Something we still hear an awful lot of in professional services – “We don’t get any business from our website. My clients wouldn’t use Google to find an adviser. And they definitely aren’t on social media.”
A drill-down into the online visibility of these firms sheds light on why they think as they do:
- Low levels of website traffic.
- A disproportionately high percentage of branded search – a high proportion that is, not high volume.
- Poor visibility.
- No content.
- No keywords.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For anyone to find these firms online, they have to dig really deep, if they can be bothered, which couldn’t be further aligned to the online behaviour of clients.
It’s missing out on opportunities with potential clients who may not be aware of your firm (they do exist!!), beyond your existing network.
Look at the fundamentals. Where do people go to find a professional adviser? We know they:
- use peer to peer recommendations – word of mouth
- consider their own perception of a firm / its reputation
- use referrals
- go online – website, social channels, online reviews
It’s the fourth point that some firms aren’t yet fully getting to grips with.
Of the enquiries we receive from professional service firms, the majority are rooted in the need to improve online visibility among target audiences.
If you really are in the best position to help – you owe it to your audiences to make yourself visible to them and to be easy to find.
The adviser selection process is complex enough already, so why limit or deny potential clients the opportunity of finding you and instructing you?
High stakes search for a professional adviser
For clients, selecting the right professional adviser involves high stakes.
Across B2B and B2C alike, clients are using the internet as part of their research and due diligence processes.
When potential clients are looking online, they are searching for a solution to a problem – you cannot assume they will search specifically for you.
They know there is an abundance of suppliers and advisers who they can call on.
Empowerment for clients comes from being able to leverage information gleaned from research to make as much of an informed decision of an adviser’s suitability and competency, set against the client’s own specific selection criteria and the capabilities of competitor advisers.
Whether it is an organisation looking to appoint a new service provider or an individual requiring legal advice – however structured or informal the selection process, and whether it involves one decision maker or a multiple decision makers. Clients need to benefit from having a choice and the ability to make an informed decision to meet their need.
Which is where firms who ignore or overlook the need for online visibility are really missing out.
Gone are the days of a client picking up the Yellow Pages, or a copy of Chambers, or just asking a friend.
Professional service buyers are using all the tools available to them to ensure they are making the right decision and selecting the right professional adviser for their needs – Google searches; social media; online forums; websites; reviews.
Which means you need to be in all of those spaces too. Saying the right things at the right time to convey your capability as the solution to their problem.
How can your firm be in a position to win new business if prospective clients are unable to find you? How can they consider you as a potential adviser and assess your competence and suitability if you’re not visible when they are conducting their research? Why should they consider you in the running if you’re not where your competitors are online?
Even in the case of existing clients. Avoid complacency. You should expect they will undertake due diligence and a market sense-check. And if this research does not validate a positive position – they will question why. Are you out of touch? Are competition better placed to meet their needs?
Relying on old world traditional tactics just isn’t sustainable, or at the very least it is overlooking substantial opportunity. Same old networking events. Same referral sources. There’s a world of business beyond.
You owe it to clients to put yourself in their sights when they are looking for the best solution to meet their needs.
Claim your ground
It’s a long term play to build up and gain online traction, to find your digital space, particularly where others have already claimed theirs.
We presented some research recently to a new client. Out of their 10 main online competitors, the client hadn’t heard of most of them.
But the data showed these firms had notable site traffic, healthy visibility and were riding high for search terms in their areas of specialism. On all counts, they were outperforming our client – who up until that point hadn’t been aware of the extent of online activity or potential for opportunity available.
What this reminds us is that the online environment is different to the offline, and it needs its own response and focus.
The nature and make up of your competition online is different to the ‘traditional’. It’s wider than you think. The tools open to you are multiple and varied.
If you are not active in these areas, you can guarantee you are being overlooked.
To have any chance of building sustainable visibility and competitive position, requires an awareness of clients’ and competitors’ behaviours online – and your own strategy to come to the fore.
For professional service firms, the focus has to be improving online visibility.
There’s a world of traffic beyond your existing network that doesn’t know you or how you can meet specific needs.
There are communities actively engaging and communicating which some firms are not yet a part of or contributing to.
In these instances, the one solution has to be digital transformation. Where a firm understands why online visibility is business-critical for a sustainable proposition.
There is no magic formula. Each search is as individual as the need – from the order in which people use various tools, to the stage they’re at in the buying process, to their choice of search term when carrying out their research.
The crucial take away for professional service firms is – you have to be visible and covering all the relevant bases for potential clients to find you.
If you really can be of help, you owe a duty to be found online. A duty to potential clients who should have access and the option to select the best adviser for their needs.
Make it easy for clients to find you and understand the relevance and resonance of your proposition. Don’t make them go on a treasure hunt. Chances are they won’t find the prize.
Gill specialises in content and social marketing for professionals, including law firms and accountancy practices.
Gill can be contacted by email: email@example.com or by mobile: 07484 643 612.
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