Or is it simply draining it away?
The first website I had for my consulting business cost me over £5,000 and it didn’t even have my company name on the homepage!
Now, before you start thinking that this was some kind of seldom heard, magical marketing trick, it wasn’t.
It was stupid!
I was stupid!
Or maybe just naive.
So, if you want to avoid making silly mistakes, or to simply learn some useful tips about how to improve your consulting business website, then read on.
Right, let’s get the burning question out of the way:
Do you need to have a website for your consulting business?
Look, I can tell you this much... you don’t have to have a website to have a successful consulting business.
I know plenty of consulting businesses that have existed for decades and make little or no use of a website.
But note one thing. They’ve existed for a very, very long time.
That means they already have a big audience. Or certainly big enough to sustain their business.
They simply don’t need to, or choose not to, engage with their audience and new prospects through a website.
If you can’t count the longevity of your business in decades, and if you’re currently relying solely on your network of contacts for new business, then the chances are you’ll benefit from having a website.
And, like it or not, the toughest challenge for almost every business in the land is to get more customers. Without a website you’re handicapping your chances of new prospects finding you.
As a consulting business, in order to gain a new customer (or client) you need to be known, liked and trusted.
Your website is an excellent tool to fast-track the process. To nurture prospects until they are ready to make contact.
And when that moment does arise, you'll want your website there and ready.
Without a website, you’re making your prospects jump through hoops. And we all know that the one thing people don’t have today is time. That means they also lack patience too. So the more friction you create, the more you drive your prospects into the arms of your competitors.
Especially if they have a great website and make it super easy for prospects to get in touch.
My First Website
Before we look further into what you should do, let me share with you my experience, through which you can learn what not to do!
When I first started my consulting business, from the very beginning I was making sales to some of the world’s largest and most prestigious organisations in their respective sectors.
This led me to believe that everything I did needed to at least match, if not exceed, the quality of my clients. I carried this thinking over to my website too.
(By the way, that’s flawed thinking as all a client cares about is that you can help him or her to solve their problem. Everything else is somewhat less relevant. If I’d have known that sooner I wouldn’t have wasted thousands on fancy stationery!)
For my first website I was determined that I didn’t want to employ a guy in his back-bedroom.
I wanted professionals.
A proper firm.
I was willing to pay top dollar.
And I did.
Now, things didn’t exactly work out great, but you’ve probably guessed that already!
The first design the developers came up with, I decided the night before launch that I hated it! Much to the chagrin of the developers.
I came to an agreement with them that we’d essentially part-exchange some of their coding effort and put it towards a new design.
So, like many web developers, they sat me down and we trawled through websites to see what sort of things I liked. We came across a site that I instantly fell in love with.
Being happy to shoot from the hip, I said,
I want that one!
So they set about creating me a website that was similar - although not an exact copy as that’s a definite no, no.
When it was ready, I thought it was awesome.
Because it looked cool!
Now an Aston Martin without an engine in it will probably still look cool. But it won’t be a lot of use.
And that’s pretty much what happened with my first website.
It may have been a live running website, but it didn’t have the equivalent of an engine when it came to marketing.
In fact, it was worse than that.
It didn’t even have the company name on the homepage!
I know, I know, it sounds stupid. But hey, it did look cool!
There were no Calls To Action (CTA) beyond provision of contact details under the ‘Contact Us’ tab.
It won’t surprise you when I say that I didn’t get a single lead from that website.
Five grand I'd wasted!
So what went wrong?
Why did this happen?
What could I have done differently?
Or more importantly, what should you do differently with your website?
Here are the 3 main mistakes that I made:
01 Assuming a web developer is a marketer
The first mistake I made was not the fact that I didn’t have a company name on the homepage. It was the fact that I was relying on a web developer to understand marketing.
Sounds an odd thing to say when you don’t understand how things work. But the reality is, most web developers are…. well, great web developers!
If I carry on with the car analogy, it’s like a car mechanic.
They’re (hopefully) great mechanics, but you wouldn’t stick one in the showroom and expect him to know how to sell cars would you?
And that’s what I’d done.
I’d taken a back-office technician and expected him to know what to do in the front-office. Something that he'd never been trained to do!
02 No plan
I paid for a website to be built because I thought it was important to have a website.
It felt formal.
I was in business.
I was a serious business because I’d spent serious money on an amazing website (Not that anyone would’ve known it was me as the company name wasn’t on the homepage don’t forget!).
But what was the website for?
How would it add value to my business?
The truth is, I didn’t know.
I didn’t even know that I needed to know!
I simply did what most consulting businesses do with their websites - I created an online brochure.
It listed all of the things that my consultancy did. And it was liberally sprinkled with case studies in order to provide credibility.
At that point, I sat back and waited.
I was waiting for someone to magically find my website, immediately decide that my firm was the one for them, and make contact by calling the phone number that they’d find at the bottom of the ‘Contact Us’ page.
Needless to say, it was a long wait!
03 Assuming all website visitors are the same
This third mistake had the biggest impact on the success of my website and its ability to convert visitors into prospects.
There are many different statistics available - and most are contradictory - but a good rule of thumb is to assume that less than 10% of your website visitors are ready to buy.
These you might call the ‘hot’ visitors.
So what of the other 90%?
Well, they fall into at least two other categories. We'll call them Warm and Cold.
Now categorising your visitors by temperature isn’t all that useful.
A more useful model, created by Derek Halpern of Social Triggers, is to categorise your visitors as being in one of the following groups:
- Oblivious: People who don’t know they have a problem or that you are the solution
- Afflicted: People that know they have a problem, but are yet to discover that you are the solution
- Informed: People who have a problem and know that you are the solution
Another way to think about this was coined by legendary marketer Eugene M. Schwartz in his book Breakthrough Advertising.
In it he says:
If [your prospect] is aware of your product and realises it can satisfy his desire, your headline starts with your product. If he is not aware of your product, but only of the desire itself, your headline starts with the desire. If he is not yet aware of what he really seeks, but is concerned only with the general problem, your headline starts with that problem and crystallises it into a specific need.”
The content on your homepage needs to satisfy these 3 different audiences.
So there you have it.
The 3 big mistakes I made with my first website, and that I see are also the most common. As a reminder, here they are again:
- Assuming web developers understand marketing
- Not having a plan for what to do with your visitors once they start arriving
- Assuming all website visitors are created equal (and are at the same point in the purchasing cycle)
So to finish up, here are my top 5 tips for ensuring that your website brings revenue into your business, rather than draining it out:
- Be absolutely clear who your ideal client is, what problems they face, and how you can help them to solve them. Be sure that your website is focused on those problems and not your capabilities, nor topics that align with people who aren’t your ideal client
- Recognise that not every visitor is ready to buy - ensure that there is something for everyone on your website, from the prospect that wants to get in touch immediately (the Afflicted), to the person that wants a bit more information (the Informed), to the person that’s unsure what their problem is or even if you can help them (the Oblivious)
- Be very clear what the next step is for each of your visitor types
- Once your website is up and running or improved, determine how you are going to drive traffic to it. Whether that’s using SEO, paid advertising, social media, etc.
- Measure its effectiveness - as they say, what get measured gets done. Your website should never simply be ‘set it and forget it.’ It needs constant tweaking to ensure it performs to its best capabilities. To know that, you need to determine and monitor key metrics
One final point: DO NOT engage a web developer until you are clear on the above list.
I’m not saying that all web developers lack marketing knowledge. Some might be able to help you with the above.
But regardless, you need to be clear before you engage anyone to start development work.