Top 10 Things Every A/E/C Website Should Have
Published in SMPS’ Marketer – December 2010
As a marketing firm, specializing in construction branding and web design, we are often asked, “What are some absolutely necessary and beneficial parts of a website?” While answers will depend on your goals, product/services, market and position, there are some basic features and elements every A/E/C website should have to make it successful. You may not think your industry is big on web searches, but you would be amazed how many people look at your website after meeting or receiving your card. Roughly 80% of people look to the web when researching a company. What are they finding on the web about your firm? Having a well designed, sophisticated and functional website raises revenue 10-20% even without additional advertising or marketing, because a professional/appropriate website builds credibility. A great website will not only impress prospective clients, it will also help recruit better employees.
Here is our list of Top 10 Things Every A/E/C Website Should Have.
- Contact Information with Branded Email Address – Imagine the biggest prospective client ever is looking at your website, loves your work, but never contacts you because they don’t know how. Sure, they can find a phone book or do a web search, but who would do that? We have seen this obvious mistake on several websites. Make it extremely easy for people to contact you. Have a page on your website with your company’s contact information including address, phone number and email address. Put your phone number prominently on each page. If you have multiple locations or divisions, list those as well. Adding a map with a link to Google Maps for directions also helps if your office can be difficult to find like ours.
For the email address, use an address that is branded to your company, not an internet provider. For example, use email@example.com and not firstname.lastname@example.org. Nothing says “unprofessional” like a company that is too cheap to pay for a unique email address (which is usually included with web hosting for free).
- Project Portfolio – Show off your past projects so prospects know what you have done and are capable of doing. Put your best projects up front. A photo gallery with information about each project such as client name, costs, completion date, and brief description of work performed is a great addition. Showcasing some past projects will also help recruit better employees that excel in the type of work you perform. Also, hire a professional photographer, if possible, to make sure your work looks its best.
- Functionality – Engage your visitors by making your website do something important or useful. This is not only for prospects, but can provide integral solutions for your day-to-day operations. Your website can have an upload area for large CAD files, an employee area with links to benefits and company procedures, a disaster communication area with instructions on returning to work and vital contact information. When we develop websites we work on making our clients look good and positioning them correctly, but we also look to develop online tools to save them money or make them more efficient.
- Company Profile – Who are you? When prospects are reviewing your company online, they want to know more about you, what you stand for, and why they should do business with you. Particularly, in the A/E/C industry, contracts are for large sums of money, and prospects do their research. Your website should demonstrate why you are the best company for their needs.
- Services & Capabilities – The A/E/C industry is very diverse, and you can meet 10 construction companies that specialize in different areas – so why would your website just mention construction? Tell and show your prospect exactly what you specialize in, and why you are deserving of their business. (Basically, why you are the best?) A prospect will not waste time trying to figure out if you build bridges and roads or if you design skyscrapers and stadiums. Make it easy for prospects to choose your company.
Being specific about what you do will also cut down on calls from prospects that are not the right fit. Also, do not forget to add important information like your bonding capacity – I’ve seen companies passed up for large projects because the prospect did not think they could handle the job requirements.
- Differentiation – Position your firm. Since you are responsible for marketing, this should be a no brainer, but it is often and easily forgotten. Give me a reason to do business with you and not your competitor. I say this all the time, “If you do not have anything that makes your company different from all the others, then you should not be in business.” “On time and on budget” as well as “lowest-price” are not differentiating characteristics. Differentiating characteristics can be turnaround time, quality, creativity/innovation, credibility, history, past work, expertise, size (large or small), skills, community involvement, etc. Where does your firm stand?
- Professional Design – The website design is the first thing visitors see, and you only have seconds to keep a visitor on your website. Your website does not require Flash® animations and large images, but it should represent your company by looking professional and appropriate. Beware of using templates, because your competitors have access to the same templates. In New Orleans, I have seen 3 commercial flooring companies with identical websites, their logos being the only difference. It is hard to be memorable and remarkable when you look the same as your competition.
- Stats – In marketing, numbers are key, and one of the beauties of the internet is that it allows for tracking data. I am not talking about the odometer that tracks website hits – who cares that you had 1,158 hits in the last 10 years? Use analytic tools effectively to tell you more about who visits your website, but keep them hidden from visitors. We highly recommend Google Analytics – it’s robust and free. You can see how long visitors stay on your website, how many pages they click, what days of the week are most popular, what pages are visited the most, and even where your visitors are located down to the city.
- Page Titles – This is a subtle thing that most people overlook when viewing a website, but it is vital. I’m talking about the text on top of the browser above the address bar that describes your website. It should read something like “ABC Company – New York Road Construction & Bridge Construction” and not “Homepage” or worse “index.html”. This title is one of the most important pieces of how search engines, like Google, rank your website and it shows up in the bookmark window when someone saves your website.
- Keep It Current – You need to have a reason for clients, prospects, and for yourself to revisit your website. Websites that never change becomes dull, and users tend to ignore those websites and then forget your company. Updates can be to the aforementioned Project section, Company News section or a blog about industry topics. A blog also positions your company as the expert, and gives clients and prospects a look into your “geniusness”. Also, updating your website monthly will drastically improve your position with web search engines. Google loves updated, content rich websites – think Wikipedia.
Are you thinking of ways to improve your website yet? This list is obviously not the end-all for what can go on your website, but it is a good place to start. Remember it is not about what you want, but what your clients and prospects want – they need a company they can trust to do the job right. Help them pick your company by applying the techniques mentioned here, or think about what makes your company different from the next company and why they should choose you over your competition?