Skip to main content


6 Marketing Technologies to Help You Reach the Next Level

Column: Technology IN Practice

From the October 2010 Issue

With information technology being my 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
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 highlights a handful of marketing technologies
and considerations that are working in accounting firms today and that can help
you reach 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 your 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, take a look at the
review of website builders in this issue (
and visit

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’s
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.

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 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

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 summary on a weekly basis, which we have been doing for the past five

Tweeting and blogging are additional ways you can extend the reach of your
brand and increase the number of links with your firm. Blogs do take time and
should only be done by personnel that naturally spend time sharing information
with others about their specific area of interest. If you have a person that
is known as a niche expert (or wants to be), writing a blog that provides solid,
useful content is one of the quickest ways to get a following and become known
as an expert. Free blogging services such as Blogger and WordPress are more
than adequate for most firms, and the person setting up the blog should also
consider setting up a free Twitter account, which can further drive users to
the blog or the firm website by releasing snips of information containing keywords
within that niche.

Email marketing is another controversial marketing topic with most firms today
delivering a combination of physical media such as newsletters, along with email
notifications. Tools such as Constant Contact and BizActions have done well
in the accounting profession when properly used and the results followed up
on by the firm. For those with a big budget, BizActions is one of the most comprehensive
providers that develops solid accounting content and allows recipients (the
firm’s clients) to determine what they are most interested in, while at
the same time providing that information to the firm to follow up on what the
recipients viewed.

For those with a smaller marketing budget that also want to develop and control
their own content, Constant Contact is an email marketing tool that allows firms
to send out professional looking newsletters and automate the subscription process
for referrals. Constant Contact also provides social networking support, and
even online surveys (another effective tool to increase your firm’s knowledge
in a particular area). Having the latest survey results on a specific topic
can position your firm as the expert in that area. You can also utilize surveys
to gauge customer satisfaction and identify client needs, and there are free
tools such as SurveyMonkey and Zoomerang that are very effective.

For managing client contact information, accounting vendors such as CCH, a Wolters
Kluwer business and Thomson Reuters are making their practice management applications
the core contact management database so firms should make a comprehensive effort
to keep that database reliable and up to date. The best way to do this is to
send all contact changes to one well-trained person in administration who updates
ALL databases so that they are done timely and consistently.

For managing other marketing lists including non-clients (referral resources
and niche listings) and doing marketing campaigns, the practice management products
have not yet evolved to meet that need, so many firms end up going to third-party
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) products. Vendors such as ACT!, GoldMine,
ContactEase and Microsoft CRM have been somewhat successful when used by the
members of the marketing team, but are virtually impossible to get the rest
of the firm members to use consistently, so they are not recommended as firmwide
solutions to be updated by all firm personnel. On a technical gadget note, one
technology that has been effective for capturing information from business cards
and importing it into contact databases has been the CardScan devices, which
are small scanners built specifically for use on business cards, capturing the
most common fields and logos.

A final marketing technology that we see utilized by accounting firms is actually
placed at the front desk. By setting up a computer screen running a PowerPoint
presentation, the firm can market its personnel, services and community activities
to anyone who may be waiting in the lobby. These firms pull the elements from
their website and use a PowerPoint slide show that fades between informational
screens and the firm’s logo, and some place the screen in a decorative
frame that matches the overall lobby theme.

Many accounting firms struggle with their marketing efforts because it has
not been a primary requirement for their success in the past. With the current
economy being tighter than ever, these firms are now exploring ways to better
market themselves and information technology. And when properly applied, these
methods will help firms make a better overall impression.


See inside October 2010

Advanced Micro Solutions — 1099-Etc

6525 800-536-1099 The 1099-Etc system from Advanced Micro Solutions is a suite of modules designed for after-the-fact payroll, laser forms generation and electronic filing, with the core of the program providing W-2 and 1099 year-end compliance capabilities. The network-ready system is designed for managing multiple employers with any number of recipients. With the addition […]


Putting Together a Marketing Budget That Sticks: 4 Tips to Get You Started

Column: MarketingWorks