Tell A Compelling Story With Thoughtful Web Design
When it comes to offering a product online, the features, benefits, pricing and support are the foundation of the content story. In highly competitive sectors, branding and creative positioning is what helps consumers differentiate one product from another.
Presenting a service online is different. Making a claim or promise to create a sense of trust is not enough. Consumers who are searching for professional consultants such as lawyers, accountants, plastic surgeons, doctors or dentists are generally looking for quantitative information about services that are highly qualitative.
Online services such as Angie’s List, discount buyer’s clubs, Google+ reviews have grown to address this need. Localized search engine results are an on-going effort to help consumers quantify qualitative information.
While obtaining positive online reviews, search engine optimization (SEO) and using pay per click are important to online marketing of any service, these activities can only take you so far. Choosing a law firm to represent your business, a medical professional to perform a cosmetic procedure or an accountant to help you with an IRS audit is a critically important decision.
Thanks in part to localized search, marketing professional services has become increasingly competitive. To stand out, telling a services story with compelling web design & content is paramount to success.
Keys To Telling A Great Services Story
1. Understand your audience
Most professional services firms acquire a general understanding of the reasons their clients came to them for assistance. In traditional outbound marketing (tv, radio and print advertising) this type of broad understanding is valuable and useful.
Inbound marketing (attracting leads online) is different because it is based on the idea that you have many different types of prospects and each can be reached with highly targeted content. In order to know what content is needed and desired by your prospects, it is important to develop buyer personas. A persona is a summary profile of a customer you have or want, that includes specific psychographic data about interests, responsibilities, challenges and goals. While demographics and larger target market segments are obviously very useful, personas provide insights that help you connect to consumers in meaningful ways.
2. Communicate in a way that reflects user preferences
The rapid, continuing adoption of smartphones has driven the cultural demand for content. Statistics indicate that over 70% of first contact with a brand happens before people speak with a real person. Being unique is not as important as being relevant.
Web visitors want to go directly to a site or use search to find what they want quickly. Even if the answer is not a simple one, the goal is to create the perception that it is. Each page of your website should clearly communicate the “WHERE”, “WHAT” and the “WHY” of your service.
- WHERE: Include the name and address of your organization in the header or footer region of every page of your website which makes contacting you via a smartphone simple.Specific page content, page titles and user interface design cues should help clarify what the subject of the page content is about.
- WHAT: Visitors want to quickly understand the benefit they will receive from your service. Each page should should be summarize the value of the page content in the opening headline and text. Specific lists and explanations of services and/or processes should follow the value statement.
- WHY: Visitors want to quickly understand why they should use your service as opposed to someone else. Convey what makes your service different. Sharing a unique perspective on your delivery of the service, or your motivation or track record can help better engage prospects.
3. Separate loyal fans from first time visitors
Prospects may be coming in contact with your brand through the website for the first time. The information they want is different than the content existing clients may need. “Smart” website content recognizes existing contacts when they visit a page and will swap out blocks of content or offers according to the preferences you set. With the ability to customize content for different buyer personas, you can present content that uniquely engages each visitor. Incorporating smart content usually requires a third-party solution such as Hubspot.
4. Portray your service as a product solution
As growth of smartphone usage grows, so does the use of search engines. From a cultural perspective, people are using search engines to find solutions.
In fact, over 60% of adults using the web make contact with a brand online before any face to face or direct contact happens. Given the nature of smartphone screen sizes, people are less likely to wade through a great deal of information before they make a decision to further engage a service.
Unless your organization is using chat ware, you don’t have a chance to “ask questions” about a prospect’s need before they make a decision. This is why you should present your service as a product. Lead with benefits, and support the claims with features.
Here are some activities that can help you develop a service story that grabs attention:
- Craft an “elevator speech”. Decide the best way to sum up your business in a 30-second statement. Convey the key benefits and features that differentiate your service.
- Consider describing your services in a quantitative way. Build a statistical story around your service.
The most effective services messaging is well articulated benefits and features.
5. Include offers
Whether you are actively looking for new business or not, every page of your website and blog should include an offer and call to action. After reviewing a page of content, visitors should know why they need your service and be encouraged to take action through a contact or content offer that relates to the value of your service.
4. Establish a creative strategy
A creative strategy is the style and tone you will use to get the message across. Take time to consider the style of the writing and imagery. Should it be serious, humorous, irreverent? Should there be a sense of urgency? Rather than just reporting facts and figures, using metaphor, or other approaches that relate to key concepts which will make your service story more memorable and engaging. You want to stand apart from your competitors in a credible way.
It can be helpful to review websites of competitors and related fields in and out of your geographic market. Reviewing popular web design creative strategies can help keep the process on track.
5. Content strategy and keywords
A content strategy is a plan for sharing valuable information about your services online. A well-constructed strategy will include plans for blog content and a publishing schedule, the development of content offers, and social media activity.
Your content strategy should also identify and incorporate keywords and phrases that are likely to be used by your prospects. Keywords are typically embedded in all aspects of your content from web pages, to blogs, offers and pay per click advertising.
Choosing the right keywords will make a big difference in your organic search rankings. The primary goal is to use keywords and phrases your buyer personas are using to find services such as yours.
There are several ways to research keywords used in your service industry:
- Search engine “Suggestions” tool
- Keyword and Search Trends
- Keyword tracking services
- Competitor evaluation tools, such as SEMRush
- PPC keyword research
There’s a more to attracting traffic and SEO, but using keywords is a great start.
6. Present your story using fresh website design
The look of your website is often the first part of your brand people see. Even so, it’s really the last step of the services story-telling development process. There are many design possibilities, some more popular than others. The design should focus your visitor’s attention on the primary messaging of your service story. The use of color, fonts and style should reflect your brand and enhance engagement by presenting content in an easy to read attractive way. Navigation should be secondary to the content. Design trends change, so it can help to build your site in a content system that supports the use of custom or template design themes. Open source platforms such as WordPress make the idea of updating a design in the future a simple process.
7. Make sure your site is smartphone and tablet friendly (responsive)
Your services story needs to built so that when a visitor comes to your website, the device they’re using is recognized and the content will reformat accordingly, to enhance the experience. This functionality is known as “responsive”.
8. Test your assumptions
Invite a few existing clients and “friendly” prospects to review your concepts and web design. This is an effective real-world way to test your thinking and executions. A fresh perspective during the development process may also help you find errors, and/or omissions more quickly than someone who is very close to the project.
9. Measure the results
Use a tool such as Google Analytics to track visits and analyze the data. Tools like SEMRush and Google Webmaster Tools can give you greater insights into search queries, links and site issues. Monitoring your progress on a monthly or quarterly basis will help you decide what is working and what is not.
Telling a compelling services story with web design and content will help you attract more qualified traffic. A well-crafted services story will also engage your prospects more quickly.
If you’d like a of review your current services story, or help creating one from scratch, give us a call or read about using online search to identify other graphic and web design or inbound marketing firms that can help.
About the author: Tom Weinkle is a founder and partner of Vortex Communications, a graphic and website design firm who offers graphic and WordPress web design, build, troubleshooting and training services along with search optimization, social media and inbound marketing services. Based in Miami, Florida, Tom has over 25 years of experience in visual communications for the healthcare, medical, law, accounting, software, financial services and banking industries.