I recently recorded a podcast interview with Raintoday.com entitled “Is the Traditional Website Dead?” (You can listen to it free here).
The focus was specifically on websites for professional service firms – and reflected my experience with the success of my own site over the last 9 months. Despite being a rather small outfit (and determined to stay that way) – my site attracts more traffic than the sites of some of the top 30 consulting firms globally.
Why is this?
The primary reason, in my view, is that my site focuses almost completely on content. If you come to the home page, what you see is the latest of my articles or videos – and not a pitch for my services.
This helps me in two ways.
Firstly, it means I have lots of content indexed by google, with lots of keywords that potential clients may be searching on. And it's much easier for related sites in my field to link to a resource site like mine or specific articles on it than it would be to link to a corporate website that focused on pitching it's services. Sure, I do a lot of Search Engine Optimisation work and have a little bit of “secret sauce” I sprinkle around, but none of this would work without having a content rich site.
Secondly, once visitors arrive at my site, they're much more likely to stay than with a traditional site.
If you think about most professional services, the reality is that our clients don't need our services all the time. No one redoes their strategy every week, takes over a company every month, gets divorced every fortnight or changes their accountant daily. They use our services intermittently.
And if you think about the buying cycle for our services, our clients rarely wake up with a sudden need for our services that they weren't aware of before. The problems or opportunities that trigger the need for them to hire us usually start off small. They're a minor irritation or perhaps a glint of an idea.
Then, over time, the irritation gets bigger or the idea begins to firm up. They start looking around to find out more and to see what can be done. Years ago, they'd speak to colleagues and friends – maybe even dip into a book. Today, of course, they search the web.
So the first time a potential client visits my site (or any professional service firm's site) the chances are that they're not in buying mode. They're looking for useful information. And if they don't see useful information on the first page they come to, they're going to click away pretty quick.
Even if you have a blog or articles page just one click away from your home page, it's too far. You're not going to catch the attention of most visitors.
The BBC's website is always a good place to look for best practices. What do they have on their home page? Lots and lots of content. In the BBC's case it's primarily clickable headlines linking through to news, sports, business, entertainment or other stories. But the main point is that it has useful information rather than just a list of the BBC's services. You're encouraged to dig further and engage with the site.
So it should be with professional services websites. 90% of the time, your visitors will be early in their buying cycle. You need them to engage with you, get value from your site – and in the process discover that you know what you're talking about and you could be someone they could work with.
What's needed for this is not a traditional website with clever copy showcasing your services. it's a content-rich website that puts value for the visitor front and centre of its approach. Faced with this sort of website, your potential client is much more likely to engage with you and to keep coming back for more value.
Then when their initial irritation turns into an unbearable pain they need a solution to – you'll be the first on their list to contact. You may not win every time, but you'll be in pole position.