You Can't Sell CFO Services When You Look Like A Bookkeeper
If you are trying to become the firm of the future and connect with new clients, you need to look the part. You can’t sell CFO services when you look like a bookkeeper. Put on a tie. Button up. And build your brand.
Your brand is what the outside world thinks of you. It’s a collection of impressions you build up over time. These days your first impression is often made online. You need a website and your website needs to be a great reflection of you. A branded website.
Here’s what your clients do:
- 87% check out your website before meeting with you
- 96% admit the website highly affects whether they choose your service
- 100% admit, “I have left a website because it was poorly designed or difficult to use”
Clearly a website has an important impact on your business. When your clients search for you online you need to be there. But you can’t just be there in a bland, or unprofessional way. You need to look the part. Looks matter.
A branded website will instantly build your credibility. Your clients will be more likely to choose you – and trust you when your website reflects your best self.
Here are the 6 rules of a branded website:
1. Define Who Your Are and What You Look Like – This is Branding 101. Know who you are. Your customers can’t begin to understand your unique sales position if you don’t. Write down 5 words to describe yourself. Then narrow it down to one. Keep this word in mind as your mantra when you are building your website. For example, the one-word mantra for a Nordstrom-type practice might be “quality”. A Nike-type practice might be “leading”. Then figure out what this looks like. Look at some companies you admire. What colors and fonts do they use to convey their brand? What images? Put all of these details into a document together and call it your brand guide. Share it with your staff and select clients for feedback.
2. Create a Logo – Keep your logo simple. Some of the world’s leading brands stick with stylized type. If you do add a symbol, it does not have to mimic what you do. Mercedes doesn’t have a car. Amazon doesn’t have a book. Your logo does have to convey the spirit of your brand and speak to your target customer. If you need a logo and know just what you want, contact a freelancer to complete it. If you need help and have a big budget, contact a branding agency. If you need inspiration and affordability, check out the online logo builder at PrestoBox, SquareSpace, or Vistaprint.
3. Choose Great Photos – Images convey emotion. Choose the right ones for your brand. Ideally these are images that you have professionally taken of your company, your products and your happy customers. There are also several free and affordable online resources for stock photos. We like Unsplash, iStock, and MorgueFile. Please don’t use any clipart on your website.
4. Keep Your Website Simple – Make it easy for your clients to find what they are looking for. Use a lot of white and not a lot of words. Simpler sites – with small splashes of color and great photos – look more sophisticated and visitors are more satisfied because they can find what they want. The more color and light variations on the page (complexity) the more work your eye has to do to send information to your brain. Take your inspiration from Google – our favorite example of online simple (and so effective).
5. Make it Mobile – Your branded website needs to be mobile. Your clients are increasingly attached to their phones. In fact, 91% of adults have their phones within reach 24/7. When your clients search on their phones, 70% of the time they take action within 1 hour. Another clincher, Google announced this year that non-mobile responsive websites would rank lower in search results.
6. Be Found Online (SEO) – When your clients search for you, you need to be there. Identify your key search terms. These will probably be your business name, location, services and names of your key staff. Setup your website with tags for these phrases and use them in content throughout your site. Most small firms are found by searching for the primary accountant’s name. If your name is Robert Smith, for example, use your full name in content on the site. Using abbreviations like Robert, or Mr. Smith won’t be as effective to get into the search results.
Follow these 6 rules to help you better understand who you are and how to communicate that online. Your branded website will be the gateway to your firm of the future. In fact, 80% of people surveyed chose one service over a competitor because it had a better website. Make it your firm they choose.
It doesn’t matter what type of business you’re running, your website has to perform. If your website doesn’t come up in Google, you may as well not exist. And if your customer does find your website, you have 15 seconds to capture their attention – or they’re gone.
We create branded websites for small businesses and help our customers wrestle with these challenges. Online visibility and performance is an art. It takes a lot of work – every day – to really stand out online. But here are three quick fixes that make a lasting impact.
1. Set Your Title Tags
Our first quick fix – set your title tags. The title tag is the most important element on your web page to search engines. But most small businesses don’t set them – or even know what they are.
What are title tags? They are the words used to describe each page of your website. Look at the top of your browser. Hover your mouse over the open tabs. The words that come up are your title tags. This tells the user and search engines exactly what the page is about.
What to include in the title tag? The most important words on the page – and those words that your customers will use to search for you. Usually this includes your company name and what you do. For local businesses, this usually includes your location (“Indian Restaurant in Portland, Oregon”). For many entrepreneurs this will include their name (“Susan Smith Coaching, Austin, Texas”). Set a specific title tag for every page of your website –based on the content.
2. Get Mobile Friendly
Our second quick fix – get mobile friendly. More people on our planet own mobile phones than toothbrushes. Your website must work on mobile. Here are some additional stats to prove this point:
So what do you do? Find out if you’re mobile compatible already. If you’re not the solution may not be as quick, but will still be very worthwhile. A good place to start is with Google – placing more emphasis on mobile compatibility. They sent shock waves to webmasters everywhere with their notices sent out in January and February about mobile compatibility. Google is now testing your website for mobile and will rank it lower if it finds any “mobile usability errors”. The good news is, Google has lots of tools to help you fix the problems. Start there to find specific instructions on switching your website to mobile.
3. Cut Your Text
Our final quick fix –cut your text. Less than 20% of content on an average web page is read. People are constantly skimming. They get bored in 15 seconds. So you need to make it really easy on them to get the points on your page.
Instead of writing out paragraphs of information, summarize your main points into a couple of words. Use these as your headings in easy to read fonts. Combine this with a visual that also makes your point. Take a look at some of the big brands you admire online. Examine how they get their points across. It probably doesn’t include a lot of text.
Check out the most popular website in the world – Google. They’re popular for many reasons - including the elegant simplicity of everything they do. The Google homepage feels refreshing and easy at each visit. Today I counted 12 words on the page. Also look at some of their supporting content pages (my current favorite Google site is Google Trends) for inspiration. You won’t see a lot of text.
Look at your own website. If you’re like most small businesses, you should probably cut your text in half – and then in half again. “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” This famous quote may have been introduced as early in 1657 – and is even more relevant today. Take the time to write shorter letters on your website. Your customers will thank you for it.
Sara Conte is a frequent contributor to online discussions about strategy, branding and entrepreneurship.