I just don’t get it. I have yet to see a truly great website for an I.T. consultant, except for major providers. And it doesn’t help the already weak marketing position that most tech consultants have.
The barrier of entry for most small businesses when it comes to putting together a website is the technical limitations of in-house staff. Setting up web hosting service, installing software on the server, configuring components – that is daunting for most people. But for a “technology consultant” this is what they do, or at least that is the perception that most prospective clients would have.
I have researched, sent out Requests for Proposals, interviewed, recommended and collaborated with numerous consultants in the technical support field. Except for big agencies employing numerous “independent contractors,” most marketing materials leave a lot to be desired. Their websites look like something from 1995. Very few IT consultants have blogs or are active in social media.
What’s the problem? When a business seeks a tech consultant’s services, they are looking for assurance. The business wants a consultant that will meet their needs – typically that means troubleshooting some problem. The business therefore is looking for a solutions provider that is confident, but not cocky. Someone that is approachable. Perhaps most importantly, the business wants someone who can explain highly technical issues in easy-to-understand terms.
In my opinion, the goals of any I.T. consultant’s website should be as follows:
- Set the visitor at ease. If someone is seeking out your services, they are most likely already overwhelmed by their own technical issues.
- Inform and educate. Too often I.T. consultants, if they have any content on their site, establish authority by listing all their credentials. That is telling prospective clients who you are. Providing informative and empowering information on your site shows visitors that you know what you are doing.
- Be relevant. There aren’t a lot of tech consultants that can truly handle every aspect of information technology. Everyone has specializations – emphasize your specialization. If your expertise is helping small businesses eliminate the need for in-house I.T. staff, make that clear. If you are an experienced database administrator, provide case studies that demonstrate your solutions. Don’t try to be all things to all people. It isn’t accurate and it isn’t going to be effective.
- Acknowledge misconceptions. Let’s face it, a lot of people think that I.T. consultants are basement-dwelling, World of Warcraft-playing, Mountain Dew-swilling, pirated movie-watching, single nerds. If you’re not, make that clear. But it is also OK to embrace that persona, if it is who you truly are. Just be aware of the preconceived ideas most of your prospective clients are bringing to the table.
What’s The Point?
I myself am a geek. I also am in a position where I recommend technology consulting services to businesses. However, I don’t get any of my information about technology from technology consultants. The sources for my tech information are primarily tech journalists. If there were some really knowledgable I.T. consultants writing insightful blogs or participating actively in social media in my area (San Diego), I would be recommending them over anyone else. I want a tech consultant that can inspire and inform. I don’t want a stupid landing page or a rarely updated website featuring a bland and dated design.
Note: I’m not saying that every I.T. consultant has a crappy website. In fact, I would like to point out a major exception to the rule – Marni Melrose and her company, MacAngel. I remember when Marni used to work at the Apple Store. She was one of the first consultants I sent an RFP to years ago when I was looking for someone to help us with a server configuration. What’s different about MacAngel? Let’s start with the homepage. Marni’s expertise is clearly spelled out in a blurb that sits right next to a video of her explaining her firm’s area of focus:
We help fuel productivity & performance in Mac based businesses. We specialize in business infrastructure, business process design & staff training on Daylite, Billings and Billings Pro software from Marketcircle. Daylite is the leading business productivity manager on the Mac platform.
What else is different? Marni has an active blog and newsletter. Even though I have never used her services, I get her newsletter regularly, and unlike many newsletters, I actually read it. I don’t use Daylite, but I learn a lot from her. Also important, Marni’s site design and tone eliminate any stereotypes about I.T. geeks. She is approachable, articulate, knowledgable and helpful.
If you’re in technology consulting, no doubt your business has slowed with the economy. Instead of sitting back waiting for calls to come in, now’s the time to reinvent your brand. Start a blog. Get involved in social media. Network (not the Cisco-kind of networking, the cocktail-party hand-shaking type). And if you are advertising web design, web development, search engine optimization or any other type of online marketing services, your own site better be a good indication of that. And finally, you most likely got into this line of work because you are passionate about technology and helping others. Your website needs to reflect that.
Want some help from a fellow geek? Drop me a line.