Service providers understand that we must be specialists, our clients demand that we are experts in their industry. We get it, we all seek experts now: If I have a pain in my shoulder, I want to see an orthopedist. If I need to expand my restaurant, I want an architect, construction company, attorney, and banker with restaurant experience.
We build our client base by leveraging our expert knowledge, gaining referrals from clients within industries we know, and expanding our portfolios within those industries. But breaking into new industries can be difficult. Here are 5 ways that your website can help:
1. Balance Your Examples
Often, we see websites that have dozens of examples under a particular category, and just one or two under the area they hope to grow. But doing so gives visitors the immediate sense that you don’t have expertise in the less-populated area. By simply showing fewer samples overall, you can actually solve this problem. In general, most visitors to your site will only look at a few top examples, so less is definitely more. Show your best work, quality beats quantity.
2. Feature Case Studies
Case studies can be a powerful way to highlight your expertise. Some firms are foregoing traditional portfolios altogether in favor of just a select group of case studies. You can do both as well, by featuring a few cases in addition to a traditional portfolio. A well written case study can prove your expertise by illustrating how you solved a particular problem, helped find a unique solution, and generally “get” that client’s niche.
3. Focus on Services
By organizing your work into a standard portfolio, where visitors can search by industry type, you draw attention to “thinner” areas (as mentioned in #1 above). Instead, consider organizing your content solely by the services you offer. Once a visitor selects a service, offer samples of work where that service applied, in a variety of industries. For instance, if you are an engineering firm, you might list services such as Civil Engineering, Structural Engineering, GIS, etc. and from there, offer examples of projects within each area of expertise.
4. Be a Thought Leader
Many times, techniques, methods, processes, functionalities, etc. from one industry can apply to another. In fact, having experience outside a specific industry can sometimes work to your advantage. Start using that knowledge to your benefit by writing articles, white papers, blog posts, email newsletters, and sharing on social media. For instance, if you have done a significant amount of work with laboratories (perhaps with pharmaceutical companies), that knowledge may also apply to schools also needing laboratory space. A blog about laboratories might be of interest to both markets. Creating a blog on a specific industry topic or service is an extremely powerful way of showcasing your expertise. The RIW law firm website utilizes a blog “category” that focuses on Hospitality & Retail Services, allowing for a variety of content posts. I love this example by Bowditch, a law firm that, among many areas of expertise, works with craft breweries. Once you have developed a significant amount of content, chances are much better you will get speaking engagements, quoted by the press, and generally known as an expert. Be proactive: try inviting your target market to a breakfast series where you educate them on topics you blog about. Or hold webinars to attract a wider audience that may not be located close by. Once you’re know as an expert, less emphasis will be placed on the specific projects you have in your portfolio.
5. Ask Them What They Want
Rather than encouraging site visitors to go to an area where your content is thin, consider asking them to fill out a simple form or search field so you can steer them in the right direction. For example, this very small IP firm asks visitors to answer a few questions to better understand what types of services they can offer. From there, the visitor is directed to a “Let’s Connect” form that’s pre-filled based on their previous answers. Similar techniques can be used to encourage site visitors to focus less on qualifying you and instead go straight to helping them. Once you capture a visitor’s contact info and have some idea what their needs are, you have a much better chance of making a personal connection and earning their trust.
In closing, your website can be a powerful tool in helping to grow a new market area or service offering. But it is crucial that you never position yourself as an expert in an area where you are not. A few other important considerations: Never show work on your site done by an employee while at a previous company; Never list clients or projects that you haven’t worked with recently; Always get permission to show a client’s logo or testimonial on your site; Always give credit where credit is due, to other team members, subcontractors, and anyone who was involved with a project shown on your site.
Vanessa’s article first appeared in SMPS Boston’s Outlook, April .