Whether you’re a multi-national professional services firm or an independent business advisor, it’s imperative that your website is working effectively for you. After all, it’s often the first place a prospect will go to check your credentials and capability before taking the next step and making contact.

I’m often asked by accountants and business advisors about best practice for website development. What works well and what should be avoided? So, I hope to share with you some tips.

Laying the foundations

As a rule of thumb, you should aim to update your website every couple of years, this ensures you remain relevant to your customers’ needs and you keep your branding fresh. But before you start a new, or refresh an existing website you need to prepare, as in anything, planning is the key to avoiding lengthy implementation cycles and costly mistakes.

One important step is to have your brand and positioning clearly outlined up front. So many websites I’ve seen have ‘me too’ messaging or no clear purpose.

Top tips for planning a website

  1. Define your sustainable competitive advantage (SCA), that is, what sets you apart from your competition, that reason why your target market should engage your firm and not others. Communicating clearly your SCA will create cut-through with prospective customers by stating exactly how you are going to solve their problems by being uniquely different.
  2. Craft the story you want to tell. Detail what you do, how you do it and who you work with. Some of the best websites I’ve seen are simple, yet with powerful and compelling calls to action and proof of capability.
  3. Pull together all elements of your branding before you start, from your logo, tagline, to your supporting graphic elements, tone of voice, colour scheme, look and feel (hopefully you already have this in a brand style guideline).
  4. If you are engaging a web developer or advertising firm, write up a clear brief as to your objectives for the site, and provide them with all the elements that you have pulled together from points 1-3 above as part of the brief.
  5. Identify your key target markets and personas. When your target prospect visits your site, they should immediately be able relate to your offering, understanding how you can help them.
  6. Be clear about your niche; it’s not often a business can be all things to all people, so communicate which industries, business sectors or sizes you work best with and provide examples.
  7. Communicate your business model; clearly outline your offering, pricing model, products and services and how you work with clients.
  8. Be authentic; the tone of your website should reflect your human side, avoid jargon and complicated messages.
  9. Have a clear call to action (CTA) in multiple places, outlining what will happen once visitors make contact, what time-frame they should expect a response, what type of information they will receive and so on.

Mistakes to avoid

  1.  Avoid too much corporate speak, a website that too wordy with too much content is daunting; less is more. Instead be clear on your business focus and speak in layman’s terms. Clearly articulate what you do.
  2. Avoid confusing and complex navigation. Navigation that’s too clever for its own good is just plain annoying. Keep it simple.
  3. Make sure your website is responsive, and adapts seamlessly to tablets or smartphones. You can find some great online resources to evolve your website, such as bootstrap templates with loads of responsive sample pages for minimal cost.
  4. Not including a blog or resources area. Thought leadership is imperative to demonstrate capability and authenticity, it’s also a great way to drive traffic to your website by linking social posts back to your blog.

Building the structure

When you’re building the structure of the website, you should include the following:

  1. Who you are – communicate your values, vision, and even personal interests so people get an idea of who you are and what you stand for. Videos are particularly good for this to communicate a human feel.
  2. What you do – keep it practical, demonstrate how you help people and solve their problems.
  3. Who you work with – the type of clients in your sweet spot and the roles and levels you work with in an organisation.
  4. Why you are different – Perhaps it’s your track record of success, or your ability to offer key tools such as templates, courses and materials.
  5. A clear call to action – how to contact you and what will happen when they do, for example ‘we will contact you within 24 business hours to set up a 20-minute discussion about your objectives.’
  6. Testimonials and case studies showcasing your past successes.
  7. Resources – embed videos, thought leadership and tools which will demonstrate your capability.
  8. Blog – generate useful, authentic thought leadership articles and repurpose these in social media posts
  9. The ‘mandatories’ such as a contact us page with your address, email and phone details, terms and conditions of use and privacy policy.
  10. Social media feed – including a link to your LinkedIN profile is a good idea, so visitors can see how they are connected to you.

A good website will work hard for you in terms of generating leads and educating prospects, so make sure you put in the thinking up front so it does the best job possible.

Good luck!