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Do Branding or Lead Generating Websites Provide Better ROI?

Lee Frederiksen
Do Branding or Lead Generating Websites Provide Better ROI?

Why is a company’s website so important? It’s your face to the world and usually the first channel buyers use when assessing potential service providers. Over 80% of professional services buyers check out service providers’ websites before making a purchase.

Understanding the Goals of Branding vs. Lead Generating Websites

The focus of branding websites is to communicate your brand message as well as the basic information about your firm: who you are, what services you provide and who you serve.

Lead generating websites, sometimes called high performance websites, also contain basic information about your firm but they are specifically designed to generate and nurture new business leads. To do this effectively, they often include a blog (or resource section), which offers visitors free content. They also are designed using a content marketing and offer strategy.

In order to determine whether a branding or high performance website is the right choice, you’ll need to look closely at your firm’s needs, priorities, long-term marketing goals and budget.

When A Branding Website is Right

Here are a few examples of when a branding website makes sense:

  • Startups: their audiences and service offerings are still in flux
  • Firms that generate leads from offline sources and don’t need to nurture leads online
  • Firms with limited resources for following up on online leads

If you aren’t constricted by any of the above cases, than a lead generating website is most likely the way to go. Next we’ll look at why.

 Online Lead Generation Drives Faster Growth, Higher Profitability

If accelerating firm growth and profitability are high priority items, then high performance websites are the right choice. Our research of 500 professional services firms revealed that firms that generate more leads online are more profitable and grow up to 4X faster.

[caption id="attachment_18998" "aligncenter" width="600"]Online lead generation Figure 1. Firm Growth and Online Lead Generation[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_18999" "aligncenter" width="600"]Online lead generation Figure 2. Firm Profitability and Online Lead Generation[/caption]

As these figures shows, when the percentage of leads generated online reaches 40%-60%, firm growth increases at a steady clip and then levels off. There is a similar relationship with profitability; the higher the percentage of online leads generated, the greater the firm’s profitability. You’ll notice that a firm with 60% or more of their leads generated online has twice the profitability of a firm with 20% of online leads.

Leveraging your website as an online lead generation vehicle makes good sense. It’s up to 62% more cost-effective than traditional outbound marketing, which requires pushing messages across a variety of marketing channels (print, TV, radio etc.) in an effort to reach customers. Inbound can level the playing field for smaller businesses who aren’t blessed with the big budgets needed for print, TV and radio.

In the short term, lead-generating websites can cost between 20-50% more due to the additional functionality they require. However, if your firm has the budget for the extra cost, in the long run, our research has shown your firm will enjoy significantly higher growth and profitability.

If your business needs, priorities or budget fit these criteria, then a lead generating website will get you the results you want:

  • You want to generate and nurture new business leads
  • You have expertise to share with potential clients
  • You want to increase the visibility and strength of your brand
  • You want to attract new employees or teaming partners
  • You want to increase growth or profitability
  • You are looking to expand into new markets or service offerings, especially if they are national or international in scope
  • You have sufficient resources to adequately fund the site

Next Steps When Planning a Lead Generating Website

Now that you’ve made your choice, what are some next steps?

  1. Develop a content marketing framework to shape how your website will attract, nurture and convert prospects into leads and eventually clients.
  2. Create a marketing strategy that identifies what content will be most useful to leads at each stage of the buying process. Make sure everything is search engine optimized. Over time, increase lead interaction to build trust.
  3. Develop an offer strategy that considers what offers are best at what stage. Where is their optimal placement on your site? How do you craft offers? The answers will determine how well your content converts leads into clients.
  4. Build a home for your content on your website. Typically housed in a resources section or library, all content must be well organized, easily searchable within your site and indexed properly for search engines.
  5. Start a blog to help boost SEO rankings and attract more new prospects.
  6. Practice SEO religiously. In addition to optimizing individual content pages, you’ll need to implement an ongoing link building process to increase the authority of your website. (Leave this out and you’ll negatively impact the effectiveness of all that great content.)
  7. Add email marketing. Email remains the best nurturing tool to reach prospects, send targeted offers and drive higher engagement.
  8. Use social media to share and promote content and to directly engage prospects.
  9. Great design plays two roles. More than just good looks, an exceptional website design amplifies your brand’s message. And a well-designed UI successfully drives visitors where you want them to go.
  10. Analytics and automation make it possible. Know where your visitors are going, what’s being downloaded, and how they’re interacting with your firm to be successful at lead generation. Marketing automation is very helpful, though not absolutely necessary at the onset.

Choose the Right CMS

A good performance website is one that is agile and easy to update, not a collection of static pages. To achieve this, you’ll need a content management system (CMS). A CMS is a database that stores articles, blog posts, user data and other information. A CMS also includes functionality for configuring your website, posting stories, dynamically generating pages and tools for facilitating writing, editing and publishing of content for internal teams.

Choose a simple, flexible CMS. The right CMS is the best way to empower sales and marketing teams so they can add new content quickly, without relying on tech teams.

Top Open Source CMS Choices for Ease of Use, Flexibility

WordPress is the most widely used CMS, with 61% market share. While it began as a blogging platform, it can be used to build other kinds of websites as well. Besides ease of use for non-technical teams, WordPress boasts over 29,000 plugins. These plugins extend functionality for websites, which makes it very popular for designers.

Drupal is another popular CMS and is a favorite among developers because it’s the most customizable of the top 3 CMSs with 25,000+ plug-ins. The broad range of options available makes it well suited for large enterprise sites. Drupal also has a reputation for being the most secure of the top content management systems. On the flip side, there is a steep learning curve and while you don’t need to be a developer to use it, it’s not as easy as WordPress. You should also be aware that there are backward compatibility issues, so moving from one version of Drupal to another requires you to rewrite modules, not a light task.

Many users regard Joomla to be somewhere in between: easier than Drupal and more customizable than WordPress. However, there are less add-ons to choose from so if the customization you want isn’t already included in the core software or the existing add-ons, you’ll need a developer to create one for your business.

Get Moving Because Your Competitors Are

If higher growth and profitability aren’t enough incentive to invest in a high performance website for your business, then maybe keeping pace with your competitors is. Of the 500 firms that the Hinge Research Institute surveyed, over two thirds of them are increasing budgets by over 50%. The number is even higher for high growth firms. Now is the right time to reach out to prospects where they are, online, so you can begin educating, nurturing and hopefully converting them into your next clients.

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 Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge is a leader in rebranding firms to help them grow faster and maximize value. Lee can be reached at [email protected] or (703) 391-8870.
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