Is This Why Your Website
Isn't Attracting The Clients You Want?
by Dave Simon, 3/12/18
Your website is scrutinised more than ever!
- The Internet Has Changed The Professional World
- People Haven't Changed, But Marketing Has
- How Your Website Can Attract More New Clients
- How To Start Catching Up – Some Top Tips
Clients feel they are getting more value for their money than they used to from professional firms.
That's nice, BUT – it's because they use the internet to search for professional services even more than they used to.
But your website's productivity is being left behind.
Internet technology is moving away faster and faster. It's accelerating – its rate of progress doubles every decade.
The ground-rules operating when your website was first built have been overtaken. The internet is a different place.
If you want better commercial productivity – ie suitable enquiries – from your website, you need to understand this.
Your potential clients seek two things:
First, to learn more about an issue that concerns them,
Second, to learn about services your firm offers, relevant to the issue concerning them.
Does your website make-or-break enquiries?
Professional firms' websites may be slow to adapt to the changing landscape.
(Do I hear you say, 'things aren't actually too bad at the moment'?) But it's difficult to judge the gap – how far behind are you compared to where you could be? Is more enquiries even possible?
While different professions will find different answers to this, it is worth suspending belief in habitual opinions: in law, it is found that "only one in ten people experiencing legal problems instruct a solicitor or barrister" (Solicitors Regulation Authority, 2017).
It's likely that, unimproved, because of all the progress, your website has become increasingly unattractive to potential clients. And it is likely you would do more advertising to compensate – and pay more as a result. Surely, managing your website performance is too important to keep on hold?
The Internet Has Changed The Professional World
Years ago, we all learned to search online for consumables and small things we could get by post.
Now clients are researching us, the professionals, in exactly the same way. And it's no good standing on our pride – this is a relentless tidal change in public habit. It's not unlearnable!
So your website, which cost so much and took so much of your time to design, is now less effective than it used to be.
The Internet: exponential growth of websites
This is partly because online competition amongst professional service providers has increased and most of them are aiming to be found by potential clients!
And it is still changing...even faster
Internet technology has expanded beyond websites and email – it now includes social media, maps, news and educational articles. Website technology has improved – you can do so much more now. And internet searching methods have moved on too. As search engine companies adapt to what their customers want, so website managers have assessed the changes and tweaked their sites...
How fast is your website?
Back in 2010, Google announced that they were “obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web” because “faster sites create happy users”. They began to display search results in order influenced by the speed of those website – to keep consumers happy.
You can see from the diagram that they are very biased towards fast websites.
Recently (July 9, 2018) they enlarged this to include the page-speed of websites when they are visited by people using mobile devices.
Are you found?
Your biggest danger is that potential clients won't even find your website.
In 2018, there were 1.8 billion websites, so you can imagine how easy it is to get lost in the crowd.
It seems that 50% or so of all clicks for any particular search go to the top three or four results displayed.
So your number of enquiries will relate to the 'findability' of your website.
The way we word our 'content' (as the web designers call it) and the other hidden-from-view signals that Google inspects have a big impact on it's display about our website in its results pages. One of those signals is the website speed.
Unfortunately, many websites are now built on template-driven software that prioritises function and design over speed and 'findability'.
So a beautiful website, or an extremely informative one, can be pushed down to page 3 or 4 of the search results and out of sight amongst all the alternative websites Google lists. That would mean that you have no chance to impress interested people... which will lead to your website only being visited by people who already know of your firm. The outcome will be only very few new client enquiries.
People Haven't Changed, But Marketing Has
Once found, your website has to do a job. It has to do everything possible to encourage appropriate visitors to make contact with you ASAP, preferably before contacting any of your competitors.
Human psychology hasn't changed.
But the way we use new knowledge for advertising purposes is changing the way things are done.
“Know thine enemy”
Sun Tzu, wrote his strategy secrets in a bamboo book around 2500 years ago. Nowadays, our websites are public: your competitors can see as much as your potential clients.
This increases a sense of urgency of competition. Much as professionals are colleagues, the real-world of demanding costs puts them in competition with you for fee-paying clients.
A popular response is the strategy of frequent updating. To an extent, Google likes this. But looking around, you can see industry news being posted (sometimes by automatic feed) which is at best a distraction to the clients who want to understand you.
Website designers have now provided websites to the majority of serious players. For their own economic needs, they are now providing website refresh services. This may keep it looking modern, but it is likely to overlook your client-attracting message.
Another problem is the potential clients themselves. The vast number of websites offering advice on almost anything breeds a cautious attitude in browsers. While they want to learn, they also fear overwhelm. So you have to find a balance.
The new generation of websites
1. Websites that I call 'first generation' were worded as if they were posters.
They were treated as a new sort of digital billboard.
Big or small, their messages were descriptive. Essentially they were announcements. They make only modest attempts to interest Google. And they assume that the visitor's self-interest will propel them into making contact.
2. Second generation websites are invitations.
They address the visitor's learning curve, by setting out to educate.
They specify what the 'party' is – the opportunity that readers might want to benefit from. They are explicit in welcoming contact and they make it very clear how to RSVP.
And Google likes the way people like that.
For managers, the difference is about our mindset when writing our websites (and adverts).
But not everyone is aware of this. I see recently-upgraded websites for national corporates who are still writing in announcement mode. And many TV adverts are the same: informative and perhaps interesting and but distant, impersonal, uninviting. So hardly anyone will respond.
And stranger still, some websites (and emails, and leaflets) lack any RSVP details.
People can't respond, even if they wanted to!
How Your Website Can Attract More New Clients
If you hope want your website to attract new clients, then the output (enquiries) are the commercial priority. And the more that those enquiries are fully primed and ready to instruct you, the better! Consider rewording your website to ease potential clients' decision-making. Optimise your content to their state of mind – for instance, litigation clients will be in a more emotional situation than conveyancing clients.
Where are you starting from?
Do you know how hard your website works for you? How many new enquiries come through your website? Do you keep data? Do you have a graph showing a trend?
But this is a bigger question than it first seems because
- some people land on your website after a search on Google or Bing etc,
- while others go straight there from the website address on a business card, leaflet or advert etc.
Either way, it has to convince them to get in touch with you while their issue is motivating them and while you have a suitable window of time in which to work.
One method you can use is to ask people what they thought of your website. But this will not get you much information from those who did not contact you. And it could seem intrusive at the exact moment you want to be building a trusting relationship with new enquiries!
If checking real data is not helpful, my suggestion is that you work with any suspicions you have. If anyone on your team feels your website is under-productive, it is worth exploring the option of revitalising it to get better results.
This is not simply updating contents or refreshing design. It means returning to basics to create the results you now need. That means rewording your 'content' and re-engineering your technical settings. I suggest you review from first principles.
What is your website's job, anyway?
Gone are the days when a website was a fashion accessory.
Nowadays, websites have a job of work to do.
But which job do you want your website to do?
This is a good opportunity to re-evaluate what results you want from it – and check how it is performing.
Do you want it to:
What your website could bring
- Bring in more new clients – just focussing on numbers as you either have growth ambitions, or you currently have more capacity than is being used, or
- Bring in as many new clients more cheaply than your current marketing methods – that is, attract more clients through the website and allow you to cut back on other methods, or
- Bring in a different type of client – those more suited to your specialisms, your staffing distribution or your positioning ambitions
If you haven't got a clear winner here, at least list them in preference order.
Now-a-days Google is moving the goal-posts. It is no longer a simple search engine. It is an interpreter. In the search to better serve their clients, it now provides search results that it thinks the searcher intended to search for. The implication of that is that Google effectively demands websites behave in certain ways - and that requires you to update your original effort.
So if you don't update your website (in Google's terms) youwill not attract the enquiries you hope for.
Review and revitalise
An important rule of marketing is that 'trying to attract everyone results in attracting no-one'. Smaller targets work better.
1. So, define who your Ideal Clients are.
That helps you know who you want to attract. Only then can you properly brief your copy-writer, whoever it is.
Remember your favourite past clients and seek the common threads. It is not always easy, but it does make a big difference. you may come to realise that your website is doing a really good job of attracting clients you no longer want!
2. Next, prioritise ACTIVELY helping the right clients find you.
Commit to being interesting rather than simply informative. Avoid refreshing the graphics without considering rewriting the message.
Adopt a mindset to designing the 'customer journey' from first research to initial contact. This is not always easy - the five stages of traditional marketing can be pretty unsuitable for professionals.
3. Then, check each step in your client-attracting pathway.
Check your Google rank, your Google display, your first welcome and your invitation. Use our 'Fast Five-point Assessment' format to compare your website with your competitors, covering these and the website speed which underpins all of it. (See the list at the top of the article.) Any step that makes potential clients hesitate can totally stop progress dead – which is a disaster!
How To Start Catching Up – Some Tips
In summary, you need systematic improvements to get you:
1. More visibility in search engine results, and
2. More visitors who read enough to be impressed, and
3. More ideal prospects actually clicking or calling you
My suggestions to boost the effectiveness of your website in bringing you suitable clients:
Catch up soon. We can't predict the future, but we can create it. Your website plays an increasingly important role in gaining you clients. So you need it to work effectively at attracting the right people, otherwise you risk putting them off. You need dedicated time and you probably need a new budget – things aren't as simple as they used to be!
Review your existing content and revise where necessary. It needs to be very readable for Ideal Clients, highly relevant and actively helpful to their problem and/or opportunities, and leading towards real contact. It's important to choose the right content for your website (just like your adverts & leaflets). Consider getting an impartial assessment from someone other than your website designer. Your messages are massively important.
Research your market. Ask your new clients how they found you. Did they use the website? How helpful was it? What would they like improved? Put simply this means finding better ways to present your professional value to potential clients . This is free and it is valuable – after all, clients are the final judges of your website's work.
Future-proof where you can. We know things will change again. Make it a priority for someone on the team to think about the future and check the relevant trends – technological, political, professional and psychological. Aim to get into a leadership position rather than being kicked into reaction by your competitors' website updates.
Plan your next catch-up even sooner. The pace of progress has already increased. Your website effectiveness is likely to suffer as your competitors do their catching up.
Above all, visit your own website. Check for mistakes: wrong facts, missing explanations, duplications, contradictions, jargon, acronyms and so on.
Spelling errors deserve a special mention here (I've seen 'reposnsible' and 'laywer' – yes, even on large professional firms' websites): it's been said to deter 80% of clients.
Then check your website against your leaflets and office signage for differences. And next, check your reception staff know what they all say so they can answer queries knowledgeably.
Get a better perspective
Is your performance slipping?
With progress in both technical and psychological factors in website effectiveness, new perspectives become important.
We get so used to our own backyard that we take too much for granted – over-familiarity breeds a peculiar form of blindness.
It is easy to say "We get some enquiries through the website so we need not be concerned".
But could it encourage more? Do we want more enquiries?
Get help from your team or from outside:
Most of your team are probably consumers of professional services they do not work in.
Their experience gives you a chance to step into your client's shoes.
I suggest you ask everyone in your team to remember their interaction with professionals' websites (and adverts, leaflets and receptionists). Focus each on a different profession. List problems and preferences and pool the knowledge Then you can start designing your ideal website!
And you can seek out professionals who can give you the three requirements.
A reminder: you need high visibility through search engines, impressive relevance to Ideal Clients and action-triggering.
Nowadays this goes beyond graphic design and search engine optimising. This sort of revitalising needs professional copy-writing (not journalism) to rewrite your Client-Attracting messages, within search engine optimisation rules. If in doubt, try window-shopping: ask about the psychology they would use in writing welcome and invitation messages.
An Easy Step Forward
It is all too easy to stop seeing what you live with daily.
It is very easy to hope that industry trends are slow enough to let you 'wait and see'.
But if you want a quick check on how your website could work harder for you,
try this One-Page Free No-Cost No-Commitment DIY Website Review Checklist.
The five questions will help you review your Client-Attracting Process step by step from search engine to serious enquiry.
(And you could include these questions in a client satisfaction survey to learn what clients found useful on their journey towards you.)
Why Doesn't Our New Website Produce Many Enquiries?
One difficulty for trained professionals developing the marketing of their firm is that marketing is a bit like a foreign land. It takes commitment to a learning curve to really understand how to choose your direction.
The article "Why Normal Website Marketing Won't Work For Professionals" goes into detail about why traditional marketing messages translate across so poorly.
Only when you compare marketing for 'normal products' with professional services do you glimpse the answers.