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5 Most Common Mistakes Firms Make with Their Websites

Jul 25th 2017
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Does your firm’s website help with your marketing, or does it hinder it? Even if you get all of your new clients via referral, you still need a website that demonstrates your best qualities.

Studies by Hinge Marketing show that 80 percent of prospects will visit an accounting firm’s website before they call. And if your website doesn’t shine, you may never hear from them.

Here are five of the most common mistakes that accounting firms make with their websites:

1. Your differentiators aren’t different from anyone else. According to recent research by Hinge Marketing, 63 percent of firms identified “the level of service we provide” as a differentiator from other firms.

If more than half of all firms are citing the same differentiator, it can’t be a true differentiator. It’s true that there are firms that provide truly exceptional, concierge-level service. And those firms really are different. If your firm does offer that level of service, don’t be shy about showing it off.

In 2015, accounting thought leader Hitendra Patil identified three words that appear on more than 462,000 websites of accountants. Those three words are “responsiveness,” “professionalism,” and “quality.” Today, that same search results in 4.5 million results.

A fourth word I’d like to nominate as being too common is “pride” or “proud,” as in “XYZ Firm is proud to provide quality audit services to businesses in the Denver metro area,” or “we take pride in our decades of serving clients throughout Nebraska.”

You may be justifiably proud of the services your firm provides, but put yourself in the shoes of a prospect. Would you choose a dermatologist if she said she was proud of the services she provides to her patients? Would you care? You might think she was being arrogant and boastful.

What to do instead: Every firm is unique. Find the ways your firm differs from your competitors, and feature that on your website.

Not sure what those differences are? Ask your new clients what they’re getting from you that they didn’t get from their old firm. Ask new staff members who have worked at other firms about the differences.

Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. You’ll attract more of the clients you enjoy working with – and fewer of the ones you don’t want to work with.

2. Your website doesn’t grab their attention with the benefits of working with you. Most accountants spell out a long list of the features of their firm without explaining what the benefits of those features are. Those features include the professional designations that firm members have, their years of experience, and their Big Four experience.

As accountants, we’re comforted by those concrete, quantifiable features because we know what they imply. We know that years of experience and professional designations generally translate to professional excellence.

We accountants like things we can quantify. But your clients aren’t buying those features – they’re buying the benefits that those features provide. They want to know “what’s in it for me?”

Neuroscience research shows that we make decisions with our emotions. The logical part of our brain seeks facts that back up that emotional decision. Benefits appeal to our emotions, while features back up those choices with logic.

Your clients aren’t buying a tax return or a set of financials. They’re buying the peace of mind of handing their financial matters over to an expert.

What to do instead: Explain the benefits of your firm’s features. Use language that makes an emotional connection. Remember, prospective clients may not have any idea what your experience and qualifications mean. Paint a picture of what that can mean for a client. Here’s an example:

Shawna Jones, CPA, has over 30 years of experience working with clients and businesses in many complex situations. You’ll benefit from that expertise when she helps you resolve difficult situations, save taxes, and grow your business and your wealth. You’ll have peace of mind that your interests are taken care of.

See how this paints a picture of what it will be like to work with your firm?

3. It’s too wordy and too hard to read. Big blocks of text on a website are intimidating. The Internet has created a generation of skimmers who will just glance quickly at a page and hit the back button if it looks too hard to read.

What to do instead:

  • Make your website easy on the eyes.
  • Keep the text short and sweet.
  • Aim for no more than 100 to 200 words on your homepage.
  • Shorten your sentences.
  • Break the text into short paragraphs with lots of subheads and bullets.
  • Include lots of white space on your pages.
  • Include photos of your office and staff.

4. There’s no way to capture leads from your website. Most visitors will never return, and once they’re gone, you’ll likely never hear from them again.

What to do instead: Offer a freebie – a special report, a checklist, or a newsletter subscription – in exchange for their email address. Then create a drip email marketing program to reach out to them over a period of time.

5. You don’t have any testimonials or case studies. Testimonials and case studies demonstrate what you’ve done for other clients. We’re hard-wired to learn by stories, and a short testimonial from a client can be worth its weight in gold for your firm.

What to do instead: Ask happy clients for testimonials or write short case studies of what you’ve done to resolve challenging situations.

The best testimonials follow this framework:

  • What was the situation for the client before they found you?
  • What was the solution your firm offered?
  • How did that solution make a difference?

Every accounting firm has stories like this. You may think you’re just doing your job, but many prospects have no idea of the breadth of services your firm can provide, of the miracles you can perform. These stories paint a picture for prospects of what working with your firm would be like.

You only have a few seconds to grab the attention of website visitors and to demonstrate how your firm differs from the thousands out there. Every firm is different from all the other firms out there. That’s because they’re made up of unique people. Don’t be afraid to show your unique style and personality. You don’t need to appeal to every prospect out there. You only have to appeal to the ones you want to work with. 

Related articles:

4 Secrets of Successful Accounting Firm Websites
Why a Killer Website is a Priority for Small Firms

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