From the December 2007 Issue
For years, everybody’s been telling professional practices that they
need a website and that it is as important, if not more so, than a yellow pages
listing or having business cards. If you don’t have one, your existing
clients will think poorly of your technological savvy, and since an accountant
relies on technology for virtually every service they provide their clients,
this is not a good perception to give them. Plus, how will prospective clients
find you? What if they’re searching and find your competitors, instead?
Well, for many small practitioners, it may not be quite this dire, even if
I have personally joined in on many of the above comments in previous years.
But your website is an important marketing tool, and the lack of a firm website
can have implications on your practice. Likewise, a poorly designed site or
one with old content can reflect negatively on the firm and does not provide
your clients and visitors with much benefit. Aside from that, a website can
offer you and your clients so many advantages.
good news — make that the great news — is that getting a website
up and running (and editing it now and then) doesn’t have to take an extreme
amount of effort or much investment. And you really don’t have to know
anything about how websites work, because there are many website building tools
that are made specifically for accounting and tax-focused professional firms.
Some of the systems are from vendors who also make tax and accounting software,
while others are professional web development companies that have specialized
their offerings to meet the needs of tax and accounting professionals. A few
of the companies even offer inexpensive full-service options that let professionals
keep their hands off of the tasks, but still provide a fully customized website
with content for their clients and other online visitors.
Most of the do-it-yourself systems are template-based and provide a simple
online tool for selecting key components like the general overall design scheme;
naming the sections of your website (like About Us, Services, Links, etc.);
adding pictures, logos or other images; and then adding your own copy and company
information. They usually include pre-written descriptions of common services
(like tax preparation and write-up) that can be easily customized or tailored
to match the services of the practice. Some make customization and editing of
text very, very easy with Microsoft Word-like tools for formatting, selecting
font size, adding pictures or other tasks.
But in addition to telling your clients and other visitors a little about
your firm and the services it offers, many advanced systems also provide various
financial calculators, tax calendars, tips, tax and retirement planning information,
and even periodically updated articles on tax and business issues. Some of the
website tools also make it easy for clients to check the status of their tax
refunds or have secure client portals that allow the professional and the client
to send other documents or other files. These collaboration tools enhance services
by speeding up data transfer, especially for client financial files from their
A few of these website building systems from vendors who also make online
accounting programs also allow the system to act as the login point for clients
to access their daily, in-house accounting program, and for the professional
accountant or tax preparer to access their programs and document management
functions. Countless other options are available, too, from client newsletters
that can be sent to recipients using an included e-mail marketing tool, online
data backup and storage, refund tracking functions, specialized client support
materials, and password protected, client-only access areas.
Your website is an extension of your professional practice, so it’s
essential that it provides information and service that your clients expect
and need, and also those of the clients you wish you had more of. Providing
this content keeps your clients thinking about their financial situation and
can prompt them to seek your guidance on additional services, like financial
planning, retirement and college savings, or establishing trusts.
Investing in an interactive website with genuinely useful client content is
not only a good idea, it can be a profitable one, too. A few hundred dollars
a year can easily lead to thousands in additional revenue and strengthened client
relationships. Visit www.websitesforaccountants.net for a free guide to picking a website vendor/consultant and other useful tips. The site also provides a failry comprehensive list of development companies.
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- AccountantsWorld – Accountant’s
- AccountantsWorld offers a large suite of programs
designed for professional accounting firms, with many of them available
as hosted, online programs. Accountant’s Practice Online, provides
a customizable website for the firm’s clients and Internet visitors,
along with online access for client access to programs and data the firm
wants them to have.
- Build Your Firm – Website Development
& Internet Marketing
- As a website development option for professional
accountants, Build Your Firm is unique in many ways, not the least of
which is that the company’s president is a CPA with an active practice.
This surely keeps the needs of most practitioners in clear focus, since
he encounters the same workflow processes and firm needs.
- CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
– ProSystem fx Site Builder
- CCH’s ProSystem fx Site Builder is designed
to give accounting practices a website development tool that simplifies
creation and editing of a firm website, while also providing the firm’s
clients and online visitors with a variety of tools and content, including
calculators, personal finance resources, calendars and publications.
- CPASites.com – CPASites.com
- The services provided by CPASites.com include the
full development and maintenance of websites for professional tax and
accounting practices, with no setup or direct editing tasks required for
the firm. Websites created by the development company include up to 20
pages of customized content and tools for visitors.
- CPASiteSolutions – CompleteWebSuite
- CPASiteSolutions offers several website design
packages for professional accounting firms with customized content options
that include articles on financial and tax issues, as well as a large
collection of calculators, newsletters and other client-focused tools
such as online portals for secure collaboration.
- Drake Software – 1040.com Preparer
- Drake Software offers 1040.com as a public tax news
and information portal for anyone looking for forms, instructions, tax
calendars and other materials. In conjunction with this information site,
tax professionals using the Drake Tax system can get a free subdomain
- Tenenz – Accounting & Financial
- The Tenenz Accounting & Financial Site Builder
(AFSB) is a website creation and management tool specifically designed
for accounting and tax practices, providing a professional site design
with multiple visitor tools, including financial and tax calculators and
client-focused newsletters and resource materials.
- Thomson Tax & Accounting – Web
- Formerly branded under the Creative Solutions name,
Web Builder CS is a website development system for accounting and tax
firms that provides a robust collection of content, user tools, firm management
options and client collaboration functions.