Let's not kid ourselves when we say that the conversion of visitors to clients (on the web) for service firms greatly differs from that of a product or retail company. The very nature of service work is a direct connection of intellectual capability coupled with a personal acceptance that is hard to create on the web. The question then becomes how do we create that one to one relationship on the web. Let's look at some of the challenges first.
- Service Offerings by Nature are Complicated. Whether you offer insurance products, health benefits, legal counsel, or top end information technology (IT) consulting you rarely bump into a project where a dollar figure can be attached to the effort without due diligence. This, by its very nature, is problematic in getting web engagement because when looking for such premium service most will look to the recommendation of their peers first.
- Published Pricing Doesn't Exist. This is further emphasised in my first point. Professional Services tend to vary greatly from firm to firm and it's difficult to quote something with many variables.
- A Protective Nature. Intellectual property and what is shared by service firms publicly is typically very minimal in nature. The concern being that the more they share the further insight they will provide competitors in an already saturated market. Ironically, service firms also look to competitors for guidance on the web which facilitates a never ending cycle of mediocrity.
- Complex Structure and Stakeholder Input. I once heard the saying, "A horse designed by a committee is a camel." To me this resonates and truer words have never been spoken. Many larger professional service firms have divisional leads that feel their division is the most important, they should be focused on, and the website's architecture should be centered around their practice. As an FYI, I don't feel there is anything wrong with that and it's what I would expect from division heads at my own organization. Such a level of ownership and dedication is to be admired.
With these challenges facing professional service firms all over the country here are five quick tips to help bring increased traffic, generate longer visits, and increase inbound opportunities to the organization.
- Utilize Media to Increase Engagement. Media is a broad term so to be more specific it's important to associate faces with names and if possible provide videos focused on the solutions that a particular practice provides. For instance if you're an insurance broker with a specialty practice in IT Professional Liability Insurance you should show photographs of those that are members on the team and the divisional head should do a short video that talks about how the firm's expertise helps to mitigate risk for IT firms and provide custom tailored plans to ensure peace of mind. This could also be accompanied by an overview of the page's written content, as well. It's far more likely that you'll find a higher engagement level and your website visitors will stay longer when they can watch a 2 minute video, as opposed to reading three full scrolls of text. The faces of your people help further validate there is a real team and that they may have met that individual before somewhere at an event increasing confidence and confirmation.
- Allow for Direct Web Connection to Representatives. Perhaps the most heard challenge for allowing direct connection is that there is a commission structure in place that makes it difficult for acceptance or adoption of direct connection internally. Our society and the decision makers have a fundamental mindshift about how they do business. This is part of that mindshift and I would use the phrase, "Ignore this at your own peril". Your valuable team members deserve a face, their bio, and their contact information published on the website. For many professional service firms, these individuals may go to events to create new connections and the person that wanted to reach out to them lost their card in the course of the evening. Wouldn't it be good peace of mind to know that they can come to your website and easily locate the person with whom they connected?
- Freely Share Valuable Knowledge. Releasing industry information in different specialty areas or offering a quick tips guide (such as this) doesn't reduce your chances of having people reach out to you. It strengthens it. Create a schedule and allow your staff to engage in getting their voice heard on the web through insightful posts core to the company's mission. You'll be surprised how many people will be excited about contributing and helping build not only their personal brand but the companies, as well.
- Limit Stakeholder Input. If you have more than 5 Stakeholders for final input on a web project or on-going enhancements, you should 100% expect substantial delays and a watered down product. If I had to make a recommendation for the right amount of senior stakeholders it would be three. Odd numbers are good for final decisions and while this may not be possible for larger firms, it's still recommended that no more than five be assigned to the core decision making body. I am not suggesting that you don't involve divisional leads or key players of your organization in the process. What I'm recommending is that at some point trying to satisfy everyone results in a very sub par product. Respect the opinions and feedback of the team but the final decision makers should be empowered to do what's best overall and select which direction will be taken to bring a project to final fruition.
- Mind the Details of Every Page. This may seem a bit odd but take this website, for example. The details of this website, however subtle, are very well minded. If you're in a section about websites you'll see calls to action for complimenting services such as hosting, on-going management, etc. These change depending on what section of the website you are in. Each page is enhanced with MEANINGFUL imagery that helps speak to our clients and visitors. At the end of this blog post, you can freely comment or learn more about me both professionally and personally without having to dig around for it. These details help further the impact of your messaging and greatly enhance the length of time that someone is willing to stay on your website.
As simple as these 5 quick tips seem they can be difficult to implement and have challenges that must be considered. I wonder if others would be interested in each of these bullets being broken down into more extended information for garnishing success on the web. Let me know your thoughts and I'd love to break this out into a monthly series with detailed examples, supporting analytics, and effort levels for success.