Glenn Martin
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How important is your website.

How important is your website.

I am setting up my own practice and I am somewhat torn over the importance of the company websites.

I trained at a 4 partner firm that has been around now for 100 years (passed from father to son etc) and I have discussed what work is generated by their website along with other similar practices. They said that they would be lucky if 10% of clients came through their website. Word of mouth is best ay to get work which I agree with. But is that what the market allows or is it because the website does not work. 80% of accountancy websites look exactly the same if you remove the logos. They are all 5 pages long include, about us, services, links, contacts page and have some sort of tax feed newsletter attached to them along with professional associations the firm has like Sage Etc. For me none of this would make me want to sign up with them, If I am looking for an accountant I have a good idea what they do, so listing the services they offer is of no value unless they offer a specilaist service no other firm offers. How many people have won a client because they have "a cracking taxfeed newsletter" on their site, in fact has anyone ever commented on your newsfeed, if not why do you pay for it? A partner I know well said his website cost £10k but had generated little to no extra business. So is it possible to develop a website that will work and generate contacts or would the money be spent on other areas. For me the website just needs to generate a contact but this style of website does not do that

On the opposite end of the scale there seems to be emerging firms who trade mostly on line such as and the website i mentioned on another post. These sites are very up front and advertise a fixed cost solution depending on size of business, and i would imagine probably never meet a lot a of their clients face to face. I would be concerned about going down this route as I think a strength I have is that people trust me and I value the face to face meeting. I would be concerned that this style would remove that opportunity of face to face meetings and you would develop higher numbers of clients on low ends fees with little scope to sell extras to them, and clients who are cost driven with little loyalty to you.

If you were starting up today what sort of money would you invest in your website. Would you go for the standard accounting site, an up front selling website or somewhere in between. Also what sort of monet would you invest in it to get a return.

I appreciate word of mouth is king, but it is also slow when you first start I am keen to kick start my new firm with as any many referrals as I can handle.

What percentage of your client base have you signed up through your website.

I welcome your comments/experiences.


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15th Jan 2013 12:29

Word of mouth is very important ...

but that doesn't stop the prospect wanting to check you out before they get in contact. I would never contact any service provider without checking out their website first and hopefully getting a warm experience from in. In my experience they want to find out something about you personally and how much you will want to charge them. We are British .. we hate being put on the spot over price an hour in to a conversation! I also find that clients like my website as it has all of the forms, facts and figures they need without trawling around. Finally, I think people like to think they are dealing with a 'proper' business and all of the extras like websites, nice headed paper etc all count towards that feel good factor. Since launching mine four years ago I have grown by £20k income p/a ... no its not down to the website but as a part of a re-launch package it was instrumental.

Accounting websmiths are my provider and although using a template to start with, they will tailor yours however you want it. I have photos of dogs and ferries on mine!








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By Sarah P
15th Jan 2013 12:31

12 months on...

I started in practice about 12 months ago and created a website myself using some free software called Serif.  Would highly recommend it, it's very easy to use.  The only limitation to my mind is it's blogging capability - there is one but it's poorly constructed.

I have had no clients directly as a result of the website, but that is probably because I have done no SEO and therefore it's quite difficult to find.  My plan (when I have some time!) is to start tinkering with SEO to see whether the site does start to generate clients.  It's not a high priority for me though.

Even though I am not expecting the site to generate clients, I do think how it looks and what it says is very important.  Personally, if someone were to recommend a lawyer (for example) to me, the first thing I would do is look at their website, so in this respect it acts as a brochure. I want that brochure to reflect what I want the practice to be - the general ethos and values (if you see what I mean).  I know from experience that new contacts do look at the site because I have had a lot of people compliment me on it.

In terms of content, as you said, we all do the same thing really, so my website focusses more on 'Why us?'

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15th Jan 2013 12:52

Jumping in

I am writing my own, my first website, admittedly using a Wordpress theme that I was familiar with.  I think it's important to have something as professional and welcoming as possible because people will check you out.  I am finding the whole process interesting and have even done little bits with HTML and CSS to try to make the site have a few extra bit of style.


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15th Jan 2013 13:00

I'd echo the comments above. 

I'd echo the comments above.  You probably won't get loads of enquiries through the site, but not having it will unquestionably put prospects off (especially those who don't know you personally).

I think it's important not to come across as a 'tin pot' business, even if you have next to no clients.  If a potential supplier doesn't have a website (or it looks like it was designed as a primary school project), has no landline number, the email address is @hotmail/gmail/ etc I get the impression that this is not a serious business and I would be dubious about using them.

In my opinion it is similar to turning up to meet someone with an unironed shirt and bed hair.  It just doesn't look right.

Maybe I'm being snobbish or completely off the mark, but these are my opinions.  And if they are my opinions they are likely those of (at least a minority) of others.  Nobody ever lost a prospect because they had a simple yet professional looking website.  They probably did because the didn't have one or it looked thrown together as cheap as possible.

It is possible to get sites made or designed for a few hundred quid that, to the uninitiated, look very little different to ones that cost a whole lot more.

I tend to agree that most accountants' website are average at best.  On the whole they don't 'sell'.  I will also accept that mine is not really any different.  Doing something about it is on the list for February.

As accountants we're very good at telling people what we can do on our websites.  We're not so good at telling the viewers why that is important to them, or that we do what they want from an accountant.

It's no good telling clients 'we do payroll'.  Tell them 'we look after your payroll for you.  We will remove the admin burden of this task and use our years of experience and state of the art systems to produce your payroll accurately and efficiently'.  After the carrot maybe some stick - 'It is essential that this is done accurately and all submissions to HMRC are accurate and on time or they will issue penalties'.  Follow it up with a testimonial if you can.

I wouldn't use those exact words as that is what came into my head as I was writing it so I'm sure it could be written better, but hopefully you get the idea.

I started around 15 months ago, and having come out of industry had no clients, no prospects and very few people who's word of mouth I could rely on.  We all know referrals from happy clients are the best way to get new clients.  But if you have no clients there is no-one to do this.  You have to rely on other forms of client acquisition.  The website alone won't get your business of the ground, but it is, in my opinion, vital.

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15th Jan 2013 13:15

It's important and it's not important

Can you have a successful accountancy and tax advisory business without a website or with a poor website?

Yes - I know a few companies who have a very enviable client base without a website.

Is a website becoming more of a necessity in the next few years?

Maybe. I believe that people are becoming more nosey about who they are doing business with. Also a lot of the old guard who don't value or know how to use technology properly are naturally fading away.

Do I value a good website?

Yes. I don't care about whether or not it generates clients by itself (ok, I do....). For me I simply value the professional image it portrays to current and prospective clients. If someone doesn't care enough about their business to have a half decent website that is relatively cheap and can simply be a stand alone project requiring no further input than they are lazy and don't deserve my business.

I know I'm wrong in this bigoted assumption but I also know that this is how I always think subconsciously.

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15th Jan 2013 15:49

Definitely go for it ..

From my point of view, as a company providing software to accountants, we would find it beneficial if they had more of an online presence as it is a good way for us to get (even a brief) understanding of your company online. 

It does not cost much to build say a brochure site on the outset as a way for prospects to get the chance to sign up for a newsletter from yourselves, or for them to get your contact details and email you rather than having to receive possibly unnecessary phone calls.


Of course, if you have some spare time on your hands you could post up some blog posts to demonstrate your knowledge as an accountant! :-)



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By Glennzy
to Matrix
19th Jan 2013 17:55

What software
Do yo provide to accountants. Is it marketing based or accounts and tax stuff.

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By Glennzy
to Matrix
19th Jan 2013 17:57

What software do
You provide to accountants. Is it marketing stuff or accounts and tax software.

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By Glennzy
15th Jan 2013 16:06

thanks for the comments but....

... I was never not consdiering having a website. I will be creating a good professional image for myself and have got letterhead/logo etc. Have own URL not BT one etc. I appreciate people look before they buy so they "google" you before coming to see you.

I can easily get a 5 page brouchure site up there, but my question is should it stop there or is there clients to be signed up through your website if you go for it and look at it from a marketing point of view and not an accountant.

if you look at these 2 sites and both are long established firms with good reputations but there is nothing on either site that would really make you choose one over the other.

Is it possible to get a website that shouts "choose me" or is that like chasing a rainbow which is why everyone has the standard 5 page site and reviewing it is always in the to do tray.

Does anyone have a website thats does generate referrals/leads like the boox or applause site.


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15th Jan 2013 18:25

I guess if you've identified two sites that you think are fairly ordinary and don't discriminate themselves from the rest of the market that's great.  But you need to identify why.  Once you've done that you need to address the issues you think the others have on your own site.


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15th Jan 2013 20:31

Think I may have addressed your Qs in a recent blog post

Try this: Only one website metric really matters to accountants

I think you are absolutely right to question the need for anything beyond the basics.

In previous articles for accountingweb I highlighted related points:

The top five accountants’ website mistakesHow to get your first clients

Good luck with your new practice.



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16th Jan 2013 14:39

Agreeing with comments above

Being relatively new to the accounting sector, I'm quickly establishing that service led companies or practices need to have a slightly different set of objectives for what we want to achieve from our websites.

As Marketing Manager for Boox, I've quickly learnt that people interested in our services, more often that not, still seek the re-assurance of speaking / meeting with a provider before committing to signing up as a client.  It is however important to provide the choice for someone to sign up to your service online.

That said, in the modern age with PCs, tablets and mobile devices, I believe it is important to utilise your online presence more as a brochure.  Most people nowadays will go online to conduct research, so a professional looking website is vital. Clearly indicate your services, whilst also highlighting why a potential client should choose you over a rival.  Remember to have a clear call to action as to what the visitor should do next to find our more.

Mark's link to his post above, highlights the key factor around what it is all accounting website owners need to be aware of (I won't steal his thunder by saying what is, but we've done a lot of work in this area). 

With our current specialism as cloud based, contractor accountants, our core aim has always been to introduce more modern ways of working with clients, with a view to making their lives easier, whilst continuing to provide a thorough and efficient accounting service. 

The best analogy for our business is that we're looking to become the First Direct of accounting.  Despite providing our clients with a largely an online accounting service, we are always available for face to face meetings, and combine our own accounting portal with the reassurance of having a qualified accountant to watch over a clients business finances.  This is what we believe differentiates us from standard high street accountancy practices, and is the messaging we try and communicate consistently across all our marketing activities.

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16th Jan 2013 17:17

Talk about the benefits, not what you do

Do I need a website?  

Yes, definitely - it is your shop window and most prospective buyers will check.  You should also ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and reflects the same messages as your website.

As mentioned above, a website costing a few hundred pounds can be just as persuasive as a very costly one.  Remember, it is like a CV - your trying to get to the first meeting.  That's it.


What should you say one your website (and can you differentiate your website from other accountants)?

Talk about the benefits, not what you do.  Everything evolves around time, money and peace of mind and your benefits should reflect that.  

I think it can be a really difficult job to differentiate accounting services so I try and say it better than the next firm. Talk about growth, about saving tax, about a better lifestyle, about the future, about less risk, about more time.  Talk about issues. Tell a story about how you helped save a business. Talk about the future, not about the past.  Talk about thriving, not surviving.

Good luck with your new practice,


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18th Jan 2013 11:11

Bit late but...

... totally agree with Chris Scullard!

I think it's important not to come across as a 'tin pot' business, even if you have next to no clients. If a potential supplier doesn't have a website (or it looks like it was designed as a primary school project), has no landline number, the email address is @hotmail/gmail/ etc I get the impression that this is not a serious business and I would be dubious about using them.


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18th Jan 2013 11:27

A good website is vital

to your success as a modern, proactive accountant.  I should point out our business is in helping accountancy firms grow, and yes we build websites.  So this comment may be viewed either sceptically as a sales pitch for our business or openly knowing that its based on over 25 years of experience working with accountancy firms.  Its grounded in factual figures that we get from hundreds of clients analytics and not theory.

Most websites don't work.

Forget the accountancy industry for a moment, the problem is widespread.  In fact many experts quote the figure of 97%.  Therefore its not surprising that we hear from many accountants who brought or built a website, put it online and were expecting 'big things' to happen.  For most, the only big they they got was the bill for the site and a big shock that the site did not work.

Most believed if they built a website then 'they' (whoever they are!) would come.  But sadly 'they' didn't turn up and the result was a nice website that achieved nothing!

Months pass, a few conversations between client and web provider take place but nothing changes.  it seems that the web does not work for accountants after all.  And that nice looking website has started to age, links stop working, pages drop and the wonderful website become a relic . . . . .  a place you hope a potential client will never find!

It does not have to be like that. 

Your website should bring in new business and impress current clients.  The problem is most firms have a template, resource-centre type website and never thought of their website as a fee generator.  The reality is in this highly sophisticated, technological age, your website should be at the very heart of your firm.  Its the focal point on which your marketing is based.

If that sounds a little 'over the top' then I'm sorry - its just we are passionate about growing accountancy firms.  And we know what good or great accountants website can do for a firm and its growth. 

Here are a few examples to balance the two you posted.  (Note to critics - these are posted for examples only and not to generate 'free links' as the links as disabled by Accounting Web)


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18th Jan 2013 11:40

When I started up ...

I used Regus for new client meetings. I would be sitting in my office at home (spare bedroom) at say 11.45 ... quickly chuck the suit on, hop in the car down to Regus ... quickly in to the office, set up the lap top, hang my jacket on the coat stand and scatter a few things around. The reception would phone through to say the client was there ... I would wait for 2 minutes and the go and collect the client. After 10 minutes the reception staff you bring in tea and cofee and biscuits. Poetntial clients would say how impressed they were by my set-up not knowing that they were maybe one of just a dozen others! The really good bit was if I was out within the hour then the cost was £5 per delegate per hour .... happy days!!

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18th Jan 2013 12:36

Your website should reflect you

Disclaimer first: I am one of the directors at Accountant Websmiths (the firm mentioned by Steve in his first post, thank you Steve).

Your website should reflect your practice / your personality (especially if you are a sole trader) and be a marketing tool first and foremost. As mentioned before until you do some marketing - whether online of offline - your website will be primarily used by people who have heard from you through word of mouth to check you out.

Once you start doing marketing activities, you will find that the website is visited by people who do not know about you. They will want to be reassured that you are not a fly by night operation. This is why a lot of practices have "collateral" pages with helpsheets and calculators. CAll to actions are really important and prominent callback buttons or contact forms should be used throughout the site.

Regarding the newsletter sign up, this is used to gather email addresses and then be able to do direct e-marketing to the people who signed up. You can obviously add details of clients and prospects to the mailing list expanding the circle of recipients (a client who started adding every email from business cards / marketing material he received now has over 3000 recipient to his mailing list). Next time one of these is looking for an accountant, guess who they will think about because they get monthly informative emails from him? And if they hear about him via referral, they would already know him, making the conversion from lead to clients even easier.

The website on its own will never deliver if it is not placed at the centre of all the marketing activities that you do.

Hope this helps.

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18th Jan 2013 12:26

Accountants websites

Over the years I have managed a number of accounting practices and the web site has always been a source of contention and confusion in partners meetings. I think that it is essential to have a professional web site as new clients will check you out in that way. Therefore the design and functionality of the web site is important in communicating your "brand".

New leads tend not to come through the web site alone as not many accountants get their site on the first page or two on the search engines. Leads that do come through the web site often are as a result of other marketing activity which drives people to the web site. It is then crucial that the web site communicates the next step of actually getting in touch to buy services.

I am now Managing Director of QBS Online which is an umberella organisation allowing its members (QBS Associates) to benefit from, apart form other things, national marketing initiatives. This is specifically for accountants who want to make the most of the increasing trend where people make buying decisions online, without having to reinvent the wheel. I am convinced that more and more professional services will be bought on line and the business website will be an increasingly important part of any firm's marketing strategy.

At the end of the day, however people find you, people buy professional services from people and they tend to think of their accountant as a person they like to deal with, not a product they buy. Success awaits those who balance the virual and person aspects well.

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18th Jan 2013 13:07


Coming late to this, please accept all the unwritten "I agree withs"

What's your website for? Lead generation and information repository.  Brand awareness (aka "Getting our name known/out there") is secondary.  You can't afford brand awareness in isolation!

What should it do? Share the parts of your wisdom that you're willing to share for free, with strangers. Persuade, by the value contained in what it says, those who are interested in you to let you know they are, and to let you know how to contact them personally.

What should it look like? What should it contain? If you're the same as everyone else, what reason do visitors have for choosing you ahead of others? Be different, be beneficially different, be valuably different. Don't follow the crowd; stand out from the crowd!

What should you be obsessive about? Pages, not the site! Develop, test and measure pages. Develop pages that convert visitors into relationships and then into clients. Put resources into driving the right sorts of visitors to these pages that work well for you. [By the way, Google doesn't work with websites, it works with web pages! Caveat: See next point!]

What should you be far less obsessive about? Free enquiries, one-size-fits-all pages, search engine rankings, instant sales.

If you can develop a "machine" that turns every £100 you spend into a £5,000+ client, why wouldn't you keep investing hundreds of pounds in it?

Hope this is helpful.

David Winch

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20th Jan 2013 10:46

87% of buyers ask friends or colleagues, 10% search online first

I just received an interesting 'How professional services buy' report from Hinge Marketing which claims, 87% of buyers ask friends or colleagues, 10% search online first.

This isn't a plug for Hinge Marketing but some food for thought...

Good luck all.


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20th Jan 2013 11:46

87% may well ask freinds ...

but then they still check out the website first.

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20th Jan 2013 11:55


Ok, I'll stop shouting now :)

Hi Glennzy.

What type of clients are you looking for? From your comments you value your interaction with clients - face to face. This makes me think a website is relatively unimportant - yes have one but its a point of reference for you and your business not the main source of business.

Very similar to me, client interaction is important. Once in front of a prospect I have a conversion rate of more than 90%.

My practice started late 2011, I now have around 90 clients, turnover >£100k. I could count on one hand the number of clients that have come from my website.

However I would estimate that around 70% of my clients have originated directly or indirectly from LINKEDIN.

So my view:

1. Have a website just the basics - who you are, what you do, a few testimonials etc - mine cost £299 when first set up and I manage it now (PM me if you'd like a link).

2. Have a strong linkedin profile.

3. Use twitter

 2 and 3 have been far better than 1 for me - it has helped me attract the type of clients I want.


Good luck!




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28th Jan 2013 15:34

What the profession is telling us

I’ve been conducting a research project of both PracticeWEB and none PracticeWEB website clients for the past few months, looking at and benchmarking the professions use and attitude towards all things online including their firm’s website.

Some of the respondents direct responses to the question “what role does your website play in your overall marketing strategy” were:

“Integral part of our marketing strategy”
“Our website will be a hub for all other contact sources”
“Central to our approach”

From a statistical perspective 78% of accountants said they are already or expect to see a return on investment from their website.

In terms of leads I have clients who generate leads, daily, weekly and or monthly through their websites, but this requires a commitment to on-going updates, maintenance and Search Engine Marketing. However, one thing I see day in, day out, is website traffic coming to accountants websites based on partner or staff names, so even if your main practice development strategy is to focus on referrals (and it’s not a bad strategy given your size and the age of your firm) your website can play a significant role in underpinning those referrals.

Overall the role in which the website plays, and the expectation the profession places upon it is significantly different and heightened to when I set up my first firm’s website 12 years ago, when it was nothing more than a “nice to have”.

Do get in touch we me directly if you would like a copy of the report, there’s lots of information you might find useful about budgets, frequency of redesigning and updates as well as time spent on social media.


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