Whether you like it, running a successful firm in 2017 requires an online presence. HubSpot estimates that 81% of consumers conduct online research before making a purchasing decision. While social media, email marketing and SEO are all important, the bread and butter is your website.
Your website is a direct extension of your brand, and if you aren’t taking steps to improve your site, you may unknowingly be leaving revenue on the table.
If you’re thinking about redesigning your website, here are some things to consider:
You wouldn’t go into a meeting wearing sweatpants. I’d venture to say most of you wouldn’t go into a meeting wearing sweatpants. After all, your appearance is a representation of your firm. So, why would you not take the same approach to your firm’s website, which is visited by almost every one of your customers and leads?
I like to use that analogy when speaking with firms about updating their website. Most companies try to portray a sense of professionalism and intellect. Yet, their websites often do not reflect these same values.
Firms must realize that creating a clean and user-friendly website is not just important; it is paramount. A quality website can improve your brand identity and help you attract and close more clients.
You need to differentiate your firm. It’s a brutal truth that most CPA firms compete in highly saturated markets. Competition for new clients is fierce, but you’re also competing with other companies to retain current clients. Thus, redesigning your website and creating a digital presence can help you differentiate and build relationships with new and existing clients.
You need a dynamic and mobile-friendly site. If you’re going to invest in a website redesign, the last thing you want is to find out that your new site isn’t dynamic, meaning the site doesn’t look the same on a computer, smartphone and tablet. In fact, 55% of all online searches are conducted on a mobile device, and that trend will only continue the next several years.
Creating a mobile responsive website isn’t just important for your visitors; it’s also a ranking factor for search engines like Google. Google states that a mobile-friendly website provides a better user experience, and therefore, is ranked above other sites that are not mobile responsive.
You need a strategy. You’re simply not going to see great results from your website redesign if you don’t take the time to develop an effective strategy. The main strategic questions you need to answer for your new site are the following:
- How is your firm different? Maybe your firm focuses on the not-for-profit industry. Maybe, you have expert business consultants. Whatever your unique selling proposition, highlight it early and often on your website. Clients are not going to dig for your selling points, and if you have a specialization or niche you work in, you need to communicate it right away.
- Who is your target audience? Similar to your unique selling proposition, it’s important to look at your current client base and build out customer profiles that can serve as a target audience. You may discover that your firm has a bucket of clients in one industry or location. Knowing this, you can better tailor your marketing message on your website to speak to that audience.
- What is the purpose of your site? This question is vital because your answer should dictate the structure and flow of your entire site. If you intend to use your website as a lead tool, you need to create opt-ins and forms on your pages that let visitors easily provide you their information. If you want to position your firm as an industry expert, you need to highlight your blog or content portal, where you publish your thought leadership content. If your site is simply a face of your company, you may want to design a single page website that highlights your firm in a concise and professional manner.
- What is your firm’s identity? Understanding your firm’s identity will help you brand your website better. As we’ve discussed, it’s a representation of your company, so the language, color, typeface and style need to mimic what clients find on your business card, in your office and when they talk with you.
- What happens after the site is complete? Redesigning the website is a step in the right direction, but it’s not the finish line. To generate the most ROI from your site facelift, you will need to build an ongoing marketing strategy for your site. This will likely include a mix of SEO, content marketing, social media, email marketing and PPC, among many others.
You need an execution plan. The strategy is great, but how are you actually going to execute the redesign? This consideration should not be rushed through. I’ve spoken to many firms that hired a web design company without properly vetting their capabilities or comparing the agency’s quote. As a result, they overpay for subpar work.
Before you build an execution plan, think about these questions:
- Do you want to hire a freelancer or agency? Working with freelancers has its pros and cons. It’s much more affordable to work directly with one person to rebuild your site. However, the issues arise when you have internal members managing your freelancer. If your internal person has little experience working with remote employees, or with web design, it can make the communication difficult for both parties. Hiring a web design company is another option. Design firms have experience and processes in place that makes the redesign run smoothly, but you will have to pay a premium for that leisure.
- When do you want the site complete? As quick as possible is not an answer. Science suggests that creative people tend to procrastinate more than others. Therefore, setting clear expectations for a due date will not only help motivate your designer/developer, but also provide you a definitive timeline. I recommend working with your web design team to set up milestones along the way so that you can monitor the work and adjust the delivery date, if needed.
- Do you have the technical decisions out of the way? Other major hurdles with redesigning a website are technical headaches that can ensue. If you’re planning to build a demo site for the redesign, is it going to live on a sub-domain on your server? Do you want to build your new site on an easy to manage platform such as WordPress? How do you plan to transfer the content and information from your old site onto your new one? Those are just a handful of technical questions that need to be answered before you ever start the redesign process. It’s much easier to tackle these tech problems before they happen than to try and mitigate issues after creative work has started.
- How is the approval process going to work? Accounting firms have checks and balances. That’s the nature of the beast when you have multiple partners and decision makers that need to give their input on important areas of the new site. To help you and your designer, create a process doc that outlines the approval workflow. If each department manager needs to review all relevant pages before publishing, that should be outlined prior to the start of the project. Keep in mind, the timeline is directly proportional to how quickly and efficiently you can provide feedback and approval.
There is no denying the value of a professional website for CPA firms to acquire and retain clients. As technology continues to become more integrated into our daily lives, that value will only increase. If you want to represent your firm in a positive light, compete with other firms and develop a better relationship with your visitors, then you need to update your firm’s site. The considerations, above, will help you get started with the redesign process.