Tuesday, March 9, 2010

You Have A Website; Why Not Make It Add Value?

As professional service firms move through the current recession with an eye to better days, each is making decisions about how they can best allocate their resources. Upgrading the computer system and/or software to improve productivity? Investing in more marketing? Culling the workforce of marginal performers and/or seeking upgraded skills among the accounting professionals who have been downsized? Taking advantage of low lease rates and relocating to upgraded offices?

Any of these may be the right choice for your practice, but one thing you can do that is inexpensive and has real upside potential value is taking another look at your web presence.

The reality is that the vast majority of accounting firms have what I call “placeholder” web sites. In other words, everyone has a site, so it was determined your practice should have one too. The money was spent on a web designer, some system was (hopefully) implemented to maintain it at reasonable intervals, and except for writing a check every now and then, you don’t ever think about it. So, is it actually doing anything for you?

My challenge to you is to reflect for a minute or two upon this state of affairs. You’ve already put the effort and money into creating a web presence. Unless you are the exception, your site is more or less just “there;” contributing essentially nothing to your marketing efforts. But, the hard work has already been done, so why not take another, considerably smaller step, and make it an effective component of your efforts to not only attract new clients to your practice, but to stay in contact with your existing clients?

The bar isn’t really set all that high. You aren’t competing against Amazon or the other really skilled online marketers. Instead, you are being compared to other accounting websites that are, in the main, ineffective. This is an opportunity to elevate your game and qualitatively differentiate your practice/firm from your competition.

There are specialists available who are highly skilled at optimizing your site. In fact, I’ll tell you about a couple in a moment. Both have worked with enough clients to establish track records of success and make it their business to be right on top of the latest internet marketing trends.

Yes, you have to write a check for their services, but you don’t have to invest much of your time at all. (And, their charge rates are a lot less than yours.) Even during the crush of tax season, you probably have the time to consult with these firms and have your enhanced presence up and running shortly after April 15th. Just in time for that summertime marketing push you’ve been promising to initiate, right?

The first outfit I’ll tell you about is Alesco Marketing. They’ve created hundreds of web sites for both professional service providers and other businesses. They are proven experts in effectively tying together the site’s design with how the web is really used. In other words, they design sites so they are a) easily found by prospective clients and search engines and, b) they are very user-friendly and contain the features visitors actually place value upon.

I think one of their most important strengths is that they have the experience and insight to stay on top of how marketing on the web is evolving and then adopting strategies to maintain their client’s advantage. Check out www.alescomarketing.com. If you contact them ask for the owners, Tim or Doug Williams.

By the way, if you would like a quick read that offers a sophisticated look at web marketing best practices, I recommend you order a copy of Doug’s latest book, “Website Marketing Mastery,” published in 2010. It is available through their website.

Another proven source for web expertise is E. Mochila. I believe they are unique in that their only business is creating and maintaining accounting web sites. Currently, they manage over 1800 CPA websites. They have a business model that operates somewhat like a subscription: for a low monthly fee they provide ongoing support, upgrades, client portals, newsletters, calculators, etc. You can check them out at www.emochila.com. If you would like more information, ask for Cameron Hendrick. He is intimately familiar with everything they offer.

In terms of marketing your services, your website presence will never be as important as consistently getting out and talking with people who are desirable prospects. But, it is an important part of the whole package that is you, your firm, its image and presence and, ultimately, how your are perceived in your marketplace.

Bottom line: it’s more than worth a couple of hours of your time to investigate how you can upgrade your online visibility.

1 comment:

Sylvia Montgomery said...

Craig - Thanks for this very insightful post of very practical advice for accounting practitioners. Your comments echo a study published in 2009 by Hinge on "How Buyers of Professional Services Buy" -- the study captures insights of 137 CEOs of PS firms. One of the questions asked was "how can professional services improve the way they market to clients, prospects?" What we heard from 19.9% of respondents was "Have a good understanding of my situation, then sit down with me and lay out a detailed solution". Reflecting on specifics of a clients situation is by far the best way to expand relationships as a trusted partner.