At Rattleback, we develop two types of websites for our clients:
- Conversion-Based Websites
- Integrated Lead Development Systems
When I talk to prospective clients about both solutions, questions come up like — What’s the difference? Which do I need? This post is designed to provide a quick summary of each solution and offers some thoughts on how to know which solution makes the most sense for your firm.
The Changing Nature of Marketing, Business Development and Technology
I think we can all agree that one of the primary roles of marketing in a professional services firm is really about creating conversations with the right clients at the right time. It’s almost (if not completely) impossible for a client to hire a professional services firm without first having a conversation.
From the moment a conversation occurs, everything else that follows is business development. The role of business development is really to identify quality opportunities from those conversations that the firm has the expertise to solve.
Your website — and the systems that connect to it — are playing an increasingly pivotal role in both these sets of activities.
The Conversion-Based Website
Historically, for most firms, the web played a fairly passive role in both marketing and business development. It was used to establish the firm’s brand and showcase its past accomplishments (via portfolios for A/E firms and case studies for consulting firms). But, the fact of the matter is that a firm’s website can and should do much more than this.
We’ve been calling the contemporary firm website a conversion-based site for some time. We do this to emphasize the changing nature and role of a firm’s site. A conversion-based website is driven primarily by a steady diet of useful, educational content. As such, it plays a much more active and pivotal role in the marketing process. The core purpose of a conversion-based site is to educate and inform potential clients on pressing issues that matter to them. With this purpose in mind, the conversion-based site fills two important roles for your firm:
- Attract – Bring potential clients you don’t know to the firm and earn the right to market to them.
- Engage – Help those folks that are ready to hire a firm like yours determine if yours is one they might like to consider having a conversation with, and make it easy for them to do so when the time is right.
It does these things by combining useful educational content with clear and effective calls-to-action. The content is used to attract and engage potential clients. Calls-to-action are used to guide them through their buying process and connect with them when the time is right. A conversion-based site should offer a myriad of calls-to-action; both early-stage (subscribe to our email newsletter) and late-stage (initiate a conversation). Both are conversions and both are critical. When a user subscribes to an email newsletter, they’re raising their hand from your sea of web visitors and saying, “Hey, I’m interested in what you have to say. It’s okay for you to market to me.”
Generally speaking, a conversion-based website acts as a one-to-market solution — it shares your firm’s expertise to a defined market segment through its content, and helps you identify an audience within that market that’s receptive to your message. It creates an opportunity for you to market your firm to a known audience through email and social media. And, eventually it’s there to connect a potential client to you when the time is right to initiate a one-on-one dialogue.
The Integrated Lead Development System
But, this leaves a rather large and gaping hole in the middle of your buyer’s journey. A hole that sits right at the handoff from marketing to business development. The lead development system adds two additional pieces of technology to your conversion-based website to fill that hole — marketing automation and CRM. Each of these technologies are critical in helping you drill down to the individual client relationships you seek, and here’s how they fit.
Automation technologies, like ActOn, Pardot, Hubspot and Marketo, are powerful tools that are used to help guide clients through the buying process and help you make the transition from marketing to business development. Automation functions as a one-to-many technology — providing you with the ability to market to people based on their interests. Some typical things you might use an automation platform for:
- To develop behavioral segments within your web audience so you can present useful follow-on content to folks based on what interests them. While historically this has been done largely via follow-on email marketing, increasingly you’ll be able to use automation to present dynamic content on your website to visitors based on their interests.
- To identify where people are in their buying journey in order to prioritize and assign business development resources appropriately. By producing content for the various stages of a buyer’s journey and utilizing lead scoring techniques you’ll be able to identify segments of your audience that appear to be considering partnering with a firm like yours. This insight can be used to focus your business development personnel more appropriately towards folks potentially in buying mode.
- To develop a deeper understanding of the top priorities of your best clients and how they actually go about hiring a firm like yours. While Google Analytics is a useful tool to understand how your total audience navigates through your site, automation helps you look at specific individuals. Sometimes, the people you really want to do business with demonstrate different behaviors and interests than your total web population.
All this really adds up to better business development conversations. Better because clients feel like the firm is in-step with their needs and interests. And, better because business development people enter conversations with more useful information.
I’m pretty sure we all know what CRM is. And, I’m also fairly sure it’s largely not living up to its promise in your firm (at least, it’s not in most). CRM is the technology we use to manage our one-to-one selling situations. In most firms, CRM feels like a large investment of time that yields a very small return. But, this is largely because the CRM is always asking people for information and offering nothing in return beyond a trail of activities and notes. When used within the integrated lead development system, CRM can be used to:
- Deliver useful information to business development people in a system they’re largely forced to use. When a CRM is telling me things I value, I’m willing to spend more time with it.
- Understand how prospective clients interact with the firm’s site and marketing content during the business development process. How do people utilize your content once they start to explore potentially hiring you? Can you use this insight to improve your business development conversations and outcomes?
- Close the loop on marketing. Determine which marketing activities lead to the most and best opportunities and won business. Identify which content attracts the best potential clients to invest marketing dollars toward their highest value uses.
When the Conversion-Based Site Makes Sense
A site of this type makes the most sense for firms that:
- Wish to compete primarily on knowledge and expertise in lieu of experience and fees.
- Recognize they’re selling both their people and perspective and their past project outcomes.
- Are relatively new to content marketing.
- Are willing to freely share their expertise.
- Have the desire and ability to intelligently market with email.
When the Integrated Lead Development System Makes Sense
This system of technologies makes the most sense for firms that:
- Are looking to connect with a small number of ideal clients from within a relatively large pool of anonymous site visitors.
- Have committed themselves to content marketing or thought leadership marketing for some time and want to get smarter about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.
- Have already committed to building a culture of CRM (or, would like to make their investment in CRM more successful).
- Are interested in marketing to potential clients based on what interests them most.
- Would like to better prioritize where they invest their business development time.
- Believe in the efficacy and importance of measuring the performance of marketing activities.
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