Look up examples of “the best” agency websites, and you will find many collections of artsy, bleeding-edge creative websites featuring gorgeous, high-resolution graphics and bold fonts. The criteria that qualify a site as “best” are rarely, if ever, explicitly defined, leaving the impression that such collections are merely subjective lists of websites the authors like.
It's not hard to tell that “the best” sites have been evaluated primarily on their aesthetic and creative design. This provides a distorted presentation of “best” sites, given that there are many other factors that go into building a great website. It’s as if agency websites are built and judged within design silos, cut off from the influence of different disciplines.
There are other measures of a great website beyond beautiful design, including performance (speed, SEO, accessibility, and multi-device usability), lead generation, and UX. Why would an agency that cares about generating new business build a website and not incorporate those considerations into the design process?
Is beauty everything when it comes to your agency website?
Standalone creative is outdated. Agencies can no longer expect to win new business on the basis of great creative by itself; it must be connected to results. So, in 2019, why should an agency expect to get by with a website that shows off their creative chops but is divorced from business outcomes? They shouldn't.
When you have a beautiful agency website that isn’t written for prospective clients, doesn’t answer their questions, doesn’t adequately prove your agency’s capabilities, is difficult to navigate, and doesn’t make it easy for visitors to connect with you, then you don’t have a great website.
In a survey, Hubspot found that just 10% of visitors considered a beautiful appearance to be the most important factor in the design of a website. Only 9% valued a cutting edge interactive experience above other design considerations. 76% of visitors thought the number one most important design factor was making it easy for them to find what they wanted on the site.
Your agency’s website can’t afford to stand on beauty alone when it plays a central role in your new business acquisition.
To be clear, there is no need to sacrifice beauty for function; you can and should have both. But beauty alone is not enough, and it’s surprising that so many creative agencies continue to skate by on that premise.
Here are just a few examples of what I’ve seen on agency websites recently:
- No “About Us” page to explain what the agency is about, why they are different, and why someone would want to work with them instead of another agency.
- No team page to showcase the personalities and expertise of the people that prospects would be working with.
- Site copy is written to creative peers (or to themselves) instead of agency prospects.
- No evidence of any outcomes or results, only the creative work by itself (no demonstrated value).
- Processes and services explained in a way that is unclear or abstract for prospects.
- Agency work categories are listed, but not linked to examples and results.
- The types of clients the agency works with and the types of problems they solve are not articulated or supported with examples.
- No “self-serve” options to learn more about the agency and its work, or to be looped into future updates about the agency (such as via a blog or eNewsletter).
These examples are taken from highly competent agencies capable of producing top-notch creative work. But with these oversights, their websites aren’t doing them any favors. More than anything, each of these examples represents missed opportunities. It’s impossible to confirm how much business has been missed due to a flawed website. The rub is that the agency might have been a perfect match for the missed opportunity, but the prospect will never know that if it’s not conveyed effectively on the agency’s website.
Is your agency’s website helping or hurting?
A flawed website will measurably hurt an otherwise very capable, talented agency during the new business process. No matter what we say about an agency to prospects on the phone or via email, the prospect is going to come back to the agency’s website to learn more about them, and a bad website is going to raise questions and concerns. In that scenario, the agency website becomes an obstacle to be overcome during the new business process, with conversations proceeding in spite of the website. On the other hand, a strong website could encourage conversations and help generate further interest in working with the agency.
I’ve written about how agencies botch pitches and prospect meetings by making it all about themselves when it should be all about the prospect. Believe it or not, the same goes for your website. It should explain things about your agency and show your agency’s work, but the entire context is about how your agency can help the prospect, and why the prospect should care. Your website exists not as a vanity page for your agency, but to connect the dots between your agency’s services and your prospects’ needs in support of agency new business generation.
How can lead-generation tactics improve your agency website?
Your website is a lead generation tool and should be regarded as such. I’m not suggesting you invest in content marketing software and take on a full-scale lead generation approach to your agency website. That is a huge investment of resources, requiring a lot of time for content creation, and it may not be right for your agency. But you don’t have to transform your site into an inbound lead generation machine in order to apply certain lead-gen oriented design elements.
Here are a few steps you can take to get started:
- First, define your prospective client(s).
Develop a profile or profiles of the clients you serve and the key persona roles that would be considering your agency. You probably have a fairly good idea of this already, but put it on paper so that you can identify the different challenges, questions, and concerns your target personas may have when they visit your site. What language will your personas best respond to?
- Evaluate how well your website provides the information prospects seek.
When a prospect is looking for an agency like yours, what problems might they be facing, what solutions might they need? What questions might prospects have when considering your agency and determining how you might help with their challenge? Are those questions currently answered for site visitors? Do you need to create additional content or update existing copy to better speak to your prospects? Can you make it easier for site visitors to find the information they need? Do you need to direct different types of visitors to different places so that they can easily find the information most relevant to them?
- Does your site include the expected basic elements and answer basic visitor questions?
Does your website include expected components such as “About Us,” “Our Team,” and “Our Work”? Does it answer the basic questions such as why your agency is different, who you serve, what problems you solve, how you solve those problems; does it show examples and provide evidence of your results/outcomes for clients?
Here are more ways you can incorporate lead-generation tactics to your agency website:
- Get better at being found online by improving your on-site SEO, page load time, and mobile performance (all of which factor into organic search rankings). Here are some examples of tools you might use to test your site and get started: Google’s Page Speed Insights, Pingdom, Hubspot’s Website Grader, Sitechecker, WooRank’s Website Review and SEO Analysis Tool, and SEO Optimizer’s SEO Audit and Reporting Tool.
- Audit your site for UX. Are people leaving your site quickly? Why? Are you not providing the answers they need? Is site navigation intuitive? Are visitors having trouble finding basic information about your agency? You can learn more about how to identify and address problem areas on your site in these posts from RocketFuel, Yoast, and Impact.
- Build trust. Are there client testimonials on your website? Show prospects why they should want to work with you. Is your team visible on the site? Have you authentically conveyed your agency’s personality? Have you demonstrated thought leadership through white papers and media coverage? Shown results through case studies, awards, and performance metrics? All of those elements increase the odds that a prospect will be motivated to connect with your agency.
- Make it easy for prospects to reach you. Is your contact phone number visible on every page? Is there a clear path to a contact form throughout the website? Can you improve the performance of your contact form by removing unnecessary fields, using a drop-down field option, or using multiple forms for different purposes? Does your form need a new look or different placement on the page?
- Use calls to action. Have you presented a call to action that will encourage site visitors to share their email and open the door to future opportunities? A simple call to action would be to subscribe to a newsletter covering agency news and relevant content on a monthly or quarterly basis. More involved calls to action might lead to a downloadable content offer (such as an eBook) that also triggers a short drip email campaign with follow-on offers and information.
- Update your website copy to speak directly to your target prospect/s, incorporating action verbs. Prioritize clarity over being clever. Be vigilant about removing jargon and language so abstract it is meaningless.
- Look beyond beauty. When updating your site, don’t limit yourself to only aesthetic considerations and the latest design trends. Review current research on web design usability and best practices for lead generation to get additional ideas. These posts from Orbit Media Studios and Proposify are a good place to start.
It’s time for agencies to break from old habits and take a fresh approach to their websites. Relying on beautiful, creative-first website design without considering other aspects of great design is a dated approach. Today, agencies would be better served by websites that connect their creative to results and that are designed to support their ongoing new business acquisition efforts. With these considerations in mind, how would you rate your agency’s current website?
Gain a better understanding of how prospects view your agency:
- How to Make Agency Directories Part of Your New Business Strategy
- Building Agency New Business With Thought Leadership
- Why Agencies Can’t Count on Blogging Their Way to New Business
- How Agencies Can Effectively Present Case Studies for New Business
- Getting Found: The Fight for Agency New Business Starts At Search
Image credits: lead gen website design © Adobe Stock / everythingpossible; best agency website © Adobe Stock / georgejmclittle; lead gen tactics for agency websites © Adobe Stock / baranq; lead gen © Adobe Stock / adiruch na chiangmai