The value of testimonials (part one)

I don’t remember when I first learned about the power of testimonials in the context of professional services. It was probably about twenty years ago – long before it became common place.

For many years I have encouraged accountants to collect testimonials and to use them for marketing purposes. I explain to the accountants how to obtain testimonials in a professional way and how to overcome common concerns if they need to collate some to start the ball rolling.

In my case I have a page of testimonials on my website. In each case I have included the full name of the person who gave the testimonial.I must admit though that I have not made the most of them as they are all in one place and not given a context. Thus it’s not clear which testimonials refer to which of my services or talks. Proof I’m not perfect (as if further proof were required!).  I am also very proud of the kind recommendations I have been accumulating on my Linkedin profile.

Why are testimonials so valuable in the context of professional services? Quite simply because they are the next best thing to a direct referral. Many professionals claim that they get much of their work through personal recommendations and I can believe that.They often claim that advertising is not really worthwhile.They may be right.

But there is, what I call, a disconnect here. When they advertise (and I include website material as part of the advertising mix) they are communicating with people who don’t know them. Equally these prospects may not know any existing clients.But those prospects could read testimonials from existing clients if these were easily available on the website and in other marketing materials.

Without testimonials the marketing messages are mere assertions.Testimonials can bring these assertions to life. They can act as the next best thing to a personal recommendation or referral. They need to be believable. They need to be relevant and they need to be authentic.

I’ll continue this theme in future blog posts.

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Websites for professional firms (part two)

A few weeks ago I posted the first of my observations and advice concerning websites for professional firms.

When I consult with ambitious firms I invariably check out their websites beforehand. Some are good. Some are lousy. Some don’t exist and some are almost indistinguishable from those of other firms who have bought the same web package.

I always ask the same key question:
Who is your audience for the website?
For most firms IT IS NOT for clients.
The real target audience, whose needs should be satisfied normally includes:
– prospects who have been recommended to the firm ;
– prospects who have found the site when searching online;
– ambassadors and advocates of the firm and the partners eg: bankers, solicitors and other networking contacts who want to check out what the partners have told them about the firm.

It’s also for suppliers and prospective suppliers. AND a commonly overlooked but often very important audience, being PROSPECTIVE STAFF. These days almost anyone worth recruiting will have a look at a potential employer’s website. Does yours contain anything that makes your firm stand out as being a more attractive place to work than whoever you are competing with for good quality staff?

Why do I think a website is NOT for clients?
Because, in most cases you want them to get in touch and to speak with you when they need your help. If they can access all the help they need via your website you are less likely to secure additional paid work. You are less likely to be able to help them to clarify their enquiry and to determine whether or not you can help.

There may be cases where accountants are playing a strong ‘volume’ game and DO want to discourage phone calls. For them it makes sense to share lots of content on the web. It may also make sense in other cases as well but if a firms’ website contains loads of material that does not encourage the user to contact the accountant for relevant advice, there will be plenty of lost opportunities.

You have to decide what it is you want your website to do. And the starting point is always: Who is the audience? What will they want and what do you want to tell them?

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Websites for professional firms (part one)

I recently posted an item here entitled: How to present your firm more effectively. I’ve since noted a related discussion on Dennis Howlett’s AccMan blog concerning the importance or otherwise of your firm’s website.

Dennis seems to be of the view that the quality of a firm’s website is almost irrelevant as what distinguishes one firm from another is the quality of the people. And to an extent I agree with him.

There is another angle here however. How do prospective clients and advocates distinguish one firm from another BEFORE they meet those distinctive individuals? It doesn’t matter how great the people are if no one is meeting or talking with them to ascertain if the relationship and service offering is right for the prospective client. And what is it, these days, that a prospect will do before deciding whether or not to contact a new adviser? They will check the relevant website. This is increasingly the case even if an incredible adviser is highly recommended by a very enthusiastic client.

Does your website contain the right messages for you/your firm targeted at your key audiences? Does it present the adviser or the firm in a good light and really distinguish them from the competition or does it contain the same old ‘sales’ messages as everyone else? Does your website enhance or damage your marketing efforts and the referrals that you get?

Of course there there are probably some firms, with great people, who are getting loads of referrals despite having ordinary, boring and potentially damaging websites. No one knows how many more referrals they could be converting if only their website was more effective. Possibly no one cares. Probably no one has the time, knowledge or inclination to brief the web designers to improve things. I’ll return to this topic in subsequent blog posts.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more marketing insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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