Do you need a website, particularly if you are just starting out in consulting?
YES! Just like you need business cards, letterhead, envelopes, and some sort of brochure. Not only does a web site (and other simple collateral) provide information, but it shows that you are serious about being in business.
Think of your web site as your on-line ambassador, spreading good will about your practice. Although passive, web sites are often combined with a blog and newsletter to make them more active marketing tools. All three can increase your visibility/credibility.
One important caveat. Make sure your web site (and blog/newsletter) appear professional. A sloppy or poorly maintained site can do more harm than good.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, hire a web/blog designer. Thanks to advanced technology, web designers are relatively inexpensive. Your time is valuable, and you probably already use other professionals like a lawyer and accountant.
I hired a web designer for both this blog and our engineering consulting website (www.emiguru.com), and I’m glad I did. He saved me much time and frustration, and the final product was much better than I would have produced anyway. (Thanks, Sunil!)
Another caveat. Don’t count on your web site to get the phone ringing off the hook. A web site alone is passive. You still need to pursue active marketing, such as articles, networking, speaking, direct mail, and more.
As mentioned in an earlier post (20 Ways to Attract Clients), getting leads is like fishing — the more lines you have in the water, the more bites you will get.
Finally, don’t worry about the numbers. For many web sites (and blogs,) counts become a matter of pride. Am I getting more traffic than yesterday? More than my competition? But as a consultant, do you really care?
You are not an on-line marketer hawking the latest gimmick – rather, you are a professional making your presence known to those who might benefit from your expertise. You are a niche player, not a jack-of-all trades.
Getting started. Here are some suggestions for your web site:
- Register your own domain. Yes, it may cost a few dollars over using a free site, but your own domain makes you look serious and professional. While you are at it, register the same name with similar extensions (.net, .org, .info, etc.) This prevents squatters from setting up a similar site. Had this happen some years ago, and it was expensive to resolve (lawyers and all…)
- Provide contact information. One of my pet peeves is having to hunt for address, phone, or e-mail information on a web site. On every page, you should have either a Contact button or your full contact information. You also need a Contact tab at the top of the page with full contact information (including an e-mail form). Make it easy for your visitors to contact you!
- Make the site easy to navigate. I prefer tabs across the top of the page, with a few simple sidebars. A simple site map can be helpful. For an initial web site, you only need a few tabs, such as Home, About, Services, and Contact. I like to augment those with Welcome, FAQ, and Resource tabs. The latter provide both a personal touch and additional information. However, don’t get too carried away — keep it simple.
- Consider a combined blog/website. With static pages and a blog platform, you can have both. If you don’t want to blog right away, just make all the pages static. You can easily add a blog later, and all the tools will be there. This site uses WordPress (with a custom theme), and I am very pleased. WordPress is widely popular, and has an almost endless variety of “plug-ins” for future expansion and features. (See my earlier post on Blogs.)
- Consider adding a newsletter. Building a client list is crucial to building your business. We’ll cover this in more detail in a future post, but adding a newsletter to your web site is a quick way to start gathering names. You can purchase “plug-ins” or use external services (AWeber or Mail Chimp) to facilitate this. I must confess that I haven’t done much with a newsletter on this site (plans are brewing), but have found a list to be very effective on our engineering consulting website. (See my earlier post on Newsletters.)
As your business grows, you’ll likely want to add other features to your web site. The possibilities are almost endless, but make sure anything you add is useful to your clients. Don’t do it just because it is the latest “cool” thing to do.
For example, here are some extra features we added to www.emiguru.com when we updated last year. This represents the current status, but as a “work in progress”, more updates are coming.
Incidentally, the consulting web site runs on Joomla rather than WordPress, as it is a bit more complex. (As an aside, I’ve found both Joomla and WordPress easy to maintain.)
- On-line Store – Three books, and a software product we developed. One of the books was out of print, so we offer it as an E-Book. Linked to Paypal and e-junkie for payment and fulfillment.
- On-Line Registration – Allows sign-up and payment (Paypal) for our public seminars and webinars. Works well, and has simplified business.
- Blog - Short technical articles of interest to our readers. The blog postings are now mirrored on an industry publication, giving us wider exposure.
- Resources – Past newsletters (20 years worth) and a detailed technical bibliography of publications, web sites, and other resources unique to our niche. Considering more stuff in the future. The goals — help our clients, and keep them coming back.
So, make a web site a high priority if you are considering a JumpToConsulting. You can start out simple, and grow it as needed. Finally, get some professional help — don’t try to do it all yourself. After all, as a consultant, that is what you are advising your clients to do.
Comments or questions? I’d love to hear from you.
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