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Do You Need a Website?

1 June 2017 273 views One Comment
David R. Bristol, Statistical Consulting Services Inc.
This column is written for anyone engaged in or interested in statistical consulting. It includes articles ranging from what starting a consulting business would entail to what could be taught in a consulting course. If you have ideas for articles, contact the ASA’s Section on Statistical Consulting publication’s officer, Mary Kwasny.

David Bristol has been a statistical consultant for more than 10 years. Prior to consulting, he was a statistician in several therapeutic areas of the pharmaceutical industry. Most recently, he was director of biostatistics and statistical programming at Purdue Pharma.

After consulting for more than 10 years as an owner-only S-corp., I decided to get a website, but I am not sure why. If you want, take a look. The website looks nice, even if the name is a bit long. I am happy with it, and I hope it is productive for something. There are currently at least 1 billion websites, but hopefully adding mine will make a difference.

A few years ago, a client for whom I was subcontracting requested I use a business email address, instead of the Gmail address I typically used. They thought it would appear more professional to their clients. I contacted a large company that specializes in such things and got the business email address, as requested. However, I only used it for the one client. The provider would often send advertisements for website building and support to me, which I typically ignored. Then I had a potential client ask for my URL. That request led me to think a website may be expected by some potential clients and I might look more professional if I had one. I’m not sure looking more professional should be important to me at this stage of my career, but I got the website, and also another professional email address.

Recently, I asked members of the Consulting Section if they had websites and whether they would recommend having one to others. My intent was primarily to determine whether it would be recommended for new consultants, as I already had mine.

Instead of presenting my thoughts about having a website here, based on my limited experience, I think the responses to my post would be more informative. Many of the respondents have several years of experience, typically with a website. Some responses are given here and are hopefully summarized in a way to be most useful, especially to those just starting or considering a website. Some comments are exactly as stated, quoted without specifying the person who wrote it. My apologies if any are taken out of context. Several recommendations, sometimes conflicting, were provided and are given here.

Recommendations

Often, there was an initial expectation that a website would generate business by attracting new clients. However, most of those respondents noted this did not occur and word-of-mouth is more successful: “In my case at least, it turned out that doing a good job for my existing clients pretty much assured me of repeat business and new clients via word-of-mouth.”

This was part of the motivation for my original question because I have done little business development beyond passing out business cards at professional meetings. However, a website can be considered “an important marketing tool for your business.” Or, as another put it, “It brings me in lots of business.” A website “is not the be-all-end-all to marketing and getting clients, rather it needs to be a tool.” However, I think the most important aspect is that “… [I]t is there when clients need to refer me to their colleagues.”

One respondent replied that “it’s the easiest way to let clients see what you do.” I think this is a great reason to have a website. If one checks my website, it is obvious I perform strategic work associated with clinical trials. A potential client would probably not contact me for any consulting project unless it is related to clinical trials. This may eliminate any other interesting projects, but someone else would probably better serve the client. A website “gives details about what I do and why, and gives the prospective client a bit of info about me and how I work.” A “good web presence can help clients see if you’re the type of statistician they want to work with.”

Many consultants have a website because they offer somewhat special services and use their website to describe them. Some, in fact, use their website to present their rates. Others noted it can be used to post newsletters, recordings of webinars, or recent publications. However, the complexity is a matter of personal taste, need, and the target audience. “Think of it as an electronic version of a business card. List your contact information, a bit about your qualifications, and maybe post your consulting rate. You could post other things like customer testimonials.”

My preference is a minimal website without all the information a potential client might want. The contact information should always be provided; if there is an interest, I can be quickly and easily contacted. Another goal is that “you can list past clients.” I have never provided such information or testimonials to a potential client and would not do so without prior approval. I have been asked for a list of clients a few times, but think it treads on the violation of confidentiality agreement. I know providing this information is a bit controversial.

Many websites have a link to the consultant’s CV. “I have a website, and it contains a mission statement, my CV, and a brief bio.” I do not include such a link, but I include a brief summary of my work experience and a description of my expertise. “The specific content will depend on who you expect to be selling to, negotiating with, and/or working with.”

Several respondents provided information regarding the provider. “Don’t get a website littered with other people’s ads.” As far as specific providers, there were several recommendations. One can use “1and1.com, a very professional company with good tech support.” Also, “Weebly is free and ad-free, and I think Google is, too.” “As far as designing the site, www.atomicbluedesign.com does a really good job, and for a small website, they are very reasonable.” One respondent got a “package through GoDaddy that provides me with my domain name, hosting, and email accounts.”

That is what I did. Apparently, I could have saved some money, but I was pleased by the professionalism and support. Speaking of saving some money, one respondent had a website, but it didn’t meet his needs and expectations, so he cancelled it when it was due for renewal.

As a final note, I was “ghosted” by the potential client who wanted to know my URL. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, ghosting is the disappearance of someone with whom you have a relationship without any further communication. Although it is usually used for dating relationships, most of us are used to the same behavior by potential clients.

I recently saw a TV commercial stating I don’t need a website … I need an app. I am not going to get an app.

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One Comment »

  • Daniel said:

    Having a professional looking email and website does not have to be expensive. Google’s G Suite package is reliable, full featured, sophisticated (yet easy to use and set-up) and exceedingly inexpensive.

    First you’ll need to have a domain name. You can register one through Google or through any other registrar such as GoDaddy. Google’s .com pricing is currently $12 a year.

    Google’s G Suite service is $5 a month. With this service you can connect your domain to gmail service. It works just like regular gmail, but with your own domain address. You can also create additional accounts for $5 a month. If you use desktop Outlook or another email client, you can connect it to the gmail service (and still have web access when your out of town).

    While I have not tried the service, G Suite includes a simple web site hosting service simple called Sites. I’m certain it would be suitable for describing a business and providing contact details.

    In addition you’ll get access to Google Docs, Google Drive, Calendar, Contacts, Google+, and many other services with 30GB of total storage.

    This is a great and inexpensive way to gain a professional web presence for a business or organization for less than $100 a year.

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