Professional service firms will often share with me that ‘marketing’ doesn’t work for their business development efforts as they rely mainly on “word-of-mouth”. And by that, they are referring to repeat business and referrals from existing customers.
It’s common to confuse the concept of ‘marketing’ for ‘advertising’ tactics. But marketing, especially for professional service firms, is far more than a television ad, radio commercial or print ad in trade journals. In fact, for many professional service firms, traditional advertising tactics don’t make financial sense at all.
Marketing encompasses all aspects of how your company communicates, connects with and attracts new business. And that does include word-of-mouth.
But to be truly effective, marketing must differentiate, add value and give compelling reasons why your firm is the better solution for the problems clients face.
And the firm’s website needs to be the foundation for that effort.
A professional service firm website that is developed with focus and purpose can be a powerful tool for your new business efforts in the following ways:
- Help you be found when online searches are made seeking the services you offer
- Help build trust and confidence in those who are not aware of your company’s skills, capabilities and expertise
- Help support the word-of-mouth referral efforts made by those who do know, like and trust you
- Help you and your team be faster to respond and be more prepared when opportunity presents itself
So how do you know if your website is developed with focus and purpose? The following five questions can help.
What Do You Do Again?
Remember that a key role of your website is to showcase two key pieces of information – what your capabilities are and who your key customers are.
While this may seem obvious, its often overlooked. Don’t underestimate the value in simplicity and don’t take for granted that saying one thing means you do another. To be effective in a short amount of time, you are better served being specific in these areas. For instance, a municipal clerk charged with finding surveying firms for an RFP may not know that “environmental services” means you may have surveyors on staff.
One recommendation for doing this is to make two lists on a spreadsheet. In one list, put your core services (what do you do / stuff you bill for). Think of the things that make you money and you get asked to do the most. Also, don’t forget the things you want to do more of. To help with specifics, think of what a typical customer would type into Google that describes what you do. Use their language to define your services.
In the other list, think of the types of customers you work with – or want to work with – and list them. For some firms these may be the type of companies or organizations. For others, these may be markets or industries. However you think this works best for your company, again be specific and think of the customers you’re looking to attract. For each, be sure to write copy about what you know matters to these industries, work you’ve done within them and how you’ve solved problems for them.
The end goal with both of these lists is to make it very easy and obvious for the person using your site to see you do what they are looking for and you have experience solving problems for their industry or market.
Who Are These People?
Without question, the most popular and most visited pages on most professional service firms website are the team or staff pages.
Because people want to see the people they’ll be working with and not just the company name and logo.
Faces and photos are extremely effective on these pages as they help build connections to website visitors and potential customers. Adding certifications, bio’s and non-work related information will also help build human connections to the team and your company.
The talent and expertise of your company is an asset. But so too is the non-work related information (the human stuff) associated with your team. Use this area to your advantage and showcase the whole person in each of your bios and team overviews. This will help create connections and help prospects become more familiar with the people behind the company, helping to craft greater comfort in having the first conversation with you.
Can You Answer My Questions?
Adding value and being relevant to the needs of your customers is an import aspect of being a trusted professional service firm. You can demonstrate your value and expertise by having answers to common questions on your website.
Here’s a quick exercise to help.
Think back to the many conversations you’ve had with prospective customers. All the questions that have come up in the sales process, the interviewing process and the conversations you’ve had when starting new projects. Think of the questions that have taken the most of your time. The ones that come up most frequently. The ones that help to seal the deal and set you apart of the other companies. [Marcus Sheridan has a fantastic video on the subject here].
Write all those down. As many as you can think of.
And then start writing answers.
Write thorough and meaningful answers with lots of details. The same answers you’d give if a prospective customer was sitting in front you asking. Be sure to get others involved to expand the list of questions you use. Create as comprehensive a list as possible.
Here are the reasons this task has so much value:
- If folks are asking you, they are also asking Google. And many of those folks haven’t met you yet. When someone asks Google a question, Google is looking for quality answers to bring back in the search results. The more specific you can be with your question and the more in-depth you can be with your answer, the greater the chance you’ll be found when the information is looked for in Google. There’s new business opportunity in being valuable.
- If you know these questions are part of the consideration and sales process, having the answers readily available helps you build greater trust and confidence in your abilities and expertise. More importantly, it enables you to scale your value and make positive, meaningful impressions on folks when you’re not in the room.
- Once the answers are developed, you’ll no longer have to remember what you said last time when the question is asked – or will you have to take the time to write it out again. The pages of content simply become a link you can easily and quickly share. And your employees can use the information to answer similar questions, helping to build consistency in how the firm responds to frequent questions of value.
Have You Done This Before?
Your website’s goal is to help build trust and confidence. Testimonials are an important and effective way to do that. So too are project case studies and customer reviews.
Having examples of your work helps you build credibility and trust that you can do the job. Also, showing past projects along with testimonials enables a prospective customer to see others have trusted you and have been satisfied with the results. It helps lowers the risk of an unknown decision – an important factor when hiring an outside firm for the first time.
When creating case studies, project examples and testimonials, be sure to consider each of the service areas and areas served. Having a few for each will increase the effectiveness of your website in your new business efforts.
As a side benefit, the information you are gathering for the website can also be used for pitches and proposals, making your firm more proactive and prepared to respond to opportunities as they arise.
Can I Have Your Number?
When you think of all the reasons you have a website, providing easy and simple access to your contact information should be a priority.
What good is website traffic if finding your firms contact information is difficult? Perhaps the greatest frustration voiced by website visitors today is how hard it can be at times to find essential contact information.
Don’t think about just the computer when you review the placement of your contact info. With such a high percentage of website views now coming from the phone, make sure that:
- Your website is mobile responsive so it resizes for a phone
- The phone number and email address is visible and obvious to all visitors regardless of device
It’s a good idea to have your essential contact information in more than one place Placing your phone number in both the website header and footer is a good way to ensure it’s highly visible.
Beyond the basics – what else do your prospective customers need to know?
• Do you have a specific contact for new business questions?
• Is there a dedicated person, process or email for RFP submissions?
• Do you have different contacts for different industries, markets or sectors?
The more you can provide upfront to help a prospective customer better understand your business and how to interact with it, the more progress you’ll make in building trust, confidence and opportunity new business.