In this blog post I will explain the reasons I advised an accountant that he did not need a website in January 2018 and also how I would adapt this advice going forwards.
I initially wrote about this on Linkedin and sought feedback there. Within days that post secured over 24,000 views as well as dozens of likes and comments.
Many people agreed with me but even more people disagreed, although their logic didn’t always stack up. A couple of people however then added a new perspective and made me think again. Read on and let me know what you think.
It was when I was chatting with an accountant in his late 60s recently that I advised him to ignore all the people telling him he needs a website.
He had been badgered by marketing experts, website designers, SEO consultants and accountancy gurus, all of whom have said he must get a website. I disagreed. And he was pleased to hear my reasoning, with which he agreed.
This accountant had taken up a recent invitation I sent him to book a call with me to get some unbiased input on a topic of his choice to help him in his practice. (Normally I call accountants on spec but I don’t do that in January!)
When he called we chatted for a couple of minutes and I then asked him to tell me what was on his mind. This led to him explaining how he had built his practice, what sort of work he enjoys doing and what sort of new clients he now wants. I offered some positive suggestions and advice as regards his main issue before the subject of his website came up.
He said that he has never had a website and that he only wants more clients like those he has and who are referred by clients or people he knows.
He isn’t looking to pick up lots of new clients. He barely has time to deal with all those he has and anticipates encouraging some of the smaller ones to move elsewhere. As regards new clients he doesn’t want to take on any start ups or to work for anyone who is searching randomly online for an accountant.
He is widowed and doesn’t intend to retire or to sell his practice but to keep going until he is no longer able to do so.
I suggested that some of the best people referred to him may not get in touch if they can’t find out ANYTHING about him online. This is one reason everyone has been suggesting he needs a website.
However my advice was that he doesn’t need a website. Instead he should simply update his Linkedin profile and add a profile photo to it.
In my view, if he does that well enough, it will be sufficient. The important point is to allow people who are referred to him to see that he has the skills, experience and approach that they seek and that he is the sort of person they would like to work with. In effect, for the recommendation they have received to be endorsed and confirmed.
Among those people on Linkedin who agreed with the basic rationale for my advice, some neat refinements were suggested. Someone also pointed out that a Linkedin profile is akin to having a website with amazing built in SEO – it’s just hosted on a LinkedIn URL rather than a WordPress URL or a custom domain.
Missing the point
Dozens of people on Linkedin suggested that a website is crucial for him to be found on google, to appear in online search results, to evidence his credibility, to build up his practice, to show he is a 21st century accountant and to show that he has an established and substantial practice.
They had all missed the fact that he is in his late 60s and already has a good strong practice. He doesn’t want to be found by people searching for An accountant. Only by those who know of him already.
He only wants to take on a few new clients a year and can afford to be very choosy. He chooses to only consider those who are referred directly to him. To date the absence of a website doesn’t seem to have stopped any such referrals getting in touch with him.
Some people also seemed unaware that the search engines will find and display your Linkedin profile to anyone who searches for you even if they are not themselves on Linkedin. And you can decide how much of your profile is visible to the (non-Linkedin) ‘public’. Generally I suggest making everything public.
A different point of view
A couple of people commenting on the Linkedin post made very valid alternative observations.
Relying solely on LinkedIn and not having his own website means my accountant friend is not in control of a key element of his business.
If Linkedin block him or remove his profile by mistake (or for any other reason) he would no longer be findable online. This could happen, for example, if someone with the same or a similar name does something wrong. Or, less likely, if Linkedin change their entire business model.
He also has no way of knowing how much business he is losing by not having a website. Various reports suggest that a significant majority of all buying decisions are now made online. A lack of a website is seen as a key indicator in trust reduction.
He may get all the business he wants without a website, but with one he could get more and better quality business leading to higher profits. Perhaps the best of the prospects referred to him would not be satisfied by a Linkedin profile rather than a website?
I have supplemented my advice by encouraging the accountant to acquire a domain name related to his practice (eg: JonesAccountants.co.uk) and to initially direct this to his Linkedin profile.
At a later date he could create a simple one page website that contains basic information and makes clear both who he would like and who he would NOT be interested in as clients. That webpage could also link through to his Linkedin profile rather than replicate the information.
He could also add a company page to Linkedin with brief details of his practice and his firm’s logo – which will then also show on his personal profile.
By the way, if he ever has to look at selling the practice it would be good if his firm had its own website that would move with the clients to the purchaser.
For the moment he is in a similar place to loads of mature accountants I know who are frustrated that the likely ROI following sale isn’t high enough to justify a sale in the first place. As such their preferred approach is to continue working (reduced hours often) until they can no longer do so. The prospect of MTD is forcing some to reach that conclusion sooner than they hoped – as they don’t relish the idea of adapting to the quarterly reporting regime.
What’s your reaction to my advice here?