Let’s face it: unless you’ve been laboring in the online marketing trenches for a few years, you most likely aren’t clear on what’s realistic for turnaround time, costs, and expectations. For example, I’ve worked with lawyers, coaches, and financial planners who ended up waiting 6 months for a design or tech implementation that should have been a six-week project.
Here are the 7 questions most professionals ask about building a website that’s cost-effective, yet also delivers a strong message and attracts the clients you’d most like to work with.
(1) “Most of our clients come from referrals. Do we even need a website?”
“The CEO of a big company won’t be going through the website,” they say. They argue that spending significant funds on a website could be better applied elsewhere.
The truth is, prospects most likely will look at your website before they get serious about talking to you. The big-company CEO might delegate this chore, of course. But someone on the staff will almost certainly go there, often before calling for an appointment.
Often they’re not just choosing between you and another firm: they’re deciding whether to hire a professional expert. They’ve heard the horror stories and they’re scared.
After all, most “ordinary” people don’t deal with certain professionals on a regular basis, especially lawyers and financial planners. Your site has to educate them on what to expect (and assure them they’re not walking into a fiery furnace).
Your website gives you the opportunity to show that you’re a caring advocate who fights for your clients — and you’re also approachable and non-judgmental. You have space to demonstrate that you’re not the kind of professional who pockets a big fee and disappears for three months, leaving your clients stranded.
BTW, your website doesn’t have to be an extravaganza that breaks the bank. I’m horrified when I hear some numbers people throw around. These days, WordPress themes allow you to create professional-looking sites with assistance from affordable techies and designers.
(2) “I keep hearing I need a show-stopping, eye-popping, jaw-dropping website. That’s what the designers and marketing coaches all say. So shouldn’t we start with the designer?”
Spending all your energy and resources on a brilliant design is like a lawyer spending her trial preparation time shopping for a designer suit — skipping the late nights, reams of notes, and hours of mind-numbing research. It works on television.
Professionals frequently get caught up in discussions of colors, photos, and elaborate designs that actually detract from their messages. I think it’s because they’re tired of looking at words all day. Choosing colors is fun!
In her book, The Brand Mapping Strategy, branding expert Karen Tiber Leland says, “Your brand is what drives the website design – not the other way around …Business people often rely (too heavily, in my opinion) on a design change to move their brand to the next level.”
I put together a blog post of quotes from marketing and design professionals, on the topic of Which comes first: copy or design? There’s universal agreement: start with the copy.
When I work with clients, we look at your message, your brand proposition (what sets you apart), brand tone, and brand energy. And we look at your core competencies and strengths.
Most importantly, we identify your story archetype – the persona, pattern or template that represents the foundation of your marketing. Then (and only then) we get around to design elements that communicate your brand more subtly and memorably.
The idea of your story archetype will seem foreign, but it’s one of the most immensely practical methods to build a solid brand for your service-based business. Download a free workbook and guide here.
(3) “Should I be on social media? It seems risky.”
There’s no need to make Facebook posts about your cat or your kids. But a blog can be a valuable marketing tool for any professional.
Your blog helps you develop credibility and awareness. You can communicate your personal style so clients know what to expect on their first office visit. You can even showcase your accomplishments without appearing to brag.
I hired an attorney myself via LinkedIn: I was in Philadelphia and needed some help with a matter in Southern California. I never met the lawyer. She did a great job for me.
(4) “How can I get past these technical terms and figure out what I’m really getting when I hire a developer?”
Unless you live online, you have no reason to know what to pay for ordinary hosting, why you should buy your own domain name, or what your designer will do when she promises to “customize” your website theme.
Yet any misunderstanding can lead to extraordinary and unnecessary charges. For instance, your developer might say, “Responsive design means your website looks good on smartphones, tablets and other devices besides a desktop. So we’ll charge you $500 extra to make your design responsive.”
That’s a good thing, right? Of course.
But these days, nearly all WordPress themes come with responsiveness built-in at no extra charge. Unless you insist on a custom design, or you make major modifications to a theme, you shouldn’t be charged extra.
The words “customize your site” can vary from one designer to another. Some will do a true overhaul, while some just tweak a theme with techniques that a low-end assistant or tech support person could use, for a fraction of the price.
(5) “Shouldn’t we get a website like the biggest and most prestigious firm in town? And start by hiring some fancy-pants design team that specializes in my field?”
Some big design firms are extremely reputable, creating masterful designs and delivering on time.
Alas, many are not. I’ve met too many professionals who waited six months to get a design, paid for more design than they needed, or got caught up in a contract that sounded like an amazing value (“just $200 a month for hosting and a free site”) but actually traps you into a mediocre, overpriced site that doesn’t attract clients.
Don’t be afraid to get second opinions after you’ve been given a quote for thousands of dollars. Often I can save my clients considerable expense because I work online.
(6) “How can I be sure my website won’t get me in trouble with the regulators?”
If you’re in certain fields (such as law or finance) your website will be guided by ethics considerations. Your copywriter should ask you to investigate what must be on your website and what will not be allowed on your website in your jurisdiction and your practice areas.
Before beginning a project, brief your copywriter on rules, limitations, regulations, and guidelines. Once you’ve established the boundaries, your copywriter will help you come up with marketing content that conforms to requirements.
For instance, an immigration lawyer can’t guarantee to get green cards for every client who wants to move to the United States. But she can guarantee a window of response time, a certain amount of attention, and a commitment to timely action; perhaps she can promise she won’t miss deadlines that will cause a client to lose a case.
(7) “Should I sign with those nice people who invited me to a special luncheon event?”
When I ask, “How come you chose X company for your web development?” I sometimes hear, “Well, they called and invited us to lunch.”
Almost always, it’s the beginning of a story with an unhappy ending.
Busy, competent web development professionals don’t have time to enjoy long lunches with prospects. In fact, most of us will ask you for information before we initiate a phone call. I am always happy to offer a webinar or speak to a live group. But I don’t buy anybody lunch.
Most of the time, I don’t even meet my clients face-to-face. We talk on the phone very briefly (and occasionally not at all).
Who’s got time to share small talk? A firm with a big sales staff might seem pretty impressive…till you realize they have to bake those costs into the price you pay.
More often, lunch doesn’t end with dessert. I hear things like, “They told me I needed Google Adwords, a $1500 logo, and a $200 QR code.”
I’ve tracked down domain names and passwords for clients when their developers disappeared.
Skip the lunch till you’re ready to celebrate your website launc
The Role of Websites In Professional Services Marketing
Just as you’re passionate about helping your clients get what they deserve, I don’t like to see busy professionals end up with websites that cost a bundle and do nothing for their marketing. I take on a limited number of clients, keep my overhead low, and have a little black book of insider resources. It’s taken me a long time to put my system together and I guard it with care.
If you’re considering a website makeover, or you’re ready for a new website, get started with the Strategic Intensive. http://cathygoodwin.com/storyconsultYour fees will be applied to the copywriting project when you’re ready to go.