“We are a full-service accounting firm serving clients throughout the area, dedicated to providing our clients with professional, personalized services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs.”
“Since 1984, our Certified Public Accounting firm, has been providing quality, personalized financial guidance to local individuals and businesses. Our expertise ranges from valuable tax management and accounting services to more in-depth services such as audits of financial statements, preparation of financial statements, consulting and financial planning.”
Do the above descriptions sound like something that is on your website? They are typical of what I see as I visit CPA websites from across the country. Although I have been urging you to get creative with your website for years, I still find many that look the same way they did in 1997 (or earlier).
While your accountants are busy for the next couple of months, it’s time for your firm administrator or marketing director (coordinator) to get busy updating your website.
Make it friendly to the first-time visitor. On the home page, tell them how you can help THEM and not so much about YOU. Save the information about your firm for a subsequent page. Some things you need to convey:
Immediate resources for the visitor
Your energy, enthusiasm, and excitement about what you do
“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”
You can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will.
Sometimes accountant cartoons are not very funny to those of us working in the CPA profession. But, there are times when a good laugh will do you some good and be appreciated by your clients. If you need custom cartoons for your newsletter, website or Facebook you might want to contact Jerry King.
I recently heard from Jerry and thought he might be a good resource for some of my readers.
“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that you cannot sincerely try to help another without helping yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
A great client recommends your firm to a friend. A well-respected banker or attorney gives your firm’s name to one of their clients (probably along with two other firm names).
The first thing that person does is Google your firm. Isn’t that what you would do? Of course, it is.
Your website must impress them. It must be modern looking and up-to-date and it must immediately give them information.
The goal of your website is to convert visitors into clients. Make it easy for them by having your contact information easily available. Most visitors will immediately want to know where you are located. If you have only one office, put the street address at the bottom of the home page.
Clients and prospects want to see pictures of real people and be able to email them for more information. So, don’t make your email address a mystery.
Many practitioners tell me they don’t list staff emails or use their pictures because headhunters will find them. Headhunters will find them anyway so why not make it easy for your clients and prospective clients to connect with your team members?
Be sure the commonly used social media icons are on your home page: Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Blog, etc. Prospective clients want to know as much as possible about your accounting firm.
But, remember they want to know how you can help THEM. So don’t make the website all about YOU – communicate how you can help clients save tax dollars, etc. Testimonials from current clients are a great way to communicate the value of your firm.
They might not need me; but they might. I'll let my head be just in sight. A smile as small as mine might be precisely their necessity.
I visit CPA firm websites all the time. I want to see what YOU are doing and how you are doing it. I want to see the firms that “get it” and the firms that have no clue. It helps me with ideas for this blog and ways I can assist my clients.
Recently I visited a site and the firm did have a blog link at the top of the page. However, the page was blank. Frequently, I visit CPA firm blog sites and the last blog post was six months ago or longer. If you do blog, do it on a regular schedule – weekly or monthly – be consistent.
Don’t shy away from blogging. You have some great business minds within your firm and CPAs have so much to write about and to share. The writing itself is a great way to reflect upon your work and your professional purpose.
Try blogging, you will like it! It’s only two or three paragraphs. If no one follows, it is still a good mental exercise. The more you blog the better you get. Then people will follow and you’ll attract new clients to your firm.
Watch this short video from Seth Godin, one of the most famous bloggers and Tom Peters.
I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.
“If YOU don’t believe in YOU enough to invest in YOU then don’t be surprised when others don’t invest in YOU.” – Grant Cardone
I am often disappointed in some less experienced people working in public accounting when I learn that they always EXPECT the firm to pay for ALL of their learning and continuing education.
Some even expect the firm to pay for a book that might help them with self-improvement.
The investment in yourself is the best investment you can ever make. The “firm,” for one reason or another, won’t pay for you to attend a specific conference, seminar or meeting. Maybe you should pay for it yourself if you really believe it will enhance your career advancement. Maybe you should buy some self-improvement books, tapes, podcasts or apps and actually read them and listen to them.
Commuting time could turn into a motivational session.
“The best business advice I’ve ever been given was from my mother, who was never actually in business,” the self-made millionaire tells CNBC. “She said, ‘The best investment you will ever make is in yourself.It’s a no lose deal. It will always give you a return. Nobody can take it from you. It’s yours.'”
I’m not your mother but my advice to you – no matter what your age: Invest in yourself!
Success will not come knock on your front door. You must go find it.
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin
Sally, a new manager in a growing CPA firm has just been told that to become a partner in the firm, she must be able to bring new business and increase revenue for the firm.
Sally is in shock. She had never realized that it was absolutely necessary to bring in business if she wanted to be a partner. After all, it is the life-blood of the firm.
Here are three simple tips to help people like Sally in your firm. It might also be very helpful to people who are already partners!
Build a relationship first. You meet someone at a Chamber event or other business mixer. They appear to have a thriving business. Talk to them about business, in general. Follow-up with an invitation to lunch or breakfast but don’t try to “sell” anything until you have connected, met and established common ground. Yes, this might take a while. Get to know them before you sell them.
Listen. Most prospective clients will be anxious to tell you what they want. Listen to them and then be prepared to tell them what they really need. Good listening skills are a critical part of selling.
Tell stories. Tell them success stories about the firm’s team members (including partners). Tell them how a specific team member has succeeded. Tell them success stories about how your firm has solved business challenges for clients. Tell them how you would like to help them (not how you want to sell them services).
You can also use these three steps to win clients via online activities.
Relationship: Use blogs, articles, news items, tax updates and other helpful information to build a relationship. That means you must have a website that is engaging – not something all about the firm. A site that people will visit often because it is helpful.
Listen: Make it easy for them to submit a question or make contact online. Make searching for how to make contact very easy. Offer a free initial consultation that can be done in person, via phone, via email or online video.
Stories: Use interesting bios about your people and how they have become successful. Tell success stories via tweets, Linkedin, Facebook even Instagram. Develop testimonials from some of your best clients and post them on your website. Testimonials are so powerful. The prospect might think, “Oh, Joe Smith uses this firm. His business seems to be growing like crazy!”
Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.
“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi
Want a simple way to train and develop your people? Try repetition.
Think about how your new college recruits learn to become skilled accountants and CPAs. In many firms, it goes like this. You train them on basic auditing. You may send them to a 3-day training course sponsored by your firm association, state society or inside your own firm. You may do it online. But it is very focused.
Then they are assigned to engagement after engagement where they do the same thing over and over until they “get it.” Then they receive a more difficult task and they do it over and over until they become proficient, and so on. They become more and more skilled, they ask great questions and learn from others, they make mistakes and correct them and over time their confidence and skill become top notch.
People learn from repetition. It is much more effective than a one or two-day training session.
You expect your managers to bring in new business and they aren’t very good at it. This also applies to some partners, they are not able to do the basic function of a partner – perpetuate the firm. Why not apply repetition to teaching people in your firm how to sell.
You best rainmakers are the teachers. Ask them to always have a shadow (less experienced person) when they meet with a client. When they meet with a prospect. When they meet with a referral source. When they attend a business networking event. When they attend a charitable fund-raising function. When they attend a Chamber of Commerce meeting. You get the idea.
Expose them over and over again to business development situations. Have them try it on their own – over and over again. Repetition solidifies skills.
Don't join an easy crowd. You won't grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are achieve are igh.
“The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.” – Ayn Rand
When pursuing a new prospect, when do you talk about your fee? How straight-forward are you? Do you talk as little about fees as possible and maybe even wait until a client complains (or inquires about an invoice) before you are transparent about how you bill?
I have observed that many CPAs are very reluctant to talk about fees with prospective clients and even sometimes with long-time clients. Many, even in the engagement letter, provide a fee quote in the form of a fairly broad range.
That’s the best thing about a Fixed Price Agreement. The client knows exactly what the fee will be for the specific service that is to be provided. Even an FPA can be a problem if the client requests additional services and the CPA does not then issue a change order informing the client that there will be additional fees due.
I have also observed that many CPAs don’t believe they are “worth it.” They become friends with clients and simply want to be helpful. I urge my clients to be proud of their knowledge and not discount the value that performing a routine task or answering a simple question brings to the client.
You have spent years accumulating specialized knowledge. You are special in that you can answer complex questions with little effort.
Don’t discount your own expertise – you are worth it!