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A Marketing Moment by Troy A. Waugh

Every day, accounting and consulting firms are setting up home pages on the Internet's World Wide Web. Are there compelling marketing reasons for setting up your own home page, even if the endeavor won't immediately create big revenue for you? I think the answer is "Yes."

Market Differentiation

One of the most difficult marketing challenges faced by any CPA firm is to differentiate itself from all the other accountants in its market. When clients and prospects don't perceive a difference between a firm and its competitors, they make their purchase decisions based upon price. An accountant told me this week that he
lost a $100,000 account over a one-percent difference in price.

Some accountants ride motorcycles or dress-up in clown suits to create a lighter image in the minds of prospects. And while this approach works for some, a much more profound image enhancement is one of advanced technological expertise.

An accounting firm with a home page will certainly appear to be technologically advanced. Such an image is particularly important to people of Generation X who are assuming management and ownership roles. Even companies with older managements and owners are grappling with the technological revolution, and they will be positively impressed with an image. In fact, accountants who take the initiative now may soon have clients and others looking to them for guidance.

All Communication Is Marketing

By opening more ways of communication, marketing potential is improved. Most accountants I know fill their calendar with meetings with clients which, while chargeable, may mean frustration for other clients trying to reach them by phone. While voice mail and facsimile have added options for better communications, adding a home page with e-mail capability can give clients and prospects yet another alternative for communications.

With e-mail, clients and prospects not only can make contact 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they can also transmit instantly from their computer to your computer, without paper, a secretary, or a fax machine.

You may need a larger business card for your office number, home number, mobile number, fax number, beeper number, and now your e-mail address. Internet e-mail is just another form of communication. You can also advertise your professional capabilities and include your firm's newsletter on your home page. These can keep your web-site fresh and give an up-to-date impression.

Service and Product Selling

If your firm holds regular computer training classes, sells software, or offers special technology services, advertising on the Internet may improve sales. Many software vendors will hyperlink directly to you. This means that if someone in your area inquires about accounting software at the vendor web-site, the vendor can refer him or her directly to your web-site, since you are the authorized installer for the software in the prospect's area.


Want to attract the best and the brightest students? Today's college students are proficient users of the Internet. A home page can attract students from thousands of miles away whom you would never have an opportunity to interview on campus. Once they contact you, you may be able to check them out on their own home page.

Where to Get Help

Many firms have sprung up overnight to meet the demand for web page design. Before selecting a vendor, get some references. CPA Carolyn Sechler of Schwartz Cohen & Company [(602) 955-3010] is writing three web-sites a week at prices ranging from $350 to $5,000. My son, Brad Waugh, an electrical engineer at Georgia Tech can help you with a starter set of pages for about $500 [(404) 352-5069].

One of the neatest places to view the best accounting firm home pages in existence is on Harcourt Brace's Top Five Web Sites page. Each week they select the best five accounting firm web sites from around the world. When you contact Harcourt Brace Professional Publishing at www.hbpp.com/topfive.html you can view their best five for the week and be immediately hyperlinked to any of the web-sites on the list.

Yes, there is probably more hype than help for CPA firms in establishing home pages on the world wide web. And there are some computer security risks to guard against. But, for most firms, the rewards in image enhancement, better communications with clients, and positioning to take advantage of future technologies far outweigh the small
investment. *

Troy A. Waugh, CPA, Waugh & Co., P.O. Box 1208, Brentwood TN 37024-1208 (615) 373-9880

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