In today’s competitive professional services landscape, websites are more important than ever. New clients will take most of their in-bound journey on your website. You make your brand, services and value proposition distinct and clear through your website.
You differentiate from competitors, in large part, through your website. Or do you? Is this even possible? Why is it that so many professional services websites seem to be so similar that prospects can hardly tell them apart?
My answer? Most professional service websites today are online brochures. They talk about their company, people, services and why they’re great. Is this the best we can do? Are we really at the mercy of convention? I don’t think so. I want to show you a better way. I want you to understand the value of an idea driven website.
No one cares about who you are or what you do until they understand how this will benefit them.
The challenges of online brochures
I think online brochures are essentially dead. These types of websites are easily identified by the links in primary navigation. Their graphics might look different. But their messages are essentially the same. Not sure what I mean?
Let’s see if these links sound familiar to you?
- About us
- Our team
- Our story
- Our services
- How we’re unique
The list goes on and on. While the naming convention for these links in primary navigation may change somewhat, the basic idea is the same. Those kinds of websites are going to talk shop about what matters to that company. If it doesn’t matter to you, too bad. Move along mister. No room for you here.
The primary challenge of online brochures is that they are one-way communication vehicles. The website talks and users are expected to listen. These websites seem to operate from the notion that the only reason someone would visit that site is to learn about that company.
This violates a known phenomenon that the digital world has created. Service buyers no longer want to be sold. They want to buy. And when they are making decisions about who to buy from, they’ll make that decision based on who seems to get them. They’ll decide based on who put the effort into creating content that matters to them.
An idea driven website
An idea driven website is entirely different from the online brochure website. Yes, the idea driven site will contain much of that content I listed earlier: about, team, company, etc. But it won’t lead with that kind of messaging. That will come later.
People who build idea driven websites have a very different concept about what their users want in a digital experience. In fact, they are trying to deliver a type of experience that doesn’t say – hey we’re different. Instead, their website shows how they’re different.
The webpages on an idea driven site are more than 80% content about the goals, opportunities and challenges of ideal clients. Idea driven sites use blogs, videos, webinars, e-books, action guides, case studies and all sorts of other tools to give website users, well, ideas.
The impact on the website user is nothing less than game changing. When the time is right for the user, they don’t have to be asked to check out the company or team or services pages. They already have done that. It’s part of their due diligence as they are figuring out who can guide them.
The three benefits of idea driven websites
An idea driven website isn’t just more effective than an online brochure. It’s far more valuable. Why do I say this? Well here are the three main benefits we see from idea driven websites that most brochure sites simply cannot touch. Idea driven websites:
- Generate great leads.
- Position company leaders as trusted advisors.
- Create buy-in to a company’s approach to solving complex issues.
Let’s explore each of these ideas just a bit.
Generating great leads
The marketing function at nearly every professional service firm is expected to generate leads, to one degree or another. So the question becomes, how can an online brochure accomplish this? In our experience, it’s the person looking for their second and third bids, the ones they expect not to choose, who end up using these sites. Why would anyone want to raise their hand after visiting these kinds of websites? What’s in it for them?
But idea driven websites, on the other hand, do an amazing job of generating leads. If you build the right content marketing strategy, website users will willingly opt-in to all sorts of content and ideas from you.
Think about it this way. When you have a big goal to accomplish and you’re not sure how to achieve it, what do you do? Most people either ask someone they think might be able to guide them or start an online search or both. Let’s explore for just a moment what happens when the online search kicks off.
I want to give you a scenario. Jane is a 52 year old woman who wants to retire in the next few years. She and her husband have been saving and investing in their 401k plan for more than 20 years. Their children are now through college and they want to know how much longer they have to work and how much more money they need to save and invest to live their desired lifestyle in retirement.
Jane has been in the pharmaceutical industry her entire career and she’s experienced the highs and the lows. She really needs someone who can help her and her husband craft the right plan for their needs. She is looking for a financial Sherpa with certain characteristics.
She wants someone who will take the time to get to know her and her family. She wants someone who understands how the pharmaceutical industry works because this could have a huge bearing on her retirement plan and income over the next 10-15 years.
Most importantly, she wants someone who is not a rookie. She’s looking for someone with a demonstrated history of success in helping people like her achieve her goals. Can she find this online? Jane isn’t sure, but she starts with the internet search anyhow.
On the first page of her search results, she sees a link for a webinar that’s called retirement strategies for female pharmaceutical executives. She almost can’t believe her eyes. Did she just get lucky?
She cannot resist this link. She clicks on it and sees a webpage that describes the 30 minute webinar. It promises her more insights in 30 minutes than she’s heard about in the last 20 years. But Jane is uncertain. Is this a hoax? Is the company credible? This, after all, is her life savings on the line.
Jane sees a link to the webinar presenter’s bio. She clicks on it and is impressed. The presenter’s name is Barbara and she’s a financial services executive with good credentials. Barbara went to all the right schools and has a long track record in her career. Barbara’s picture looks friendly and approachable. Jane is impressed. In fact, she feels kind of lucky to have found this website and to have found Barbara.
Jane clicks back to the webinar page and fills out the form. She watches the webinar. She takes notes. She likes much of what she hears. But she also has a lot of questions. Can the ideas in the webinar be applied to her unique situation? Who would be her advisor? Can she work directly with Barbara who she now feels like she can trust, at least a little bit? Can she meet Barbara and ask her questions directly?
In this scenario I’ve just given you, Jane is a highly qualified lead who came to this website and filled out a form. She raised her hand said – I want those ideas. Jane probably skipped over a dozen other websites on that first page from companies who might have been able to help her. But the ideas pulled her in.
Positioning company leaders as trusted advisors
This is yet another reason that idea driven websites are superior to online brochures. Every professional service executive claims to be a trusted advisor. But the question becomes, how can someone you’ve never met actually come to trust you? What is the process of trust building?
In my experience, nothing builds trust better than great ideas that are delivered in a friendly way to people who really want those ideas. If you give people counsel on your website, long before you’ve ever met them in person, they will begin to trust you.
I have this experience now all the time. People watch my online videos, sometimes for months, before we have a conversation. When we finally talk, they often say – it’s nice to hear the voice of the person I’ve been listening to for months now. They feel as if they know me. They already have begun to trust me because I’ve given them ideas about how to accomplish their goals.
Creating buy-in to a company’s approach
But this point might be the most significant of all. Most service organizations solve complex problems where there are many opportunities to turn left versus right over the course of the engagement. This means that there are all sorts of alternative ways to accomplish a goal.
But to have someone move from a suspect to prospect to client, they have to begin to believe, at some point, that you can guide them toward a successful outcome, just like Jane. This is where an idea driven website really delivers on value.
If you can outline an approach to solving a complex problem, you not only generate leads and position as a trusted advisor, you build buy-in to your approach. This delivers two very powerful outcomes.
First, as soon as someone believes in your approach, you define the playing field for competitors. They have to prove that their approach is superior to yours. This immediately puts competitors on the defensive and makes you the front runner.
The second powerful outcome is the level of trust that you realize as you go into the engagement. Problem clients drain a lot of time and energy from service firms. Clients who are always questioning your methodology and approach become a real hassle.
With an idea driven website, you’ll know that anyone who sampled your ideas and then moved ahead already buys in to your approach. I have seen this improve client relations both at the start and over the course of the entire relationship.
What to do next
An idea driven website will always be superior to online brochures. In fact, I believe so much in idea driven websites that I’ve developed a free E-Book about them that I’m sure you’ll want to access.
The E-Book is called Ten Things Service Websites Must Do To Drive Revenue. If you’re interested in building an idea driven website, this E-Book is a must read.