In recent years many accounting firms have developed strong online brands, including contemporary websites and a consistent social media presence. These businesses recognise that the world is now online, and new clients need a series of touch-points, including digital, before they have built the trust and familiarity to choose to work with them.
A strong, up-to-date website and a solid social media strategy support your everyday business-building efforts (such as wonderful customer service, referrals and face-to-face networking) by expanding your networks, reinforcing your message and helping you stay top-of-mind.
But it’s not enough to just be online – there are some non-negotiable aspects of your digital communications that you must get right.
Here are some of the common mistakes accounting firms make when developing and communicating their brand online:
Accountants Mistake #1. Not clarifying their brand.
A great many businesses looking to develop a presence online cannot tell me what their brand stands for in a few simple sentences. Branding is not a logo and a colour palette! It’s about the target audiences, key messages and point of difference in value that your business offers. It’s imperative to the success of your digital marketing plan that you first clarify your brand in a clear and concise document, which acts as a reference point for all communications.
Accountants Mistake #2. Failing to create and work from a strategic plan.
Lack of focused direction and lack of consistency are the biggest problems I see in digital marketing efforts by businesses in all industries. This is because we have limited time and budgets, may not be interested in or good at communications, or don’t see the value of marketing as a cornerstone of the business plan. Yet almost every successful, well-known brand has a strong marketing focus. Starting with a clear plan, fuelled by the appropriate expertise (not your admin staff member doubling as your marketing manager!) and appropriate team training or outsourcing for ongoing, regular content creation and management will ensure you will see ROI on your marketing dollars.
Accountants Mistake #3. Not reviewing and updating their website regularly.
Websites become out of date in as little as two years. Design trends have changed significantly, and with that, consumer expectations. Your website needs to do what it’s meant to do, and this includes attracting and keeping people’s attention, getting your message across clearly, and creating enquiries. In my opinion, accountants need to be more concerned with branding than with Search Engine Optimisation, because most of their clients won’t find them via a Google search. Rather, they will hear of you through social media or word of mouth and then look up your website or business name directly. While some website developers are primarily concerned with keywords for SEO, your main task is to get your brand (communication through design, images, content) spot-on. (SEO comes into play in your social media, where you need to ‘pop up’ on a regular basis in front of the right people.)
Accountants Mistake #4. A lack of understanding of how the visual affects people’s impression of them.
I have met and worked with a great many accountants and almost always they have great personalities. So why do people still say that accountants have no personality? One reason is the general lack of awareness of how the visual affects people’s first, subconscious impression of you. From the suit you choose to wear and your personal grooming and body language, to your profile photos and videos online, people are making a judgement based on how you present. Lawyers are a group who get this right more often than not – they’re a great example of the visual components of personal branding for business success.
Accountants Mistake #5. Failing to highlight their people.
For successful accounting firms, their people are what their reputation is built on. While a company may be incorporating new technology or outsourcing processes to save clients money, or they may have a specialisation, usually the thing that really sets them apart, and has clients return and refer others, is the team of accountants and advisors clients will get to know. Just as your face-to-face meetings will impress and connect new clients with you, so should your online representations of your people. This means considerations for your website, LinkedIn profiles, articles and media, and the social media activity of the individuals within your team.
The idea is that people should be able to ‘get to know you’ – your business and your team members – and form a great impression of you online – before they make an appointment. If this is done well it will feel genuine, on brand, and create a strong impact in the busy online space. Since many accounting firms are still not doing that, you are at a distinct advantage if you address this part of your business now.