What are the 7 essentials for your consultant website?
Being a consultant means that you are an expert in your area – proving this from your customer’s first encounter is essential.
Over the past two years, we have been able to help a variety of consultants create a professional online presence. Our clients have included an event consultant, a management consultancy, a public art consultant and an organisational psychology consultancy (plus an environmental consultant website in the works!).
Although these clients work in very different industries, there are some common themes that apply to successful consultant websites:
- A consultant’s online presence must position them as experts, with quality content and design.
- Evidence of a consultant’s experience is essential because clients will want to research them before making contact to ensure they seem credible.
- Investment of time and/or money in ongoing marketing is necessary to help consultants remain relevant in highly competitive sectors.
What are your future clients searching for?
Potential clients who are in the market for a specialist consultant will expect to be able to research detailed information online. They will be looking for solid proof of your expertise and experience. Often, this research phase will happen before you are even invited to discuss potential work or tender for a project.
Now, the stakes in choosing a consultant are quite high. Not only do experts not come cheaply, but they are usually being brought on board to perform a job that is critical for the business. Prospective clients will want to check you out thoroughly to decide whether you can, in fact, solve their problem. The higher the risk of purchase (loss of money, reputation, potential to get in trouble with their boss), the more pre-purchase research will take place.
So what happens if a potential client can’t easily locate evidence online that you are a good choice to help solve their particular problem? They move on to the next option. Increasing competition due to economic and employment factors means that there are usually plenty of other consultants to consider. Add to this the low barriers to entry for some consultant sectors and you can see why it’s essential to impress your potential clients from the start.
Common mistakes consultants make online
Despite the increasing level of competition facing consultants, the bar for online presence isn’t set particularly high. This is especially true for smaller firms and sole providers. We’ve seen quite a lot of the following:
- Websites for ‘premium’ services created on drag and drop website builders such as Wix or Weebly. These often include prominent branding for the website service on the free or lower cost options that cheapens a website’s appearance
- Hard coded, non-responsive websites from the early 2000s, when it was enough just to have an ‘online business card’
- Grievous sins of the stock library kind, with dodgy graphs and generic images liberally sprinkled through the site
- Outdated information – do we really still need to see your training calendar from 2013?
- Gobbledygook-full web content, with too many acronyms and technical specifications and too few clear benefits
- No opportunity for thought leadership, for example articles or a blog
- No clear calls to action or path through the website
- No website at all
A professionally designed, written, maintained and up-to-date website is an essential marketing investment for consultants. A poor or non-existent one can damage your brand. The worst thing – you may never know why you are not getting those jobs or invitations to meet or tender, because you’ve been crossed off the list before the first hurdle.
The 7 essentials for your consultant website that underline your expertise
So now we know what not to do, what elements do you need to pay attention to, to make sure your online presence backs up your expert image?
1. Describe benefits instead of features
The first thing your consultancy business website must do clearly is to outline the benefits clients will experience by choosing to work with you. This is in contrast to focussing on the features of your business. For example, “Make more money from your existing customers” is a benefit while “customised sales training” is the feature. You may have come across the statement from Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt about features vs benefits “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want to buy a quarter-inch hole!”.
Benefits describe the advantage you offer to your client and is also known as your value proposition. Value proposition means the value you add to your customer by solving their problem. They make it all about the client, and clients want it to be about what you will do for them – not just what you do. Keep your ideal buyer persona in mind when developing your benefits, so that you understand what is important to them.
2. Communicate your USP
Secondly, your website should clearly communicate your USP (Unique Selling Point). In other words, why should a client choose you over other consultants in the same area? Differentiating yourself from competitors helps your business in a multitude of ways, including justifying higher fees.
Maybe your process is your USP e.g. “The only organisational development consultant using proven sports psychology techniques to help your team achieve more.” Or perhaps it is the type of clients you deal with e.g. “Financial consultant helping micro businesses grow their profits and size” or “Business coach bringing entrepreneurship and innovation skills to government agencies.” Ensure your USP is focussed on things that matter to your clients.
3. Clearly explain your range of services
Your website should clearly explain the services you offer. Rather than bundling everything you do on one ‘services’ page, it may be an advantage to have a separate page for each distinct service area. Include a plain English explanation of the benefits delivered to the client by each service. This not only makes information easier to digest for website visitors, but can have SEO advantages by allowing a unique keyword focus for each service.
4. Offer social proof
Your consultant website should offer social proof – the credibility added to a product or service by knowing someone like you has used and liked it. Case studies and testimonials that clearly outline the results or benefits clients gained form working with you are one of the most powerful forms of social proof.
Some sectors such those professions governed by Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) are restricted in using testimonials and case studies, but there are still other ways to add credibility to your website. Badges and accreditation, links to social networks such as LinkedIn, and a high level of detail about your key staff (including qualifications and profile photographs) all contribute to providing quality social proof to potential customers. Read more about the power of social proof here.
5. Position yourself as an expert
Your potential clients want to be confident that they are hiring an expert. That’s usually the reason for bringing a consultant on board – because the organisation doesn’t have the in-house knowledge, capacity or expertise to solve a particular problem. It is far better to show visitors that you are an expert than to tell them. One of the easiest ways to do this is by including a blog on your website. You can develop a content calendar that helps you design information that addresses your ideal customers’ common questions or concerns.
Not keen on writing long articles? Your blog can use videos, infographics, checklists or slideshows to communicate effectively. In fact, it’s really important to choose a method of communicating that comes easily to you so you’ll be motivated to update your blog regularly. If you can’t commit the time to this, find an outsourced content agency like Hook and Loop to assist with your blogging efforts.
6. Map a clear path through your website
Throughout your website, have a clear idea of what action you want your visitor to take next. From the home page, if you’ve captured your potential client’s interest initially, you may want to move them on to find out more about your services. From the services page, you could lead them to some case studies of clients you have helped. Next, you could reinforce your social proof by leading them to testimonials. Throughout every page, you want to offer a clear opportunity for potential clients to make contact with you or take the next step to securing your services. Guiding visitors through your website is done by a combination of good user interface (UI) design and the use of clear calls-to-action (CTAs). Read more about the importance of calls to action here.
7. Provide a way for you to establish an ongoing relationship
Once you have successfully attracted a potential customer to your website, you want to capture the lead if possible. If clients are sleuthing you in a covert manner to create a shortlist this could be difficult. However, some visitors will be open to connecting to learn more about what you offer. You can increase your likelihood of capturing visitors by putting content marketing to work. Offering a valuable gift such as a guide, white paper or ebook as gated content is one way to do this. Visitors give you their email address in exchange for being able to download an offer or some content (also known as an opt-in bribe or lead magnet).
You then use their email address to communicate to them via email marketing and other methods. This is especially useful if it usually takes clients a while to commit to your service offer due to a high price point or complexity, as it allows you to gain their trust. Read more about how to use content marketing here.
Give clients evidence that you are the expert
By paying attention to these 7 essentials for your consultant website, you will be in a better position to stand out in a highly competitive market. With many consultants working as sole traders or in boutique firms, it’s essential to make your online marketing as effective as possible and have your website acting as a sales tool for you.
Having a website designed to sell your expertise maximises your chances of being seriously considered for consultant roles. Don’t make the mistake of treating your website as a simple online brochure and assuming your expertise will sell itself. A professional website is one of your most critical marketing tools to open the door to lucrative opportunities.
Need to get your consultant website up and running?
We are experts at this. Call us on 9228 8063 to chat about how to get started or drop us a line!