(This blog can also be found at the FPA Practice Management site: http://practicemanagementblog.fpanet.org/2014/03/04/your-product-is-you/)
When a buyer wants something, and a seller provides it, a transaction occurs. However, before a sale is made, the buyer must evaluate what is being sold against the criteria he or she uses to judge value.
As a seller of services, what you know, what you do, how you think, what you believe, how you speak, and how you work all define you; indeed, you are the product. In parallel, buyers judge you according to three main hiring criteria: your expertise/reputation; trustworthiness; care/concern.
Against these criteria, consider the following challenges people face when evaluating practitioners like you:
Given these challenges, a large majority of people are disinclined to undertake an evaluation without guidance. The Oechsli Institute, in a study titled “Understanding Today’s Affluent Investor: Managing Affluent Relationships”, discovered that the overwhelming method people used to identify an advisor involved personal introductions. (Note: this is word-of-mouth influence and not a client giving a referral list to his or her advisor).
The study concluded:
“The number one method today’s affluent investor used to find their current financial advisor was a personal introduction. Whether from a friend, a colleague, a family member, or another professional, word-of-mouth influence was at work.”
The First Meeting . . . First Impressions
A person that learns about you through an introduction takes the first of many steps in the hiring process. The next step is to review your website and learn about you (as it is for people doing a direct Internet search).
Your home page is your store front. How a store front looks and how it merchandises products in the window determines whether a passerby will decide to make an initial commitment and enter the store or continue walking.
So it is with your website home page. The key difference is the product being merchandised is you.
At this stage, you don’t even know a potential prospect is at hand, but there is a meeting taking place; unfortunately, it’s a meeting in which you are not physically present. Yet, first impressions are formed and the resulting opinion determines in large measure whether your site visitor chooses to call you for an appointment, send an e-mail inquiry, or consider other practitioners instead.
Effective Product Merchandising
Although this first “meeting” is electronic, prospects want to know about you just as though you were there to tell them.
- Why you feel your work is important.
- What motivates you to serve.
- Why you believe what you do.
- How you attend to clients’ needs, anxieties, and aspirations.
- How your solutions solve problems.
- Why you’re someone that can be relied upon.
. . .
This content rightly resides in your bio as well as describing the firm’s mission statements; each should represent the core of your website’s content. Write passionately about how your solutions benefit your clients’ futures, even to successive generations. Use actual pictures to give evidence of your trustworthiness and care/concern in action. Tell how your solutions brought valuable client benefits, including peace of mind, confidence, and comfort.
Equally true, your website is an active storybook. Too often, website content, once produced, sits idle even as important advancements are made in the business and with clients. A store that never changes its window merchandising will be ignored.
This is not to say your website service descriptions are unimportant. They are just less important than you. Think of it this way, before any service can be delivered, you must be hired first. It is you that transforms a service that otherwise could be provided by innumerable practitioners into something special. Each time you transform services into valuable client solutions, a new story is to be told.