Your firm’s website is the most common source of information for perspective clients and employees. Before a call is made or an email sent, you can count on the fact they’ve looked at your site and social media to learn about your capabilities and culture. That’s why the look, feel, and content of your website must be current and engaging.
Your Role in the Website
As a firm leader your primary role with the website is to financially support it’s regular maintenance and updates. Occasionally you need to be available to review content for a project (particularly if it’s your own) or provide input for data like firm history or key messaging.
Usually most firm principals want to have a say in how a website is initially designed or redesigned when an update is needed. You often want to be involved in the initial conversations about how it will look or function, but beyond that you should feel confident leaving design details to either your in-house website committee, marketing staff, or consultant team. This is how it should be. Your most valuable input is setting the direction and tone during those initial conversations.
One of the best ways you can support your Marketing Department is stressing the importance of keeping the firm’s website current. If principals set the tone that a website is important to marketing efforts, it will become important to everyone else. When you stress the value of everyone—especially technical staff who are vital resources for information—providing needed content like project descriptions and photos in a timely manner, you are turning your website into a powerfult marketing asset.
Evaluate With a Critical Eye
When it comes to fostering a marketing mentality, there are several key factors that will help you provide direction and support for website creation and maintenance. Remember, your clients are going to be evaluating your website to see if they want to pick up the phone to call you, so it’s critical you evaluate your website first from that perspective. We suggest firm leaders:
- Take time to consider what your vision is for your company’s website. Is it to attract new staff? Serve as an electronic brochure? Highlight your thought leadership through an active blog? If you struggle with an answer, talk it over with peers from other firms whose websites you value. Also, engage your company staff for input.
- Be proactive in providing your thoughts and setting the direction for the design/redesign.
- Hire the best people to help you accomplish your vision if you don’t already have them in-house. Review websites of firms in the industry that you like and find out who helped them create theirs. And don’t forget to look at the websites of your competitors!
- Be open to having the site show the fun side of the firm with videos, music, etc. Websites are important for establishing a firm’s credibility, but they also showcase the culture of your firm. Have fun with it!
Know Where to Invest
Years ago, I worked with an architecture firm who was ahead of its time. They decided it was too expensive to continue printing high-gloss marketing collateral, so they invested in turning the website into their prime marketing collateral. Everything we did was to drive people to the website. It turned out to be a great investment and the staff appreciated having it at the ready instead of regularly having to make up tailored packages for a potential client meeting.
A second firm I collaborated with invested considerable technical and marketing time in maintaining their website blog only to learn from a client survey that not many of them visited the website (an important question to ask your clients!). Getting this feedback helped leadership evaluate how they were going to continue with their website to be the most effective marketing tool it could be. It ultimately it came down to evaluating the clients in their various market sectors to identify the best way to reach those clients. While itwas still important for marketing staff to maintain the website, the principals recognized they needed to consider other avenues for reaching clients since blog traffic wasn’t all they had hoped for.
These two examples point to the fact that your firm can never be complacent when it comes to your online presence. There must be a commitment from management, marketing and technical staff to consistently invest in the website.
Maintaining website consistency is one of the ways your company can build credibility. Many AEC companies have a blog but they don’t know how or why to use it. It looks even worse to have an out-of-date blog than to not have one at all. That’s why having a clear management and maintenance plan is key. The website serves as the home base for all the content that goes out via social media, e-mails, and newsletters.
Principals can do a lot in setting the direction of a website and what it will mean to the firm’s overall marketing efforts. Your energy and enthusiasm for doing it well will trickle throughout the organization.