advice needed

We are a web design, web hosting, and permission-based email marketing firm. I happen to have several friends who are accountants, who tell me that the
opportunity to market these services to accountants is wide open. For example a CPA that I know says nobody has ever approached him about designing him a web site or about any other Internet marketing or technology related services. He tells me that the accounting market is huge and considerably under-served in terms of Internet technology services.
My question for the group is this: Is my CPA friend correct that there is a big need for these services among accountants but yet nobody is really effectively meeting these needs? The other question is what do you, as accountants, need from an Internet technology firm? We are listening. We believe there is a tremendous opportunity here.
I must clarify -- if this is not obvious -- that I am talking about the relatively small accounting firms. I must assume that the Big Four are more than adequately served in the Internet technology arena by corporations that specialize in such services for large corporations. Whereas the small accountant sort of falls through the cracks in the provision of services.
To give you an idea of the sort of services to which I refer. First of all, Web hosting services. We provide Web hosting packages that include a bundle of Web hosting, email addresses (of course), and the StreamSend permission-based email marketing service, and a free $25 Google Adwords credit to get our clients started using Google Adwords for online marketing. Please see http://www.ezpublishing.com/business/hosting for a summary of the hosting services for small business. Do these services seem appealing to accountants? How could we make our hosting services to make them more appealing to accountants?
Here are our cost-effective Web design services: http://www.ezpublishing.com/business/website/businessweb . What do accountants need in a website? What would make our services more appealing to accountants?
My CPA friend thinks are services are good for accountants, however, he thinks part of the problem is nobody is talking to accountants about such services. Well, I would like to do so if people in this group would be willing to provide some constructive suggestions and even criticisms. Thank you.
--
Robert Anderson



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No. I don't think there is a "big need" for internet marketing / mass e-mail promotions in the CPA firms.
While a web based presence probably should be a part of any marketing done by a CPA firm (expecially those who want to put that "tech" face forward), most of the new clients will not be obtained because of the internet.
Then there are the various state laws that govern the practice of accountancy (not to mention the federal laws). And yes, these dictate what can and can not be done in soliciting new business.
--
Paul A. Thomas, CPA
Athens, Georgia
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Thanks for your input. I should clarify that StreamSend is a permission-based email marketing service. Spam is prohibited by our service. So for example, it could be used to create a newsletter to send to current clients (or certain segments) and track the results.
You could also have a sign-up form on your website to sign up for your newsletter, so that might be useful in getting new clients.

Yes, I agree. My friend the CPA tells me the vast majority of his clients come in through referrals from other clients. Well, I talked to him about StreamSend and he did seem to think that it could be used to try and get more referrals. He is also a bit skeptical about the Web as a marketing tool (are are you). He is more interested in his website as sort of a brochure so he can put links on his business card and, of course, have a custom email address for himself, his partner, and his employee.
That said, he and I were talking over lunch and he expressed a willingness to try Google Adwords to promote his services. Part of our service includes a free $25 Google Adwords coupon. Frankly, I am not sure if he agreed to this to be agreeable during lunch or if he is really interested in doing this. But he did allow that he might get new business throught the Internet using Google Adwords so we will see how things work out.

Well, I am definately not suggesting anything that would violate such laws. What sort of things are forbidden?
--
Robert Anderson



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While e-mail newsletters are a great tool, they are only limited to those clients that have e-mail. To capture 100% of any firms clients, one would need to send regular mailouts to those clients (usually older ones) that don't have a computer.
Also, a small stack of paper newsletters can be left at the offices of referral sources (bankers, law firms, attorney offices, etc) where a potential client can just pick it up and read it then, or later.
--
Paul A. Thomas, CPA
Athens, Georgia
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wrote

Agreed. Those are great marketing ideas though we, as an Internet technology company, can't help much with those.
--
Robert Anderson



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There are several companies that already target the CPA / EA / Accountant service firms in this area, providing BOTH print as well as web based services, including, I believe, Web page hosting.
www.mostad.com
www.1800imageone.com
And there are most likely others.
You would probably be, already behind the curve.
--
Paul A. Thomas, CPA
Athens, Georgia
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I don't think so. From a look at those sites, they occupy a different niche than we do. We are an Internet technology and marketing company, whereas, those companies seem to focus on a broad range of services.
Personally, if I were an accountant, and wanted to use the power of the Internet I would choose specialists. I guarantee we have technology and staff that are much better (for what we do) than those two companies.
Now, on the other hand, for print related services they have us beaten because we do not deal with that at all...
--
Robert Anderson



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I don't know about the folks at imageone, but Mostad and Christensen are ~both~ CPA's.
How about you?
--
Paul A. Thomas, CPA
Athens, Georgia
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wrote

I am not a CPA and have not claimed to be. In fact, I am not an accountant.
Most companies do not want their marketing or technology people to have the same discipline as their core competency.
Not sure why you are taking an adversarial approach to this conversation?
--
Robert Anderson




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Robert Anderson wrote:

Perhaps because of your arrogant-sounding typical marketing talk claim to "guarantee we have technology and staff that are much better" than two companies you have just been introduced to in an area in which your company doesn't have training?
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I said in our particular niche of Internet technology and marketing *not* in general accounting marketing. I made a very specific and, I think, narrow claim that we are better in one specific area in which we specialize. We do not specialize in general marketing for accountants and so these other companies are much better than us at that specialty. I have been in business long enough to know what I am talking about on basics like this.
My claim on our Internet technology and marketing edge was reasonable given our degree of specialization.
--
Robert Anderson



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Robert Anderson wrote:

"Personally, if I were an accountant, and wanted to use the power of the Internet I would choose specialists."
Yet neither you (nor your firm) are specialists in accounting nor see any need to be? Pardon me, but I seem to be having a hard time figuring out what you are offering that is specifically tailored to the the small CPA/accounting firm.
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That is why I am talking to you. There is no need for us to be specialists in accounting to offer more useful services to accountants.
For example, our StreamSend email marketing solution is used by all kinds of business people. We talk to them and many of the features that we add to the service are based on suggestions from our customers. In fact, I think the majority of the new features of the product were requested by at least one customer.
Now, our StreamSend permission-based email marketing service is by no means just for accountants, however, if accountants said to us please add feature X because it would be useful to accountants then we would definately take it under advisement and add it to our development calendar.
If you said, your web design services look good but accountants need more of Y, we would consider adding Y to our services. Same with our Web hosting. We bundled our email marketing services to our Web hosting because customers said that a website is not enough by itself and we need more services that would be useful to marketing. That is also the reason we have added a freee $25 Google Adwords coupon along with hosting accounts. One of the number one questions customers were asking us is how can I promote my site and products online?
Well, our hosting services do not fully answer the question but it is definately more than most hosting packages out there, and we are always looking for ways to continously improve and refine...
--
Robert Anderson



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On Mon, 22 Aug 2005 09:28:44 -0700, in alt.accounting

Are you familiar with the manner in which various laws, regulations, codes of ethics and other limitations affect accountants when they are looking for new business or would your first client have to teach it to you?
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your
*not* in

narrow
do
business
given
he's not offering anything, he just wants to "learn more about accountants" and market his "technology solutions", like everyday spam email messages. if he did have something unique for accounting software use over the internet or tax filing or anything accounting related it might be worth listening, otherwise ....
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Again, we would not do any marketing for accountants. They would do it for themselves. We provide the tools.
The purpose of this post was to learn more about accountants might want in the tools.
We right now have customers from many industries and, as I said, we take suggestions from them to improve our services. I am asking you, as accountants, if you have any suggestions.
The regulations affecting marketing for accountants is your responsibility not the provider of the tools. To me that is fairly clear. It would be ridiculous for us to try to educate you about rules in your industry. We focus on our specialty and you focus on yours. We try to talk to you to learn more about what we can do to help.
--
Robert Anderson



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So you sell software and/or hardware and that's it?
The small CPA firm doesn't have the TIME to write their own marketing program.
That's what's so good then, about those other providers. It's "all inclusive".
Write the check, and I've got a website. Write the check, and I've got "tax tips on hold". Write the check and I've gotten a pre-written mid-year tax planning newsletter that I can e-mail or print and mail (or both), and/or post to my web site that I just bought and ~they~ set up and maintain.
Good Lord, if I have to do it all, who needs you?
--
Paul A. Thomas, CPA
Athens, Georgia
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1. Web design and e-commerce. 2. Web hosting bundled with email marketing services. 3. Email marketing services 4. Custom Web applications.

We provide tools that many professionals (e.g., accountants) and small businesses use to help them market.
We make it easier than it would be without these tools. We design your site, set you up with hosting, and help you get started using our email marketing service. We also get you started using Google Adwords.
Is it an elaborate marketing plan that we create for you? No. Is it enough online marketing for many professionals and small business people? Yes.

I am not saying anything against those other services. I am sure they are appropriate in some or even many cases.
My question is how much do they cost? How much do you pay per conversion? That is, how much do you pay for each customer you get? And how much revenue do you get from each customer (as compared for how much you paid)? And, very importantly, do these services have ways to track that information?
If so, and if you are definately getting your money's worth from these marketers then you probably don't need us. If, on the other hand, you could benefit from tools to market online for a very low cost -- then we are worth considering.
Some firms do make the calculation that we benefit them and that is why we are a robustly growing business.
--
Robert Anderson




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And I can get all that, and more, from the local guy who might also be a client of mine, who might also refer my services to another of his clients. What makes you special?

I'm on pins and needles in anticipation.

Do we know how much a client brings in? Yes, there are plenty of time and billing software out there that provides that info. And while I can't speak for the others, I find it unethical to price my services to a new client based on how much it cost to get them in the door. Don't you?

But you still don't have a clue about marketing for accountants.
--
Paul A. Thomas, CPA
Athens, Georgia
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I highly doubt that the local guy has a fully developed permission-based email marketing service such as StreamSend. If he does, please post the link here so I can review his services. I would be interested in seeing what he has to offer.

You should be. We have brought in a huge number of clients using Google Adwords. It is a good program. You can be sarcastic all you want but Google Adwords works.

What? You obviously are not (and have not from the beginning of this conversation), listened (read) anything I have been saying to really understand. You are just waiting for your chance to be sarcastic no matter what I say.
I did not say anything about pricing, I merely said that all marketing activities should be tracked to determine how much they cost relative to the business (worth X amount) that it brings in the door. For example, for each service or mix of services, does it cost $2/new customer? $5/new customer, etc.? How much revenue is brought in? What are the costs? And how much did the marketing activity cost you for each client you brought in?
For example, I have a service that costs me about $6.50 (using Google Adwords) per conversion (new customer). The service nets about $100/year on average and the average customer stays on for the long-term. That is, the churn rate is extremely low. Now clearly the marketing investment here is a good one and we keep puting money there. Sure this is a low revenue per customer service but the marketing costs are very low and we are very, very good at providing this service and do it very efficientlyh.
If it cost me $50/customer to get these $100/year level customers, I would be looking at the usefulness of this particular marketing activity very closely.
--
Robert Anderson



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