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Are your website dollars going down the drain?

Author: Tanu Gupta | Categories: Professional Services, Websites, Website Design & User Experience, Website Security, Customer Experience

In part 1 of this series, we talked about the fundamental questions marketers should ask themselves about the role the website plays in their overall marketing and business development efforts.

We all are creating “differentiated” websites, then what sets apart the winner while everyone else just drowns in the sea of sameness. While most existing sites could be engaging at some level, progressive marketers need to seize the opportunity to create experiences that differentiate their firms and allow them to gain client mindshare. This begins with benchmarking direct competitors, other near-category organizations and finding out what provides best practices for our firm. 

While the best practices may vary slightly from industry to industry, fundamentals remain the same.

1. Focus on the client journey

We have all heard about it. Most of us are figuring out our client’s journey and mulling over how to map it to our website. By following some simple steps you could be closer to achieving it:

  • Start by defining your personas of the client segments to understand what your clients want and how they engage with you.
  • Map client journeys for various client segments and the steps clients take as they engage the firm through the identification, qualification and selection process
Map an engagement strategy to create relationships between your clients and your firm

client journey

2. Tell your story by design

The design of your website should not only be aesthetic, but it should reflect the story of your firm – what your values are, how you service. You can follow 3 simple steps map your firm’s brand to design. 

sample  firm website

  • Identify key virtues that are pillars of your firm’s professional identity and then demonstrate how these guiding principles resonate through your work and client relationships.
  • Use dynamic visuals and concise copy to communicate clearly. One should be able to distinguish your content’s voice from another Professional Services firm.
  • Choose a design speaks about your expertise. It is critical to the initial reaction and subsequent repeat experiences.
Whatever the design choices are, the content needs to be accessible in a straightforward manner, requiring as few clicks into deeper levels of the site as possible.

3. Content that engages

client centric view

Your P.S. firm website should offer a highly curated roster of thought leadership content that addresses the most pressing business, and industry pain points that clients face today. A client-centric view of content creation that addresses head-on the issues that keep clients up at night will ensure that your firm’s digital content program engages clients and provides an active user experience.

Once you have a handle on what your firm is already producing, the next step is identifying ways that the content can be structured, optimized and targeted to address clients’ pain points.
  

4. Video

Thinking beyond the written word and identifying topics that lend themselves to video presentation – even if it’s a handful of topics in a given year – can help increase a firm’s profile and content reach.

As a strategic content type, video has not played a significant role for professional services firms in their content strategy and marketing programs. This is with good reason: many P.S. firm marketing leaders cite the following issues with producing and sustaining an effective video program:

  • Expense
  • “Camera-ready” talent.
  • Appropriate topics and time to market
  • In-house skill set

Luckily, now there are many various options for video creation that help to mitigate each of the challenges outlined above.

Video techonology

Video technology is becoming more commoditized, reducing both the expense and skills needed to produce professional quality video content.

To know more about video marketing, please read the blog: Want higher market share? Get Video Marketing right!

5. Personalization

“75% customers get frustrated with websites when the content has nothing to do with their interests.” - Janrain

Personalization is getting the right message to the right person at the right time. While there is a concern for some P.S. firms around being creepy with personalization, there are elegant and unobtrusive ways to personalize.

To personalize, you must first understand who the client is and what her needs are. All client interactions with a firm’s marketing – events, content on the website, emails, social media – needs to be captured to provide a sum total view of the client’s engagement with the firm.

Context can be of the following types:

Implicit: As the visitor goes through the website, she leaves a digital footprint behind that provides clues to her intentions.

Explicit: By offering personal information (e.g. an email address, a phone number) to access high value content that your firm is publishing (either via a subscription or a download), clients provide the firm with insights into their intentions, interests, and preferences. This data can be invaluable for developing a multi-dimensional profile about that client 

External: Data providers can provide data covering visitors on your website or companies you are targeting. This data, such as the industry, size, and location, can be used to profile a client in a better manner.

Once you’ve captured client context, your website technology should allow you to segment the user and deliver relevant content to each client.

6. Internationalization

In days past, one global website with multi-lingual, regional/country websites used to be the norm. The legal differences between countries and general user experience changes for different regions necessitate a different approach.

Key considerations for international sites:

  • Users should be sent directly to the appropriate regional site for the region from which they are visiting.
  • Users should have the ability to change both the country and language settings quickly and easily via clear and persistent menu options.
  • URLs should be friendly. Countries and regions have specific cookie disclosure provisions. It is best to disclose cookie tracking and follow rules for the strictest of your geographies.

7. Site Search

Site search improves the user experience. It allows clients to find information quickly. A professional service firm website can potentially have thousands of web pages. Most web pages are buried, and it is impossible for clients to find relevant information by only using site navigation.

Best practices for website search

  • Make sure your search is fast
  • Use auto-completion in your search box
  • Have the ability to handle multiple types of content
  • Provide ability for user to filter search results

To read more about site search read this

Following these best practices is a start to delivering a compelling and engaging website. The smallest thing has to be meticulously planned to deliver an experience which talks to your client.

Stay tuned for the 3rd part of the series to gain some more insights on website best practices of PS firms.