AccountingWEB’s marketing discussion group has been exploring how to use their websites to generate new business. This article summarises their most effective suggestions.
Most recent conversations about marketing have quickly focused on the online options. According to David Ellis from QualityImpact, more than 80% of prospects look for what they want online, so having an online presence is essential for any accountancy firm that wants to grow.
While the website is probably the starting point for many firms’ marketing activities, discussion group leader Maxxy doesn’t think there is a straight or certain choice between on or offline marketing. What really matters is knowing who your target audience is, and the kind of firm you want to be.
David Winch advised that visitors typically only stay on a website stay for less than 30 seconds - and often much less as what they most frequently want to see are a phone number and email address. So consider how your site can make an immediate impact on the visitor during the short time you have their attention.
As AccountingWEB has shown, relevant content can attract an audience - and help increase your ranking in the all-important search engine results. A blog can be a relatively low-key way to post content, or you could use RSS feeds to pull in news headlines from sites such as this one.
The accountancy marketing industry has expanded rapidly alongside the internet, and as well as paper marketing materials, you can now get pre-packaged websites, including news and content updates from the likes of our sister company, PracticeWeb.co.uk.
Once you’ve created a compelling website, you need to attract visitors to it. You can do this yourself with diligent blogging and social networking, but if you haven’t got the time for that, there are other ways to do this - either paying for a service like Google AdWords that positions you prominently alongside relevant keyword search results, or search engine optimisation (SEO) that does a similar job within the search results themselves.
Or you can take up listings in directories such as Yell.com. But for all the blandishments of their salespeople, you never really know how many leads they’ll generate until you’ve tried them.
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
Academic papers are devoted to unravelling the algorithms that drive search engines, and there are many specialist providers, including several who frequent the AccountingWEB discussion group.
“There is a mess of things that can be done here,” said David Ellis from QualityImpact, but perhaps their simplest piece of advice was: “Make sure whoever is designing your site has an excellent understanding of SEO.” This will ensure the best organic rankings and minimise monthly SEO costs.
If you can adapt the concept to accountancy and the services your firm provides, the people within it and the specialist topics you want to promote, you’ve made the first steps towards doing SEO yourself. Further advice is available on AccountingWEB and other sources.
For business type pictures, Accountantwebsmiths recommend iStockPhoto.com website, or searching for "stock photography" or "royalty free photos" on Google.
“For pictures of your local area, stock photos might not be varied enough so you could try flickr and contacting the person who shot the photo you like and want to use.”
Being good accountants, the compliance issues surrounding company websites cropped up in the conversation and were answered by pointers from the OUT-LAW websit.
One subject that should not be overlooked when creating a website for your firm is security. Many website designers know how to make them look good and perform well in search results, but they are often keen amateurs who may have a sketchy knowledge of security. The best advice here is to question your suppliers about their security arrangements and compare 2-3 different suppliers. If necessary, seek advice from a service that has some IT security credentials (or at least a passing knowledge of BS 7799 ‘Information Security’). Twynham’s previous articles on website security may also help:
Web security Part 1: How safe is your site?
Part 2: Anatomy of a hack: It only takes a few minutes
Part 3 - How to secure your site?
Know what you’re trying to achieve
Getting security right is a question of getting and following good advice, but when it comes to marketing, Mark Orr quipped, “All the answers are right and they are also probably wrong.”
CaseWare UK managing director Shez Hammil offered the following advice based on his experiences as a software sales and marketing executive: “Get a message, and be consistent in delivering [it] across different platforms. Once you have defined your market, and come up with a varied range of marketing approaches, stick with it!”
About John Stokdyk
John Stokdyk is the global editor of AccountingWEB UK and AccountingWEB.com.