Ultimately, Hanno sells services, most of which are design related. Some are simple, like how we do product design and UX. But others, such as organisational strategy, remote design thinking sprints and services related to the future of work, are a little trickier.
We’ve been around for over 5 years now and in that time we’ve bounced between two extremes in terms of how complex our website is, and how specific we are about the services we provide.
After several iterations, we’ve concluded that a solution somewhere in the middle is the best way to solve this problem. But we’ve also picked up on a lot of learnings along the way – experimenting with our own site has taught us a lot about the possibilities (and the limitations) of handling marketing websites like this.
Extreme #1: Strong brand, but very little specifics
The idea here was to have a very simple, minimal website to highlight our brand and culture to give visitors a good ‘feel’ for how Hanno does work. We tried to make it as simple as possible for people to contact us. The idea was that once we got them on a call, we’d do the work to figure out exactly how we could help them.
We stuck with this for a year or two (with iterations) and added and removed different sections as our mission and services changed over time.
There were a few advantages to this approach:
- We got an influx of inbound messages because it was very easy to get in touch with us.
- Content on the website was much clearer and our brand and culture stood out more – we avoided looking like a generic web design shop and focused on why we’re different.
- Potential customers didn’t have to try and guess which service was right for them – we’d suggest the perfect option when they got in touch.
- It was easy to make changes to the site because there were a limited number of pages – that’s great when you’re a young and fast-moving team and your mission is evolving over time.
But of course, that came with some challenges:
- Getting lots of inbound messages can be a great thing, but it also means that you have to spend a lot of time on calls with potential clients to get to know their requirements and filter out a lot of clients who are a bad fit.
- Because the website doesn’t exactly say what we do, we lose potential sales because visitors assume we can’t do certain types of work. If someone is looking for X (e.g. SEM Marketing), a well-crafted sales page can be a clincher.
- With such a simple site, your ability to build landing pages and drive traffic to them is limited, which means our SEO was fairly minimal.
Taking this approach on our site meant we ended up having to put a huge effort into the pitching and sales process and it cost us a lot of time on leads which didn’t really go anywhere. We also learnt that some potential customers weren’t contacting us because they didn’t realise we could help them.
So, we shifted our approach to make things a bit more efficient…
Extreme #2: ‘Productivised’ packages and self-service
Here, we evolved the site to have minisites and marketing pages around different services. We experimented with advertising fixed-weekly-rates for certain services, like this one for our 5-day product design sprint process:
We also made ‘productivised’ workshops to break down the different types of teaching and coaching we do:
In keeping with this theme of having a lot more content, we also wrote very long, intensive case studies which told the exhaustive story of the projects we worked on, like the growth marketing work we did with Uber a few years ago.
Again, there were some great wins, as we’d hoped. With focused, targeted pages, we could really work on crafting targeted content on why Hanno can deliver a particular service well – which was great for SEO, too.
We hypothesised that building out all these subpages would be great because it would allow people to find the information they needed on the site and ‘self-serve’. They’d be fully primed to have a sales discussion by the time they got in touch with us. In a few cases, this has paid off and led to some great leads, but…
- With many more pages, people get lost and confused on the site. Some of them even gave up on trying to find the information they needed – that’s poor UX, and potentially terrible for lead generation.
- With so many pages to maintain, it becomes very challenging to update the site without breaking little things here and there. You have to work hard to keep on top of all your content and make sure that a distant subpage doesn’t have some outdated text on it. That’s again, poor UX and makes us look unprofessional.
- There’s also a danger of simply having too much content. We did a lot of user testing on the site (this would have been much easier now if we’d built PingPong a little sooner!). The research conclusively said that people can’t be bothered to read a lot of content on a website.
The longer we left these pages up (especially the fixed-price ‘product’ ones), the more we realised that our target paying audience (startups and organisations with good resources) rarely have such simple ‘one size fits all’ needs.
So inevitably, we’ve moved to somewhere in the middle
We’ve been slowly iterating our site to try and get the best of both worlds and our learnings so far can be summed up with the following:
- Make the main site navigation and hierarchy as clear as possible. The key is to have great signposting so that people don’t feel lost inside the website and can easily ‘escape’ when they need to.
- Where we have more information to show (for example, in a case study), use ‘deep dives’. Link the visitor to another page on the site where we have a focused piece of information about that issue. Don’t try to cram everything on a single page.
- Only display a price for a service if it’s really a simple, replicable ‘product’. Our remote work workshops are a good example of this, but most of our services are not. If you’re in client services, yours probably won’t be either. Most people aren’t ready to buy after reading some information and many of them don’t really care about the sticker price on a service. The only way to sell these things is with a great sales process.
- Not listing your services on your website is a bad idea: it just means that people say “oh, I never knew you guys did UX testing and we just hired a freelancer to help us with that”. We still need to fix this on our site.
- Instead of creating new pages on the site, which will need to be maintained, we’re putting content into our blog or one of our Playbooks (we’re building many of these).
- Build strong links between our blog articles and main site pages to boost SEO.
- Create a very strong, modular and reusable design language on the website so that pages have a consistent visual language and share most of their code. Future changes will automatically apply to all site pages.
- Make it as simple as possible for people to contact you via an email address, even if they don’t really know what they need.
- Develop a good post-contact sales process to extract information from leads. Rely heavily on a video call interview and if necessary, send them surveys and worksheets if you need more info from them.
And something which we’ve realised hangs above all of this and now holds us back a little bit from obsessing over our website: when you get to a certain point in your company’s growth, you require bigger projects in order to sustain your business and overheads. These kinds of leads rarely come about from a CEO ‘Googling’ around, landing on your website, falling in love with what you do and signing you up on a £50,000 project.
A website, blog and marketing system are definitely valuable for building brand awareness and you’ll struggle without them, but the only route to sustainable success is to get very, very good at networking (both in person, and online). Those connections are much more important than the content on your website!