While it may seem like a good idea to just pick a new website template from a platform like WordPress, Rocketspark, Squarespace or Wix just to “get it done” or keep costs down, it’s actually going to cost more in the long run. You can find out more about these costs in Do I really need to use WordPress for my accounting firm website?
(Throughout this blog we’ll say “Wordpress template”, but you can apply all this knowledge to any kind of website template.)
The short answer: You don’t need a template – you need a website structure that ACTUALLY reflects your accounting firm. The template made for everybody actually fits nobody. No ready made template will fully reflect all the things your firm is, or represent your brand and process and the unique experience you give your clients.
Do one or more of these sound familiar when you look at your website?
- It looks good, but the content and messaging just needs some work.
- It’s got lots of great information, but is text heavy, confusing and not very exciting.
- It was created years ago and has never been updated
- It doesn’t reflect your firm or truly show what you do (and your way of doing things)
- It just needs a complete overhaul
- You have no idea what needs to change but you know what you’ve got just isn’t working.
You want any money you invest in marketing to be spent in the right way and get you the return on investment. And you realise a fully custom website is a huge investment – and we get that too, and take it seriously. We’d never recommend a fully custom build website unless you need it: and yet, it’s possible your accounting firm does need it, and is literally losing business day by day because of what you have. That pattern will not end by you choosing another WordPress template that looks a little nicer. It goes deeper than just the look and feel of a template.
It might be tempting to choose a new WordPress template so you get a quick, inexpensive fix. But really it will end up costing you far more in the long run!
48% of prospects referred to you will not get in touch because of the quality of your website.
We have worked with AMAZING accountants over the years who are brilliant at what they do in their own unique way. But prior to working with PF almost half of the leads visiting their firm’s website NEVER got to experience their brilliance.
Even though they were recommended, the prospect came to the website and it wasn’t appealing enough for them to instantly take action – so they didn’t. They thought they’d come back later – and they didn’t. Someone else had a better site which appealed to them more.
You need your website to work FOR you by working for your prospective clients. They are the hero. The website is (supposed to be) entirely about them. They’re supposed to say “yes, that’s me!” as soon as they arrive.
If you don’t grab their attention in the first 5 seconds, they are likely to bounce and move on.
The fix is not simply changing your website template. It’s not the design alone that grabs their attention – it’s a combination of content and design that speaks to your prospects and their core problem.
When making any changes to your existing website, you need to be clear on your goals and what you need your site to do. Successful websites are being changed constantly because the business is continuing to change. You create new fresh content because your clients have new questions or problems. You add or remove team members. You move premises (or move to be remote). As your firm changes, so must your site: or else the prospect is getting a picture of your firm as it was last year. Two years ago. Five years ago. Longer.
Think of where your firm is today, and how much it has changed even since the start of this year. The whole world and every business has changed so significantly some of us don’t even recognise our own businesses! Does your website reflect that change?
One of our Accelerator members (who is even now reviewing her website & considering all the changes it needs) tells this story:
“Once upon a time…in a dim and distant past.. all of McAllisters worked together in a lovely office. We all knew what was expected of us every day, we had systems that had worked for years (sort of) and loads of paper files everywhere (oh joy!) and clients that we liked (mostly) and appreciated us (some of the time) and we were satisfied (on a good day). We saw each other every day, had offices with loads of light and a park to sit in at lunchtime. We had a picture of the future and where we imagined it would take our clients and us. There were niggles, things that really needed changing but we thought we had time and that we could plan those changes so it would all feel good.
Then the world got scary and everything changed utterly and it’s been constantly evolving ever since.
We’ve done things I never knew we were capable of let alone that we could do them all at once while spinning plates with our hair on fire! When I look back at where we were I can see we were stale old dinosaurs, muddling along and change seemed soooooo hard. Yep change is really hard, painful and overwhelming at times, a lot of the time even, but it’s also the thing that makes you feel alive, growing, connected to each other, creative, imaginative and inspired to do more. It seems like it’s easier to change everything than to change just one thing. This must be the evolutionary advantage of being human. Give us one thing to change, we drag our feet and get to it “later”. Give us the impossible and we jump in and together we create something entirely new. I wouldn’t want to go back to what we were even though I’m working 7 days a week and often feel I could sleep for a hundred years. I am starting to see where we are headed and the future looks awesome! Accelerator is part of that and continues to be inspiring. Thank you.” – Fiona McAllister, McAllisters, Glasgow, Scotland
We suggest refreshing or rebuilding your website every three years. That’s because your firm has likely changed significantly during that time: and if it hasn’t, you may need to think about why that is!
There is no point in focusing attention on getting more prospects to your website if your site is outdated, confusing and doesn’t engage the right types of leads. All that will do is attract the wrong types or leads or the right leads to leave and move on to the next site.
“A website has the shelf life of a banana. Leave it for too long and it starts to stink” – Andy Lark
Before you make any changes, think about what your website needs to do
Your prospects and clients are at the forefront of everything. Your marketing is for them. Your brand is for them. Your website is for them. So you need to think about who you really want to work with, what problems they have, and what you want them to do first.
Also consider how your website can make things easier for your team and save them time. When done correctly your website will help you attract the right clients, get them the information they need, quickly and maybe even gather relevant information to help with onboarding.
Your website is a key to turning a lead into an ideal client.
Here are some of the things we look at when reviewing accountant’s websites.
You need clarity on your brand before making changes to your website
When we say brand we don’t mean your logo or even your firm’s colours. Your brand is so much more than that. It’s the foundation of everything you do in marketing and actually the foundation of your entire business.
You need to be clear on values, mission, who you serve and how you serve them. All of this will impact what you put on your website, what the core messages are and what you want the visitor to do.
Reviewing your brand may not mean a complete rebrand, but you must take the time to look at this before making changes to your site. If you don’t, you won’t be able to show up in the right way to attract the right clients.
It’s important your website accurately reflects YOUR accounting firm, its uniqueness and what it is like to work with you and/or your team. When you take the time to get very clear on your brand, you are then able to see clearly the right messaging, design and strategy for your site.
The first thing you want your site to do is grab the attention of the people you work best with. You want your prospects to see, almost immediately, they’re in the right place and you are (or aren’t) a good fit for them.
“Everyone is not your customer.” – Seth Godin
When you try to speak to everyone, you end up speaking to no one. You need to know exactly who you are trying to attract.
Ask yourself: Who does our firm work best with? Who do we want to work with? Why do we want to work with them?
Don’t be afraid to get super specific. Good marketing divides!
Once you know who you are talking to and what they need, everything will become far easier. Not just when it comes to your website, but in all aspects of your marketing.
- Pick a client you love working with. List out all their qualities and why you like working with them.
- Pick a client you don’t love working with (and are going to release soon). List everything you don’t like about working with them. Things that take time, aren’t profitable or cause stress.
- Use your lists to then write out your IDEAL client list.
This will help you craft marketing messages that are appealing only to your ideal client and repel those you don’t want.
When you choose an existing template and squeeze your messages or colours or fonts into it, you’re letting the template choose the brand: rather than letting your brand set the tone for the whole site.
Understanding your buyer’s journey and how they feel will help you create a website for them
When you understand your firm’s ideal client journey and apply this to your website, you make it easy for your prospects and clients to understand what it’s like to work with you.
- What motivates your clients to seek out your services?
- What (specific) issues are they facing?
- How exactly do they feel when they come to you?
- At what stage of that journey do they usually seek your help?
- What stage do you WANT them to come in at? (i.e. at what stage would it be better/easier for you to help or prevent common issues you see regularly)
- How do you, particularly, help solve the problems they have?
When you understand your clients and their journey, you then have the core data you need to develop content, visuals and messaging speaking to the right prospects, in the right way, at the right time. And at the same time building confidence and trust in your accounting firm.
Most prospects will not make a commitment to work with you the very first time they visit your site. It may take them a couple of visits to actually share their information with you or commit to a discovery call.
Speed up that process as much as possible by giving them a reason to come back. Create useful blogs and content regularly to build trust before they invest in a relationship with your firm.
When you choose a generic template and add content and images to it, you’re not starting with your client’s journey in mind. You’re starting with the bland, generic journey which has been decided by the WordPress template creators – and usually it’s not a journey at all. It’s just a list of pages.
For example, most “professional service” website templates include a Services page, listing all your services with an image next to each one. Because your buyer is less interested in a list of all the accounting things you do, and more interested in who you are, how you work, and whether they connect with you and your team personally, we recommend a “How we work” page, or a process page. This will be custom crafted based on how your firm, actually, works. The process you follow, the pricing methodology you use, the team who will be working on their accounts. That’s far more interesting and relevant to your prospect than a bland list of services – but the template wants you to just fill in that list. Because it’s a template.
The content, design and strategy all need to work together
You want to jump to making your website look good. But when it comes to the actual design of the site and its pages, there are three elements that all need to work together – the content, design and strategy. Without looking at these three in tandem, you’re simply taking boring words or outdated content and putting a fresh face on it. People will be really impressed for a few seconds or maybe even a minute…and then they’ll realise they still can’t find what they want to know.
Having our designers put together a website page or find the right imagery is nearly impossible if we don’t have the content to place alongside it. The three of these work hand in hand:
The strategy frames the whole point. Why does this page exist? Who’s it for? What do you want them to do?
For example, if you only work with a particular type of client or clients that use a particular accounting software you could guide them directly to your ‘How we work’ page with a call to action at the top of the page.
On the ‘How we work’ they read that you only work with Xero. Instead of sending them directly to your ‘Contact’ page, prospects are instantly able to qualify/disqualify themselves based on this information.
This avoids a 15-20 minute conversation with a lead that just isn’t a good fit for your firm.
The content points out the one most critical message, the one they must hear, and a few other messages which are also important
It’s important prospects FEEL who you are, what your experience is, and how they will get value and this goes beyond just stating you’re an expert in their niche or industry.
Show, don’t tell. You don’t say “We are experts in working with doctors and those in healthcare” – show it. Share testimonial videos. Tell stories. Lead them to blogs written for those in that industry.
Show you understand them, their struggles and what they need from an accounting firm. They need to be able to see themselves in your website and feel like you are speaking directly to them.
People make purchases based on feelings. They are not really buying what you do, they are buying how you do it. How your accounting firm specifically solves their problem.
Your clients are not accountants, so use the kinds of words they use.
If you’ve had several clients all say the same thing to you, use it in your website content. Wherever possible (if you can remember or you wrote it down), use exactly the words they used. Other, prospective ideal clients will be able to relate to that messaging. (Only do this with the types of clients you want more of. If you use specific wording from a really annoying type of client, you’ll just get more clients like that.)
You also need to be very clear on what you want them to do. One main call to action, directing them to a how we work page or complete a questionnaire, for example. It’s ok to link or direct them to other pages on the rite but keep it simple.
If you confuse them, you lose them!
The design identifies the order in which they need to read and see these messages, and enables them to take the action you want them to take.
Strategy and content determine the purpose of your website but the design is what brings it all to life! Alongside powerful messaging it attracts ideal prospects, who won’t question your value and reflects who you are.
It is very important to use on brand imagery on your website. Imagery fitting to the type of clients you want to work with.
If you are trying to attract creative businesses, prospects will likely move on if they see images representing a stuffy corporate boardroom.
Where possible, use your own high quality images. It’s worth considering hiring a photographer to take images of your office and team to build up a bank of images that can be used on your website as well as other marketing purposes like blogs, social media and other marketing collateral.
Using stock images is perfectly fine, if they are the right kind of images and fit the style of your firm’s brand. Use images that help tell your story and that complement the content.
Absolutely NO calculators! Your visitors already know that you are accountants, you don’t need to be so literal.
How to pull it all together
Ultimately, every accounting firm NEEDS a custom site. No ready made template can truly represent your brand and truly represent the unique experience that you give your clients.
Of course, you can get business from a templated website – you can even get business from a really, really ugly website (or brand). The question is, does your website cause the perfect prospect to hesitate? Or to hurry up?
To determine if you just need some structural and copy changes or a complete rebuild, you need to look at your goals, brand, website, and plan all together. Looking at the big picture, you can plan and make better decisions about your website and your marketing. Once you look at that picture, it’s possible you could decide the changes you need go far beyond just a nicer looking website or some more cleverly crafted words: you might realise part of – or even your whole – brand needs revision. A new name, a new logo, a new tone of voice or style or messaging.
You may need a rebrand or a refresh before you build a website that does your firm the justice it deserves.
We want to see you get the return on your marketing investment, which is why your first step isa Foundations Workshop. It means you’re reviewing the goals for yourself and your whole firm, using these to set your marketing goals, and reviewing your brand and the entirety of your website structure before you spend any money on a brand or website project.
We set up the Foundations Workshop to protect you: to prevent you from thinking what you need is a slight refresh of your website, when really what you need is to ask whether your accounting firm brand is properly revealing who you truly are. You could also discover your marketing investment is better spent on clarifying your client journey and process first. The last thing we want for you is to start a project only to discover it’s not the right one.
Picking a generic template will end up costing you more in the long run
It may only cost you a small amount right now, but ultimately just picking another WordPress template is not really going to fix the issues with your website.
It might look prettier but all it does is give a false sense of a good website, when really you have all the same problems. Don’t let your website be the wolf dressed up in sheep’s clothing.
If you take the same confusing, text heavy website and make it look better, it’s still going to confuse and lose you business by:
- Attracting the wrong kind of clients
- Causing frustration and stress (for you and the prospect)
- Loss of time while you figure out they’re not a good fit
You need to protect any investment in marketing, no matter how big or small. Do the groundwork that is required to get you the return that you really need.
Foundations workshops are now on a waiting list. Get on the list now to make sure you can properly review your website in 2021!