The Value of a Website
Mike Couzens explains how a website can form an integral part of your practice.
Website technology has developed at a staggering pace over the last five years. Many practitioners have either developed a website, or are considering doing so. Id like to take this a stage further and suggest that from a website youve learned to live with, why not create a website your clients cant live without?
Features of a Successful Website
A successful website forms a part of your practices overall professional image. Indeed, it is better not to have a website than to have a poorly designed one. The look and feel should flow throughout your corporate identity as well as your marketing material.
Good navigation is essential and will ensure that your clients will be able to easily find service information. Always try and think like a client when structuring your website.
The website should be interactive, engaging your clients and prospective clients, with consideration given to:
- can they collect accounts and correspondence in a secure and safe environment 24/7? You should not e-mail clients attachments that are confidential because e-mail is not secure
- can they use your website to find new businesses to acquire, or find funding for their new business ventures
- can they instantly check the credit worthiness of their customers and have their debtors ledger monitored online
- can they perform some quick checks using online calculators?
Technical content may include current tax tables, key accountancy dates, Companies House forms, as well as links to news headlines (e.g. stock market prices), currency conversions and breaking business news. Dont be tempted into updating accountancy news, which is of more use to you than your clients. This is better placed on your firms intranet for staff to access.
You can build an electronic rapport with clients and prospects by sending them a regular newsletter, which should be added to your website for reference.
We find a monthly newsletter to be the optimum as clients may find more frequent e-mailing an annoyance.There are techniques to help your website appear closer to the top of search engine results. Detailed advice can be viewed here: www.onlinepractice.co.uk/newsletters/issue1.pdf.
Benefits of These Features
Clients know that they have a good reference point to find answers to any queries they may have e.g. what is the current VAT threshold? Clients may also point business associates to your website to find such information.
The issue of interactivity is vital because most clients and prospects need positive reasons to visit your website regularly. This is known as making your site sticky. It is said that a prospect will visit your website on average up to seven times before making actual contact.
So give them the reasons to return. We find that this will not occur by merely having hundreds of lengthy articles on accounting/business issues.
Unfortunately we do live in a soundbite society and the average client would rather get a quick indication of how to improve their business and then contact you, than spend time reading about a topic and misunderstanding its purpose.
Your website therefore allows you to strengthen your personal relationship with that client/prospect.
Other benefits include:
- allowing clients to collect correspondence online will reduce costs
- offering secure storage and collaborative working online can lead to selling new IT services such as data backup and online accounting
- regular electronic newsletters will save postage costs and drive more traffic to specific areas of your website. Register at www.onlinepractice.co.uk to receive examples of wording etc
- easy navigation means prospects are more likely to find what they need most importantly how to contact you
- making your website easy for search engines to find will generate a higher ranking and thus more chance of new prospects finding out about you.
What To Avoid
There are of course ploys that should be avoided. Complicated graphics that take a long time to download will annoy visitors and often force them to leave prematurely. Broken links and out of date content may do likewise. If you are trying to get away from having a brochure website, dont fall into the trap of having endless articles, because most clients and prospects will not actually read them.
The fundamental principle behind a successful website is to make it an effective vehicle for communication because at the end of the day thats what the internet is all about.
|Website Design Special Offer
ACCA has negotiated a special offer with Cobweb Solutions Ltd for members to acquire bespoke website design with up to six photos from the price of £100 per page + VAT.
The website can be hosted at no cost on any existing ISP that a member is using. Members wishing to use Cobweb Solutions hosting services will be eligible for a 25% discount on their first years hosting fee taken from Cobweb Solutions Starter Bundle which is currently £99 per year.
Each site will automatically include two links one to details about ACCA and one to the Small Business section of ACCAs website at www.accaglobal.com/smallbusiness.
For further information, call Rob Savage on 01329 242 562 or e-mail Robert.Savage@cobwebsolutions.com.
Mike Couzens Director, Onlinepractice Ltd