If you are a business or management consultant, do you HAVE to have a website?
There you go – I said it. The most powerful marketing tool is word of mouth and there are loads of sole proprietorships that operate just fine and are profitable with no website. Why? Because they operate via repeat business, have a set clientele and know that many small enterprise websites are no more than a business card or piece of collateral – that simply exist on the web to point to a body of work and act like an “on-line” brochure. And it can be a lot of maintenance to keep the site fresh. Many sole proprietor consulting firms have sufficient business via word of mouth or know they either can’t manage more without stretching past their capabilities or simply don’t want to grow.
And that is ok. The question is – do you want to generate a leads or do you want potential clients to simply know more about your service offerings? You can get by with a web presence instead of a site. A web presence is the compendium of tools you can use to get your name into the web-o-sphere. And besides, if you follow all things ‘net related’, Facebook and Linked-In are go-to portal sites these days. Many will argue that these sites will take over though it is still best practice to use them to “point to” a main site. But – if you do want a website, what are the key considerations?
1.) Don’t get hung up on Color and Style
I like paisley. Really I do. But you like blue swirls. Does it really matter? Unless your design qualifies for the Ugliest Website award, don’t get too hung up on having to be the one and only site of its kind. Please – no web design by committee! Just get on with it. You can always fine tune the design later. The main components of good design are simplicity, readability and navigation and as of 2015, your site has to be mobile responsive. Then it is all about imagery and content – making sure the site instantly reflects who you are and what you do. A good approach is to talk to your web designer about your vision and then ask for 3 ‘skins’ to choose from instead of paying through the nose for your own particular brand of perfect. Or learn WordPress or pay Squarespace, Wix or GoDaddy for a simple template! Your site will never be perfect. Get over it. But do spend time figuring out WHY you need a site and what you want it to do for you.
2.) DO Spent time on WHY!
I have spent too much time with technology companies who spend all their time and budget on the “look and feel” of their site and then ignore how they promote it or use it to generate business or worse, the search engine optimization! My point is that a website is not just about the design – it is about communicating your message clearly and succinctly to your target audience and getting them “to do” something – the “conversion”. Whatever your conversion point is – figure that out and spend your valuable time figuring out how you will get visitors to do what you want them to. Do you want them to stay longer, sign up for something, make a comment, buy something? What is it? And how will you measure success?
3.) Content Management
It is too costly and time intensive to go to your webmaster every time you want to change something small on your website unless you have a massive site and can afford it. Most of my clients need the flexibility to play around a bit. They never get it right the first time and that is ok. Technology has advanced to the point that most Content Management Systems (CMS) are point and click. A good webmaster knows to lock you out of the scary design items to preserve your brand – if you can type in a word processor, you can handle your own CMS.
4.) Call to Action
See Tip #1 again – simplicity, readability and navigation. We all love to see our words on the internet but yikes – go to any successful site that works to convert the reader to an action and you will find a call to action on the home page. An example is Squarespace– go to their home page and you know what they do, how to contact them and soon, what the product price is. Wow. No long winded explanations and digging through multiple pages to find what you need. Do you absolutely need a website to be a successful consultant? No – but if you do get on the web, increase the return on your investment by keeping it simple. Especially if you are a sole proprietor!
And btw – I know need to update my website! Sheesh. __________________________________________
Post updated August 30, 2015: links and updated content.
Terry Rachwalski is a Certified Management Consultant, business consultant and MBA based in Victoria, BC. Via her company, Front Porch Perspectives, she assists technology companies strategize and implement go-to-market plans.