Websites are designed to achieve various goals. Here are some examples of goals for professional services websites.
While many professional firms get much of their business through referrals, you want your website to attract those prospects who don’t already know about you. That means you must rank well in Google. That is incredibly hard if you look the same as your competition, so don’t look the same as your competition.
Most professional firm websites describe the firm’s services and practitioners, along with their qualifications, and leave it at that. This makes every firm appear indistinguishable.
A much more effective approach is to use your website to demonstrate that you understand the problems your prospects face, and answer the questions for which they are seeking solutions. For example, if your website just says that you are an accountant, you will appear somewhere in Google search results among thousands of other accountants. On the other hand, if you post the answer to a specific tax question, you face far less competition in search results.
Referrals play a major part for both consumer and corporate clients. In the 2019 Clio Legal Trends Report, the authors surveyed 2,000 consumers seeking legal services. The report found that 57% searched on their own, 59% sought a referral, and 16% did both. For corporate clients, One North surveyed 80 corporations, most with over $1 billion revenue. Of these clients, 86% said that referrals were their preferred method of learning about professional services organizations.
This is not to say that websites don’t have a role to play. In the 2011 book, The Challenger Sale, Matt Dixon showed that customers have already done 57% of their sales research on their own before contacting a supplier in complex business-to-business sales. This means that prospects who discovered you by referral will likely review your website before deciding whether to contact you.
Professional services firms depend heavily on reputation. Reputation can be established with your prospects by enlightening them about the solutions to their problems, and established with your colleagues by advancing the frontiers of your profession through thought leadership. Each of these begins with publishing articles on your website.
Once a prospect knows that you exist, they need to develop enough trust in you to engage your services. Your website won’t be the last word in building trust with your prospects, but it might be the first. Building trust requires establishing credibility, showing empathy, and repudiating self-interest. See a full analysis of trust building.
Most of the prospects who need you don’t need you right now. When the time comes, you need to be the name that comes to mind. You can achieve this with a periodic newsletter containing tips and insights that provide value.
Next, see the 10 questions every professional services website must answer.