Is your website faceless and impersonal? Does it lack personality?
While I admit that many accounting firm websites are improving, most are still very cold and fail to create the right first impression. In some cases, they suck. Sorry but true.
Making a strong first impression is a part of building your accounting firm into a brand. Whether a person first learns about your firm from your website, LinkedIn page, Facebook Fan page, or from a client of yours, the first impression goes a long ways towards defining their perception of your firm, and you.
Let’s focus on your accounting firm website. The process is similar for most electronic mediums. Here are several factors that create an impression when someone is considering working with your accounting firm.
1. Photography – It’s amazing how much impact a high-quality photo or graphic can have on a website design. The right photo can immediately create interest in your firm services. Take the time to paint the proper picture for your prospect when they arrive at your doorstep. Here are examples of how photography can create an image.
2. Logo/Branding – A well crafted logo can make it easier for people to remember your firm or create a favorable image of your firm. While a logo is not always necessary, it can pull together the message you want to create.
3. Website Colors – The color of your website should coordinate with the photography and logo for your firm and create the right mood.
4. Website layout design – One of the most important design elements is the layout choice. Whatever layout you use should draw the reader to those items that are most important. While most template based accounting websites use a standard and rigid design, you’ll want to make sure your website design adds to the effectiveness of your message.
5. Advertising – Accepting advertising onto a professional service firm website is an easy way to create a bad first impression. Don’t do it.
6. Your Reputation and Qualifications – Many accounting firms have a lame page dedicated to the owners of the firm. Often, the copy on the page is boiler plate generic text provided by the accounting website provider and there are no pictures of the owner and worker bees. If you are working with a Fortune 500 company, we understand that it’s a faceless corporation but a local accounting firm should be warm and inviting.
7. Quality of Content – The content on each page about your accounting firm services should be well organized and persuasive so the prospect can decide whether your accounting firm can address their issues and concerns.
8. Associations – Visitors to your website are looking for assurance that you can handle their needs competently. Many associations have logos and these logos should be strategically placed onto the corresponding pages. In other words, a CPA logo should probably be placed into the website header so it is on each page but logos like QuickBooks Pro Advisor should be on the page discussing QuickBooks accounting services. Other logos and acronyms to consider are NACVA, CVA, CFE, PFS, MTAX, EA, JD, MBA and Certified Tax Coach.
9. Video – Another technique to draw website visitors into your firm is the use of video. Some website visitors like video and others avoid it. A general rule is that you should make video optional and never ever play it automatically.
Your website should be a profit center for your accounting practice and generate a steady flow of qualified leads. If it is not, then something is wrong….
What most accountants really want to know, first and foremost, is how their investment in a website can be used to recruit new clients. After all, at the end of the day, every out of pocket expenditure needs to have some payback to justify itself.
Over the last 10+ years, most accounting firms created websites that were little more than online brochures. Calling cards, if you will. These types of websites would be nothing more than text on a page with no photography and poorly written content. And they did a poor job of “branding” the accounting practice. In other words, the website was worthless.
Pretty soon, thanks to advanced technologies and higher connection speeds, all of us were introduced to websites that were rich in content, photography and graphic designs that were easier on the eyes – and websites evolved as various tools became more available and affordable. Today, whether you decide to design (or redesign) a website yourself – or use an external website development firm to create a new website, here are some key ingredients for acquiring new clients from the internet.
Don’t Ignore Search Engine Optimization. You really may be tired of hearing about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but you simply cannot avoid implementing SEO on your website. IF you want your website towards the top of Google, Yahoo and Bing, it must be optimized for search engines and done properly. Most firms give this just lip service.
Here’s a simple exercise. If you haven’t ever searched in Google, Bing or Yahoo! for your accounting firm, try it – but try it in two ways:
- Search by the words, “accounting firm” in combination your local city or area (e.g., Dallas accounting firm). Now you can see that there are many more results.
- Repeat this search over using a string of keywords which describe your other services (e.g., local city quickbooks accounting, local city payroll services, local city outsourced controllership, etc.).
So, if you were a prospect who wanted to find an accounting firm in your local area, which firms are you more likely to contact – the ones that show up near the top of the page or your firm that shows up on page 9?
When done properly, SEO works like a charm by delivering quality traffic to your website, which in turn gets your phone to ring. The process of SEO generally takes 6-12 months to work effectively, sometimes longer.
Use Pay-Per-Click Campaigns. Another great way to find clients is to conduct pay-per-click advertising campaigns. If you think advertising is only for the big dogs, think again. With pay-per-click campaigns, you decide how much you want to spend per month, and when you reach that amount, the campaign is no longer available until the beginning of the next cycle.
It’s a fact that people are more likely to click on a listing shown in two places on the results search page, so if you create a combination of SEO and pay-per-click campaigns, you’ve just doubled your chances of having a prospect ask for more information.
How much to spend depends not only on your budget, but also on the time of year and the population in your local marketplace. Most firms increase their spending during busy season because that’s when prospects are more likely to search for an accounting firm.
Make Your Practice Unique. We’ve become a society of scanners, not readers, so when prospects find your site, what they want to know is how you can help them solve their problem and if you are the best firm to address their specific needs/issues. In many cases, they think they need a specialist.
To address this perception, several accounting firms have decided to have multiple websites. One accounting website might position them as a local generalist and then they have 1 or 2 niche websites for their areas of concentration so it attracts a higher quality clientele into the practice. For example, a person who is a deadbeat and hasn’t paid taxes in years feels that must work with a firm that positions themselves as providing IRS Problem Resolution services, rather than a generalist accounting firm. This is often the case with other types of clients like non-profits, healthcare, retail, oil and gas, international tax, etc.
Accounting firm websites can act as a silent salesperson for your practice and deliver new clients to your doorstep, if done properly.
I often get asked by accounting firm clients about steps they can take to improve their placement in the search engine results pages. And when I suggest a blog, they are stunned.
Below is an article which illustrates why a blog should be part of your website marketing arsenal.
Yes, I understand that you may not enjoy writing and don’t have time to write but a blog can improve your placement in the search engines, thus delivering higher volumes of traffic to your accounting firm website.
Just do it.