With information technology our primary focus, there is no way I can claim to be an expert at marketing for accounting firms. However, during the normal course of consulting with firms, we allocate a portion of our interview time in every firm to explore how information technology decisions can impact that firm’s marketing efforts, learn what firms are actually doing and take a look at the tools they are using. While the majority of firms have difficulty tending to all the marketing opportunities and tools available, some have done very well in specific instances, which stand out as hallmarks from which other firms can learn and emulate. This article will highlight a handful of marketing technologies and considerations that are working in accounting firms today and that can help your firm get to the next level.
After the signage on your building, your firm’s website is the most obvious marketing symbol available to the masses because it is easily searched for on the Internet and is often the first impression that a potential client will have of your firm. The website is an extension of the firm’s brand and should reflect the level of professionalism that clients receive, as well as the culture of the firm. Developing your own content is time consuming and can be difficult for most accountants that do not regularly write, so there are service providers that can deliver regular monthly content, annual tax calendars, summaries of the new tax laws, financial calculators, and email alerts. For a listing of website designers that cater to the accounting profession, I suggest you take a look at the review of website builders in this issue (starting on page ??; www.CPATechAdvisor.com/go/XXXX) and visit Websites4Accountants.com.
Promoting an accurate portrayal of your firm culture is also very important for your recruiting efforts as you want to attract personnel that fit your firm profile and that will stay around awhile. In that light, our best clients have hired photographers that capture images of their personnel working in and around the firm in a positive light and focus on the firm’s community and client activities to display on the website. While the job market is slow today, the economy will eventually rebound and firms will be fighting for each candidate once again in the future, so marketing to potential employees should start now as well as driving traffic to your website.
SEO, Blogging & Social Networking
Social networking is one of the more controversial topics in firms because most of the senior partners don’t quite understand the nuances of blogs, Tweeting and Facebook, which is similar to the discussions of a decade ago when they were first introduced to the concept of websites. Most marketing-centric firms have a professional presence on the major social network sites so that their brand is extended beyond their website. While there may not be a huge amount of marketing generated from this, it expands the firm name to more websites via links and related connections, which does enhance the firm’s status among the search engines. Most of the search engines have a service where the firm can pay to have their firm name listed at the top of their search engine listing when key niche and location terms are searched. In most cases, to get one of the top listings for accounting firms with a niche in a specific region costs less than $1.00 per “hit,” which the vendors take out of a prepaid bank.
It’s also helpful to find out when your firm or your people are being searched for or mentioned on the Internet, and one of the best tools is Google Alerts. This is a free service that allows you to receive updates on specific key search terms, which could be your employees, your firm, a competitive firm or specific industry niches. Broader-termed alerts can be delivered on a daily basis or for more specific search terms. They can be set to scour the web and deliver a summery on a weekly basis, which we have been doing for the past five years.