Last month the Independent Association of Accountants Information Technology Consultants (IAAITC) announced the results of its survey on the effective use of the Internet by UK accountancy firms.
The two specific issues considered by the survey were the effective promotion of firms’ websites and their use of email for communicating with clients.
The key word in the survey title is ‘effective’ and I’m not sure that everyone would agree on the same meaning of that word in this context. In my view what the survey evidences is that a majority of the firms surveyed are not making the most of their web presence. This accords with my own conclusions – both from looking at many accountancy firm websites and also from conversations with thousands of accountants when asking them questions during my talks for accountants around the UK.
However I have also concluded that many firms do not (yet) perceive a need to devote more effort to the internet. In effect they see it as just another advertising medium. The majority of firms do not have aggressive growth plans, they secure new clients through (what I call) ‘accidental word of mouth’ referrals and they have enough recurring fees to keep them happy. As I have explained on this blog previously, an accountant’s website is of little interest to their clients. It’s focus should generally be on helping to secure new clients.
In this context I would agree with the survey’s conclusions. Out of date material on a website, forgotten listings on third party directories and unprofessional email addresses (eg: @ Tesco, Sky, BTinternet, AOL, Gmail or any other third party) may have an adverse impact on prospective clients. Firms in such situations may lose out to firms who keep their sites and listings uptodate.
Even those firms that have email addresses using their own domain name will be losing out if they fail to provide a named contact on the website (eg: only enouraging email contact via firstname.lastname@example.org). We have to remember that most people buy accountancy services from individual accountants (even if they work for a firm) and not from firms of accountants.
The survey also concludes that many accountants “are become increasingly out of touch with current business needs.” What matters in my mind though is whether accountants are in touch with what THEIR CLIENTS and target clients require from them as accountants. Are you confident that you know the answer to that question as regards your own practice?
I suggested one new development in this regard in a previous post: Could you audit a client’s website analytics?
Are there others?