Over the last few months I’ve conducted several research projects for professional services clients to investigate the ‘best of breed’ websites in their industry. Professional Services used to be considered the slightly embarrassing and unsophisticated cousin when compared to its product equivalent. In marketing classes we were told, due to a lack of decent services case studies, we had to adapt the product examples to achieve any learnings. This is no longer the case.
The research showed that it wasn’t always the big obvious firms such as Deloitte, PWC, Accenture, McKinsey etc that had the most compelling websites or communicated their expertise and connected visitors to professionals (just a few of the criteria for a successful PS website identified in a 2008 survey by Bloom Group LLC.)
A few of the recommendations I discovered may seem obvious when written in bullet points, but you’d be surprised how few companies actually apply this:
- An effective website is written from the prospect’s standpoint, not from yours or the firm’s. Begin by looking through your prospect’s eyes and why they would search for your service, what their key need is when they land on your site. Structure the website around that logic.
- Showcase and back up all expertise with information published online such as whitepapers, articles, research papers, blogs, case studies.
- Write copy in a way that shows a client’s issue and how you solved it.
- Provide news about the client’s industry and publish that news within a practice group or category the client would see themselves in. (Not a category as devised by your firm and in a jargon only your staff use.)
- Don’t be afraid to make your professionals accessible by having their direct contact details. If a headhunter wants to poach them, they’ll always find a way. Whereas if a prospect has to wade through your site to find out who and how to contact a specialist, they may just fall away.
- Discuss your expertise in a matter-of-fact way, the more puffery there is the less believable it sounds.
- Keep content up to date, links current, offer a newsletter to maintain regular contact and compel visitors to sign up.
- To make the website an accountable asset, make the goals around it tangible ones. For example if your objective is to attract new customers, measure the whitepaper downloads or newsletter subscriptions, knowing that a certain number will be converted into bonafide customers.
There are two professional services sites that I keep coming back to. They are
1. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise – www.nzte.govt.nz
2. Boston Consulting Group – www.bcg.com
NZTE: As soon as I land on the page I can see my question answered. Am I a New Zealand company looking to export? Yes. Then go HERE. Am I looking for funding? Yes. Then go HERE. Am I looking to make use of NZTE’s expertise? Yes. Then go HERE. It’s all very clearly outlined right there on the homepage and I see it within seconds of landing. I know this wasn’t just made up by someone in the marketing department, it clearly comes from thinking about and identifying the main types of enquiries NZTE gets and categorising them accordingly. Simple and brilliant. A wealth of information expertly and logically organised.
BCG: Though not the most exciting website to look at there is a very simple reason why I keep referring clients to BCG as a great example. Apart from the topical article on the homepage, telling me they know and have advice on an issue that pains the entire world right now, the organisation of content on this site is slick. I find the industry or business topic most relevant to me. When I go to that section I see all the articles, case studies, whitepapers, content, everything related to that industry right there. When I’ve read enough and want to contact someone and talk further it gives me all the people who work in that group – their CVs, profiles and direct contact details. No time is wasted labouring through the site and getting lost in irrelevant areas and I think if their staff are half as efficient as their website, that’s a company I’m interested in.
Are there any professional services sites you think are best of breed?
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