I visit the websites of professional service firms all the time. In a given week, I might view 50 different websites from service firms in a number of different industries including accounting, law firms, technology consulting, financial services, architecture and others.
As I navigate through these websites, I can’t help but ask myself who these sites were built to satisfy? I’ve been a part of numerous web builds over the last 10 years or so. I’ve watched as organizations struggle with all sorts of questions. Typically, they ask what their website should look like, what kind of impression they should make and how to look professional?
But these are not the most important questions to ask if you want your website to actually drive new revenue. The question is this: what kind of experience do we need to deliver to ideal organic prospects to cause them to lean in to us? If you get this right, your website will pull great prospects through the sales funnel and compel them to enter real sales dialogue with your firm. Let me show you how to do this.
YOUR WEBSITE IS THE POINT OF ENTRY INTO YOUR SALES FUNNEL
THE TOP 5 SERVICE-FIRM WEBSITE STRATEGIES TODAY
If you want your website to become a real driver of revenue and not just a pretty brochure, here are five strategies I recommend:
- Shift your mindset from brochure to heartbeat of the digital ecosystem.
- View your website as the point of entry into the sales funnel.
- Speak to what matters to ideal clients first and then talk about your firm.
- Use content marketing to pull ideal prospects through the sales funnel.
- Deploy the ultimate digital marketing stack.
Let’s explore these a bit.
SHIFT YOUR MINDSET FROM BROCHURE TO HEARTBEAT OF THE DIGITAL ECOSYSTEM
When I ask service professionals what they want their website to do for them, the most common answer I hear is “make us look good.” This answer stems from a flawed view of what websites are, how they work and what you should expect from them.
Let me explain what I mean. A lot of service professionals seem to believe that the experience of website users operates along these lines:
- A person finds out about a given service provider, often by way of referral, and wants to learn more.
- This person goes to the website and takes a look around. They click on a number of pages and are impressed by what they see. They tick a box in their mind which says – okay this firm is a player and I should consider them as a service provider.
- This person calls the main number on the website or sends an email requesting a proposal.
In this conception of how websites work, the mission of the website is to confirm assumptions that already exist in the mind of a prospect who is predisposed to say yes. A website, in this model, is essentially a brochure that causes someone to say – hey I like this company and their people. They look professional, like winners.
This is absolutely the wrong way to view your website. I say this for two primary reasons:
- The scenario I described here is not at all how website users actually behave today.
- This mind-set prevents you from making your website the center of your digital marketing ecosystem.
If your website is simply a digital brochure, then your expectations are that users will peruse the site much the way they view magazines or newspapers, starting on page one and thumbing through to the end. This is not at all how people use websites. I know this because I look at the digital footprints of thousands of websites users from service firm websites every month.
Instead, users jump all over the place. They click a link here, read a headline there, skim a page, read a full article, start a video but don’t finish it, look at your people and then maybe view a service or two. If you haven’t built your website to anticipate this kind of erratic activity, you are working on false assumptions. This is not, however, the biggest problem with brochure-based websites.
For your website to drive revenue and new client acquisition, it needs to operate as the heartbeat of your digital ecosystem, the destination-point to which you draw ideal prospects. You can pull these prospects to your website, using a variety of strategies and content types, from other parts of the digital ecosystem including social media, other websites and email marketing. Let me explain how this works:
- An ideal prospect sees an article on LinkedIn about a topic that really matters to them.
- They read the article and are impressed with the insights.
- They see an offer at the end of the article to get a free ebook.
- They click the link, go to the website, fill out a form and download the ebook.
- They read the opening page or two and discover the author’s name.
- They click back to the website and view the author’s profile page.
- They go back to LinkedIn, search for the author and send a connection request.
- Over the next few days, they read the ebook as time permits.
This is how the digital ecosystem works today. People click from one digital property to another with the greatest of ease. They start and they stop. But if you are smart, you are making your website the destination-point, the very center, for all of your digital marketing. Why? Because you are in complete control of your website and this allows you to shape the user experience to produce outcomes that matter to both of you.
VIEW YOUR WEBSITE AS THE POINT OF ENTRY INTO YOUR SALES FUNNEL
A visit to your website could be and should be the entry point into your sales funnel. Now just to be clear, not everyone who visits your website will be an ideal prospect. Most websites get traffic from a variety of different users for different reasons. You can ignore those users who are not a great fit for your services.
But for your website to drive revenue, you need to view it as the gateway for ideal prospects. This means that you are anticipating a journey you want to take them on that culminates in a signed proposal for your services. I believe this journey has 5 stages:
Awareness: Prospects become aware of your brand, services and content.
Consideration: Prospects sample your content to see how you can help them.
Interest: Prospects engage in serious dialogue, requesting a proposal.
Evaluation: Prospects evaluate your proposal against their needs and competitive offerings.
Selection: Prospects accept your proposal and move to next steps.
Of these five stages, your website facilitates Awareness and Consideration. It is very common for prospects to never have visited a service provider’s website before, to never have heard of them before, and to click through from other parts of the ecosystem. This happens on our website every month.
This is what we call the ideal organic prospect. This type of prospect does not know about your firm before they started their inbound journey. They were not predisposed to say yes to you. They did not know your people and were not a referral.
If you build the right kind of website, you can create a sales funnel that starts from the very minute the prospect clicks through. But to make this happen, you have to change what you talk about.
SPEAK TO WHAT MATTERS TO IDEAL CLIENTS FIRST AND THEN TALK ABOUT YOUR FIRM
When I visit the websites of most service firms, I see a pretty common set of options in primary navigation:
- About us
- Who we serve
- Our team
- Our services
- Our blog
- How we’re unique / Why work with us
- Contact us
Does this sound like your website? If it does, you are missing a major opportunity. Today’s empowered service buyer wants to buy, not be sold. They see themselves as in control of the journey. If your website only talks about you, why you’re great and why prospects should pick you, then it’s really not about them. That’s backwards.
Great client experiences shouldn’t start once someone signs an agreement with you. Great client experiences can start the minute they visit your website. If you build a website that talks about what matters to ideal prospects, their goals, opportunities and challenges, and then talks about you, you’ll get much better results.
TODAY’S EMPOWERED SERVICE BUYER WANTS TO BUY, NOT BE SOLD.
USE CONTENT MARKETING TO PULL IDEAL PROSPECTS THROUGH THE SALES FUNNEL
A moment ago I described the 5-stage sales funnel that we see today for service buyers. You can pull ideal prospects through this funnel by way of great content marketing. This can include articles, videos, reports, white papers, webinars and so much more.
When you give prospects great ideas, they come to see you as a trusted advisor. I call this taking the presumptive trusted advisor stance, where you presume to be their advisor before they become your client.
Look at it from the standpoint of a prospect. Who would you rather choose: someone who’s never given you a good idea but who you suspect might be a good fit or someone who’s already shared some great ideas and who you believe will be a good fit?
Content marketing creates confidence in the mind of prospective clients. It propels them forward in the sales funnel.
DEPLOY THE ULTIMATE DIGITAL MARKETING STACK
I describe the ultimate digital marketing stack for services firms using this acronym: CMS+MA+CRM+SMM=Success. This is the software stack you need to pull ideal prospects all the way through your sales funnel.
CMS stands for content management system. This is the tool that firms use to manage their websites and provision content. MA stands for marketing automation. CRM stands for client relationship manager. SMM stands for social media manager.
You need this stack to provision content, track and score digital footprints from prospects and to engage them in meaningful dialogue. To learn more about the digital marketing stack, please see my recent article on this topic.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE
Your website can be so much more than an online brochure for your company. More than that, your website can serve as the entry point to your sales funnel. I wish I had more time to explain how to do this right here. However, you can go even further by downloading a great ebook I’ve written.
It’s called TEN THINGS SERVICE WEBSITES MUST DO TO DRIVE REVENUE and it’s available right now. If you want to take your website to the next level, this ebook will be a great step in that direction.