By Barbara Bix - The staff at Accounting Web wrote a post on Embracing the Internet as a Marketing Tool. When I started to add my two cents, I quickly ran out of room. Luckily, I have my own blog on the very same site, so I decided to interrupt the series on the the buying process model to share my comments below:
Here are some additional ideas that our accounting clients use to leverage the Internet when marketing their firms.
Using websites to market professional services
As a strategic marketing consultant, specializing in professional services, I advise my clients to first:
- Think about who they need to reach
- What they want these individuals to say or do as a result of visiting the site
- What web visitors need to see to on the site to motivate them to take the desired action
- Email marketing
- Publishing articles on others' sites to generate coveted links back to their sites (authors need to include their URLs as well as their names and qualifications)
- "Linked" in and other online networking services to generate "word of mouth"
- Posts on others' sites linking back to our clients' sites
- Blogs (readers can receive new posts automatically as email)
In short, it's all about the web visitors, rather than the company featured on the website. Most people that visit professional service websites are there to validate that the firm is expert at solving problems like theirs.
At a minimum, therefore, effective websites describe the business and the staff’s credentials. Some prospective clients also seek assurances that it will be easy to do business with the firm. For this reason, professional service firms with busy, tech-savvy clientele often provide on-line access to client services--as a way of positively distinguishing their firms from the competition.
Success depends on attracting visitors to your website
Putting up a website is like erecting a giant sign behind your office, no one finds it unless you tell them it’s there. You can attract visitors via word of mouth and conventional marketing materials. Nevertheless, the best websites contain content that attracts visitors and compels them to act.
The most effective technique is getting other websites to link to yours. Search engines also give precedence to “keyword-rich” content. Success depends on publishing lots of web pages—each of which mentions words that describe one of your services (e.g. “tax preparation”) many times on the same page.
Then, to get visitors to act, make them an offer they can’t refuse. For example, you may promise to review a document and credit their account when they ultimately engage you for the larger project.
Use outbound internet marketing tools to stay top of mind
Don't wait for visitors to drop in; invite them to stop by. It's important to reach out regularly to each of your key audiences if you want to stay top of mind. That's because while everyone checks their email, few people--outside your own firm--visit your website on a regular basis.
We use the following tools to help our clients reach their clients and prospective clients. We also recommend our clients use these tools to stay in touch with other accountants who can refer business to them, help them serve their clients, or even join their firms as an employee. Important Internet marketing tools include:
"Repurpose" all your marketing communications on your website for maximum impact
Then, we encourage them to add copies to their website.The nice thing about using the Internet instead of paper is:
* Content permanently resides on your website and therefore continues to market for you long after you published it
* Content is less expensive to distribute, and to revise for that matter.
* Great, inexpensive, tools exist for others to find you--obviating the need for expensive advertising.
Here's an example of how we add copies of our own marketing communications to our website for maximum impact.