Table of contents:
- Website as a positioning tool for a consulting company
- Target audience vision
- Service provision
- Company introduction
- Errors or Benefits?
The company's website is a tool for its promotion. Comparison of websites of domestic and foreign companies
What is the specificity of the Russian approach to positioning and how to explain it - this is the question to which this article is devoted.
Website as a positioning tool for a consulting company
A prerequisite for success in any competitive market is clear positioning. As the maturity of the consulting services market in Russia increases, the positioning task becomes more and more important for domestic consulting firms.
Positioning assumes a clear answer to three main questions: What are the target market segments (who is the client of the firm);
What the firm offers and what is the value of its services;
How does the firm differ from other consultants.
If the answers to these questions are clear to potential clients of the firm, then they will inevitably distinguish it among the many providers of consulting services.
Thinking about the strategy of positioning a consulting company, it is logical to turn to the example of Western consultants, which is interesting if only because Western companies have much more experience in resolving these issues than Russian ones. In this article, the positioning problem is considered based on the analysis of the websites of domestic and foreign consulting companies 1.
A company's website is one of the most powerful tools for its positioning; it is a means of promoting services and attracting the attention of customers. Site analysis allows you to assess how the company sees its target audience, how it defines its services, what distinctive features it focuses on for customers.
This article discusses the sites of management consulting companies. According to Mark K. Scott's classification 2, management and information technology consulting is one of the sectors of the consulting market, along with investment banking services, tax and accounting audits, legal services, marketing services, testing and recruiting, and market research. The management consulting sector includes such areas as information technology and operational management, corporate strategy, IT strategy, risk management, organizational design, financial consulting, marketing and sales organization.
Undoubtedly, this classification is not the only and generally accepted, there are numerous classifiers of consulting activities. It is presented here for the reason that it reflects the range of services that are usually provided by Russian companies specializing in management consulting. Of the above, in the Russian management consulting market, only such a service as risk management remains in little demand.
Target audience vision
Let's consider, first of all, how the vision of their target audience is reflected on the websites of domestic consulting companies. You can get information about which clients the consulting company is focused on in the Clients or Projects sections. There, as a rule, information is presented about completed projects, and those industries in which the consultants worked.
Some companies indicate the size of the businesses and the institutions with which they work - for example, they report having experience in several industries with medium-sized enterprises and individual divisions of large enterprises.
Having work experience in certain industries and with certain companies should attract clients from the same industries and similar companies. From this point of view, these sections of the site can be considered as indicators of the target audience of the consulting firm. However, most often only a list of customers is presented, without a classification by industry or type of company, which forces a site visitor interested in this issue to look through the entire list in order to understand the industry specifics and the scale of the organizations that have turned to this consulting company.
The site visitor, if desired, can draw conclusions about the target audience of the consulting company, but is this enough?
If we turn to the example of foreign consulting firms, then on their sites the section "Industries", "Industry experience" or "Experince", where the industries in which the company specializes are indicated, is the next menu item after the services, or is disclosed in detail on the first page. Or in the "Services" section, after the description of the services, links are given to descriptions of the corresponding projects carried out by the company, under the general name "Client Successes", for example. Be that as it may, a visitor to the website of a foreign consulting company cannot pass by the information that determines its target audience. He, unlike a visitor to the website of a domestic company, does not need to search for such information for a long time.
Let's turn to another key positioning issue - what services are offered by Russian consulting companies, and how they are presented on the sites. As already noted, there is no standard classification of services in domestic consulting. Within the framework of management consulting, as a rule, such services as development of a strategy and organizational structure, reorganization of business processes are highlighted. Many companies include budgeting and management accounting in their portfolio, some are also involved in financial accounting, planning, cost management, operational management, development of a system of key indicators, development of a marketing and sales strategy, development of a corporate strategy, implementation of various software products, etc. The options for combining these services are different, the names are varied - it is not always possible to determine what is meant by a particular name.
Due to the lack of a universal classification and nomenclature of consulting products, it becomes especially important to describe the services offered by the company. This description is not found on every site. Often you can see only a list of services. As a rule, a detailed description of services is neglected by consulting holdings, the scope of which is very wide. Sometimes the site contains a brief description of the services or general considerations about why such services are needed - they, like a simple list of names, do not allow you to get an idea of what is actually offered.
Nevertheless, on some sites you can find successful examples of the presentation of the company's services. For example, for each service, a brief description of the scope of the project can be drawn up, information about the company's qualifications in this area can be provided, and the advantages of implementing this project are indicated. Sometimes there are detailed descriptions of standardized solutions that testify to the significant experience of the company. Information can also be presented in the form of an appeal to a site visitor from a specialist on this issue. This version is less schematic, more personified.
As for foreign consulting companies, on their websites descriptions of services can also be short, their structure may be similar to that found in descriptions of Russian consulting services. However, there is one significant difference: as a rule, descriptions of services or even just names of these services are accompanied by stories or articles about projects in the course of which these services were provided. These reviews provide more specific information and are better perceived than a sketchy description of the service. They show that the consultants do have experience in solving these problems. And if for Russian companies the availability of such information on the site is a rare exception, for foreign companies it is a common practice.
As a rule, a special section is devoted to the description of services - "Services" on our sites and "Services" on foreign ones. Despite the fact that this option for presenting the company's services is the most common and familiar, some experts recommend presenting information about the services in a different way. For example, consultants Edwin Hastings and Robert Bouday advise structuring your site around customer issues. In their opinion, a list of the main business problems to be solved should be presented on the main page, which allows organizing the site according to the principle of "adaptation to the client", and not "company presentation" (for more details, see the article "How to make the site work for a consultant?") …
Although the target audience of Russian consulting companies is vaguely defined, and the descriptions of services are schematic and not supported by specific examples, the About the Company section of the website is usually carefully designed and always comes first on the menu. The information contained in it allows you to get acquainted with the main ideological principles and principles of the company, learn about how it sees its mission, how it emphasizes its individuality and uniqueness, what are its values.
The section "About the Company" may contain a message from the head, a historical essay, a vision of the mission, a description of distinctive features or qualities that help to achieve success, a statement of ethical principles of work, a description of the company's structure, information about partners and clients of the company, about its place in various ratings, licenses, financial statements, customer reviews. In some cases, a succinct yet informative and well-structured essay is presented, highlighting the strengths and characteristics of the company, describing its history and mission, providing guidance and characterizing a team of specialists, and providing customer reviews. Rare companies are limited to one small text, where the value and uniqueness of the company is justified, or they get by with one section "Mission" and a brief description of the company.
An important part of the "About the Company" section is information about the company's specialists. As a rule, only top management or management is presented on the websites of large companies: photographs are posted, the qualifications and experience of specialists are described. Managing partners, managers and consultants can be represented in a similar way. On the websites of medium-sized companies, you can sometimes get to know partners, directors, project managers and company consultants, see photographs, read interviews of specialists, and get information about their education and work experience.
Interestingly, on foreign sites, the "About us" sections may be absent altogether or be very compressed.
For example, there is no such section on the website of the American company Feeley & Driscoll, which has been providing audit and business consulting services for over 30 years. Feeley & Driscoll limited itself to a short presentation on the first page of the site, drawing the attention of visitors primarily to their services, industry specifics and experience.
The "About us" section is also missing on the website of Fusion Consulting, which provides consulting services in the Pacific region. However, at the same time, information about the distinctive features of the company, its approach to consulting and the team is divided into separate sections, along with the sections "Services" and "Experience".
The American company Huron Consulting Group in the "About us" section is limited to a brief annotation presented on the first page. More detailed information about the company, its history and achievements is attached as pdf files - for those who are really interested in it. Information on the company's social and charitable activities is highlighted in an independent subsection. At the same time, information about the company's employees is present not only in an independent menu item and in the "Services" section, where the description of each service is accompanied by a list of specialists on this issue, but also in a special panel on the left side, where photos of consultants are constantly replaced with the name, specialty and work experience. Thus, the main thing that this company focuses on is its human resource and services.
EMI, LLC, a financial and strategic consulting firm, has replaced the About us section on its website with sections describing its Managing Directors Experience and its distinguishing features (EMI, LLC).
On the website of the New York-based company Sherwood, the "About us" section, like other sections, opens in the menu only after switching from the main page, which only provides services.
BCS (Business Consulting Services), a Pennsylvania state consulting company, offers visitors a fairly brief presentation of its mission and professional achievements, but highlights the ethical principles of working with clients, interaction with the state and society.
The Hayes Group International company, in one section, which is the first item on the menu, outlined its mission, objectives and a brief biography of the president and CEO.
The section "About us" has been developed in detail on the websites of McKinsey & Company, Accenture, IBM. There are subsections for mission, personnel, partners, etc. Their structure is similar to that described when considering domestic sites.
It can be concluded that domestic companies, creating sections "About the Company" on their websites, are guided by the giants of Western consulting, which is, of course, commendable, but not always justified, given the shortcomings on other fronts of marketing policy.
Not too large foreign companies often prefer to reduce the amount of information about themselves and rarely display it as the first item on the menu, while domestic consultants, regardless of the scale of their activities, usually write a lot about themselves. On foreign sites, you can find much more options for presenting information about the company and its specialists than on Russian sites, which indicates a more creative approach of Western consultants to the task of creating an individual, unique image.
So, a visitor to the website of a Western consulting company, as a rule, first of all learns about what services and in which industries the company provides, what clients it works with, and gets acquainted with descriptions of completed projects. Then, if he is interested in this option, he can familiarize himself with the ideological attitudes of the consultants. A visitor to a domestic site can immediately find out about what wonderful company he has the good fortune to meet, and can get a lot of useful theoretical information about the company's services, however, about the practical experience of consultants and whether and whether they will be able and will solve the problems of his business. the potential client finds out only at the meeting and through his own experience.
Errors or Benefits?
What conclusions can be drawn from this review? On the one hand, the peculiarities of the positioning of Russian consulting companies can be recognized as shortcomings, strategic mistakes, and explained by the immaturity of the consulting services market.
Indeed, most often Russian consulting sites reflect a spontaneously formed consulting experience, and there is no desire to focus the attention of visitors on this experience, or the desire to describe in detail the successes achieved. As for preferences, there are none. In fact, domestic consultants express their readiness to work in almost any industry and with any clients, but from this it is impossible to draw a conclusion about the high professionalism and vast experience that allow them to tackle any problem. Apparently, the fact is that the specialization by industry has not yet been determined in the Russian consulting market. The demand for consulting is not yet strong enough to be discarded due to industry preferences, and the working methods are not standardized enough to be difficult to adapt to the needs of a new industry client.
The lack of detailed information on specific projects, which would accompany the descriptions of the services of consulting companies, can be explained by the fact that Russian consultants have few successes that could really be proud of. The point here is not only the level of professionalism of the consultants, but also the level of management culture of service consumers who are not ready to implement new solutions.
Unable to clearly define their target market segment and present to a potential client specific achievements in the provision of professional services, domestic consulting companies pay special attention to the presentation of their potential (intentions, ideological and ethical attitudes, human resources) and formal indicators of success (certificates, customer reviews) - everything that is included in the section "About the Company".
Western firms can afford to draw the attention of site visitors to the numerous descriptions of completed projects, they can determine their industry specialization without fear of losing potential customers. In such a situation, information not directly related to the provision of services is secondary and even optional, which is reflected in the example of the "About us" section.
It would seem that this approach explains a lot: the market is still poorly consolidated and unclearly structured, the experience accumulated by consultants is still small. One can only expect that the development of the market will contribute to the improvement of the players' marketing strategies, and vice versa, the professional growth of companies will increase the level of market maturity.
However, another variant of the answer to the question about the reasons for the differences in the positioning policy of domestic and foreign consulting companies is also possible. These differences can be explained by cultural traditions, the originality of the mentality.
It is widely believed that in the West the generally recognized values are law, contractual relations, business ethics, individualism, and in Russia, fairness, family relations, contemplation, collectivism, indefinable by clear indicators.
If we proceed from the fact that this is really so, then in Russia it is not so important to explain what and how you are doing - it is important to instill that you are doing an important business that will bear rich fruits in the future. First of all, charismatic qualities, emotional impact are important, and not rational arguments.
If we assume that this is so, then it makes no sense to adjust the positioning strategy according to the Western model. It is necessary to develop existing approaches, which, with such a vision, become not mistakes, but advantages - publish on the website texts about the company's mission, its ideology, principles and values, using various methods of attracting and retaining the attention of visitors, post a message from the CEO with a spectacular photograph, photos of diplomas, certificates, etc.
I don’t dare to argue that these cultural and mental characteristics are fair to extend to all Russians, and, in particular, to workers in the intellectual sphere, to managers who are largely oriented towards Western ideals. On the other hand, regular phenomena should not be ignored. Probably, Western technologies and domestic experience should be combined. Perhaps these observations will serve as material for thinking about ways to correct and improve the positioning strategies of Russian consulting companies.
1. The websites of the following foreign companies were considered:
McKinsey & Company
Feeley & Driscoll
Huron Consulting Group
EMI Financial & Strategic Consulting
BCS (Business Consulting Services)
The Hayes Group International
2. Mark K. Scott. Professional services firm. M., 2004. S. 20 - 21.