If you run a consulting business, or any kind of independent professional service business, having a web site is important. But having a web site that positions you and your offering - your brand - in the best possible light is even more important.
I work with a ton of independent consultants and professionals and it continues to amaze me how many of them have really crappy web sites. I'm not talking about amateaurs here, but seasoned, well respected consulting pros who are smart, buttoned down, and great at what they do. So what gives, why do these otherwise smart pros put up poor rep[resentations of themselves online? Many seasoned professionals think it's becuase of just that - they are seasoned pro's, experienced and good at what they do, have a reputation and referral network - and don't see the need for a strong web site. But that inside-out thinking... projecting your thoughts onto your client's thought process. Put yourself in a potential client's shoes and realize that a bad web site is a referral killer. Today, as soon as someone hears about you they go to your website... immedeately... before they speak to you... before they ask someone about you... before they act on that referral. Deny it at your peril, but this is a proven fact of modern business - everyone from small business owners to corporate executives goes to a web site either just before or just after they meet you or are referred to you.
As an independent consultant you are your brand and your brand is you. Your web site is the single most visable and most frequently referenced brand impression you can make. More than Linked In, more than your professional association, more than a referral from a colleague. Your web site in many cases makes or breaks a prospective client's decision to reach out to engage you or from deciding to work with you once they have met you.
But just what should you do on your web site? How can you be sure it will enhance your image and be helpful to potential clients rather than drive them away? Of course, all great Web sites share design characteristics like ease of use and consistency. But the design of a consultant's site has some important differences. Unlike a retailer's Web site, for example, a consultant's site sells talents, skills, solutions, and experience, not products. With a world of information at their fingertips, consulting clients will not be satisfied if your site churns out nothing but marketing hype. So, some things to consider as you think things through in planning your web site:
Create client-focused content. Don't limit your site content to describing who is in your practice and what services you provide. Prospective clients rarely care about your business until they're convinced you can help. Focus your site's content on the client's problems first, and then tell them about your qualifications.
Your site is a marketing hub. Your Web site should help convey your visual identity and be the marketing hub of your practice--equal parts front office, demonstration lab, resource library, and publicity machine. The content, appearance, and usability of your site reflect your style and show your competence as a professional and how you treat clients.
Keep up with the times. Web visitors assign credibility to sites that are current, or at least demonstrate that they have been recently reviewed. Don't let your site get stale. At a minimum, refresh content once a month.