This article was first published in the May 2019 UK edition of Accounting and Business magazine.

Navigating clients and prospects through your practice’s website can be a real problem. Your web presence needs to be up to date and look bespoke, rather than using a template created by web designers. And from your own point of view it needs to serve a purpose and be something more than a box-ticking exercise.

To attract the right clients through your web presence, you need to position yourself with an engaging brand, wording and customer journey. Your need to show you are an authority on your ideal clients’ pains, and give the visitor a way to take the next step.

The problem is that accountants don’t always focus on what attracts clients but go with what they know best. The typical practitioner’s website gives information on the firm’s location and declares that they carry out a variety of accounting services, including year-end accounts, audits, management accounts, expenses, invoices, etc. But if your website focuses on helping your ideal potential client overcome their fears and frustrations and gets them engaged, you have a website that really works.

If so many practices are getting their website wrong, what should they focus on to get it right?

First, your website needs to focus on the client, not you or your firm’s technical expertise. All too often practices talk about themselves and how great they are and the excellence of their expertise. This is not a good way to attract clients. Most people don’t care how long you have been in business, or the passion you feel for your work. What they do care about is the time you can save them or the uplift in profit that you can bring them. After all, those are probably your business priorities too.

Next, you should consider finding a niche. There a various ways you can do this, by marketing your services to specific groups:

  • Vertical niching. In this instance, you need to be more specific about who you help rather than your service – your focus on startups or particular sectors, for example.
  • Horizontal niching. This involves helping all types of client to overcome a specific pain/problem.
  • Micro-niching. This combines vertical and horizontal niching, involving a focus on a specific problem (the service) and the type of client.

Lead magnets

Next you need to look at how to become a ‘lead magnet’ – that is, offering the visitor value in return for their email address, such as guidance or tips on particular challenges your niche market is facing.

Don’t forget to include multiple calls to action in your web presence, such as ‘Sign up to my free [lead magnet]’, ‘Click here to book a call’, or ‘Download our brochure’. Each call to action can support website visitors at whatever stage they are in their buying journey. For example, those at the early stage of their buying cycle might want to download your guidance/tips; those at the middle stage are likely to be downloading your brochure with your fees and more information on how you work; and those ready to commit might have downloaded the lead magnet and your brochure, and checked out your blogs and testimonials, so you need to offer them a click to book a call.

You need all of these calls to action across your website to maximise the number of client enquiries you receive.

Finally, you need to show how you are different from all the other accountancy firms. One way of doing this is to offer content that is of real value, that addresses clients’ pains. This doesn’t mean regurgitating content from an accountancy newsfeed or the Budget announcement; what you need to do is to show some thought leadership. For example, a practice with entrepreneurial clients could write blogs or guidance about running a business, without actually mentioning accounting at all. That way you can position yourself as someone who has holistic, relevant knowledge and not just technical ability or competence in compliance-related services. By giving away valuable content you can build a relationship with a prospect before they have even enquired about working with you.

All this may require a bit of thinking, but it beats picking up the phone and cold-calling.

Amanda C Watts is a marketing coach and author of The Pioneering Practice.