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Why a Killer Website is a Priority for Small Firms

Apr 28th 2017
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In a world where everybody has a phone in their pocket and people are handling more and more things online, I’m convinced that your firm’s website is your first – and biggest – make-or-break moment with potential customers.

In fact, when I recently decided to jump out of the airplane and launch my accounting practice, I knew right away what my top marketing priority would be: to build a killer website. And when I say “moment,” I literally mean “moment” because that’s how fast most people gather information and form initial impressions these days.

If you’re anything like me, the first thing you do when you hear about a new company (or app or food delivery service) is take a look at their website.

I’ll spend anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes checking out a company’s site, particularly their Home and About pages. If the core message strikes a chord with me and the overall look and feel are right, then I’ll make a mental note of the company’s name and possibly bookmark the site into one of my folders so I can come back later and look at it again.

Conversely, if something’s not right with the site – if the design looks like it’s 10 years old, or if the copy is stiff and boring, or if the homepage shows a stock photo of two business executives with extremely white teeth smiling and shaking hands across a conference table – then it’s game over and I’m probably not coming back. Would you?

So when potential clients are checking out accounting firms, my guess is they’re going through a similar set of steps. And although I certainly don’t regard myself as any kind of marketing genius, I’ve put a great deal of thought and effort into my own website, trying to make it as honest and engaging and informative as possible to the people I’m trying to reach.

If you’re currently in the process of launching or redesigning a website for your practice, here are three big lessons I’ve learned from my own experience:

1. It’s not about you, it’s about your clients. This might seem obvious, but it’s paradoxical and difficult to implement. Most of us understand that everything we do should be about our client’s wants and needs, not our own. Then why do so many companies have websites that are pushy and salesy and all about them? Maybe it’s because they’re being driven by their need to sell. In my view, the starting point for all marketing is empathy. Think about who your website is aimed at, and then try to make it as interesting and useful as possible for them.

2. Write your own copy. Figuring out what you want to say to potential customers, and exactly how to say it, is painstaking work. There are a billion different words and phrases out there, and finding the right 50 sometimes feels like Mission Impossible. However, if you want your firm’s core message to be honest and real, I believe it’s critical to start the process by writing your own copy. That doesn’t mean you can’t hire a professional writer or editor to help you get the right result, but the concept and core message have to come from you.

3. Stay hands-on with the design process. A huge part of creating a good website is finding the right designer or creative team that can help you transform all your hazy ideas into a live, functioning website. A lot of people think you can simply hire a designer, turn the project over to them, and end up with a great website. However, that’s definitely not the way it works (at least, not in my case). Building a website takes time, requires many iterations, and involves tons of back and forth communication between you and your designers. The process can be intensive and exhausting, but you have to stay hands-on the whole way if you want to be happy with the result.

Final Thoughts

Creating an exceptional website is a key marketing challenge for any new firm. On a recent webinar, I heard a marketing expert say that, “Your website is your new lobby.” I think that phrase sums it up perfectly.

I’m happy to say that my own website is up and running. A lot of identity work was involved and there are some things I really like about it. However, to be perfectly honest, I still think of it as a work in progress. I’m constantly looking for ways to make it better and more engaging for the customers I’m trying to reach. In today's world, your website is definitely an ongoing project.

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