A decade ago, having a strong brand was all about unity. As long as your firm’s visual identity and communications were cohesive, your brand was considered effective. Fast forward to today’s digital economy and a unified brand presence is simply not enough—brands need to be connected. A firm with a connected brand not only serves clients—but also engages and builds loyal relationships with them, differentiating itself in the process.
Developing a “connected” brand for your firm is more than a passing fad. It is a strategy that addresses the changes that our economy has undergone over the past several years—and, in a few short years it will separate the firms that grow and succeed from those that don’t. Consider the following statistics about how the explosive growth of online and mobile platforms is influencing how people access and use information:
- Nielsen market research shows that 95 percent of mobile users use their devices for local search.
- According to marketing guru Jay Baer, B2B decision makers only contact a company’s sales representative after 60 percent of their purchase decision has been made using online sources such as the company’s website (and those of its competitors).
The take away here is that the quality of your web presence is likely to be the first impression that a prospective client has of your firm, which, in turn, is likely to be formed as they look at your site on their smart phone or tablet. It’s an environment where your existing clients are looking to find the same level of convenience and utility from your firm as they get from the “big” brands like Starbucks and Fidelity—i.e. they would prefer to receive your services 24/7 online on your website or even better, through a mobile app.
So how does an accounting firm create a connected brand strategy? From my perspective, there are three building blocks to consider: an effective website, a mobile-optimized website, and a mobile application. Although they must be part of an integrated brand unit, let’s look at them discretely to avoid confusion about how they can benefit your firm:
An Effective Website—There is a difference between having a website and having an effective website. An effective website is truly an extension of your firm’s overall brand and a place to do business. Your firm’s website should create a valuable experience for your clients with dynamic, useful content and convenient access to the services your firm offers, rather than being just an online brochure. It needs to offer the functionality your clients need such as being able to log in directly to QuickBooks, QuickBooks Online, Bill.com, and their client portal, for example.
A Mobile-Optimized Website—Once you have an effective website, the next step is to make sure that it provides a quality experience not only to those accessing it using a desktop or laptop computer, but to the millions of smart phone and tablet users as well. A mobile website is similar to a traditional website, the key difference is that it is designed to display and function on smaller, touch-screen mobile devices. In addition to standard web content, a mobile-optimized site can offer features such as click-to-call (to dial a phone number) and location-based mapping.
A Mobile Application—It seems like there is an app for everything. The question is— should there be one for your firm?
Darren is the Executive Editor of CPA Practice Advisor. He remains in public practice as the principal of Root & Associates, LLC, in Bloomington, Indiana, and is president of his consulting practice, RootWorks. He formerly served on the Board of the AICPA’s CITP Credentials Committee and is a former member of the Board of Directors for the Indiana CPA Society. He speaks at dozens of professional organizations each year and frequently serves as a guest lecturer at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.