Monthly Archives: June 2014

Outsourced Marketing for Accountants and CPA Firms

Are you struggling with the ongoing challenges of managing the back office while at the same time, trying to make more time for growing the firm?  And if you allocated the time to market your accounting firm more aggressively, would you be successful?

Outsourced Mkt2In today’s ever changing marketplace, it’s tough for marketing experts to stay on top of the endless changes so how are you going to do it effectively?  Below are some examples:

– Google is constantly changing the rules and coming up with new things.  For example, they make 500-600 changes per year to their SEO algorithm, constantly change Google Adwords, demand fresh online content, and have things like Panda,  Penguin, Hummingbird, and Matt Cutts.  And they don’t answer the phone…  What gives?

– New emerging marketing tactics are always coming on the scene.  One day, it’s remarketing advertising, then it’s reputation management, mobile advertising, blogging and social media marketing.  What’s next?

– Google Authorship is great for a while and then it goes away.  Why?

– Yelp reviews are great inside Google reviews for a couple years and then it gets blown up after Google tries to buy Yelp.  Now, Yelp is cozy with Yahoo and Bing.  Really?

– Local Search is different than Organic Search…but Local Search can be found within Organic Search too…

– The promises from sales reps at Yelp and OrangeSoda sound too good to be true.  Are they?

If you want topline growth along with bottom line improvement for your accounting practice, then consider Build Your Firm’s Outsourced Marketing Program.  Many of the firms in this program have been doing it for 5-8 years and stick with it.  Accountants don’t stick with programs if they don’t work…

And yes, we do have a team of marketing pro’s to sift through the winner’s and loser’s so you don’t have to….

Protect Yourself from Data Breach Risk

Data Risk - CPA Practice AdvisorHere’s another solid article on steps to minimize your risk of data breach from the CPA Practice Advisor.

As a non-expert on this subject matter, here are the things I strongly recommend you do as well:

Password Strength – I remain shocked at how many accounting firms use passwords which are so easy to crack.  Given the business risks, you need to strengthen your passwords (e.g., upper case and lower case letters + numbers) for your local computer system, email, and client applications.

Encryption Strength – You should adopt a standard of 256 bit encryption at all times with your file exchange program.

Small Documents – All small electronic documents going out of your office should use a PDF program with 256 bit encryption, not lower standards like 40 or 128.  If your tax software program uses a lower standard, Adobe Acrobat provides 256 level encryption for exchanging small documents like tax returns, spreadsheets, and client correspondence.

Devices – Allowing employees to use their own devices is a slippery slope.  If the laptop gets stolen, you are sunk.  Similar risks exist with many smart devices.

Here’s some excellent advice beyond my observations.

http://www.cpapracticeadvisor.com/article/11143532/how-accountants-and-tax-pros-can-manage-business-risk

 

Great Article on Breach of Client Data: Risks to Accountants

Data Breach RiskDo you worry about the risks associated with a breach of client data?

Recently, I went through the process of trying to obtain insurance coverage specifically for data breach.  The process was eye opening and the application was thirteen pages long.  Enough to keep you up all night long….

The Journal of Accountancy has an interesting article on how easy this can happen to any of us.  The article is about an employee that put payroll data onto a Flash drive and her purse was stolen at “happy hour.”  The firm exposure is huge.

http://www.journalofaccountancy.com/Issues/2013/Aug/20138003.htm

Generating More Leads from YOUR Website

Generally, 98% of visitors to your website never take that next step.  In other words, they read a couple pages on your website, may like what they see, but don’t call or register on your website.  If you think about your own behavior, this probably makes sense to you as a prospective buyer.  In other words, you like to browse online for tons of information and prefer to shop online incognito.

As a business owner, what proactive steps should you take to increase the number of inquiries and target your advertising to people who are actively shopping for accounting and tax services?  Have you considered behavioral retargeting?

Behavioral Retargeting

Remarketing Image

Behavioral retargeting (aka – remarketing or retargeting) is a form of online advertising targeted to consumers based on their previous internet shopping behavior.  In other words, suppose you were shopping online for an SUV and noticed that you were all of a sudden seeing lots on ads for SUVs.  In fact, the ads were for Jeep, Toyota Land Cruiser and Ford Expedition, all of which you were seriously considering.  Is this a coincidence that you were seeing tons of online advertising after visiting the Jeep, Toyota Land Cruiser and Ford Expedition websites?  No, this would be an example of behavioral retargeting where these brands have placed a cookie onto your browser after you visited their website, and they are now targeting ads based on your potential interest.  This is behavioral retargeting,  at its best.

Another example might be Salesforce contact management.  You may have visited their website to better manage your marketing and realize Salesforce is advertising everywhere you visit online.  This is retargeting and they are trying to raise your awareness of their brand, seeking to influence your perception of them, and encourage you to return to their website.

Basically, retargeting is serving ads to people after they left an advertiser’s website.  Retargeting pinpoints advertising to prospects soon after they visit a website and is very effective.  Retargeting helps companies advertise to visitors who leave without making a purchase – which is approximately 98% of all website traffic.

How We Do It

Build Your Firm is combining the power of pay per click advertising (aka – PPC) from Google Adwords in conjunction with organic search engine optimization to drive prospects to your website.  After these prospects visit your website and browse elsewhere on the internet, they will soon see online ads for your accounting firm, in an effort to raise the brand awareness of your firm and seek to motivate them back to your website so you ultimately obtain a lead.  Within the accounting space, Build Your Firm (BYF) is the only marketing firm providing this combined service to maximize your lead generation.

The availability of BYF’s combined service of pay per click campaign management along with retargeting advertising is limited on a market by market basis.  Call James Bowen at 888-999-9800 x114 or Nita Sabo x156 to see if your market is available and the projected costs.

Build Your Firm is a certified Google Adwords Premier Small Business Partner and has been providing pay per click advertising services since 2005.

Yes, Golf Season Has Arrived….

If you managed to watch last week’s U.S. Open, then you got an update of which golf pro is working with which coach for instruction.  According to my notes, Butch Harmon managed to have a great week between Rickey Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, he managed to get plenty of free air time.

Anyway, it’s clear that the world’s best golfers are not afraid to hire a coach to help them.  If that is the case, who is your coach to help you improve your accounting practice??

Here’s an article that just appeared in AccountingWEB on the same topic, called “Whether It’s Golf or Business, You Need a Coach“.

Now that the US Open is behind us, the PGA Tour is coming to Connecticut.  Yeah!!  Unfortunately, this is Member Guest weekend at my club so I’ll be out hitting the links with my long standing golf buddy seeking to climb that mountain again.  And yes, I should get a coach to improve my game.  I am thinking David Pelz would do wonders for my short game and Butch Harmon could work on my golf swing.

Whether you enjoy golf, zumba, yoga, crossfit or another sport, a coach can make a huge difference in your performance.  As Nike used to say, Just Do It!!

 

 

Local Search – Getting More Leads from the Internet

This is a free way to increase the visibility of your accounting firm on the internet.  Essentially, this is free advertising but it requires some elbow grease to make it work properly.  And because this is a free service, the updates are occasionally slow.   

On the internet, prospects use a wide variety of online tools and websites to evaluate local businesses like yours.  These tools range from the local search section of the major search engines to online yellow page directories to review websites to local/regional directories.  Below are some examples:

Local Search – Google+, Yahoo Local, Bing Local

Online Yellow Pages – YellowPages.com, Yellowbook, Dex, Superpages

Reviews – Yelp, Judy’s Book, Angie’s list

Local Directories – Kudzu, Manta, CitySearch, InsiderPages, Local.com

 

Local Search Optimization is NOT Search Engine Optimization – Do BOTH

Local Search Optimization is about telling the local search websites about what your business does so they can recommend you.  It is free and will increase your website visibility, generate more leads, and help prospects find your business. 

About 20% of online searches from a desktop computer have local intent and over 50% of mobile searches (smart phones) have local intent. 

Organic Search Engine Optimization is what a website developer does to make your website easier for the national search engines to locate, index content and elevate your organic placement in the search engine results pages.  However, this is very different from Local Search.  If you use your smart phone to locate a pizza shop nearby, then chances are the app will use Local Search results rather than national search results to help you. 

Yes, these terms are similar and confusing but they are two separate efforts to generate more leads from the internet.  Organic SEO can be outsourced to a web designer.  Local Search is generally done by you, the business owner. 

 

Local Citations

Google and Bing use a term called local citations.  Citations are mentions of your business name and address in other websites.  These websites range from Yelp.com to YP.com to Citysearch.com to Superpages.com to your local chamber of commerce website and others.  Your goal is to consistently get your accounting firm listed in each of these online websites and provide them with compelling information (pictures, category description of your services, hours open, method of payment accepted, etc.).  The more information you provide them, the more compelling your listing is to a prospective client and the more likely the local directory will show your accounting firm towards the top listings. 

That being said, Google and other major search engines do use Local Search websites to “validate” your information and give them the confidence to increase your visibility.  If the search engine sees inconsistent information on the internet about your accounting firm, they will lower your placement because they do not want to provide incorrect information.  To a search engine, incorrect information can include tiny differences like your address says Suite 111 on one website and Ste 111 in another and # 111 in another.  Your complete contact information should be identical, everywhere.  If you are inconsistent, this will be a problem because it confuses the search engines. 

The biggest mistake is when your accounting firm is listed but the address is wrong (prior location).  While we understand that small businesses often change locations, an incorrect address will lower your website placement with local and national search engines.  You must be diligent about updating your addresses and contact information with Local Search directories.  And yes, it may take multiple efforts to get your information updated correctly.    

Google’s version of yellow page advertising on the internet is now called Google+ Local, and it is free.  When done properly, this can increase traffic to your website and generate more leads for your accounting practice. 

Please keep a list of your usernames and passwords for each because this process is iterative and you will want to update it over time.  Yes, Google+ Local is very slow to update but understand that it’s free.  

Free Local Search Directories (do not pay for upgrade)

Below are the six places you should select your business, create an account, update if necessary, and list your accounting firm.  You should complete each listing fully and do ALL six. 

Google My Business    http://www.google.com/places/  

Bing Business Portal   http://www.bing.com/businessportal 

Yahoo Local                 http://listings.local.yahoo.com/

Yelp                             https://biz.yelp.com/ 

InfoGroup Express       http://www.infogroup.com/our-services/local-search-optimization.aspx

Localeze                      http://webapp.localeze.com/directory/search.aspx  

 

InfoGroup Express and Localeze – Why?

InfoGroup and Localeze are data aggregators that supply information to most of the local websites that you want to get listed on.  To get your accounting firm accurately listed, you MUST set up an account with both InfoGroup and Localeze.  It is free and will feed your important information to hundreds of websites.  Acxiom is another large data aggregator but charges a fee (subject to change) so we skip it. 

Extra Credit After You Get Listed – Positive Reviews

Complete the listing process with Google+, Bing Local, Yahoo Local, Yelp, InfoGroup and Localeze.  If you want to do two more, consider Yellowpages.com and Manta.  After this process is complete, then you will want to obtain reviews to give prospects confidence to call you.  Yes, you will have to ask a few clients to post glowing reviews about your firm.  Online reviews will increase your visibility as well. 

BYF has developed a reputation management tool which is part of your website service (no extra charge).  If you’ve completed the Local Search process, we will gladly set up the reputation management tool so it’s easier for you to obtain online reviews and influence your local reputation. 

In summary, this initiative will be critical to generating more leads from the internet in the months ahead.  As more and more people use the internet each day from desktop computers, tablets and smart phones, it becomes more important that prospects can find your accounting firm on the internet and the message is consistent from Yelp to YP.com to Apple’s Siri and others that you’ve never heard of. 

This is free advertising for your accounting practice that will generate more visits to your website and phone calls.

Platinum Website Service for Accountants

I am pleased to share with you the news around our new Platinum level website development service, which is now available to accounting firms of all types.  That’s right, this new level of service is designed to meet the needs of regional CPA Firms, sole practitioners, enrolled agents, degreed accountants and tax practices. 

Upgraded Features for Platinum Level Service

As part of Build Your Firm’s (BYF) new service, we have some brand new money-making tools for accountants. 

ePay Payment Processing – This payment processing portal is designed to facilitate payments from ACH (eCheck), credit cards and bank wires from one easy-to-use system.  It accepts recurring and one-time payments, so you have more control over getting paid faster.  And, it empowers your clients to pay your fee online without requiring you to do work.    

Secure File Sharing  BYF’s secure file sharing tool is the easiest system possible for exchanging sensitive information electronically.  It provides bank-grade security, 256 bit encryption, without forcing clients to authenticate with a user name and password.  This secure file sharing system is designed to eliminate the annoying “I forgot my password” phone calls into your office while ensuring compliance with SOX, Gramm-Leach-Bliley and state specific laws on sensitive personal information.  With the Platinum level service, you receive up to 7 user licenses and 4 GB of cloud storage. 

Local Search* – As part of the Platinum level service, BYF will set up your local profiles with Google, Yahoo Local, Bing Local and Yelp. 

Online Reputation Management – BYF’s reputation management tool makes it easier for your clients to post a review directly into Google, Yelp or Yahoo.  Managing your reputation online is critical to managing your image locally and generating new business. 

To give you added incentive to order now, BYF provides up to 24 hours of free CPE or CE credit.  The continuing education courses are done online and there are many course titles to choose from. 

Pricing – BYF’s Platinum level website service comes with a sixty (60) day free trial and no set up fee.  The monthly cost after the free trial period is $99.95 per month and there is no annual commitment. 

For more information on BYF’s Platinum Level Website Service, there will be a free webinar on Monday, July 23rd.  Register at http://www.buildyourfirm.com/webinars.htm to attend the free webinar. 

* BYF will provide the free Local Search set up only during the introduction of Platinum and reserves the right to discontinue this at any time given the amount of work involved.