A couple of weeks ago, a friend a mine asked me if he could pick my brain about developing his website. After talking for a while, I realized the questions he was asking were probably common for many professional service marketers as well. While he understood the basics of developing a website, his questions were more about the big picture and what makes an effective website.
I boiled the essentials of an effective website down to four simple ideas:
1) Your site is not for everyone
Let's face it, you cannot please everyone with your website. By trying to appeal to everyone, you are taking the risk at watering down your competitive advantage. Fact: if you build a website for everyone, it will appeal to no one. Focus on your key target audience(s) and develop and build a website around them. Having a good strategy is critical in this process.
2) Go beyond capabilities; think services and your people.
The most common mistake I see organizations make is that they talk too much about themselves. Their websites are based on an internal perspective and “their” capabilities and very little on their people and their client’s services. When a firm is competing with similar firms, one of the best ways to differentiate is to demonstrate the business culture of the firm. Fact: your people are invaluable and your biggest and most important asset to your firm.
3) Social media is what you make of it
These days you cannot avoid social media, it is everywhere. We are consistently being exposed to it. Fact: Social media is about networking and branding. And, it can be an effective extension of your marketing efforts when implemented strategically. Instead of abandoning the possibility of having social media, be creative and think about how you can use it to better position your firm.
At all professional service firms, discretion and confidentiality is paramount. However, you can develop a social media plan around your alumni programs, pro bono efforts, news and events and recruitment. Not only will you increase web traffic, but you will highlight your thought leadership and promote your culture.
4) Less is more when it comes to content
Remember the teacher on Peanuts? Who talks like this? “Waa waa waa waa”.
Well, if your website has endless paragraphs of business jargon and an overload of text, that is exactly what the website will convey to your visitors.
Fact: visitors are scanning your website and not reading. Don’t make them work for the information they want.
Incorporating callouts, charts, quotes and other graphical elements are some of the ways to increase the ability to scan your site and increase the engagement factor.
Planning and building a professional service website is not easy or lightly undertaken. You have a lot of important information that has to be communicated effectively. Spend more time on your sitemap and wireframes in addressing these issues early in the process. The more time you spend at the beginning stages, the fewer mistakes you will make later in the development.
Let us hear your comments and experiences with website design.