Professional services marketers have a particularly unique set of challenges when developing an Internet strategy or constructing a Web site. Unlike retailers, restaurants, or even home services firms that are focused on volume and transactions, professional services firms have a different focus altogether.
The fact of the matter is that most buyers of professional services don’t click ‘buy’ on a Web site and pay for services. Most don’t hire an attorney, accountant, or architect by filling out an online form. But that is not to say that the Web site is unimportant in the buying process. Quite the contrary.
In the professional services marketing selling/buying cycle, the Web site can play one of many important roles such as:
- helping buyers understand the history and values of a consulting firm
- assisting buyers in exploring the educational qualifications and credentials of the professionals
- informing prospects as to the nature and substance of various service areas
- educating prospects in the matter and shape of representative client engagements
Professional services marketers typically use case histories, firm newsletters, portfolio samples, and/or professional profiles to facilitate these needs. But there is one particular opportunity that many professional services firms miss in constructing Web sites: providing unbiased, non-promotional advice in the form of white papers, blog postings, or tip sheets.
If you’re a consultant or professional services provider you may feel a natural aversion to providing “free” advice. And that is natural. After all, your knowledge and your expertise is the asset with the highest potential for revenue generation. So, why give it away?
The reality is that your would-be customers are self-interested. After all, most Web site visitors are seeking to be entertained or educated. They want to learn, be informed, and acquire an edge. A Web site that meets that prospect with biased information, staff birthday announcements, and self-promotional content does not address that self-interest. In fact, it misses the mark altogether.
So, how do you meet that need without giving away the store? Simply find an educational concept or two that would be useful or valuable to your prospects. Here are a couple of examples:
- If you are marketing accounting services, consider developing a one-page sheet that lists 10 often-overlooked methods to save on next year’s tax return.
- For architecture firms, create a brief white paper describing common pitfalls when contemplating a new building project.
As you can see, these examples may be very valuable to those potentially buying the services without replacing the need for them.
Conceptual content that truly matters to your visitors can have plenty of benefits. For starters, this type of content connects you with your visitors in a genuine and legitimate way; without even speaking to one another you’ve already begun to work together. Second, you’ve provided an information asset that the prospect might potentially share with other like-minded buyers…and that is true viral promotion. Finally, you’ve created valuable content for search engine indexing; you now stand a better chance of associating your site with the topics you have written about.
Providing real content to your prospects is a worthwhile tactic and a best practice. Whether you simply provide it on a blog or require visitors to register to download the content, posting content is a primary step toward connecting with your visitors. While professional services buyers rarely ‘click to buy,’ they certainly will ‘click to learn.’ Once that has happened, you are on your way to a new client!