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Your Firm’s Website & the All-Important First Impression

March 6th, 2020

New project opportunities are the lifeblood of your firm. While you may generate a bulk of your revenue from existing accounts, new clients represent additional opportunities and the continued growth of your business.

When an opportunity arises with a new potential customer, they’re going to evaluate your firm. Keep in mind that they may not yet understand your company, its capabilities, depth of expertise, history, or track record of success. If you don’t want to miss this new opportunity, you’re going to need to make a great first impression.


This Scenario is Likely to Happen…

The new potential client does not know you. They are simply going through the process of
pre-qualifying firms for an upcoming project. Someone in the office is in charge of evaluating companies. This person may not be the ultimate decision-maker and is simply tasked with presenting options. How does the evaluator start the pre-qualifying search? By using the internet to locate and review websites to learn more about potential firms. Now, ask yourself these questions: Are you proud of your website? How does it stand up to your competitors who are also being considered? Does it present your firm in the right light? What if you don’t make a great first impression?


First Impressions Matter

We’ve all heard the phrase: “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” Turns out, according to the Harvard Study of Communications, it takes only seven seconds for a person to assess the first impression of another individual. Similar to first impressions of other human beings, people also make snap judgments of websites. But it’s worse than you think! While it takes roughly seven seconds to assess another person, research shows it takes even less time for visitors to make a first impression of your website, either choosing to stay and read more . . . or move on to the next company. This is not just a hypothetical possibility; it is a certainty.

What if a new client’s first visit to your website is uninspiring? If your site is unimpressive, outdated, or lacks important information, they’ll quickly click to the next business and you will be unfairly disqualified before even having a chance to meet the potential customer. There will be no second chance – your firm’s website MUST make a great first impression!


The Cost of a Bad Website

Some businesses may query: “What is the cost of a good website?” The better question is: What is the ultimate cost of a bad website?

Like many companies, you may be contemplating a website redesign and weighing its value. Is it really worth the investment? Keep this in mind . . . websites generally have a lifespan of only two to three years. Visitors can quickly assess when your site is outdated – and may view this as a negative reflection of your firm in general. In today’s ever-changing world of high technology, the image of being behind the times could be disastrous for your company’s success.

So, what is the cost of losing just one new client or one new project due to your website? Of course, it’s the initial financial loss of your design and/or construction service fees – whether that is millions of dollars or hundreds of millions of dollars. But, now consider the loss of future projects with that new customer. Remember, most of your revenue is from existing accounts and this could be a new source of repeat business. What about the word-of-mouth recommendations they would have given about your firm, as well as any media press for the new project? The number gets really big, really fast! And, that’s just one lost client or project. Now you can see the enormous cost of having a bad website . . . the price of a missed opportunity.

Your website is the most important marketing asset you have for prequalifying your firm to acquire new clients, and it is the very first, critical image of your company. It is unequivocally worth the investment.


Stand Out from the Competition

If you have only seconds to make a good first impression with your website, it’s vital that it quickly demonstrates your expertise and qualifications. And, it needs to differentiate you from all the other companies being considered. Following are three ways to make your website stand out from the competition.

PROVIDE DRAMATIC VISUAL APPEAL. This is not the time to be modest about your past projects and accomplishments. Big, bold, vivid images of your work will create instant visual appeal and grab the attention of site visitors. Complement images by showcasing project stats. Every AEC firm preaches about quality of work; your website is the first place to reflect this promise.

ELEVATE AND DIFFERENTIATE. What makes your business the best choice for the next project? Put your strengths, qualifications, and experience front and center. Whether it be your company’s longevity and reputation, project awards, ability to meet schedules, system capabilities, artistic vision, etc., make your unique qualities stand out. Remember, you can’t stand out if you blend in with the rest of the pack.

INTEGRATE COMMUNICATIONS. Your website needs to be more than a static online brochure. It should also help you capture and communicate with prospective customers. A great website supports your business development efforts through the use of contact forms, integrated lead databases, marketing automation, password-protected client portals, ongoing news/project announcements, easy social media sharing, and more. And, your website must be mobile-optimized, allowing content to automatically reformat across all viewing platforms – desktop, tablet, or smartphone.


It’s Worse Than You Think: The All-Important First Impression

You only have seconds to make a great impression on prospective clients. A modern, visually appealing and informative website is vital to your firm’s continuing success. Make sure your website’s all-important first impression is a great one. If not, the ultimate price may be worse than you think.

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