What does an accountant need in a website these days? That’s the question we’ve been asking ourselves since our accountant Justin Keen asked us to redevelop his award-winning website.
In this age of smart mobile devices, pervasive cloud computing, and social media, it’s pretty obvious that an accounting firm’s website has become its most important marketing asset. It is a lead generation tool, referral engine, conversion tool, helpdesk, media centre, publishing platform and much more.
As the business world accelerates into the cloud, accounting is evolving with it. And the changes to the way accountants work are having a profound impact on their digital marketing.
Since its launch in 2006, Xero has proven to be a disruptive force. The smarter members of the accounting profession are now using Xero and other innovative cloud-based tools to manage and monitor their clients’ accounts. And Xero has been advocating a new style of working with its Modern Practice initiative and its Partner Program.
These systems are great news for accountants and their clients, because it frees up time for more productive work like business advisory, analysis and insights, mentoring, and coaching, growing their clients’ businesses and making them more profitable.
So far, so good. Accountants are more productive – and their clients have better businesses as a result, but most of the technology improvements at accounting firms are happening to back-end systems, behind the scenes. For most accountants, there is still a big missing piece in this puzzle and it’s the most visible bit: the interface between the accounting practice and the public.
And when I say interface, I don’t just mean the firm’s website. I mean the complete online experience in dealing with the organisation.
To get up to speed, we think accounting practices need to get their heads around two key online marketing challenges:
- How to use web technologies to make it easier for people to do business with them
- Cloud-based accountants need to adjust their brand positioning and value proposition now that their role has evolved (business advisor vs compliance expert).
So how does an accounting practice articulate to people that it has a far more valuable offering? And how does that practice make it easy for people to join them on their journey to cloud-computing nirvana?
Cloud Accountants: from Xero pioneer to Modern Practice early adopter
We designed the original Cloud Accountants website back in 2010. This is what it looked like:
As its name suggests, Cloud Accountants was at the forefront of cloud-based accounting in 2010. The website made Justin seem friendly and accessible and it pioneered transparent monthly pricing plans. Justin got lots of new business, the website won the inaugural Xero Partner Website of the Year Award, and Mogul received enquiries from accountants all over the world wanting a website just like it. Cool.
But as we’ve pointed out, the accounting landscape has continued to evolve, so we could see that the old website needed improvement, especially in the key areas of technology and branding.
In particular, we believe that to be at the forefront of this cloud revolution a modern accounting firm like Cloud Accountants must have these features:
- integration with Xero
- integration with the excellent cloud-based practice management tools that are in the Xero ecosystem
- integration with content marketing tools like email newsletters, social media and RSS
- easy publishing tools for accountants to keep their clients up to date with news and important announcements
- a design that not only inspires visitors about the quality of their practice’s people and offerings but looks amazing but works perfectly on all devices, at any resolution
- attractive presentation of the monthly plan offerings that make it easy for prospects to understand value
- easy ongoing maintenance and security of the website
- social proof in the form of stories from customers about the benefits of the new ways of working with the practice
- and built-in search engine optimisation, so web users can find it easily.
The new Cloud Accountants website also needed to articulate their brand positioning more effectively. The old site was mostly focused on the people who work at Cloud Accountants, where the office is, and what makes the practice different from traditional accountants. In the project planning stage we discussed this with Justin and he agreed that:
- The website needed to show prospective clients the extra value a cloud-enabled accounting practice can deliver as the profession’s focus moves from compliance work to business advisory services.
- And, just as importantly, the website needed to be an intuitive, easy-to-use portal into Xero and other cloud-based systems, and provide a seamless process for Justin to generate leads and onboard new clients – automatically.
With the new site, we wanted to make the focus much more on the clients and the benefits they have experienced working with Cloud Accountants. The pricing plans needed to be much clearer and they needed to link directly to Practice Ignition to make it easier for new clients to engage with Cloud. We retained the video as it still is a great tool for Justin to explain how the accountant’s role has changed to be more like an advisor than a ‘bean counter’. And there needed to be a bigger emphasis on social media and blog posts to allow Justin to engage with his clients, providing valuable advice and thought leadership.
Justin from Cloud Accountants was over the moon at the result:
“The team at Mogul have been brilliant to work with in the refresh/redesign of the Cloud Accountants website.
The positioning of the brand is very important for us, and with our site and our online presence, it had to flow well and be available on all current devices – mobile, tablet, and desktop. The end result looks outstanding!
The Mogul team have also advised us on areas of Cloud technology that integrate directly into the new redesigned website. The integration with Practice Manager through Practice Ignition enables potential clients to choose from our proposal plans straight from the website, so we can have a starting point for our discussions around our engagement.
Mogul have been an awesome driving force with a great balance of ‘getting in there and getting it done’ on a short timeframe.
And we did all of this remotely with the Mogul team in Hawke’s Bay and us in Auckland!”
Take a look. What do you think?
We thought it would be helpful to run through ten key features we’ve built into the site:
1 Clients can log into Xero directly from the website
A Xero login on the website means that the partner site becomes the client’s one-stop shop (the client has no need to visit Xero’s website to log in to Xero).
2 Integration with the Xero Partner banner
The site is integrated with Xero’s Partner banner – so if a visitor clicks through from Cloud’s site to the Xero site, they will see the Xero site overlaid with your Partner banner, so Cloud Accountants retains its visibility.
3 An ‘official’ Xero page
This is a page on the Cloud site dedicated to educating visitors about the benefits of using Xero. All of the content is approved by Xero and automatically updated, so Justin doesn’t need to worry about managing this page. Ever. It displays the latest blog posts from the Xero blog so that clients can access Xero’s great content – on the accountant’s website. And it even pulls in the latest and greatest from Xero’s Twitter account.
4 Practice Ignition’s automated onboarding tool
Automatic onboarding of new clients is handled by Practice Ignition – directly from the website’s plans page.
Practice Ignition is a cloud-based collaboration solution that is revolutionising the way accountants do business by helping them move their business online and remove bottlenecks, leading to huge efficiency gains. For example, since using Practice Ignition, Sydney-based firm Interactive Accounting has reported $200,000 p.a. in savings and efficiency gains based on 300 clients, and at least a 20% increase in conversion.
Practice Ignition adds the client’s details directly into Practice Manager and Xero and delivers the onboarding documents directly to the client. Who wouldn’t want to use this tool?
5 Website enquiries created as leads in Practice Manager
An online enquiry form integrates directly with Practice Manager to manage lead generation. This means that any web enquiries to Cloud are stored automatically in their practice management software. No time-consuming copying, pasting or spreadsheets required!
6 Sync with email marketing software
When clients join Cloud’s mailing list their details are automatically synced with their email marketing system – in this case, Campaign Monitor. And if your practice is using Campaign Monitor, when you onboard a new client using Practice Ignition or Practice Manager, those details can be synced to your email software too. Snazzy.
7 A purpose-designed landing page from the Xero website
If a visitor visits the Cloud website from the Xero Partner Directory, a purpose-designed landing page greets them. We’ve included the ability to add an incentive such as a discount or a value-add via a promotional code. For example, you might offer the first month of a plan free – or provide 6 hours of free training. It’s up to you.
8 Easy-to-use content management platform
The site is built on WordPress, an open-source publishing platform with a global community of developers. WordPress:
- is a robust, reliable, and mature technology
- allows for centrally managed deployment of new features, security and maintenance updates. This means minimal risk and management overhead for Partners.
9 More leads from search engines and social networks
The WordPress system is optimised for content marketing and search engine visibility. This gives the Cloud site the best chance of ranking well in search engines. And if you publish great content on a regular basis and spread it via social networking sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, your brand will reach a far greater audience than you thought posssible.
10 Looking great on all devices
There are now more mobile devices than PCs accessing the web and 1 out of 3 website visitors do so from a mobile device, so it’s essential that your website looks great and works well across all devices. Responsive design means the Cloud site automatically changes its layout to suit any screen size.
Introducing: Mogul Partner Packages
Xero looks set to change the way we all do business and is even making accounting – dare I say it – sexy. So Mogul has come to the party with a specialised offering:
Clever, beautifully designed, technology-led Mogul Partner Packages. This is a brand new offering, especially designed for Xero Partners and built to cater to the needs of the Modern Practice.
Our goal is to deliver the very best-looking websites, using proven technologies in innovative ways to deliver the very best results to Xero Partners.
The Mogul Partner packages are designed from the ground up to integrate with Xero and other cloud-based tools like Practice Manager, Practice Ignition, and email marketing systems like Campaign Monitor, and to give accounting firms the strong brand presence required to grow their business and their profitability.
Don’t let anything stand between you and your competitors
If you’re ready to bring your website – and your accounting practice – into the Xero-led cloud computing era, you may need to get your head around some new systems. We know switching to modern cloud-based CRM and practice management tools can seem daunting and a bit of a hassle, but it’s an important step if you want your practice to stay competitive.
When moving your practice online it is especially important to ensure you have WorkflowMax and Practice Ignition set up correctly. Fortunately the Xero ecosystem gives you quick and easy access to integrators who can take care of this for you. For Cloud Accountants we used the team at Link Solutions. They did a great job at getting Practice Ignition and WorkflowMax setup and integrated with Xero. They also implement a wide range of Xero add-on applications for accountants who want to provide the best service for their clients.
And if the idea of rebranding your practice also seems like a bridge too far, don’t worry. We’ve built our business on transforming brands for the digital era and we’ve got a proven methodology to make it painless – and even fun.
Just what you’ve been waiting for?
See you in the Cloud…