Consultancies Can't Grow Their Business When Their Websites Suck
This article was last updated on 19 October 2022.
Consultancy websites is one of the most discussed topics in my work with consulting firms and their leaders. I receive 2-3 questions about it every week. So I thought I'd compile and share a list of some of the patterns I've noticed when reviewing consultancies' websites. Fasten your seatbelts.
Most consultancies' websites suck
Yes, they suck. Big time. Sorry to say. I am struggling with such poor professionalism. And to be honest, most firms are underestimating the criticalness of a website to succeed in consulting. What do consulting leaders think buyers of consultancy services do when evaluating candidate firms (or their consultants)?
Exactly, they check out the consultancy and its consultants/advisors. And hopefully, the consultancy's website shows an abundance of expert evidence. Without easy-to-find social proof and immediate evidence of profound knowledge, the risk-averse and impatient buyer will skip to the digitally savvy competitor. No mercy.
If your website isn’t your most effective source of pipeline & revenue, then something is wrong. (Chris Walker, B2B Marketing Expert and CEO at Refine Labs)
Consulting is a competitive, trust-based business. Firms need to have darn good websites with a proper structure, unparalleled proof of expertise, and influential educational content. And most of all, these websites should organically generate demand for the firms' (focused and publicly announced) expertise.
Here's what I see in, say, 97% of the cases when I evaluate consultancies and their websites. I see ‘the old', and firms should get rid of it quickly.
Recommended reading: As A Consultant, You Always Attract What You Are, Not What You Want
‘The Old School' consultancy websites
These websites are self-centered, with a pure inside view, looking like the big 'we-we-we' show.
Here are just a few of the things that 'the old' websites have in common:
- The 'We-Show': Almost all of them say: ‘Here’s what WE do…’ (this is the inside view or the we-view, the outside view would be: ‘here’s what clients say we’ve achieved’). I urge consultancies to get rid of the ‘what WE DO’ forever!
- Here’s what WE do: They immediately start with a laundry list of services (impossible to have all that deep expertise - and educate about it, by the way);
- Not updated: The last update of the website was before Corona, 2 out of the 10 (!) services show 404 broken links (I am not exaggerating, I see this every week);
- Bad security: These websites are still in HTTP (instead of HTTPS), totally unsecured. Consultancies need to wake up and get on board with the bare minimum of cyber security practices!
- Unclear audience: It’s unclear whom they are talking to, who’s the target audience or the buyer/user? There’s no information about their point of view, approach or process used;
- The vision: They love to brag about their (copied from other websites) bold vision: “We are passionate, result-oriented, team-focused, innovative, unique, 20 years of collective experience…”, blah blah blah;
- The references: Here’s how they look: “They are nice consultants, easy to work with” (heck, maybe consultancies could try to get a reference explaining they love giving discounts);
- The about: Another inside-driven self-love section, no attractive information about this history of the expertise, nothing related to real achievements in the context of the prototypical problem of the target audience (because there’s no target audience);
- The blog: the last blog post is from 8 months ago, written in the context of the second Corona wave. Visitors don’t read old junk;
- The contact form: This is really old school (as the one and the only way to get in touch), and I guess the follow up happens after 6 days, if at all;
- Poor traffic: I always check out the traffic to these websites: close to zero, a sad story.
- And when I ask Google: The tremendous unknown consultancy, on search page 27
‘The New School' consultancy websites
Websites that fall in 'the new' category have a strong outside view, with persuasive social proof, looking like the big 'client-client-client' show.
As David C. Baker puts it from the perspective of the client:
Will I see myself uniquely in your web presence? Will it eerily feel like you have a camera in my office? Will it be obvious that you've worked for many other companies just like mine who have unique needs? (David C. Baker)
- They start with precise positioning: ‘Here’s 1) the problem we solve for 2) this specific audience with 3) this specific approach/methodology.' It’s not possible to misinterpret what the firm does and what its consultants can achieve (early connection with audience and early non-ideal client disqualification!);
- Pain-focused: It’s followed by: ‘Here’s an overview of the prototypical problem(s) and challenges of our clients that we have discovered the past years’;
- Bold point of view: It's followed by: ‘Here’s our (bold) point of view regarding these prototypical client problems', setting the context for everything the firm does;
- The references: Here’s how they look: “Here are prototypical outcomes and results that our consultancy delivered in organizations X, Y, Z" - case study-based and testified by the client, if possible (nobody cares if consultants in the firm are friendly people to work with);
- The about: They explain how it all started, where the expertise is coming from (re specific audience problems), how they achieve project ‘home runs’, how they engage the stakeholders, how they improve their expertise on an ongoing basis, etc. All inspiring stories about the expertise-legacy of the consultancy. Trust-building, you bet;
- The blog: (Bi)weekly updates, straightforward (specific) problem-resolution advice, educating prospects and clients to discover improvement opportunities, explaining the hidden cost of status quo, picturing ‘the promised land’, explaining ‘old vs new’. And the blog content gets repurposed in social channels consistently;
- The FAQ (yes!): An incredible overview of all sorts of prototypical client questions and even objections (to gain immediate non-ideal client disqualification) to help the target audience with their decision making;
- The contact form: It's still there, but the focus is on ‘booking a call’ straight into the agenda of the dedicated expert (and all of the above website sections are 100% pre-qualifying information, they hardly ever get calls from non-ideal prospects);
- Traffic to the website: Organically growing week by week, these consultancies become top-of-mind in the market for their capacity of solving specific problems for a specific audience, driven by their educational power;
- When I ask Google: On Page 1 with their core article about essential trends in the industry (why don't you try with me and google: “Trends in consulting” 🤓 ).
I urge consultancies to not wait another day and delete their old-school website. Tomorrow. The way their websites currently are – nobody cares anyway. Not the prospects, not Google.
Recommended reading: Consulting USPs need to die a brutal death. Here’s why.
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Hello, I’m Luk Smeyers, and I’m guiding consulting firms through the journey of growing their business by helping them transform into go-to experts in their market. I have been in consulting businesses for almost 20 years, in very different roles: as European CHRO in a global consultancy, as a startup founder in an analytics consultancy, and as a leader in a 'Big 4' consultancy, post-acquisition of the startup. I had the privilege of achieving global visibility as a consultant and I never had to sell, persuade, or negotiate as a result. I have now bundled all those experiences, expertise, know-how, research, reading, successes, struggles, and failures from managing and growing that visibility in the past years.