You have a website … “tick!”.
That’s job done, right?
No! If that’s all your accountancy practice wants more from your website than just an online presence – you’re missing out on the huge amount of opportunity which you can gain from it.
Buying decisions & positioning
Let’s say you meet someone at a networking event and you get on. They leave with a good view of your company. You said a few things which really seemed to match with their needs, so they go and check out your website.
Clearly your personal branding is on point; the right look, the right impression, the right message.
Building your brand in the early days of contact
They find a 5-year-old website that says nothing at all about the connection you made with them, and the shiny exterior which you portrayed is lost in a site that just seems tired and portrays a company that’s dying and doesn’t match the discussion points.
The visual style of your website is part of your brand identity
In those early days of positioning your company, you took one step forward and almost a bigger step back. It might be almost impossible to recover.
And .. you’ve lost the business
Maybe they ring your company and the person who answers the phone is a little rude. More negativity.
When you ring to catch up a week later, the “Yes, let’s do this” feeling from the initial meeting has turned into “I’m going to check the market”
Brands grow over time, with multiple touchpoints.
You only get one chance at this. And once you’ve positioned yourself well, you can be fairly ineffective (but please don’t aim to be!) and they will still carry on with you – minds are hard to change.
Positive & negative touchpoints
So why is this important? When someone learns that you exist, they start to build a mental model of you. That’s really what a brand is – a connection to a set of terms. Initially, they’ve built this:
- Impressive executive. Seemed to understand my need
- Poor website. Didn’t match the need I had. Maybe not everyone in the organisation will understand my need? Will I, therefore, be working with someone who gets me, or not?
The graphic below shows how 3 different scenarios might progress, as you have successive touchpoints.
If you impress time and again, and demonstrate you can solve a business’ problems, you might end up on the green path where the client buys without checking the rest of the market.
With the situation above where the initial touchpoint (first meeting) is great, but the next touchpoint (poor website) is less than perfect, you may end up on the amber path, where you are shortlisted. This happens particularly since you haven’t really demonstrated how you can solve their problems.
If the potential client sees more and more negativity from their perspective, you may end up on the red path.
3 different paths through time with client touchpoints.
Clearly, your service business would like to be on the green path. That way you’re not having to prove yourself against the competition.
So, maybe you start to recognise that your website and how it positions your business is part of what’s killing your growth by not allowing you to take this green path or, at worst, the amber one.
“OK. We need a new website.
And we need it now.“
Most website designers don’t really understand branding
So who do you choose? Maybe you look through a few portfolios at the graphical design, and that’s important. Maybe some of them say they do SEO too. Maybe some of them talk about your logo as your “branding”
But no one really talks about your brand positioning, because it’s not something that has come onto the radar of most web design companies. And without a good process, it’s hard to achieve.
They can’t differentiate you from your competititors. They don’t even know that brand positioning can help you achieve that.
An example of accountant brand positioning
We worked with Leonherman, Manchester accountants, and listened to them and who they were as a company. We didn’t start the process of building their new website with putting pen to paper.
We used our own experiences of accountants to build our assessment of how their current brand would come across, in order to match it and create effective synergy.
Understanding their brand
We realised that two things were important to them:
- Simple language; as accountants, they spoke to us as real people without using a lot of terms we didn’t understand.
- Fanatical accuracy; this is clearly important in accounting, and they really wanted to deliver on this point at director level.
The old and new visual style & brand positioning for Leonherman website
By representing these two points on their brand, we’ve done two essential things:
- If these things are important to their audience, there is a reason to choose this accountant.
- At the very worst, they have now moved away from the group of “all accountants” into a group of their own: “accountants with fanatical accuracy who use simple language”.
Asking people to choose from 10,000 is hard. Asking them to decide whether to engage with one is much less cognitively demanding.
In addition, visually their new website was bolder and stronger to suit their image and proudly associated with Manchester, which is their home. It was also a bespoke website design, which further moved them away from their competition, most of whom have regular templated sites.
Understanding customer pain points
You see, it’s really important to think of the customers real intent today – the intent behind the intent.
One website visitor pain point is a website which is poor on mobile
Why are they looking for a new accountant? It’s not to spend some time doing something which they probably don’t enjoy – there are genuine problems they are trying to solve.
Many of them will be confused by “accountant speak”. Many of them will have experienced accountants lacking accuracy in some ways.
People don’t buy services, they buy solutions
And this is the most important element; they have a problem to solve. They want a solution to their problem.
Just presenting them with services doesn’t help them here at all – they just don’t always even know how your services can solve their problems on a practice level.
A consultation is clearly beneficial, but first you need them to make contact.
Positioning your accountancy brand
So, it’s essential to see them as real people and mirror back how you can help them. This is the essence of brand positioning for websites.
And if you’re an accountant, you do need this for your next website.
Common branding mistakes
One of the biggest mistakes an accountant can make is cliched branding.
“One stop shop” is a fantastic example of this, and is a personal dislike of mine; it’s the laziest branding possible. If all your business has to say is “we do everything” then you are the most vanilla brand in the universe.
And that’s unlikely to be true.
Some companies will choose the most obvious branding elements, which is subtly different to cliched branding.
As someone who has consulted with many businesses during my marketing career, even the companies who believe they don’t have a strong brand do. The directors or owners at least will tend to create this. Maybe you’re fastidious. Maybe you’re relaxed. Maybe you’re assertive. You may not even realise your business has these impressions that they give off, but they do.
Businesses also tend to hire similar individuals, so the brand set down by the owners becomes a corporate identity in many cases (and many businesses spend a lot of money trying to shed these original identities!).
Brand positioning for your accountant website can aid you in producing a site that meets the real intent of your visitors, and matches the corporate brand, so the entire marketing proposition for your company is strong and aligned.
This will ensure that you maximise the amount of the right clients coming to your practice, while moving yourself away from your competition.