What Every Managing Partner Needs to Know About Your Professional Services Firm’s Website

  • March 7, 2015

    Many Managing Partners have traditionally thought of websites as a necessary evil. According to this view, your firm’s website is required to explain what you do, but it doesn’t add much value. Think glorified brochure..

    The goal for these decision-makers was to make their websites acceptable. But many firms didn’t (or still don’t) view the site as an investment that would really help them grow their firms.

    Unfortunately, this attitude can cause your firm to miss out on crucial opportunities, and fall well behind the competition. The fact is, for a modern professional services firm, a website is one of the most important investments you can make when it comes to generating new business and driving your firm forward.

    Here are some key points every Managing Partner needs to consider.

    1. A website attracts new business.

    Often, people take a narrow perspective of their website’s capability to attract new clients. They assume that their visitors will only be folks who are searching for their firm through a search engine. It’s not uncommon to hear these decision-makers say, “None of our clients would Google for a firm.”

    Of course, how you think clients search for information and how they actually behave can be two different matters entirely.

    Research shows that many firms get leads through their website. In fact, a recent study of 500 professional services firms found that 77% of firms generate leads online. Further, the more online leads they generate the faster they grow..

    The numbers show that professional services buyers are searching online, and they’re making extensive use of providers’ websites. And the research-based lessons don’t stop there.

    Referrals represent a major lead source for many firms. If you do get leads from referrals, some of our most recent research shows that having an informative, modern website helps stimulate more referrals through generating more awareness of your firm’s expertise. Speaking of expertise…

    1. A search optimized website demonstrates your expertise.

    When buyers purchase professional services, they’re ultimately buying expertise. It’s a critical component of any professional services engagement. But how do you demonstrate the expertise your firm possesses in a credible, relevant way?

    The problem is that such demonstrations are difficult when you simply meet someone socially. Anyone can claim to be an expert, and even a provider’s past engagements may say more about their relationships than their expertise.

    But a website full of helpful educational content puts your expertise on display, demonstrating to your audience what you know and how you think about problems. And they will check out your website. Our recent research shows that 80% of potential clients do exactly that.

    This approach is much more elegant than saying that you’re an expert. Instead, you’re showing it. The power of this technique has driven the rise of content marketing.

    A search engine optimized website isn’t just a digital billboard for your firm – it provides online visibility for your expertise itself. Not all buyers will be searching for your firm by name, or searching for your general type of business.

    Many will be looking for solutions to a specific problem. If you create a website rich with educational content on the challenges that matter to them, they will find you through the issues you deal with and the nature of your expertise, not just your name.

    3. Your website can keep you from being ruled out. (Or get you ruled out faster.)

    An important fact to remember about referrals – if your referral gets ruled out of consideration at an early stage, then it was wasted effort. Many providers claim that if they can get in a room with a referral, they can demonstrate their services’ value and close the deal.

    But half the time, referred firms don’t get the chance. Our research on 523 professional services firms shows that 51.9% of respondents have ruled out referrals before speaking with them. If you buy professional services, chances are that you have too.

    As we’ve seen above, a wide majority of buyers check you out through your website. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that it figures into buyers’ decisions about which firms to consider. Take a look at firms’ reasons for ruling out a referral:

    Figure 1. Why Buyers Rule Out Referrals

    An “unimpressive website” ranks as the fourth most common reason referrals get ruled out. Poor quality content also plays a major role, according to over 23% of respondents. A dated or uninformative website that seems more focused on promotion than the needs of clients can easily send buyers looking elsewhere.

    The key take-away? A bad website kills referrals.

    By contrast, a clear, informative, and contemporary website helps referrals count, so you don’t get cut out of the running before you can talk to your potential new clients.

    1. Your website shows visitors what league you’re in.

    Look at that chart again. There is another response that is important to highlight here – “They looked like they weren’t in our league.”

    Are you a serious player or are you an amateur? Your website goes a long way toward answering that question for first-time visitors.

    Indeed, your website is the first and sometimes the most significant impression you will make on many potential buyers. It reflects your level of sophistication. If you haven’t put much effort into your site, visitors will question your credibility.

    It’s an important point to stress – your website is not a billboard, but a hub to which your audiences will return again and again for solutions to their challenges. That’s great for building your reputation and your relationship with your audience, but to achieve these goals, your site has to be equipped to support rich content and drive new business.

    1.  Your site conveys your culture.

    Let’s return once more to the chart above. Note the number three reason buyers rule out referrals, “They didn’t seem to be a good cultural fit with my firm.”

    Buyers want to feel comfortable working with you – perhaps over the long term. To feel this way, they need to understand your culture, and your website is a major key to this understanding.

    Your site is an opportunity to easily communicate your firm’s values and problem-solving approach through copy, educational content, and videos about your firm.

    This ability to communicate your culture is also important in recruiting. Our research on professional services marketing priorities in 2015 shows that recruiting is a top priority of a lot of firms. A website that conveys your culture clearly makes it easy for top talent to feel comfortable joining your team.

    The bottom line.

    If you’re wanting to grow, it’s important to move past a traditional view of websites. A website is about more than image or necessity – it goes right to the heart of your business.

    Our research shows that firms generating 40% or more of their leads online grow the fastest and are most profitable. The lesson is clear – your website is an investment in the future of your business.

    In order to lead your firm forward, it’s important to have a contemporary website that can serve as the center of your marketing efforts. From educational content to social media, your site will help share your expertise and generate new leads.

    Given the many roles and abilities of a firm’s website, you could argue that it’s even more important than your office — more people will likely be seeing it, and it will shape your business for years to come.

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