Monthly Archives: January 2015
McKinnon Patten is a Dallas Texas based CPA firm that has been operating for over 40 years. Like many established CPA Firms, they operated by word of mouth and old fashioned hard work until a newer practitioner, Mark Patten, joined them last year.
Mark’s background prior to joining the McKinnon team is impressive ranging from a Duke MBA, ten years at Ernst & Young, Global Audit Director and CFO at Morgan Stanley, and Managing Director at Stout Risius Ross for business valuations and forensic accounting.
To turn up the volume on new client acquisition at McKinnon Patten, here is path that Mark is on.
- Responsive Web Design – McKinnon Patten currently has three websites to market their practice across the Dallas metroplex and each website is carefully constructed in a responsive web design to gradually get to the top of Google, Bing and Yahoo.
- Rich Content – The content on each of the McKinnon Patten websites is well organized and educates prospective clients on the collective firm services in a consultative manner.
- Niche Marketing Using a Multiple Website Strategy – To capitalize on the firm’s core competency, McKinnon Patten has niches in Oil and Gas Accounting, Business Valuations and High Net Worth Accounting. And like most established firms, they are also a generalist with various successful clients in private equity, real estate, and entrepreneurial businesses.
- Search Engine Optimization – Each website is search engine optimized to attract high levels of traffic onto the website page that closely matches what the prospect is searching for.
- Eye Catching Photography and Graphic Design – Each website incorporates photography and visual images that pull the prospect into the page so they are more likely to learn more about McKinnon Patten.
Full Disclosure – McKinnon Patten works with Build Your Firm in the Outsourced Marketing Program. Mark first connected with me via LinkedIn in 2012 (prior to joining the firm) and ultimately engaged BYF in 2014. I have no idea what Mark typed into LinkedIn to find my profile but I am sure glad he called me.
In today’s world, we are accessing the internet on wrist watches, mobile phones, tablets, talking to Siri, large screen TVs and traditional desktop computers. Given the variety of devices, Google Bing and Yahoo are advocating that we all jump on board with responsive designed websites. Here’s why you need to scrap your traditionally designed website and switch to responsive web design now.
One Website, Many Devices
Although Google is usually very guarded about their POV, they are now giving preferential treatment to websites that were developed using responsive layouts and actively recommending to webmasters that all new websites should use the industry best practice of responsive web design.
Essentially, Google prefers responsive web design because your website content resides on one URL rather than duplicate URLs (e.g., one for traditional monitors, another for mobile). This makes their job of indexing content much easier.
If you want to remain towards the top of search engine results pages, you need to obtain a responsive website now. Otherwise, your website will slowly drop further down the list and be visited less frequently.
The future of web design is responsive web design. The sooner you jump on board, the better off you will be.
The search engine optimization (SEO) landscape is constantly changing and dynamic. Here are the things that we see changing and the implications for your accounting practice.
- Local Search gets more important and specific – The use of mobile phones and tablets now represents 50% of internet usage and search engines are improving their proximity based searches (e.g., physical distance from searcher to business location). This means the role of maintaining your listings within Google My Business, Yelp, YP.com, and smaller local websites will take on a greater role. Second, the location of your office becomes more important as well because search engines will steer their results to providers closest to the prospects physical location.
- Social Signals become more important – The value of having online reviews in Google, Yelp and other review websites will take on a greater role.
- Voice search will become popular – Voice based search capabilities within smart phone and smart watches will catch on, thus making Local Search critical to this feature.
- Bing and Yahoo gain market share in 2015. Google will lose a little market share as Firefox switches to Yahoo as the default setting and some mobile browsers re-evaluate their options (Safari, etc.).
- Content Oriented Accountants grow faster – As more accountants embrace content marketing to support their inbound marketing efforts, more accountants will become adept at driving prospects from Google+ and LinkedIn to their blog, thus supporting their website placement and creating a local following. Yes, savvy accountants will be forced to embrace blogging to obtain top placement within search engines.
- Responsive websites become imperative – Now that half of the internet usage is from mobile devices, being search engine optimized for mobile devices will become important as well. That means that nearly all websites that have been around for longer than two years will become dated and need to be redone. If your website is not responsive, it will be analogous to having a flip cell phone.
Below is an article which clearly explains the risks associated with data breach and what to do if this happens at your office.
The risks of data breach include the following:
– lost or stolen computer device
– email sent without encryption
– password strength is low
– improper disposal of data
To help you, BYF invested heavily into the Secure File Exchange tool for our website clients providing 256 bit encryption. This new tool requires a click of a link and off the file goes securely, inbound and outbound. Portals do not need to be set up. And those annoying “I forgot my password” phone calls are gone.
Now is the time to “proactively” communicate how electronic documents are to be sent into your office so they are safe and secure. All inbound and outbound electronic documents should be 256 bit encrypted to avoid privacy issues.
Below is an example send out via email newsletter on how clients should send in documents electronically. You will need to communicate this over and over to minimize your risk of a breach. Many of your clients assume that email is secure, which it is not.
The days of waiting for a check to arrive in the mailbox are over. With BizPayO, you can get paid by ACH (eCheck), Credit Cards and Bank Wires from one payment screen. Recurring and single payments. Essentially, you get paid thirty days FASTER than traditional billing.
And with BizPayO’s Upcharge Technology, you can recover your credit card processing costs. Longer term, BizPayO will push most of your clients into paying you by eCheck which is a better long term payment solution because it changes less frequently. That’s right, between fraud department declines and expiration date changes, credit cards eventually become a hassle to maintain recurring payment processing.
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Obtaining more online reviews in Google, Yelp and YP.com right now is important because:
1.) Establishes Your Trustworthiness
2.) Google likes it and will raise your website placement (higher SEO)
3.) Reviews are more positive than what you can say about yourself
If customers take the time to write a review about your firm, then it means you are doing something right. Prospects are searching for firms like yours and want to avoid a bad experience. Help them find you and hire you.
Google has about 75% market share and can refer new business to you. Positive reviews give Google the confidence to recommend prospects to you. Google’s algorithm is trying to refer the best providers in each local area. And while it’s just a computer code, they are looking at the number of online reviews, star rating and how frequent the reviews are. Yes, new reviews in January 2015 matter more than reviews that are six months or older.
Client reviews are more convincing than what you say about yourself. While we all hate to brag, the reality is that your clients are not afraid to brag about how good you are. Let your clients sing your praises. They will if YOU ask….
New reviews matter. People look at the dates of the online reviews so you need to refresh them now we are in 2015. Also, Google looks at dates too…
If you need more meat on the bone, below are a couple more articles on the topic:
While tax season has not started in earnest yet, now is the best time to get more reviews posted online.
All business owners love inbound marketing when it works effectively because it brings motivated prospects to our front door. However, we hate the work required to get the end results. As Americans, we are lazy and want the results without all of the hard work.
The fact is that prospects for your accounting services search online for solutions to their problems. To become the firm (or person) best suited to solve their complex issues, you need to create a presence on the internet which motivates the prospect to call you. In other words, all roads direct them back to your firm, or you.
Blogging first started in the late 1990s as a unique way for people to share ideas, experiences, thoughts and opinions. Today, everyone from mom-and-pop businesses to Fortune 500 companies utilize blogs to increase their visibility online, improve their reputation, develop a following, and generate new business.
Here are the reasons why having a blog integrated into your website is imperative.
- “Google says” – Google has a voracious appetite for fresh content. They reward websites and individuals for providing unique content by elevating your website in the search engine results pages. They especially like blogs because the content is easier to index and is date stamped so they know how fresh or old it is.
- Showcase your unique talents – A blog is a wonderful platform to demonstrate your knowledge base for a boutique type of service and create a following. Rather than blog about general accounting and tax related topics, which are too broad, we recommend that you narrow the range by developing a niche within your accounting practice, have a niche website developed around that niche service, and then add a blog within the niche website. By narrowing the range of topics and constraining the subject matter, you can now laser focus on blogging about your expertise.
- Build trust and create a brand identity – Now that you have a niche website along with a themed blog to support it, the stage has been set to create an identity and establish trust. The next challenge is to write 3-4 blog posts per month which help your followers and demonstrate the depth of your expertise. If you do this successfully, you will eventually create an identity as a subject matter expert who prospects reach out to when they need help.
For accountants that are willing to blog and showcase their unique talents, we do design and host WordPress blogs.
Back on August 18, 2014, I shared an example of a tax accountant in Northern California in the East Bay area who was doing a great job marketing his practice on Yelp using BYF’s reputation management tool. Here are his results after seven months of proactive reputation management work with Yelp.
- 23 five star reviews in Yelp posted live (23 live, 29 stuck in filter, 52 in total)
- 2 live reviews in Google
Personally, I would like to see a more balanced approach between Yelp and Google, but have to admire the amazing work they’ve done with Yelp. Twenty three reviews in Yelp is incredible and will keep his practice busy in the months ahead.
Here are some tips that Navjeet Chahal shared with me on the phone back in August:
a.) Navjeet has downloaded the Yelp app onto his cell phone so it’s easier to post reviews when he has free time. He writes about 2-4 reviews each week and his badge status has been elevated from Rookie to Pro. Yelp has a badge program designed to encourage Yelpers to compete amongst each other and obtain certain levels of status.
b.) Steady does it – Getting lots of reviews in one week will get more reviews stuck in Yelp’s filter. Approach this process as a marathon, not a sprint. Make it part of your weekly task list. Navjeet writes 2-4 reviews each week from different locations (many are business clients of his accounting firm) and the Yelp app does look at locations he is posting from. Net, post from different locations, not just your accounting office.
c.) Pay It Forward – Writing genuine reviews for your clients is a nice way to signal that you appreciate their patronage. It also indicates that you might be open to reciprocal treatment. While blatant review requesting is frowned upon by Yelp, subtle hints and making the public aware that you accept reviews is fine.
d.) BYF’s reputation management tool makes it easier for your clients to post reviews onto multiple review websites (e.g., Yelp, Google, Intuit, YP.com, etc.) from one landing page.
e.) Clients that are not active Yelpers will most likely be filtered out. However, if they ultimately post reviews gradually over time, some of their reviews will move out of the filter and go live.
g.) Yelp reviews are longer and more in-depth than Google reviews. Google focuses on the number of stars while Yelp wants longer, more in-depth reviews. Use a balanced approach to protect your reputation.
At the end of the day, Yelp appears to be making their best effort identifying passionate reviewers who understand the “community” of Yelp and want to share information to avoid bad experiences. Yelp does make an active effort to reward and recognize active Yelpers with their badge program.
Overall, Navjeet realizes that reputation management is a numbers game and is willing to put in steady efforts to receive the love back in the future. You’ve got nothing to lose by paying it forward with some well written online reviews. Download the Yelp app onto your cell phone and integrate this into your weekly to do list.
Everyone loves getting something for free. The other day, I saw HGTV’s Dream Home giveaway and remembered how enticing the past giveaways were (e.g., Atlanta, Kiawah, etc.). This year, their Dream Home giveaway is a custom built home in Martha’s Vineyard worth $2M and the package is rather enticing even though the probability of winning is probably comparable to a lottery ticket. Last year, HGTV managed to generate 22 million entries for their Urban Oasis giveaway. The year before, 77 million entries.
As you look ahead to tax season, here are some suggestions for creating a successful giveaway that can generate long term business results for your accounting practice. Granted, it will be on a much smaller scale but can still be beneficial for growing your practice.
Step 1 – Establish a goal for the giveaway.
Many successful contests start with a solid business goal. In your case, this may be referrals (e.g., word of mouth advertising) that become clients of your practice or online reviews in Google or Yelp. Secondary goals of your contest might be softer like getting entrants to Like your Facebook page, link to you on Google+, or connect to you on LinkedIn. For example, you may provide existing clients of your firm one entry for each referral and another entry for each online review (e.g., Google+, Yelp, Intuit, YP.com). Assume a person refers one new client to your firm and wants to improve their odds of winning so they type in 3 reviews for a total of 4 entries into the sweepstakes.
Step 2 – Establish the contest prizes.
For most accountants, the ideal time to run a contest is throughout tax season and the prize is something nearly everyone will love. In addition to a primary prize (say a huge TV or some gadget), you will also want to award secondary prizes which might feature clients of yours. Suppose amongst your client roster are clients like restaurants, fitness trainers, landscapers and a couple florists, then consider purchasing gift certificates (at full price) that support their businesses. They will appreciate the free advertising and your enthusiastic support. The main prize is the draw item and the secondary items will help them rationalize the odds of winning.
Step 3 – Gain buy-in from your office team.
The contest must be enthusiastically supported by your entire team. Yes, it needs to be a total kumbaya to gain the most traction and become successful. Keep in mind that your staff needs to enthusiastically communicate the contest to generate the most participation. If this contest is your “pet” idea, it will fall down and become a drag.
Step 4 – Spread the word over and over and over again.
Communicate the contest in your email newsletter, social media, email footers, other forms of communication coming from your office. Yes, a successful contest takes many reminders so plan to communicate this over 3-4 months. My example would be the number of reminders that HGTV provides about the Cape Cod Dream Home giveaway. Delegate the ownership of the contest to your staff so ownership is shared.