Your website should be the cornerstone of your client seduction efforts. The site is your silent salesperson — the one with whom prospective clients visit before granting you permission to meet with them.
A top priority for any firm that competes in the professional services or technology space is to create an easy-to-update website that demonstrates your competence. As the Internet matures, content is slowly becoming more important, but it’s amazing how many sites for such firms simply assert how great the company is, rather than helping prospective clients.
According to our best-practices research, the three most common client seduction website errors are: sites that are too busy; sites that feature little more than lengthy company histories and other information important to the company itself; and worst of all, a site devoid of meaningful, useful, how-to information. Without how-to information, a website is just a glorified electronic brochure. Client seduction is defined as the art of wooing and winning clients by giving away valuable information.
From a best-practices standpoint, here are 21 must-have elements for a superior website that begins the client seduction dance:
1. A clear positioning statement.
Tell prospective clients, in as few words as possible, what you do, whom you do it for and what results you achieve. If you have a proprietary process or an extraordinary guarantee, this is the time and place to mention it.
2. Free resources.
The key to earning your prospective clients’ trust is to demonstrate that you know how to solve their problems in general. They will hire you to solve specific problems. With that key fact in mind, your website should be filled with how-to articles, white papers and special reports that give away valuable information.
3. Declare your specialization.
The No. 1 attribute prospective clients hunt for is specialization, so put yours right up front. No successful small firm is “all things to all people”; figure out who you serve, and how, and put that information on the front page. Be sure also to describe the outcomes you achieve, such as decreased costs or increased revenues.
4. Mission and philosophy.
According to our focus groups, you should include a mission statement, but keep it short and meaningful. Clients say they don’t really care that much about mission statements, but if you can use one to further differentiate yourself, it’s a good idea to do so.
5. Contact information.
Don’t make your prospective clients work to find you. Put your phone number on every page. Make it easy for prospective clients to e-mail you with requests for more information or a meeting. And definitely consolidate all of your contact information on one page, including address, fax numbers, and so on.
6. Map and driving directions.
If prospects ever visit your location, then you must include a map and driving directions to your office. This will not only save you time, but is also another reason to have prospective clients poking around your website.
7. Email subscription link.
Forrester Research studies show that converting prospects into clients via email is 20 times more cost-effective than using direct mail. Once you capture their email, why waste first-class postage? Offer prospective clients solid reasons for giving you permission to email them: free reports, studies, white papers or notifications of key website updates. And of course, state clearly that subscribers can easily opt out of your list whenever they want.
8. On-demand materials (PDF).
What happens if a prospective client wants to tell someone else about you? The problem with a beautiful website is that is usually doesn’t look so beautiful when the pages are printed. The way around this is to offer professionally designed PDFs, readable with the free Acrobat Reader. But don’t just offer a standard capabilities brochure; we recommend your menu has a how-to guide or tips brochure that includes capabilities information.
9. Proprietary process.
After specialization, clients look for a specific problem-solving process. You should create this process, name it, trademark it and describe it with reverence on your website.
10. Seminar information.
The best lead generation topic you can employ is the seminar, briefing, workshop and/or round table discussion. Focus on the biggest problems that you solve for clients. Your website should prominently list upcoming seminars (to promote attendance) and past seminars (to promote your reputation as an expert).
12. Legal disclaimer and copyright notice.
For ideas on legal disclaimers, look in the front on any nonfiction business advice book published today. You will see language that says the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional service and the information is for educational purposes. And protect your intellectual property — your site content and free resources — by taking advantage of de facto copyright laws. Post a standard copyright notice.
13. Focus-specific information.
If you are a specialist in a certain industry, like health care, then there’d better be health care information throughout the site (you don’t want to look like a poser).
14. News releases.
The Internet is the No. 1 research tool for journalists today, so include news releases, fact sheets, firm backgrounders and longer executive biographies in one area.
15. Public speaking.
List upcoming and past speaking engagements with industry and civic groups. This promotes your reputation as an expert and will also help you garner invitations for future speaking engagements.
16. Job postings.
Create positive, upbeat descriptions of the stars you attract to your firm.
17. Key employee bios.
Keep these short — 50-100 words. Longer bios belong in the news release section.
18. Client base.
This can be tricky, but it’s important. If it is appropriate in your field to list marquee clients, by all means do so. If this is inappropriate, then describe the types of clients you work for in general terms (e.g., “A Fortune-500 Manufacturer of Paper and Consumer Products”).
19. Case studies.
Our focus groups tell us most prospective clients aren’t particularly interested in case studies because they believe specific cases don’t apply to them and their own problems. A better approach is to take information out of a case study and turn it into a how-to article.
20. Referral mechanism.
Your Web designer can easily include a feature that makes it easy for someone to refer your website to a friend or associate.
21. Contact mechanism.
The purpose of the website is to let prospects check you out and then contact you. Have a device that makes it easy for them to do so.
Henry DeVries is a marketing coach and writer specializing in lead generation for professional service firms. An adjunct marketing professor at UCSD since 1984, he is the author of “Self Marketing Secrets” and the recently published “Client Seduction.” Visit http://www.newclientmarketing.com or e-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.