I was talking to a leader of a professional service firm the other day who said – our website is our store-front. I think there is great wisdom in this statement. In today’s digital world, people believe what they read, see and hear. Much of that reading, seeing and hearing takes place on your website. Prospects window-shop your storefront by spending time on your website.
But I also hear another common concern when speaking with leaders of professional service firms. Their websites don’t seem to stimulate leaning-in behavior where prospects want to work with them and request a conversation after visiting their website.
Can your website become a driver of new client acquisition? Can your website pull great prospects into meaningful conversations? Absolutely yes. Let me show you how to do this.
In our experience, most sales conversations begin with an insight that has been shared by the service provider.
Why the online brochure has failed us
To understand how your website can pull great prospects into sales dialogue, we first have to understand what kind of website is effective. You see, most service-firm websites these days are online brochures, where the majority of the content inside the website is about the company. This is wrong. Dead wrong.
Online brochures are ineffective for three primary reasons:
- They don’t differentiate
- They don’t stimulate consideration
- They don’t pull prospects along the in-bound journey
Let’s think about each of these points for just a moment.
Online brochure websites don’t differentiate
Most service firms operate in pretty competitive marketplaces where it can be difficult to stand out from the pack. Can your website help you do this? Oh yes. But an online brochure, by its very nature, will not help you achieve this goal.
Let’s begin by examining the buttons in primary navigation for most professional service firms. Here is what I typically see:
- About us
- Our services
- Our team
- Why choose us
- Our blog
- Contact us
Sound familiar? Just by this metric alone, the buttons in primary navigation, it’s impossible to stand apart if your website sounds like this. Think about this from the perspective of your potential idea client for just a moment.
Let’s assume they land on your website and start looking around. The first thing they might notice is that your website sounds very much like the 4-5 other websites they just visited – your competitors. While your graphics might be different, your message sounds the same to them. They can’t immediately tell the difference between your company and your competitors simply because of the way your website is structured today.
But here’s the most important idea. They didn’t land on your website to learn about your company. They visited your site because they have some big goals to accomplish and they were really hoping you might have some ideas to help them along that journey.
Online brochure websites don’t stimulate consideration
This is a major reason that online brochures are not helping service firms engage in sales conversations with great prospects. Consideration is the process whereby a prospect thinks about your ideas and how they might apply to their unique situation. They are literally chewing on your counsel, if you give it to them.
We see the process of consideration taking place online now for months and sometimes even years at a time. A prospect will visit a website and chew on an idea from a service provider. But that prospect may not have need, budget, timeline or a reason to act at that given moment.
Over time, they will have need, budget, timeline and reason to act. But if your website never gave them ideas to chew on, they won’t think of you first. Your contact us button won’t be at the top of their list.
You see, this is why a website that is primarily about your company doesn’t work for stimulating sales conversations. In our experience, most sales conversations begin with an insight that has been shared by the service provider.
Online brochure websites don’t pull prospects along the in-bound journey
When service firms tell me that they’re struggling to have meaningful sales conversations with great prospects, my first step is to look at their website. Almost inevitably I find a dearth of ideas and insights on their website.
You see, I really do believe that your best new client is actively looking for you right now. They want to talk to you. They want to benefit from your years of experience and ideas. But they don’t want to get burned. And they’ve been burned several times in the past. This is why they’re hesitant to talk to you.
This is all about building trust and affinity. And the way you do that is by giving them great idea after great idea and in a way that allows them to digest those ideas over time. This is why, when you visit our website, you’ll find all sorts of ideas packaged up in all sorts of ways.
We know that sometimes when people visit our website, they have 5 minutes. Other times when they come to our website, they might have 15 minutes or more. Some people will come and spend hours on our website, consuming our ideas and considering how the ideas can help them.
This is what we call the in-bound journey. In our experience, most people pass along the in-bound journey in four stages:
- Anonymous: Contacts surf your website without identifying themselves.
- Acknowledged: Contacts fill out a form for one of your high-value content assets and spend time consuming that content.
- Engaged: Prospects register for more than one gated content asset and visit a wide range of web pages.
- Leaning-in: Prospects are predisposed to want to engage with you, but may or may not have a project and budget at the moment.
If your website doesn’t pull people along this in-bound journey, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll ever enter sales dialogue with your company.
So if the online brochure doesn’t work, what will work? What will pull prospects along the in-bound journey and cause them to want to lean-in to you?
A much better way – the ideas-driven website
The ideas-driven website is the single most powerful tool at your disposal today. If you brainstorm the best ideas you can possibly think of to guide your ideal clients and then package those ideas on your website, you win.
Prospective ideal clients want your insights and will give you’re their trust, their affinity and eventually their money if you give them great ideas first. This is not a simple process and it takes time. But the payoff is huge.
How to build an ideas-driven website
I’ve developed a new E-Book called Ten Things Service Websites Must Do To Drive Revenue. This free, 52-page E-Book shows you exactly how to build an ideas-driven website. The E-Book also includes an audio E-Book delivered chapter-by-chapter for busy people on the go who prefer to listen to ideas while on a plane, while working out or simply relaxing.
If you want to make your website into a dynamic driver of great new clients, I know you’ll thoroughly enjoy this E-Book.