5 Strategies to Avoid a Dull Website
Accounting firms present unique challenges for website development, as there’s usually little to look at and, unlike retail sites, you’re “selling” things like expertise and service rather than products.
To further complicate matters, firms are seeking wider selections of sophisticated service offerings, so how should you be marketing yourself online?
Selling the Sizzle
As a professional services provider, it is more effective to promote your expertise and the benefits and advantages provided by working with your firm than it is to sell your specific services. This is what old-school marketers referred to as “selling the sizzle, not the steak.”
To help you do that, here are five tips specifically for accounting firm website design:
1. Help your visitors experience your expertise
You need to make it as easy as possible for your website visitors to sample and explore your expertise (your “sizzle”) as they begin their online search for potential services provider. As they discover the value of your expertise, they will come to respect and admire it, which leads to trust and, if nurtured, to a relationship.
To put your firm’s expertise on display, you need appropriate content and an intuitive, easy-to-navigate website design and structure. A word of caution: many professional services websites – accounting firms included – lean too heavily on industry jargon, buzzwords, and impenetrable acronyms in a misguided attempt to sound impressive and authoritative. In reality, they come across as confusing and boring.
Instead, keep your language simple, clear and compelling. It is okay, even advantageous, to sound conversational; people prefer conversations, not lectures. A true expression of expertise is the ability to clearly explain complex topics in simple words and easy-to-understand concepts.
A clear, easy to understand explanation of a confusing subject is an unmistakable “sample” of your expertise. Your website should match this simplicity in its design, functionality and navigation.
2. Be bold and plan to take chances
It’s easy for accounting firms to be accused of following the crowd. After all, they all offer essentially the same services, right? As a result, accounting websites can begin to look drearily alike.
Of course, that’s not surprising – accountants, by their training and disposition, often tend to be conservative and risk-averse. Because most accounting firms shy away from taking chances, their marketing efforts are often constrained and they simply fade into the pack.
Here’s where there is an opportunity to take some risks, break away from the pack and gain valuable visibility for your firm. It’s important to think of your website as a dynamic and flexible tool for attracting and retaining visitors. It should be relatively fast and easy to make changes that will keep it current and interesting to your clients and prospects alike.
Not every concept and piece of content will knock it out of the park. You’re going to have some duds that will require website tweaks and campaign corrections, so you should have Plans B, C and D in the wings, ready to go. To facilitate that, it will be important to monitor your results and create some metrics to measure success.
Yes, you can pre-test to death features and design options prior to launch. But it’s faster and more efficient to launch the best site possible based on your goals and market research and make post-launch adjustments as visitors start to use your website and its strengths and weaknesses begin to emerge.
3. Design to drive engagement
Selecting an accounting firm is a far different exercise than, say, buying an appliance. Buyers will be trusting their money and even their livelihoods to a firm that will have access to valuable and potentially damaging information. It’s vital for you to build trust and drive those potential clients toward engagement.
Here are some examples of website elements you can incorporate that will improve the user experience, encourage interaction, and help drive engagement:
- Use sticky menus to keep important navigation elements in sight at all times so visitors can move about your site quickly and easily.
- Add location awareness to make your website geographically specific. This well help your website become more personal and relevant to visitors, which can be especially important to firms with multiple locations.
- Provide dynamic content for returning visitors so they are nurtured along their sales journey with increasingly specific, relevant information that encourages conversion. Marketing automation tools such as Pardot and Marketo can provide this capability.
- Incorporate conversational search features, if possible, to make it easier for visitors to search your site using natural speech instead of typed text. Improved artificial intelligence tools are now being introduced that will help facilitate this.
- Employ chat features and supporting business processes to encourage a time-constrained audience to engage in a dialog with your firm. Visitors who use live chat are 20 percent more likely to buy.
4. Amplify and measure real-world marketing and business development efforts
Use your website to support offline and in-person marketing events such as speaking engagements and trade show appearances. Present tailored content to event attendees and provide relevant content to deepen and extend audience engagement. Use analytics to gain better audience insights and marketing automation tools to trigger follow up actions that can further deepen engagement.
5. Easy social sharing for educational content
As you invest in creating thought leadership and educational content, get a greater ROI by sharing that content as much as possible. Social sharing tools are ideal for enabling your marketing team and your visitors to share your content with their networks.
Individuals and organizations are always looking for content that will help solve their business problems as well as relevant content to share with their audiences. Why not deliver it to them on a platter?
Accounting and other professional services firms can find it challenging to break out of the me-too mold and leap-frog the competition to gain more visibility and more clients. By employing the strategies outlined here, you’ll be able to supercharge your website and reinvent how clients and prospects experience your firm.
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Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is managing partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to...