Your website is your marketing hub, the centre of who you are. It belongs only to you. Social media platforms change often, or you could lose access, or their algorithms change and your brilliant posts aren’t seen. Videos are posted on different platforms; email systems and practice management systems change. Your website is yours: the place you send people to from blog posts, videos, events, and prospect conversations.
As an accountant you want your website to sound like you, not everyone else. Unfortunately, so many accounting firm websites DO sound the same. “We are an experienced firm of accountants providing a range of tax, accounting and auditing services to a variety of businesses in [location]. We provide high quality, professional advice and support with experience and blah…blah…blah…”
At the same time, there are elements which need to be included on most websites to help the buyer find what they need quickly. A home page, an about page, a contact page or way to get in touch, a how we work or services page, a specific call to action. There are best practices about these pages and actions based on how website visitors tend to behave – such as putting the About Us page towards the left, and the contact page or call to action to the right.
This is why addressing the five things your website must include will still allow you to have a site which reflects your firm, and help it stand out from others.
Even if every accountant reading this article followed every suggestion I provide, your website will still sound different, because your audience is not everyone else’s audience.
Your values (or the way you describe them) are a little different than theirs. The humans who work in your firm are unique individuals. Your style, your approach, your way of doing things IS different, even when you all are including an about page, a contact page, a blog page.
Even whilst you’re sharing who you are, keep in mind the purpose of your website: because it’s not for you. You want your visitor to say:
“This is me!”
“It is possible they could help me.”
That’s all we’re going for in the early stages. Yes, your website’s job is to help convert prospects (and ideally to do 80% of this work for you before the person ever gets in touch).
But because of how your buyer buys, moving through the progression model, they may not be instantly ready to buy (or to sign up for what they know will be a sales call).
For those who are, you have a Primary Call to Action which is direct, clear, and leads to a sales conversation. For those who are not, you’ll have Secondary Calls to Action which help keep the prospect connected to you, so they can buy as soon as they’re ready – whether that takes two days, two months, or two years.
Instead of using your site to proclaim (boringly) what services you offer and a few facts about who you are, give the visitor what they want to know, when they want to know it. And give them the opportunity to start building the relationship by taking a small, achievable action.
If you have already decided yes, you need a new website, you’ll feel equally excited and impatient. The new one is going to be so amazing!….but meanwhile, the current one is so awful! Aghh!!
Whilst it’s being built, there are still changes to your messaging which will help your existing (not perfect, or even horrible) website to attract the right kind of client. Messaging is everything. You can get results from a terrible looking website if the messaging is right
Here are the 5 things your website must include, to help your buyer get what they need and be motivated to take the action they’re ready to take:
1. Who you are
Sharing who you are isn’t restricted solely to your about page. Throughout the whole website, talk about who you actually are – what you believe, what you stand for (and don’t), who the human individuals are on the team. This is what your prospects really want to know.
You will share some of this on your About page, or your Meet the team page, or your Careers page. But follow the “Show, don’t tell” mantra. Remember your buyer is coming from a place of uncertainty, doubt, even distrust. Telling them you are exceptional, you are experienced, you are trustworthy, doesn’t mean a whole lot: they need to believe this is true and it’s going to take more than a few words proclaimed by you to prove it. You can still share your Values, but think about how you’re proving those on every page of the site.
Instead of saying “we are brave”, say brave things, like “There’s no accounting problem too big for us to tackle.” Use imagery which is bold, fresh, and a little crazy.
If your values are family orientated, fun, and friendly, you can share those – but look at other areas too. Is the family-orientated, friendly message coming across in photographs, videos, and blog posts, or do you have boring stock photos and accounting-speak?
While you’re reviewing your site, remove all the “typical” accountant-speak words. Modern. Forward thinking. Innovative. Cloud accounting. Professional. Friendly. These words add time to the buyer’s research cycle, because they’ve seen them on so many other accounting firm websites already. They’re not able to quickly see who you are and how you’re different. Shorten that cycle by using words and phrases they’ll hear when they talk to you. (And if you do want to show you’re modern, or innovative, spend more time thinking about what you can share which proves this – like videos, or app stacks, or team thinking days, or get togethers with clients.)
2. Who you serve
This is as important (if not slightly more important) than who you are. Your website is about you, but it’s not solely about you. It needs to talk to the type of client you want more of. If your wording has been crafted to appeal to everybody, it will appeal to nobody.
Talk about THEM more than about YOU. You want them to say “Oh! That’s me!” (or, ‘this applies perfectly to me’) when they land on your site. Change the messaging specifically on the first phrase or sentence they see when they come to the site. Does your site start right in talking about “WE are accountants, WE do these things, WE have these services”…or are you clear straight away who you work with, so the visitor feels comfortable and wants to find out how you help?
Having an industry niche is the easiest way to be clear about who you work with – dentists, creatives, tech start ups. But even if you don’t have an industry niche, you can still be clear. Female business owners. Family owned businesses which have been in the family for more than three generations. Startups in a particular geographical area. Ambitious business owners who have started up in the past year. Social media influencers.
Use the kinds of words and phrases they use. “Marketing gold dust” is the words or phrases taken directly from the mouth of your clients, reworked into marketing content. The more your content sounds like them, the faster your buyer will trust you, and the faster they’ll make their decision.
When a prospect says, “I didn’t know what to do and was scared I’d have a huge tax bill”, don’t turn that into “Concerned about tax planning?” Use their words, this marketing gold dust: “Scared you might have a huge tax bill and not sure what to do?” The kind of clients who talk like that will find it appealing and real. Use words from the kind of clients you actually want, because the words of one client will draw in more who are like that person.
3. Their issue(s)
Think about the things your ideal clients are actually struggling with. Not accounting-y words like “cash flow” and “profit”, but problems which are weighing them down, or making business or life hard for them right now.
Think also about how they might feel when they come to your site. Why might this amazing potential client choose not to do business with you? What might prevent them? They may have had bad experiences, worked with an unhelpful accountant. They may not even know what their biggest problem is, but all they know is they aren’t making enough money for the lifestyle they want. What are they ACTUALLY wondering? How would they describe their problem to a friend?
Their doubts and fears are absolutely valid: and your website needs to help them feel comfortable, reassured, helped—even before they sign up.
If I were to ask why a prospect might not do business with you, one of your first responses would be “price”. They don’t value the services we offer, they’re tyre kicking, they just want basic accounts and that’s not us. This could be the case. But for your ideal client, it’s the responsibility of your website to answer the questions they have about who you are and who you serve and how you solve those problems. Price is rarely the real reason they’re not signing up—it’s just faster and easier for them to pick that one out. And even if price is a factor, it won’t be the entire reason. Yes, there will be a few people for whom your prices are nowhere near their range: but if they don’t like your prices, all that may mean is they don’t understand how the price is calculated. They’re comparing the way you do things to a totally different way of doing accounting, which is priced differently. They don’t understand your process, and how your prices fit within it. They have other doubts and concerns they’re less comfortable with expressing. They don’t understand what they’re getting for this price.
Their doubts and concerns you can answer throughout your entire website: and you must answer them. Some prospects will read every page, every blog post, watch every video, connect with you on all the social platforms. Others will glance over it and book a meeting with you. Either way, the content must be there so they can see it at the right time.
Remember, the fresh content you create based on clients’ questions helps you to be found. If you’re asking “how do I get more business using SEO”, or “how can my website be number one on Google”, you’re asking the wrong question. There are many, many questions to ask: and they’re not about you. They’re about the people you want to work with. Who is it you want to reach? How long does your buyer journey take, and what do you want them to do and in what order? What issue, what problem is talked about most? What are people looking for which you can solve? How much content have you created which supports that?
With SEO, the question then moves from “how can SEO help me” to “what are you SEO-ing?”
If you are using SEO for standard keywords you figure are the ones people are using (accountants, accounting, accounting firm, bookkeeping, payroll, cash flow) you may not have stopped to think about your audience. Think about the questions they ask, the fears and doubts they have. Those are the words they’re typing in – and when you write about those, you’re more findable.
4. How you work
Having a services page is boring. Your prospective client already knows you’re an accountant, and they have at least a vague idea about what you do – accounting, tax, bookkeeping, payroll, maybe even management accounts or advisory services. When they come to your site, what they DON’T need is a list of 42 services pages explaining some jargon or generic copy about the importance of cash flow forecasts or the fact that you can help with weekly or monthly payroll.
You can explain more about exactly what you cover in each of those services when you get to the proposal. For your website, you need a “How we work” page, or something which explains your process. What happens first? What happens next? What is it like to have the client experience with your firm? They don’t want to read long detailed descriptions of professional-speak about management accounts: they want to know if you can help them with their problem.
Your “How we work” page recognises you know they need an accountant, and they want a really good accountant. But they might not yet realise what a good accountant actually is.
They might think a ‘good accountant’ is one who does their accounts once a year, and the tax bill isn’t “too high” (however they define that), and doesn’t cost more than what their friends or fellow business owners pay. They don’t realise a good accountant is a confidante, a friend, an expert, someone you can ring about ANY issue with the business – hiring or profit margins or funding – and who will either help you or direct you to someone who can. They don’t know what’s possible.
So you’re redefining what a “good accountant” looks like, and you’re showing you’ve done this before. You don’t have to SAY you’re experienced: you can show it with a visual graphic or content of the process you follow, answers to their frequently asked questions, how your onboarding works, the client experience. Explain what happens first, what happens next, and why. Explain how your pricing works (or have a separate page for that resource). Explain what to do to get started, or to enquire. That’s what they want to know.
5. The action they take first
There is one clear call to action that must be everywhere. This is your primary call to action: the one which is available when they are ready to buy, or to an action leading to a proposal. It’s visible no matter what page they’re on, and your website encourages them to take it.
This could be:
- Book a discovery call
- Fill in a form
- Download a resource guide
- Sign up for an event
- Watch a video (which ends with a specific call to action)
If you don’t know what your primary call to action is, use the Buyer Progression Model to work it out. What do you need to know about them, and how can they get to that conversation? Choose the action which is the fastest route to working with you, with the lowest barriers to entry.
Put this button at the far top right of your website, in a banner which remains static as they move down the page or throughout the website. This means when your buyer IS ready to take action, they don’t have to scroll endlessly to find it. It’s there, and is always there, and is ready when they are.
You may also put it at the bottom or end of almost every website page, but this is something to discuss when working through your buyer’s journey, and the path you want them to take.
The call to action on most accounting firm websites is some version of “call us today” or “get in touch” or “arrange a free consultation”. This implies the person visiting your website is ready to have a sales call. Today. They’ve done their research and simply want to know which services apply to them and how much it will cost. Actually, most of your website visitors are not ready yet. Make the connection so they can start the conversation.
Stay in control of your website and its journey: don’t be distracted by what other accountants do, other websites. Direct your visitor to the action you know they need to take, and make it easy for them to do it quickly. Those who don’t want to start there will find your other calls to action and will move at their own pace. When your website is constructed this way, you’ll find your buyer taking the action you most want them to take, at the time they are most ready to take it.
People move fast on websites. It’s like you’ve been asked to make a 5 second presentation. What you share on your site isn’t merely words. If you ramble, or use “professional speak”, or sound like another accountant, you’ll lose your audience. They may not take the primary action (much less any others), and they may leave entirely. You lose potential clients by being vague, or boring, or focused on yourself.
Getting a new website built (or refreshing the one you have) isn’t a matter of choosing a page layout that looks nice, and a few stock images. For your website to work, it needs to share with instant impact the message you want your prospects to hear. It needs to share who you are, who you serve, the issues they face, how you solve them, and the first thing you want them to do.
When you do that, your ideal client is far more likely to take the action you want them to take, quickly. And if they aren’t your ideal client, they’ll go away, saving you and them time and hassle and energy. Good marketing divides. Your website divides. And it brings you the clients you most want to work with.
We’re delivering a live session on these 5 things your website must communicate with Karbon. Register here to join us, hear more about these, and see examples of accounting firms whose sites are doing this well!