Consulting firm websites need to help clients engage with thought leadership
LONDON -- A report published this week by Source Information Services (Source) has found that the quality of consulting firms’ thought leadership is not reflected on their websites – despite how much money they invest in it.
The report ‘Delivering thought leadership online’ ranks the best and worst firms, and identifies some areas of improvement for consulting firms to focus on in 2013 to engage clients with thought leadership more effectively. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) topped the rankings with a website that is not only well designed and organised, but which properly introduces articles – encouraging clients to read on.
The report found that some common weaknesses included poor homepages, buried content, and a clunky browsing experience, with no ability to filter search results. Source says that firms need to concentrate on making their values and objectives clearer on their websites. The report found that some of the higher ranking firms have already started to do this, like McKinsey & Co, who came in second for their clean, crisp site, centred around their ‘big ideas’. Also, Source found that IBM (ranked 3rd), organises its website in a unique way – leaving the client with an incredibly clear sense of what matters to them, and what they are good at.
The Big Four
PwC is the clear leader out of the Big Four firms. While it may fall into the same traps as some of its competitors, it understands what it means to develop and deliver digital content that makes the most of the web environment. One of the main criticisms of the Big Four on the whole is the lack of a seamless user experience when trying to navigate around the sites.
Source’s report also publishes five common misconceptions that consulting firms have when it comes to what makes a good website or digital content:
1. Google is the best homepage for my thought leadership – Creating a home for your thought leadership in the way that is exemplified by BGC and McKinsey is not an easy task. Most firms conclude that, as most people will jump from Google’s search results page straight into an article anyway, they might as well not bother. Source thinks this is a mistake, and feels a home page should communicate to a client what a firm is all about, what’s important to them, and where its priorities lie.
2. Digital content means putting content online – When it comes to thought leadership, the majority of firms still seem to think in an analogue way. They write a report that starts at the top, makes its arguments, cites its evidence and ends at the bottom. Firms then either make reports available to download as a PDF or put them directly on a web page. This is certainly content in a digital form, but Source argues that true digital content isn’t linear, shouldn’t have a beginning or end, and shouldn’t be confined to one format.
3. We can convince everyone that we do everything – Trying to say online that your firm does everything isn’t the answer. By picking topics and organising a website around them doesn’t mean consulting firms can’t offer additional content. That’s where search engines are really helpful. They allow firms to focus on a few areas on the main pages of their website; clearly marking their territory, safe in the knowledge that Google will keep its ears open for anyone who might be interested in anything else.
4. The world is divided by us – Perhaps the most frustrating of all misconceptions, to which consulting firms appear to be wedded, is what sees them organise their thought leadership by consulting service, publication, or internal divisions within the firm. A useful rule of thumb is that the way a firm is organised internally, is not the way to present thought leadership to clients. Content and topics are what matters, start organising the world around those, and Source says that a whole lot else will fall into place.
5. We need lots of different entry points – Source says that this is a little bit misleading. There is nothing wrong with allowing people to start their search for content in many different places, but there’s a lot wrong with not getting them all to the same place as quickly as possible once they’ve done so. Too many consulting firms have thought leadership housed in multiple places, leading the user to wonder if they’re really seeing everything. Firms with microsites are particularly susceptible to this. The user needs to know where they are, and they need to know they’re seeing everything that a consulting firm has to offer.
Edward Haigh, Director of Source Information Services, concluded:
"There are plenty of opportunities for consultants to review and revise their websites and online presence in 2013. If Source could suggest the perfect website for consulting firms, it would be easy to find, have a distinct look and feel, make good use of different media, be organised around topics, and leave the user with no doubt what matters the most to the firm."