Branding your accounting firm online
Many of the world’s biggest brands have interesting back stories to their famous names and slogans. It’s been part of the folklore with coffee maker Maxwell House that President Theodore Roosevelt coined its “good to the last drop” slogan sometime around 1907. The story will likely never be deemed as fact, but The Theodore Roosevelt Association does claim they know of a credible witness who can attest that the conversation took place. Soft drink Dr. Pepper was created in a drugstore and the brand got their household name from the father of a girl the owner of the store was once in love with.
Your accounting firm is perhaps not likely to have a celebrity endorsement nor an unrequited love’s name, but branding is equally important to you as it is to Maxwell House or Dr. Pepper. Creating a positive brand experience for an accounting firm is, more often than not, about reputation. A local wedding photographer looking for a new accountant will probably look for recommendations from colleagues and acquaintances before choosing their new provider. So a firm of five is just as likely to have a solid reputation for quality as a firm of 50.
Outside of a good reputation, a firm’s first impression is also critical. For that photographer, and a majority of other new business prospects, the first impression your firm is probably giving is what you’re putting online. Your online first impression begins with your website. There are a few key questions to ask yourself when assessing what a potential client might perceive from your website:
• When was the last time the website was updated? If your homepage prominently features a webinar that you hosted in 2008, it is way overdue for an upgrade. An outdated site can say a few things to a prospective client – either the firm doesn’t care or see value in their online presence, or that it’s not tech-savvy. They could possibly even think that your firm is no longer in business.
• Along those same lines, does your site offer an aesthetic experience that matches the one you’d provided in an initial new client meeting? If the logo for your firm on your website doesn’t match what someone would see when they walk into your offices, then it’s time for a refresh. The same should be said for the overall look and feel of your site, including color schemes, legible fonts and the like. Your online presence is an extension of your firm and should be viewed as such.
• Does the website make it clear the services your firm offers? Is it easy to navigate? These are two areas in particular where accounting firms will fall short. Assume that a potential client knows nothing about your firm, or possibly even much about accounting – is it easy for that person to find out if you offer tax prep services? Or business valuation services if that’s what they’re looking for? A good test of this is to have a friend or family member who isn’t very familiar with your firm’s services visit the site and see if they can easily find the answers to those questions. Are they able to determine how your firm helps clients and why a prospect would want to work with you?
If your website does need an overhaul, consider signing on with a local web designer to make the most important updates first, and then, if needed, roll out additional plans for a revamped site as your budget allows. If your firm came online a bit later and you found that there were very limited .COM options for your firm called “Ballard & Binder” – perhaps you ended up with BallardBinderRaleighCPA.com and you believe you might see more new leads through a shorter URL, consider one of the new top-level domains (the string of characters to the right of the dot) available to the profession like .ACCOUNTANT, and soon, .CPA. The latter is a not-yet-live extension that the AICPA is bidding on to utilize as “a globally recognized calling card for CPAs in the digital world.”
When reviewing the tips above for your firm’s online presence, it’s most important to heed the advice of the old adage, “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”
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