Whatever marketing you do as an accountant – online or offline – your website is the central hub, the place to which and from which all marketing goes.
There has been great speculation lately on whether the website will be with us for very long. Even the great Mashable proclaimed months ago that “website design is dead” (read full article).
Note – if you do read the article, read the whole thing. It is not websites themselves that are dead: this is our reminder that websites do not stand alone. “Web pages are just part of something much bigger,” the Mashable article says. “Mobile apps, API’s, social media presence, search engine optimisation, customer service channels, and physical locations all inform the experience a user has with a brand, product, or service.”
So I still maintain that your website is your marketing hub – particularly for accountants, many of whom have outdated, old, tired, and non-mobile responsive sites. Having a site that is fresh, modern, clean, and most of all integrated with every other element of your marketing is still important, and will help you stand out.
But how do you make the most of your online and offline marketing – and your website – in light of how incredibly swiftly the digital marketing world is changing?
Pay attention to your customer journey
The typical process your prospect takes matters a great deal – and it’s critical that you know it.
One of the jobs your website holds for you is to take your website visitors by the hand and walk them gently, carefully, at the buyer’s own speed, through a carefully planned journey that you’ve considered before hand.
You’re not pushing them any other way than they want to go: the true customer journey has been built based on what your prospects want to do. The steps they all seem to take. The pages they like looking at, and the forms they are more likely to fill out.
So, as you prepare to adjust your website so it reflects your customer’s journey, ask yourself:
- What questions do they ask before they buy?
- What is it they are truly buying?
- Who is the primary decision maker?
- What qualities does this decision maker have?
- What objections might they have (before purchase or after)?
- What is their preferred means of getting in touch initially? (Phone call, website form, quote request, live chat, social media)
- How long do they generally take to make a decision?
Involve the answers to those questions within your website, and you’ll find that the journey your prospective clients take is a much smoother (and faster) one.
Give purpose to every page of your website
Every page of your website needs to have:
- A key message: What is the one thing you’re trying to get across on this page?
Think about what you would say to someone in one sentence for each page of your site. Then write that – pretty much word for word what you just said. There’s your key message.
- Supporting messages: What else do you need to display, teach, share, show, that supports the key message and proves it?
Keep it simple – bullet points, headers, lists, tabs, sections. Don’t get too wordy. (That’s for your blog.)
- A call to action: What is it you want them to do? This could be as simple as a link to another page on your site (thereby taking them by the hand and leading them through that customer journey we talked about), or a button that encourages them to download something. Which leads us to our next point.
Include secondary calls to action
Just about every accountant’s website I see is full of what we call ‘primary’ calls to action. Phone now! Arrange your free consultation! Contact us for a meeting today!
Those are the calls to action available for those who are ready to buy straightaway. They know they want to work with you, and the only reason they’re on your website is to find the phone number. (Read more about primary calls to action.)
Many buyers of accountancy services don’t even know they are true buyers yet.
They visit your site to:
- Establish expertise
- Satisfy curiosity
- Get help on a particular issue
- Get a price/comparison shop
- Get a sense of who you are
- See if you are giving away anything free
…and perhaps, for some, to arrange a meeting or sign up with you.
So, you want to make sure that for the vast numbers of people coming to your site, you have something available that will fit all of those ‘secondary’ needs, such as:
Give them plenty of interlinking pages that they can flick through
Teach them something! Use a blog post, a white paper, an ebook, or tips to help them learn something new about an area you’re an expert in
Show case studies. Give sound advice. Direct them elsewhere if you’re not the expert in that area. And if you are the expert, prove it.
Let them sign up/start/buy when they are ready. Have low-pressure options.
Get help on a particular issue:
Make it easy to find things by the issue they face. A search box, an FAQs page, a knowledge base.
Get a price/comparison shop:
If you choose not to share your prices on your site (and most accountants don’t, these days), make sure it is very easy for them to get to the price if they want to. Consider giving a low-level minimum to send away the tyre kickers.
Get a sense of who you are:
Use words that are your words (not stiff-sounding professional speak). Use video.
See if you are giving away anything free:
Give loads of things away for free. Checklists. Help sheets. Templates. Ideas. Downloads. Support.
Involve your website in your offline marketing activities
It’s not merely emails and social media that link back to your website: your offline activities need to do that, too.
Here are a few ways you can integrate your website with offline activities:
- Event: Build either a landing page, a website page, an event page, or a separate website for your event. I’ve written elsewhere about events for accountants, but you need a hub for your event, even if it’s simply an Eventbrite URL.
- Networking: When you go to a networking (or other type of) event, and you come away with business cards or a new phone number typed into your mobile, be prepared with follow up to send them. A helpful page on your site, or blog post. FAQ’s. A request for quote form. A webinar, event, podcast, infographic. Anything that will encourage further engagement – and it will be sitting somewhere on your website.
- Prospect meetings: Consider a website page that you can send to prospects before or after you’ve met them. A questionnaire they fill in which directs the meeting. Or a video of “how we work here” so they can explore that while they’re considering your proposal.
Mobile responsive is a must
There’s really not much more to say here than has been said, and which we all know to be true.
But it goes beyond just having a website that is easy to navigate on a non-desktop device.
Hubspot reminds us that your customer journey is “full of interruptions, detours, and multiple devices”. Your prospect is on a tablet device and reads a Tweet you posted (with a handy link to a blog or page on your site). They find it interesting – perhaps email it to themselves. Later on, they are back at their desk going through emails and come across it, so they click through to your site and read the whole thing. Which causes them to see the call to action on that website page to arrange a meeting or phone call using your online diary, so they do that. They rush off to something else, and after a meeting see the confirmation on their iphone pop up, and they click ‘accept’ to add it to their iphone.
The question is not, does your website work well on a mobile device: but does everything you do, every single page, form, questionnaire, call to action, work well on multiple devices? Because that’s the journey your future clients are taking to get to you.
And if at any stage in that process one item is just the tiniest bit difficult, they will give up. This has happened to me more times than I remember: I’ve been genuinely interested in an article or a webinar or a download, and the link didn’t work. So I give up, and figure if it’s important I’ll come across it again. Make it very, very easy for your future clients to engage with you.
(As a confession, I’m aware that there are some elements on our Profitable Firm website which are less than ideal on mobile, including our Online Marketing Diagnostic. Which is why we are in the process of shifting all our diagnostics to a newer, better, more mobile responsive platform. It’s a huge project – but there’s no question it has to be done. Thanks for your patience on that one!)
Remember that your content marketing matters even more than your website
Yes, it’s back to our good friend, content marketing. I’m harping on about this not because it’s a fad, but because after years of helping accountants use this to great success (as well as practicing it myself as part of the Profitable Firm), it’s about the only thing you have left that works.
“What really matters is not how you arrange things on a page,” says Mashable. “It’s the content, in terms of a specific user need.”
This is the premise on which our Content Marketer programme for accountants is built. Please, hear me now: generic content is not content marketing. I’ll write an entirely separate marketing tip on that one, because I feel so strongly about it: but true content marketing is custom.
It’s based on your firm. Your clients. Your prospects. Their needs. Not just ‘any accountancy firm buyer’. Not ‘the issues facing most small businesses today’. But the things you, personally, talk to them about every day.
That’s what makes the best content marketing: because when they engage with you (whether via your website or some other way) they are connecting with you, personally. It’s like they’ve met you before they’ve even met you.