People will come, Ray! They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn into your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it…. “Of course we won't mind if you look around,” you'll say, “it's only twenty dollars per person.” They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it.

—Terrence Mann, Field of Dreams

It is now almost unheard of to find a consulting, technology or professional service business that does not have a Web presence. But if you build it, will people come? And will they hand over their proverbial $20?

It is all too common to hear service business leaders lament, “We've spent all this time and money on a Web site, and we have no idea if it is helping us generate clients or not.” Essentially, they are wondering whether people are coming because the business built a Web site, and whether it is affecting their revenue stream.

Over the last few years, we have identified five major effects that a Web site has on service business branding and service business marketing. By evaluating how your Web presence stacks up, you can draw conclusions about how your Web site affects your ability to attract and retain clients.

Effect #1: First Impressions

Nowadays, potential clients of service businesses form a good part of their initial opinion of a firm based on the firm's Web site. During their first Web site visit, prospects spend a minute or two quickly evaluating the following three questions:

  1. How clearly does the management of this company communicate? Based on the flow of content, clarity of content and professional look of a Web site, potential clients develop a first impression of how well the people in the firm communicate.
  2. How modern is this service firm? Service business clients want to know that their service providers are actively engaged in staying current with new technologies and approaches to service delivery. If a service firm has a Web site that looks like it was built in 1998 with 1998 technologies for 1998 buyers, it raises questions in buyers' minds about how current the firm is.
  3. Is this firm attentive to detail? Mistakes such as bad grammar and typos, broken links, and out-of-date “current events” raise questions of quality. Web site browsers (those who may become service customers) will ask themselves, “If their own Web site is full of errors, how good is their client work?” Essentially, they are asking themselves, “Is this firm up to my standards?”

Effect #2: Service Specialty

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image of Mike Schultz

Mike Schultz is president of RAIN Group, a global sales training and performance improvement company, and director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research. He is the bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling. He also writes for the RAIN Selling Blog.

LinkedIn: Mike Schultz

Twitter: @mike_schultz