Tips For Using The Internet For Business - What's Next?
Thursday, March 8, 2001
Visit the AccountingWEB Workshop Calendar for upcoming sessions.
There is a relative explosion in web-based accounting resources and accounting related services. What can you do to utilize the Internet to maximize your business and to help your clients succeed?
Items covered during this session included:
- How to conduct research on nearly everything
- How to communicate with your clients and staff
- How to become more productive and educated using the Net
- How to attract new clients
Read the full transcript of this workshop!
March 8, 2001 Session Sponsored by: Tax Analysts
Session Moderator: Welcome everyone, and thank you for joining us today! I am happy to introduce to you Tim Anglim. Tim is the president of The Forensic Group LLC, and he founded the Web site, The FraudDETECTIVES Consultant Network, in late 1999. The site, which can be found at: http://www.frauddetectives.com, promotes awareness of fraud and abuse in the small to mid-sized business environment and is a comprehensive resource for identifying and retaining qualified crisis professionals.
A CPA and a CMA (Certified Management Accountant), Mr. Anglim received his undergraduate accounting degree, with honors, from New York Institute of Technology (1979) and his MBA in Finance from Hofstra University (1983). Tim has worked for a number of firms in turnaround, reorganization and also conducting financial fraud investigations. He currently splits his time serving as CFO for a privately held group of manufacturing concerns and developing and managing The FraudDETECTIVES Consultant Network.
Session Moderator: Welcome Tim, and thank you for being here today!
Timothy Anglim: Thank you Gail. And thank you to all of today's attendees. Thank you for attending today's workshop. I will begin my presentation shortly. As I proceed, please feel free to ask questions at any point. Let me begin, as accountants, we are conservative by nature, and particularly skeptical of anything new. Now this may be a stereotype that many of us resist, but to some degree it applies fairly well.
Until fairly recently, many CPAs and other accounting practitioners clung to their DOS-based systems, and for good reason. There were bugs in the early windows GUI systems. Like buying a new model car, we were taught in the old days to wait a year or two for the car companies to iron out the wrinkles. Well, it's obvious for some time now, that the windows look and feel of software is here for good, and it works better and faster than anything before it. Coupled with that fact, the internet has been able to capitalize on this change as well as on new and faster communications methods to the point that according to one source, "every major software vendor is web-enabling their software to run in an application service provider model.", better known by the acronym "ASP." ( Source: AccountingWEB US, 7 March 2001). Now that's a trend reversal. Remember "service bureaus"
Timothy Anglim: How does this affect accountants? Conducting research: If you are here today, you already know the basics of "search engines 101."
Timothy Anglim: For instance, there's Yahoo, AltaVista, Google, DirectHit, Excite, HotBot, Lycos, and many others. They all work, and they all do it a little differently.
Timothy Anglim: Add to this AOL and AT&T Worldnet for additional proprietary search functions (which essentially do a bit of what the above search engines do). Essentially they are additional search engine resources. AltaVista.com is very good, but not always easy to focus a search. Google.com is relatively new, and is a favorite alternative to AltaVista or Yahoo. These guys have a unique way for rating "relevance" in their words to return what should be the most RELEVANT choices to your search up front. Try it. Yahoo.com is still popular, and offers many free services such as news alerts and free e-mail.
Kelly: I like alltheweb.com and google.com.
Timothy Anglim: Hello Kelly. I find Google to be particularly easy to use, and relevant.
Session Moderator: I like Google's little toolbar you can add to your screen - a search window is always on the toolbar!
Timothy Anglim: You can't beat Yahoo for setting up multiple news alerts, and they are free. Consider what you can do to track your clients. Yahoo will send you anything in the media, everyday on every company you want to stay abreast of. Professional organizations too: AICPA., State society sites, FEI.org. TMA.org, CFE.NET All great sites to bookmark. Commercial sites:
Nicole Valenti: Has anyone out there looked at online accounting services?
Timothy Anglim: KnowX.com - A great site to research companies and individuals for a fee. CreditRiskMonitor.com is an up-and-coming alternative to the traditional Dun and Bradstreet report system, although privately held companies are always harder to obtain information on.
Kelly: What do you mean - ASPs?
Nicole Valenti: Yes, and BSPs.
Kelly: Maybe we can discuss this later on!
Timothy Anglim: "Application Service Providers", a sort of reincarnation of service bureaus. They provide turn-key software apps over the web. Some say it will be the wave of the future. I am getting to that.
Nicole Valenti: Great, thanks.
Timothy Anglim: Anywho.com is an AT&T site that is a free resource to locate people or business phone numbers and addresses anywhere. Their lookup by number feature is a new version of the old "reverse directory" approach. How to communicate with clients and staff. Newsletters are easy to start, and also easy to forget about too. But doing one on a monthly basis, accomplishes two things: it doesn't require an inordinate amount of your time to develop once a month, and it is often enough to keep your name in front of both current customers and possibly prospects, depending on how you approach it.
Timothy Anglim: If you already have a website - great. Adding a service provided by Microsoft's bCentral ListBot service, which can be found at Listbot.com is cheap (as low as $19 annually) and EASY to set up and maintain. We use it here at the FraudDETECTIVES Consultant Network Fraud Detectives. If you go to our home page, you will see the Red "ListBot" button that routes a new visitor to an easy e-mail sign-up form. The ListBot system also allows for easy uploads of existing e-mail lists that you may already have. If you can type, even as a "hunt and peck" person like yours truly, you can handle this one.
Timothy Anglim: Everyone is familiar with the Dot-Com busts of the last few months. Yet the Internet is only in its infancy in terms of scope and innovation. Bear in mind that combined on-line retail sales represent a mere fraction of total retail sales at traditional brick and mortar businesses. So a double-digit growth curve for on-line activity is likely to be a trend for some time into the future. That will spur further innovation for sure.
NetLedger and Intacct are just two of the recent entrants in this developing trend, both offering novel approaches for CPAs and others to service more clients more effectively with reduced face time required. This type of one-stop shopping can only lead to further innovation. The Net is moving beyond offering you a place to hang out a shingle on your website. Nor is it just a research tool anymore. The web is becoming a part of your relationships with clients, prospects and staff.
Timothy Anglim: The trend towards auction, bidding, and expert or guru-type sites is pointing to another net-trend that should not be ignored. Professionals can and should re-examine their web presence. You can't normally expect tens of thousands of monthly visitors necessarily. But what about a more focused, smaller level of hits that could develop into legitimate leads? The bid or auction sites may represent an extreme, which could force down rates if you are not careful. Yet the mere popularity of these sites in the area of professional accounting and tax services indicate the potential of the net to generate customer prospects. If your firm offers bankruptcy services or litigation support services, how else can you get your name and accomplishments or credentials in front of a wide audience? How can your web site pull in qualified leads? You should be listed on every web source imaginable, whether on Accounting WEB, the AICPA or state society sites, other professional organization sites and the "type"-type directory services.
Timothy Anglim: Let's face it, when it is free, it can't hurt. But the odds are very long indeed. Search engines are saturated with CPA listings and other professionals listed on the web. And they receive more new site listing requests every day. Get your site up and running anyway, despite the long odds. Keep it simple, clean, and useful.
Jeff barrtz: I like ceoexpress.com - they offer a starting point for a lot of research sites.
Timothy Anglim: Get it cheap, either from one of the modular or "canned" web site offerings available. Or do it in-house or with a consultant for substantially more up-front money (assuming that you can't do it yourself with Microsoft's "Front Page" or a similar PC-based software package). Just do it. (Sorry Tiger!)
Nicole Valenti: You talked about NetLedger and Intacct. I've checked out both. They completely exist to help CPAs build their practices.
Nicole Valenti: Do you have an opinion on this Tim?
Timothy Anglim: I don't. But please chime in with some pointers.
Nicole Valenti: Well, they allow the CPA to actually private-label the service, so to clients, it looks like it's the CPA's service.
Nicole Valenti: All the screens of the service will have my logo at the top.
Timothy Anglim: Bear in mind that my website markets firms, but does not offer software solutions. At least not yet.
Nicole Valenti: They also developed an online audit service with D&T.
Timothy Anglim: What Nicole is pointing out is precisely the point. Market your brand. The IRS has actually come along way on the web too. Yes, Nicole, I saw that on their site. The fact that they are backed by Deloitte certainly makes a difference.
Kelly: A really good site for research on industry trends is the Department of Labor at dol.gov
Meg Baker: Tim, what do you recommend that CPAs look for in an ASP?
Further on the topic of your own web site: To get search engine attention is OK if your name is "Big5CPA.com." But what about you? AltaVista returns over 532,000 pages when searching on the term "CPA." How can you possibly be in the critical first 5 to 10 results? I like to emphasize niches and branding. Think about "books." Doing a search on the term "books" returns 102 million pages found. And "Amazon.com" is nowhere to be found on AltaVista's first 5 or 10 returned sites (note that the "relevance" rating factor found in Google.com does return Amazon's site on top - although this would not have been the case if Amazon would to start out today. Their current relative success or pervasive presence in the book selling field is what Google now rates them on).
Timothy Anglim: Brands such as "CPA" and "CFE" are well recognized, but are not specific enough to identify you in the buying public's mind (or the search engine for that matter). When you "link" your site to other locations on the web that filter leads to your site, and others like you, you gain an advantage. For example, The FraudDETECTIVES Consultant Network at http://www.frauddetectives.com provides on-line links, geographically positioned in a way that can help put your name and your web site in quick reach of an organization in need of your services. The New Jersey Society of CPAs web site at http://www.NJSCPA.org offers similar services.
The coming AICPA CPAB2B site will also be a boon to building CPA brand awareness. But these professional organization sites are known more to their membership than to the general public, and as such, tend to offer more to their members than to outsiders, as they should.
Use them all. To borrow a phrase from Kevin Costner: "Build it and they will come" may work in the movies, but not on the web.
Timothy Anglim: Using e-mail as a newsletter and communication feedback mechanism tool can further improve your chances of developing a web-based source of client leads, at relatively low cost. Use your e-mail to make announcements and offer articles of interest to clients and prospects alike, with "hot-links" back to your site for additional information and possible contact information, also preferably hot-linked to your e-mail address. E-mail, hot-links, on-line directories, all actively managed help to build your brand awareness.
Timothy Anglim: So who is using Intacct? What about NetLedger? Don't forget to consider some of the pre-packaged or modular web site building services on the web. Any questions out there?
Kelly: Tim, you are with a Fraud Network (are there good sites for that type of research)
Timothy Anglim: Yes. In particular, the association of Certified Fraud Examiners site at CFE.NET is the best on that topic.
Kelly: I don't mean to plug AccountingWEB, but we have certain products on our site for search such as industry profiles etc. Just got to the Resource Area of accountingweb.com.
Timothy Anglim: The FBI at FBI.GOV is useful and Execusite.com
Michael: I thought Execusite built web sites?
Timothy Anglim: Michael, the Execusite product is pre-packaged modules.
Michael: Okay, I see.
Lisa Rhatigan: Tim, do you have the names of any of the modular web site building services?
Kelly: Haven't tried that one yet, I will check it out
Session Moderator: Tim, can you provide some general information about the fraud examination aspect of your business?
Timothy Anglim: Lisa, we are all rookies when it comes to the Internet. Let's face it, it has been about three years since it became a household word.
Session Moderator: The first time I was asked to write about the Internet, I didn't even have access, didn't know what it was
Kelly: How did you pull that off?
Session Moderator: Got online quickly and asked a LOT of questions!
Timothy Anglim: Sure. I don't perform those services as head of this network, I refer the leads to our members.
Lisa Rhatigan: I'd be interested in hearing how CPAs are using the Internet in serving clients.
Kelly: Me too! I think there are so many options that it can be overwhelming
Timothy Anglim: I have done forensic accounting/fraud investigations, as well as work on bankruptcies. It's a very fast growing niche. Who out there has a active accounting practice?
Jeff barrtz: I am a CPA for a small firm in CA.
Timothy Anglim: And how are you using the net to help?
Jeff barrtz: We use it to communicate with client mostly, and some research, but that's about it. I know there is so much more we could be doing.
Timothy Anglim: Do you see the advantage of going to a NetLedger or Intacct product? Have you heard of these or other similar services?
Jeff barrtz: Yes I have and have not done that much research on them.
Timothy Anglim: We offer the linking side of the equation. As well as job posting services.
Jeff barrtz: I have seen their banners and advertisements and have looked at them but don't know how to use it in our practice.
Mary Thomas: Our firm has just begun a weekly 'e-tip' service for a select group of our clients. We've had a lot of positive response. We invite them to visit our website for more tax and financial planning tips.
Timothy Anglim: What about workpaper systems off the web? Has anyone used any?
Nicole Valenti: I was looking for a way to do more work w/ clients w/out having to spend more time, and Intacct is very cool. They are focused on CPAs, and how to help us get online and be more successful.
Timothy Anglim: Mary, you can force them to click back by giving a brief paragraph, with a link back to your site for the full story or to access the author., etc.
Timothy Anglim: P.S., I can't type.
Kelly: Great Idea Mary. I can't either, don't worry, be happy
Timothy Anglim: The newsletter has to bring in hits. Hits lead to contacts. And so on. What about web sites? Who has their own?
Jim Donald: Under development
Timothy Anglim: In house?
Jim Donald: Yes
Lisa Rhatigan: We are a growth consulting firm who helps CPA firms plan and implement growth strategies. We have a Web site - although we already want to redesign and update it.
Timothy Anglim: What's the greatest challenge for your site right now, besides getting it on-line? You too. Lisa.
Meg Baker: Planning to build a web site, but want to use it to better serve my existing clients.
Jeff barrtz: Getting clients to come and use the site to gather information
Jim Donald: I would say meaningful content
Jeff barrtz: I agree with that Jim!
Lisa Rhatigan: I would agree - meaningful, value-added content. And keeping that content
Timothy Anglim: Don't focus too much on the site itself. Look outward to the web. Link, network, join others.
Kelly: If you are interested, AccountingWEB allows you to syndicate its news on your web page using a news ticker for free? Check out the syndication area on the accountingweb.com site
Timothy Anglim: If you are in the forensic accounting arena, take a peak at us. Actually, Kelly, that's a great idea.
Lisa Rhatigan: That is a great idea. I'll definitely be checking that out.
Mary Thomas: Kelly - I didn't know that! Thanks for the tip!
Jim Donald: We're planning on that...but I'd like the site to focus on needs in my area....for clients to have reason to drop by
Kelly: You are welcome! If you have any questions, call us at 317-876-7525 and we can assist you.
Timothy Anglim: Jim, use the e-mail newsletter approach for all of your clients. You can develop additional lists for prospects, with a correspondingly different e-mail.
Session Moderator: We're almost out of time - are there any final questions?
Jim Donald: Yeah, I really like that. And some tax calculators and such.
Lisa Rhatigan: Tim, do you think the target customer of CPAs - CEOs and CFOs are ahead or behind the curve in using the Internet?
Jeff barrtz: No, thank you for the information, and I will check out the sites mentioned in this session. thank you.
Timothy Anglim: How else can we use the web to bring in new biz?
Kelly: I think that some of them are ahead and some behind, depending on the client.
Lisa Rhatigan: That's my thinking too (behind). It seems like CPAs hold up getting on the Web because they're trying to make their site do all things.
Kelly: I agree with you Lisa totally.
Melody Wagler: What program do you use to e-mail your newsletters?
Timothy Anglim: Lisa, I am sure that they are behind. I use ListBot. Go to listbot.com
Lisa Rhatigan: Given that their target market is slightly behind the curve, it would be better to at least get a billboard out there and then work on it to do more.
Nicole Valenti: Thanks everyone! Sorry for the heavy Intacct plugs, but I really love it! Check www.cpa.intacct.com.
Lisa Rhatigan: Do you agree?
Timothy Anglim: There are better, but start small at first. Also, you won't anger your ISP with it.
Kelly: Thanks Tim, enjoyed your session, have to sign off..... good night
Timothy Anglim: The bill is in the mail, Lisa.
Session Moderator: Thank you so much Tim - great workshop! And thank you to everyone for attending today!
Lisa Rhatigan: Thanks Tim - I enjoyed the workshop.
Timothy Anglim: Thank you for inviting me. It was a pleasure.
BiographyTimothy P. Anglim, President of The Forensic Group LLC, founded the Web site, The FraudDETECTIVES Consultant Network, in late 1999. The site, which can be found at: http://www.frauddetectives.com, promotes awareness of fraud and abuse in the small to mid-sized business environment and is a comprehensive resource for identifying and retaining qualified crisis professionals.
A CPA and a CMA (Certified Management Accountant), Mr. Anglim received his undergraduate accounting degree, with honors, from New York Institute of Technology (1979) and his MBA in Finance from Hofstra University (1983). After spent his early years at AT&T and Philips (USA), over the last decade he worked for a number of firms in turnaround, reorganization and also conducting financial fraud investigations. Mr. Anglim currently splits his time serving as CFO for a privately held group of manufacturing concerns and developing and managing The FraudDETECTIVES Consultant Network.
You can reach Tim Anglim via e-mail at: [email protected].
Timothy P. Anglim, CPA, CMA
President & Founder
The Forensic Group LLC
P.O. BOX 816
Red Bank, New Jersey 07701
800-706-0636 (USA Toll Free)