From the January 2012 Issue.
Your business web presence speaks volumes about your capabilities and focus. Your purpose and abilities should be clear on the public side of your website. And once a client logs into your site, the additional features of the private side should impress even more. What makes sense to include on your public website, and what should you provide to your clients? If you could describe the ideal client experience, what would your website look like on the public and private sides? Can you sketch and list the features you desire on the public facing and privately available sides of your website?
The Public Side
On the public side, your website should support your business mission and plan as well as your tactical strategies. Are you using the site as a recruitment tool? What about business development or expertise building? An explanation of your services, small examples or demonstrations of your expertise, key performance indicators from your operations that you are willing to share publicly, information supporting your target industries, news sources about your niches or supported verticals, information on your offerings and other background information is helpful. Including interactive feeds like video, RSS feeds, blogs and other content generated by your organization can be most helpful. What is not helpful is marketing fluff, unclear messaging, slow response from your website and clunky navigation.
The Private Side
For your best clients, we recommend a login mechanism that exposes key or private information. Portals, business intelligence, collaborative capability as well as information on service status, support information, downloads of support tools, and other items that are not shared with the general public should be on your portal.
Portals provided by third parties like AccountantsWorld WebSite Relief, CCH Portal, Microsoft SharePoint, ShareFile or Thomson Reuters NetClient CS may provide some standard content, interfaces to your systems or particular capabilities. Additional functionality may have to be added by interfacing additional products.
For example, Results CRM has components or applets that can be added to your portal to support your business development efforts. Business Intelligence tools like BizNet or Alchemex have reporting components that can be gathered in dashboards and reported in portals.
- Do you have your portal capability customized by the vertical you serve?
- Can you identify a client by their login and show them details specific to their industry or operation?
- Do you have an area where you simultaneously work together or, at a minimum, transfer content back and forth?
The Collaboration Factor
SaaS versions of products are enabling more direct and secure collaboration directly with a client. Examples of vendors and products that have made this possible include Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft SharePoint, ShareFile, Bill.com, SmartVault, as well as a number of accounting products such as SAP Business ByDesign, Intacct, NetSuite, QuickBooks Online, AccountantsWorld and Xero.
Many of these products have their own dashboard capabilities. Even products designed to be used in-house can be enabled for collaboration if they are hosted. If you are not using any collaborative product, it may be time to consider the value of offering this service. It could be a recurring revenue service that could save the client money while producing steady income to your practice.
The Dashboard Advantage
Turn for a moment to dashboards as a private portal example. Software tools can be interfaced to most accounting or practice management products today to summarize key indicators in small graphical or numerical summaries. These key performance indicators (KPIs) can be established to measure important elements of your business plan and strategy. Responsible managers can observe the indicators that they control, and overall business owners or managers can see indicators of the health of the entire business.