“The size of a firm’s contact button is directly related to the desperateness of the firm.”
Bob Buday threw out this wonderful one-liner in a discussion we were having about thought leadership websites a few weeks back. I love the sentiment (and, largely agree with it, BTW). Yet, I think it’s this fear of coming off too pushy or too salesy that leads a lot of professional services firms to totally undervalue the importance of calls-to-action in their site design and functionality.
I’ve talked and written about the importance of effective website calls-to-action a lot in the past – most notably, in this article, Why Conversions Matter and in our Website Benchmarking Handbook (both in the eBook and the webinar). This post outlines four calls-to-action every firm must have and where they’re most appropriately used within your site’s design.
1. The Subscription Form
I continue to be amazed at how many firms completely neglect the early stage buyer. What percentage of your site’s visitors are actively looking to hire a firm like yours? A wide range of research has been done on this topic in the past — the answer generally comes back that 70-95% of visitors are NOT in buying mode. This percentage is certainly at the top of this range in most professional services firms. Yet, firms repeatedly misuse the subscription form. Either they require too much information, force the visitor to work too hard to complete it, or fail to offer a subscription altogether.
The subscription form might just be the most important call-to-action a firm has. Subscribers are more likely to come back to your site and more likely to engage with your content over time. When someone subscribes to your content, they’re raising their hand and saying, “hey, what you have is valuable to me; I’d like you to market to me.”
Where to use subscription forms and some considerations to get more out of them:
- You should have a subscription form on virtually any and all valuable content and thought leadership pages. Anywhere someone is reading your firm’s unique perspective presents an opportunity to convert them into a marketable lead.
- People are more likely to subscribe when the offer to do so is on the page they’re reading. They’re not as likely to seek out a subscription if they have to go elsewhere to find it.
- Cap your initial subscription at 3 form fields — first name, last name and email. Sure, you’d like more, but why discourage people from offering you the right to market to them?
- Provide some brief context as to what the subscription entails. What will be delivered? You should be able to tell someone this in 1 sentence. Consider weaving your firm’s positioning into the description. Here’s a good example (Newfangled).
- Carve out some time in your client’s inbox. Don’t just tell them what they’re getting, tell them when they’ll get it. (Venn Fridays)
- Don’t rely solely on RSS feeds. First, an RSS subscription tells you nothing about the person who’s subscribing to the content. Second, while some people prefer to consume content via RSS, it’s generally a minority of people. RSS feeds have been around a long time, and wide spread use of the technology has never really expanded much beyond 15% of Internet users.
- Consider using a double opt-in solution. A double opt-in forces a visitor to click twice to complete a sign-up. Some research has found that these types of subscriptions perform better than simple forms.
2. The Related Content Offer
I also continue to be amazed by how many firms essentially put up blogs “out of the box” with little thought into how they connect visitors to other content within the firm’s website. I routinely find firms with blog pages that show outrageously long lists of content tags, publish dates and author lists running down the right hand side bar.
You’ve attracted someone to your site with your firm’s valuable content, where do you want to take them from here? If a visitor finds value in your perspective, they shouldn’t be forced into a game of “find the needle in the haystack” to decide where to go next. It’s your job to guide them to other useful content that’s similar in nature to what they’re reading and would find valuable. Importantly, it’s in your own best interests to do so.
Where to use related content offers and how to get more from them:
- It’s a good idea to have a related content offer on every thought leadership or content page on your site. It can’t hurt you to have a related content offer on discipline/service line pages and case study pages either.
- All your content tags don’t have to be listed publically for your audience — this can be overwhelming.
- Consider developing a dynamic system, like the one used on Rattleback.com and within Rattleback CMS, to automatically present users with similar content related to what they’re reading.
- Consider using a static system to present visitors with your most useful or valuable content.
- Consider classifying related content for the visitor by type (example: RHR)
3. The About the Author Offer
One of the things I find surprising in a lot of professional service firm websites is how they underestimate the importance of the firm’s people in presenting the firm’s expertise and perspective. Ultimately, clients are hiring your people to advise them. Whenever possible and appropriate, it just makes sense to connect the firm and its perspective to its people. The most common mistakes I see are firms leaving content unauthored or making people feel inaccessible.
Most consulting firms have good profiles of the consultants, and the vast majority of professional services firms have decent profiles of their executive leaders. But, they’re not always connected with the firm’s content in an effective way.
Where to use about the author content offers and how to get more from them:
- The About the Author call-to-action only really makes sense on authored pages. It is most relevant to later stage buyers — folks in the evaluative stage of buying who are interested in learning more about the experience of what it would be like to hire you. It’s a really useful call-to-action to have on thought leadership pages expressly for buyers in the evaluative stage of the process. These are people who are specifically looking to understand how the people who lead the work actually think.
- The simplest way is to connect the author’s profile to their name in the byline.
- Increasingly, I believe you’ll see “About the Author” widgets in the sidebar of firm sites to offer a brief overview of the individual and then connect you to their full profile for more background.
4. The Contact Offer
No, I’m not talking about your contact page with your list of offices, principal business development people and phone numbers. What I am talking about is an in-line Contact Offer like this one:
The contact offer is overlooked because everyone has a contact page, yet it’s been our experience that people are more likely to reach out to interact with a firm when the contact offer is readily accessible from appropriate pages in the site’s design.
Where to use the contact offer and how to get more from it:
- We’ve found that, when buyers are in the evaluative stage of buying they return to thought leadership channels to evaluate the people they could be working with based on how they write and their perspective. They’ll also spend time with a firm’s people profiles, case studies and past project successes. These latter pages are the most appropriate pages for contact offers. Pages communicating services and disciplines are also appropriate places for contact offers.
- Keep it simple. You want conversations. Only include the fields you need to initiate a conversation.
- Provide options — let people connect through a form, via the telephone, or possibly via email.
- Offer some guidance on what’s useful for someone to share with you prior to a first conversation.
Wrapping it Up
In my opinion, every firm marketing with valuable content or thought leadership should be utilizing all four of these calls-to-action in their appropriate context on their site.