Your website is obviously a very important part of your brand, it is sometimes the first part of your organisation that a potential client will see, it can also be used to keep current clients notified of various things that are happening within your company.
However the discipline involved in creating a website for a professional services brand and that of say a clothing company is totally different, one is the marketing and sales of a product to the mass-market. Whereas, a professional services website is about building relationships and promoting reputation. They have to be just a bit more personal and sensitive to the needs of the recipient than a traditional website.
We have built a few websites for professional service firms in our time. We have collated these seven tips to help those of you who are considering the design and build of your next website or are looking to gently refresh what you currently have.
Here are 7 of our tips for effective building an effective professional services website.
1. START THE OTHER WAY AROUND
What do we mean by this?
Many professional service firms will build their website by considering traditional website layouts and structures and then build the content to fit. We suggest that you do the opposite – create your content first – work out what is special about your organisation, the content that you want to share. This will include – team profiles, services, methodologies, news items and may include – culture, research areas, etc. Write every title down – we use post-it notes in the studio to get information down quickly.
Then you can prioritise which content that you want to bring to life with professional photography, copywriting or even video. By starting with content, you can build a more suitable and bespoke web-structure and menu system. Also by prioritising which content to embellish – you will also have a series of images, videos or articles to share on Social Media channels such as LinkedIn, YouTube or Twitter – which is obviously a critical part of your entire digital presence.
Post-it Notes are good for ‘Brain-bursts’ where you just want to get everything down on paper.
2. PEOPLE, PEOPLE, PEOPLE
Professional services are all about people and relationships – your website should be a natural extension of this. Really consider your audience, this usually means – great images of the people in the firm with personal stories that tell a story of who they are, anecdotes that build this human story, avoiding overly technical language that confuses.
The simple act of creating a simple clean layout with just the right amount of information that a client needs to know is a simple and effective way to build your reputation online – particularly as the majority of your competitors may have heavy, technical web-pages that confuses and bewilders.
Inviting, warm and friendly poses makes any firm look that little bit more inviting.
3. TESTIMONIAL SHEET
Not really a website one, but definitely one that will enhance any digital presence – The Client Testimonial Sheet.
Many professional service firms are wary about publishing testimonials, especially on their website, in fear of having their clients poached. We tend to believe that showing others that you do a good job is more than worth the risk. As a design company, our client portfolio and we are incredibly proud of ours, it is obviously critical but the most significant improvement to our Business Development Processes has actually been the introduction of a ‘client and testimonial sheet.’
This 4-page document now has more than 20 testimonials in addition to the logos of the various clients we have helped. We always send it to people that are making fresh enquiries – 20+ testimonials from a wide range of clients gives you instant credibility. We are of the opinion that you cannot have too many of these. Have them on your website but also a simple doc or PDF file to send to new people that you are trying to do business with will obviously increase your success rate with new business enquiries.
We don’t believe you can really have enough testimonials.
4. BESPOKE REQUIREMENTS
Let’s be honest, most organisations will have services that are similar if not completely identical to their competitors. Whether it is advising on selling a business, providing an insurance specification or creating a will – we nearly all do the same things on paper. However, the way that you carry out each service will determine your value. Everybody in professional services will know that you may carry out the same service a number of times but the clients needs are always completely different – being able to talk about these differences, your ability to adapt your process and method to those bespoke requirements and the clients obvious satisfaction in going deeper into their requirements will all demonstrate greater values and help you to stand out compared to others.
Not so much what you do but the way that you do it.
Turning a basic info-graphic into a game with a score-card and cartoon versions of the main characters transformed this project into something of much greater value.
5. TELL A STORY
As a follow-up to the last tip. Your website should have a basic message, theme or a range of ideas that differentiate you in the marketplace. 95% of professional service firms rightly say that client-service is at the heart of their offering – this is a good message – but when everybody says the same thing, you must go further. How do you serve those clients better than everybody else? Are you faster? More dynamic? More precise? More specialised Knowledge? More useful Partnerships? Obsessed about the detail? Pick a couple of ideas, try not to be all things to everybody, and tell a few stories either with your web-copy or images that helps to emphasise and bring these ideas to life.
Having accountants shot in this kitchen of a well-known restaurant tells a great story about really getting to know the number behind a business.
6. MAKE CONTACT EASY
A very, very simple one but something which can unfortunately be neglected at times. It is YOUR duty to ensure that the person looking at your content can reach you easily. This means contact details in all the right places – on the home-sliders, on the menu, an easily-accessible contact-page, a good quality enquiry form, social media links or numbers directly to partners. You decide what that line between ‘accessible’ and ‘desperate’ is but it should never be a chore to contact any organisation. Otherwise you don’t deserve the business.
Professional services are all about reputation and relationships. The majority of your clients will have come through referral from other satisfied clients. Having the best website in the world is unlikely to reverse the fortunes of those that provide poor or disappointing service. Unlike in basic consumer marketing – your website has to be pretty stunning to be an effective game-changer.
A great website will help you to get your message across to new clients, solidify your reputation with new and existing clients, help you to share your expertise particularly with social media. Your website.
Once again, and similar to our last guide on building an effective brand. This is not a comprehensive guide to building an effective website but an ‘off-the-cuff’ guide that we hope helps just a little.
Benedetto is a designer and founder of the loft – a specialist design and branding studio based in Glasgow.
The loft takes the true essence of what organisations do and with his team brings those stories to life with a coherence, simplicity and delightfulness that helps companies to create outstanding brand communications.
‘Design with Soul’ is more than a company tag-line to Benedetto, it is a way of life.
His journey has taken him from a career in car design through to his current role. He is honoured to manage a great team, work with great clients and have a lot of fun mixing with so many great people in business.