Does Your Website Kick Arse?

Think, Learn, Grow, Kick Arse

Does your website stand out from the crowd? Does it clearly articulate what makes your firm unique among all the others out there? The website for Growthwise, an Australian accounting firm, sure does, and serves as an example of a great website for accountants.

This firm’s website is a startling contrast with most accounting and bookkeeping firms — Think, Learn, Grow, Kick Arse! in lime green and tangerine — not exactly what you expect from accountants.  Blue seems to be a popular color for accountants. I love the colorful cartoony images that carry through the entire website and the pronouncement that “We’re not your average nerdy, pen-pushing, number-crunching sit-behind-a-desk small business accountants.”

Steph Hinds and her crew at Growthwise understand that they can’t be all things to all clients, so they don’t try to appeal to everyone. They’re not afraid that their approach might turn some prospects off. Those people wouldn’t make great clients, so this saves everyone time. The clients they want to work with are those who are willing to learn and grow. Growthwise is gleefully challenging the status quo of accounting firms.

What does your About Us page say?

Websites of many accounting firms tout their commitment to quality, professionalism and service. That’s the minimum of what our clients expect. And that’s what we’ve been trained to do and what our professional standards demand of us. Profiles of partners generally describe their education, professional certifications  and experience.

As accountants, we like to quantify things. We take pride in spreadsheets and financials that foot and are mathematically sound. Certifications and experience are important — don’t get me wrong — my training and education that earned me my CPA and my decade-plus of experience are a part of the package that I can offer as myself.

Experience and certifications are comforting to our prospects, even if they haven’t a clue what the letters mean. But what else are prospects looking for when they peruse our websites? Henry Ford was onto something when he said, “If I had listened to what people were asking for, I would have given them faster horses.”

The profiles of the team of Ninjas at Growthwise give us a hint. Their descriptions omit the usual listing of education, qualifications and professional designations and instead are a series of questions and answers that give a feeling for the substance of the person. Serious questions such as “What do you do?” and “Why do you do what you do?” And fun questions  like “Who is your favorite superhero?”

These questions give the reader an idea of what it would be like to work with this person. All of us have worked with clients whose personalities simply did not mesh with ours. And those don’t work too well. Forever butting heads, we struggle to get the minimum information required so we can complete the tax return or the financials.

We’ve also worked with people who felt in synch with us. Where we experienced the sense of being part of something bigger than us, and where we learned as much about ourselves as we contributed to the other person’s success.

It’s scary to put yourself out there as a real person. Much easier to hide behind a wall of college degrees and certifications. But now and then, magic happens when you leave the numbers behind and understand what’s really happening. If you want that magic, then you’re going to have to bring more to the relationship than your technical expertise. Your questions will be harder than “Why did your rent expense increase compared to last year?” Your questions will probe deeply into the big Why of what they’re trying to do with their business. Into the messy realm of feelings, which causes many of us analytical accountants to squirm.

One of the first concepts I learned in my studies of copywriting is that people make decisions for emotional reasons, and then seek out logic and reason later to justify their decisions. This was hard for me to believe. I spent decades in science and accounting, all rational and logical disciplines. Emotions and feelings weren’t part of my studies.

Yet it’s true. It’s intangibles that we commit to, not the rational facts.

Can you explain in facts and rational statistics why you fell in love with your spouse? Or the fierce loyalty you feel for your favorite sports team? Or why Mac users are such fanatics for their overpriced and sometimes underperforming devices? No, it’s hard to put into words. It’s just a gut feeling.

So how does this apply to your website?

As I’ve worked with accountants around the world over the last year, I’ve learned that there are as many ways to run an accounting firm as there are accounting firms. Every firm has something unique that sets that firm apart from all others. It’s not in the number of highly qualified accountants a firm has on staff nor is it the cumulative years of experience — though those can be important logical reasons that a prospect may use as rational justification for their decision to choose a firm.

Be proud of your differences

Be bold and find ways to express that uniqueness in your marketing. One of the masters of copywriting, John Carlton, puts it simply: “Let your freak flag fly.” Sure, that may be off-putting to some prospects. But the ones who will be attracted to what you offer are the ones who will become your raving fans and who will be willing to pay a premium for what you offer. Think of the prices of MacBooks compared to HP laptops.

The accountants at Growthwise are on a mission to help their clients grow and prosper and no website visitor can miss that. They convey energy, enthusiasm and a commitment to their clients. They express this on their website with artwork and the language they use. The text is focused on the reader and the benefits a business can enjoy by working with them.

Case studies are magic

We’re hard-wired to love stories. They help us remember life lessons. Learning about the experiences that others have had helps us make purchasing decisions. When you buy something at Amazon, you read the reviews before making your final choice. The experiences that others had with the thing you’re buying help you choose and give you confidence that you’re making the right choice.

Growthwise wisely includes case studies on their website. These are real stories of a diverse group of businesses — designers, plumbers, surveyors and a scaffolding company — who describe their experiences with Growthwise. Their positive experiences resonate emotionally with readers and provide proof that this is a good firm to check out.

Blog to share your knowledge

Growthwise also has a blog on their website. The posts are short and are mainly useful tips on getting the most out of Xero. They generously share their insights with users, teaching their audience how to do things for themselves. Many accountants are afraid of sharing too much of their knowledge. Afraid that if they give it away for free, no one will want to pay for it. It’s true that do-it-yourselfers will happily take what you offer for free, but that crowd isn’t very profitable. Keep in mind that the readers you really want to reach are the ones who might try your suggestions themselves, but who will gladly turn the number crunching and tax strategy over to someone else so they can run their business. If you can address their pain points, you’ll win them over.

Be yourself

Having an unconventional website doesn’t appear to have harmed Growthwise at all. It certainly expresses the personality of the team members, and it may even serve to cement their identity as a firm. It probably also screens out prospective employees who simply wouldn’t fit in.

But most likely, lime green and tangerine are not you. Maybe a little less cartoony and a little more serious are your style. But if Steph Hinds can build a successful business with cartoon characters, this should encourage you to show a bit of your personality.

Remember that you’re not designing a website that you and your team will like, but you’re designing a website that your best prospects will like. Your website is your online calling card. It can only help you if it appeals to the clients you want to attract.

Thanks to Steve Major and his Pricing Power Podcast, where I learned about Growthwise. 

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