This was the subject of a recent talk I gave to The Law Society. The main points are below but let me know if you’d like a copy of the presentation slides.
Analyse what your clients might need
Avoid ‘me too’ thinking. Of course what your competitors are doing is important but don’t follow blindly as they may have got it wrong! Consider your clients and prospects carefully – in what ways would they use your web site? What on-line information and services would they find useful? Why should they visit your site? Do they have different needs? If so, you may need to consider separate areas of a site designed for different users or even different sites. Maybe there are specific parts of your business – e.g. those with an international reach or with technologically advanced clients – that would benefit from a good web site.
Consider the business case
Although it can be relatively cheap to set up a web site, a poorly designed and maintained site can have an adverse impact on your firm’s reputation – therefore you will have to spend some money developing the site. Furthermore, you will need human resources to both maintain and update the site and also to provide a responsive service to any requests or enquiries received through the site. A web site could end up commoditising your service or you could end up giving valuable advice away for free – how will you make it pay? You may see it as a way to generate new business, to retain existing clients or as a new way to deliver services cost-effectively.
Consider the entire marketing mix
Consider all aspects of the marketing mix (see FAQ on what is marketing?) not just promotion. For example, a web site can be used to provide an additional (private) means of communicating with and delivering services to existing clients, it can allow permitted users to access your intranet or internal systems, it can help your suppliers establish closer links with your organisation, it can help you reach markets that are geographically diverse, it can provide a route to automate services thus reducing costs and prices and it can be used a channel for research.
Consider ways to reengineer your firm
Don’t just think about what processes and systems within your firm could be web enabled. Spend some time thinking about what new processes should replace the old ones. E-business often drives a very different approach to business. Spend some time thinking about the client experience from the first point of contact with your firm, through initial meetings and right up to the completion of the service and the ongoing relationship (i.e. all the ‘touchpoints’). Then consider how the web site might play a role in restructuring your business processes.
Check you have the necessary expertise and resources
Effective web sites need a variety of skills and expertise – you need someone with a strategic viewpoint to understand the present and future role of e-business in your firm. You will need marketing communications and client management experts to help you articulate and convey the messages and information in a user-friendly way. You will need graphic designers and web designers to produce an easy to use site that presents your corporate identity correctly. You need technical people who can use HTML and web authoring tools such as Frontpage and Dreamweaver to build your site. You will need IT experts to help with any databases or search engines within your site, loading files and creating the necessary telecommunications and systems links. Once your site is established, you will need someone to provide regular updates to keep it current and you will need people to provide a rapid response to any enquiries that are generated. Your marketing people will also help you to get the relevant traffic to the site once it is established and to integrate the web into the entire range of marketing activities within your firm.
Set clear objectives
Decide at the outset what you are trying to achieve – set some SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Time specific) objectives. How many of your existing clients do you want to visit your site? How often? How many enquiries do you want to generate from new clients? How much money do you want to save on printing and postage for publications by providing electronic downloads? You may need to acquire special software to enable you to monitor and measure what visitors to your site are doing.
There is a useful model to use to clarify what you hope to get from your web site which uses the presentation, interaction and representation model:
|Business / Client Benefits||Strategic issues||Marketing objectives||Potential savings||Skills / resources needed||Measures|
Have a clear plan
Summarise all of the above points in a short report and attach an action list (with dates and responsibilities) so that the site is developed to the highest standards with support from the whole firm. Address, up front, how the procedures will operate for ongoing operational issues such as content updating, technical maintenance, usage monitoring, responding to enquiries and future developments. Make sure someone senior at the firm becomes “champion” for the web enablement of your business.
I do not restrict access to the FAQs but I politely request that you let me know by email and acknowledge the source (www.kimtasso.com) if you wish to use the material anywhere.
As always, if there are particular topics you would like me to address in the future, please let me know. You will also find a source of more and up to date information on a broad range of management and marketing issues in the professions by checking out the blog where I also post regular reviews of books that might be helpful.