3 keys to a better online presence

Laveta Brigham

Your firm’s online presence has never been more critical to your success. As I discussed in my last article, when someone is referred to you, what do they do first? They don’t call your front desk to schedule an appointment — they Google you. If your web presence doesn’t pass […]

Your firm’s online presence has never been more critical to your success. As I discussed in my last article, when someone is referred to you, what do they do first? They don’t call your front desk to schedule an appointment — they Google you. If your web presence doesn’t pass the sniff test right away, they’ll quickly move on to another firm that does.
When it comes to your online presence, there are dozens of other things you can work on to make a great first impression. But the “Big Three” below will dramatically improve your results.

1. Online reviews
2. Website
3. Newsletter

Let’s take them one at a time.

1. Online reviews

In the past, when people needed to find a CPA, doctor or insurance pro, they asked their friends, colleagues and close relatives for a referral. But now Google makes it easy to get dozens of targeted referrals and endorsements in about five seconds. It’s changing the way professionals acquire “social proof.”

If you think online reviews are only for stores, hotels and restaurants, think again. Medical practices, dental practices and most other professional service firms have patient/client reviews on their websites. In fact, you start to look conspicuous if you don’t. You don’t have to have all five-star reviews, by the way. You just need solid ratings from happy clients to balance out the occasional one-star rant you’ll get from a cranky client.

Don’t have a lot of reviews yet?

Don’t be afraid to ask your best clients for online reviews. I’ll talk more about how to do this in my next article. The key is to collect feedback from as many of your clients as possible. If you continue to provide great service and get great results for clients, the positive reviews will far outweigh the negative reviews organically.

2. Website

Your website is a fantastic platform for specifying exactly who you work with and how you help them. Keep your messaging clear and simple with a template like this:

We do {list primary services} for {types of clients} so they can {list benefits they receive}.

For example, you could say, “We provide numbers that successful manufacturing companies can use so they can get back to growing their business.”

With the exception of your home page, prospective clients are more likely to visit your “team” page than any other page on your site. Make sure everyone on your team has a decent headshot and a brief professional bio. Remember, your clients and prospects don’t want to work with a logo. They want to work with a person. Even for those of us who aren’t always confident on camera, it’s worth allowing our clients to see who we are. They want to see the real people who are guiding them through their most important financial decisions.

It’s also essential for your website to make it easy for visitors to contact you and remain engaged. In addition to having your contact information clearly visible on every page, I recommend having an email “capture” mechanism on your website. It might be an offer: “Download our weekly insights” or “Download this helpful guide.” Create something relevant that adds value. Otherwise your site visitors have no reason to share their contact information with you. This time of year, you could offer tips on “Year-End Planning Strategies” or “Tax Loss Harvesting.” It’s a great way to stay in touch with prospects and nurture them along to becoming clients.

3. Newsletter

Your email list is one of your firm’s most valuable assets, but few firms leverage it. Clients want to hear from their CPA. You’re the trusted advisor, in effect, their Personal CFO. Whether you call your newsletter Insights, Quick Takes, Perspectives or simply a monthly bulletin, your clients want to know what you’re thinking about all the complex dynamics that affect their financial lives.

I know what you’re thinking: “Sometimes I don’t have anything to say.” Clients aren’t expecting Pulitzer prize-winning journalism. The point of your newsletter is to stay top of mind with your clients. Trust me, once they see the newsletter in their mailbox it will remind them to call you about a financial matter that’s been weighing on them. They might have an issue with their business. Perhaps they’re thinking about retiring, or one of their key employees has left, or they need funding, or a child just got engaged and they have to plan a wedding. They need to talk to you ASAP.

Think of the newsletter as a value-added reminder. Clients may not get around to reading the tax tips you shared, or the new estate planning rules you deconstructed for them, but they’re not going to delete it. The important thing is they heard from you and they want to talk to you right away. Isn’t that more important than open rates and clicks?

Your online reviews, website and newsletter comprise the three-legged stool of your online presence. Stay in touch with value-added reminders. Make it clear what you do, who do you do it for and the unique benefit you provide. In my next article, I’ll share the “how-to” components of building the right digital presence.

What’s your take? I’d love to hear from you.

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