. Unfortunately, it’s displayed as just another navigation item, blending in with all of the other ones.

If a small business owner wants someone to call or send an e-mail (or fill out a form), can’t the “Contact” tab include a distinctive color or larger font? Shouldn’t it be one of the first navigation options and not the last?

Can small businesses keep their doors open without getting overly concerned about calls to action? Absolutely. I didn’t rate their copyright dates, but I sensed that the small businesses have been around for years. With all of the local, national and international competition, why wouldn’t small business owners want to make inroads with conversions?

Small businesses have many options to engage their visitors. You don’t need to neglect sales, networking and operations to write a 40-page white paper. You could create a 3-4 page educational guide that reflects their knowledge and provides value to a potential customer. Just ask for a name and e-mail before handing over the thought leadership report.

How effective is your web site? How easy or difficult is it for someone to contact your business? Do you use response forms? Is your phone number prominent or listed at the end of all of your content on some pages? What information do you give away to people who are willing to share their e-mail address to tap into your expertise?

About the Author: A former journalist, Mike Murray created Online Marketing Coach to help small businesses with their web sites. He also authors studies and speaks at regional and national conferences. Get to know him more through Twitter @mikeonlinecoach.