FAQs--the sort found on software or product sites--might not be the most effective approach for marketing a service firm, but what can we learn from them?
If most firms set about to add a general FAQ page today, without thinking it through, it would end up being more like a QWWYWA (Questions We Wish You Would Ask) page. This would be where the firm would regurgitate its brochure and proposal "all about us" language yet again.
But it's proven. That doesn't work.
LESSON ONE: PURPOSE
You don't sell a product that has finite function, limitations, or usage. The FAQ was first created for that. You sell knowledge. So what should your FAQ contain? Be certain of your purpose before you build it. See below.
LESSON TWO: TRANSPARENCY
If your FAQ is going to cover "why buy from us" or "how to buy from us" then be transparent about it. Some ideas about that...
I love how transparent the CEO of Zappos was yesterday in his email to employees about the Amazon / Zappos deal. A great letter, BTW, I commend Tony Hsieh on every aspect of it.
About 1/2 way down the letter begins a "Q&A" section, and 3/4 of the way down is this:
Q: I'm a business/financial reporter. Can you talk like a banker and use fancy-sounding language that we can print in a business publication? (where they used their canned marketing jargon)
And below that is Q: Can you talk like a lawyer now? (where they obviously put that requisite legal stuff)
If an accounting or law firm were to throw in some self-serving info in a FAQ, I would hope they would do it with this sort of transparency (and humor).
LESSON THREE: CONTENT
Who is an FAQ gonna help sell?
- Traditional FAQs are probably not going to close a $10K+ accounting/audit service or big piece of litigation to the C-suite.
- Bookkeeping or basic tax work, sure, but last time I checked, firms over $3-4 million in revenues aren't interested in doing more of either of those services.
- Bankruptcy, estate administration, or estate planning for an individual, perhaps.
For complex issues, some accountants and many lawyers have GREAT FAQ pages, and they are usually called blogs. If you really want an FAQ page, use a blog approach even for a static website.
Make an FAQ topic specific. Not an FAQ "about the firm" but about "estate planning" or "trusts" or "probate." Break a complex issue down into pieces and tackle each piece separately.
A blog is a better tool to accommodate this content style, though.
These professions are so complex that a good FAQ page is a discussion of meaningful issues--a fluid discussion because issues are fluid.
Here is a blog by a small but powerhouse firm who does public company audits aptly titled "Gray Matters." Does it get more complex than SEC compliance? This is meaningful, useful advice, and theoretical concepts (and not always towing the party line!) that keep CEOs, CFOs, and board members reading, and it substantiates the firm's level of knowledge. Big 4 folks subscribe to the blog, too. It's that good.
LESSON FOUR: EFFECTIVENESS
When your competitors read you, and media reads you, you know you are on the right track. When clients or prospects comment on how helpful the site was, or they actually contact you because of it, you are doing it right (assuming these are your goals).
If you are a professional service / knowledge firm, then my recommendation is to skip the all-about-us FAQ and give people evidence of your knowledge. Blog being your tool, or not.
Just, please, don't recycle your brochure language anymore, no one cares about it. Instead, answer questions real people have about real issues.
Show WHAT you know, don't just say you "know a lot of stuff." How, after all, does that make you any different from the person in the office across town?