The world is changing fast; and Palm Beach County, Florida is no exception.
Starting with the release of the original iPhone in 2007, the way people research and make purchase decisions has changed drastically.
Word of mouth. Cold calls. Cold emails. Interrupting people with obnoxious, self-serving TV and radio advertising. Direct mail. Print advertising. All of these marketing channels, that were mainstays of sales playbooks, literally for generations, have been called onto the mat. In nearly all cases, these channels have become far less effective and far more expensive.
Why? People got tired of getting interrupted and proved they were willing to pay to get what they wanted (no more, no less), exactly when they wanted, 100% on their own terms.
The empowerment rooted in search engines, social media, mobile devices, and cloud computing has fueled entirely new business models based on selective consumption of information.
People subscribe to streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu -- and use DVRs -- to avoid watching commercials. People subscribe to satellite radio providers like SiriusXM to avoid annoying radio advertising.
Technologies like Gmail’s Priority Inbox makes it tougher and tougher for any commercial email to make it to the Inbox.
And does anyone answer their phone anymore without checking caller ID?
The rules have changed for businesses of all sizes and shapes -- including Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in Palm Beach County, Florida.
Their clients and potential clients in nearly all cases have become accustomed -- in many cases, addicted would be the more accurate term -- to using search engines, social media, and their mobile devices to find answers to their questions and seek out solutions to their problems.
This behavior change completely upended the buyer’s journey for accounting services -- the active research process someone goes through in between when they begin searching for answers and when they become a paying client.
In the pre-iPhone era, potential clients reached out to companies for information when they were 10% to 20% of the way through their decision-making process. Those days are long, long gone.
Today, as much as 70% (or more) of their decision may be over before a potential client even reaches out to an accounting firm.
This presents enormous challenges to accounting firms that are stuck in the past, using the same marketing and sales playbook that they’ve used since the 1980s and 1990s.
But the digital transformation also presents enormous market opportunities to savvy accounting firms that are able to get found by the right influencers and decision makers, in the right places, at the right time, and most of all: in the right context -- to be seen as trusted advisors and educators, rather than just accounting vendors.
In this report, the Palm Beach County CPA Market Opportunity Report, we’ll explore which accounting firms in Palm Beach County are the most digitally-savvy -- and doing the best job keeping up.
We’ll unpack this challenge by looking at 35 metrics with regards to how each fares with:
To develop the shortlist of who to research, each accounting practice had to
We ended up with 20 accounting firms located anywhere from North Palm Beach down to Boca Raton. While we don’t believe that these 20 firms represent all accounting firms in Palm Beach County that meet the criteria, we do believe the firms included to be representative of how digitally-savvy CPA firms in Palm Beach County are.
Just as a balance sheet is a snapshot in time, the data in this report was gathered during a one week period in mid-July 2017. It’s fully expected that accounting firms within this report, and others that read this report, will make changes to their websites. However given that several of the accounting firms in this report had let their websites sit stagnant for literally years, there will be some resistors who believe that their clients are special -- and don’t use search engines, social media, or smartphones.
And just to be clear: None of the accounting firms in this report paid for inclusion/sponsorship and none, at the time of publication, have a financial relationship with the report’s publisher SP Home Run Inc.
In a world where potential clients are very far along in their buyer’s journey before CPA firms are even looped into the conversation, what influencers and decision makers learn about CPA firms online makes an enormous impact.
One of the best ways to stand out from the pack and differentiate is by being regarded as the definitive subject matter expert on anything and everything having to do with their questions and their problems.
Nearly all of the accounting firms in Palm Beach County, researched for this report, spend the majority of their digital presence talking about themselves, rather than their prospects’ and clients’ biggest problems, questions, and concerns.
Continuing along the same line of thought, several of these accounting firms have identical newsletter content on their website, provided by the same cookie-cutter builder of CPA websites.
While this certainly is a strategy to minimize content creation costs, duplicate content poses two huge problems:
And frankly, given how short the attention span is of people when visiting websites, these accounting firms that fail to provide fast, immediate value to their visitors will find most visitors leaving within a few seconds, which poses two of its own problems:
To truly differentiate and be relevant in today’s modern buyer’s journey, an accounting firm’s website must evoke a two-pronged emotion reaction when a stranger visits for the first time:
And when this type of value-exchange occurs, a website visitor trading their contact information for free access to premium content with high-perceived value, the accounting firm earns the right to begin a relationship with that individual -- to continue educating that person and building up more trust.
So how are Palm Beach County CPAs doing when it comes to their thought leadership strategy and website authority -- both of which are critical parts of website optimization? (Website optimization is a much more comprehensive, buyer-centric approach to what many refer to as search engine optimization or SEO.)
In the Palm Beach County CPA Market Opportunity Report, 20 different accounting firms are graded on how each ranks on 11 related facets of thought thought leadership strategy and website authority. This includes
For anyone that’s ever observed the finite amount of real estate available on page one of a search engine results page, it’s no big secret that only ten organic, or earned, slots are available.
And if an accounting firm’s website isn’t deemed worthy of the “top 10” list, very few people will ever venture beyond page one.
So visibility is truly a zero-sum game. If an accounting firm suddenly earns a desired page one ranking, by very definition another entry on that search results page is being demoted off of page one.
Aside from all of these factors about differentiated thought leadership and website authority, what else does a CPA firm in Palm Beach County need to worry about for digital readiness?
In this section of the Palm Beach County CPA Market Opportunity Report on Competitive Positioning, we examine which accounting firms in Palm Beach County are currently best positioned to digitally-elbow other entities out of their way in the race to get found by the right people, in the right places, at the right time, and most of all in the right context.
To evaluate competitive positioning, each of these 20 different accounting firms were graded across five related attributes including:
In a world that’s undergoing such massive digital disruption, where software, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are devouring entire industries, people have completely changed how they research and make purchase decisions.
For anyone that doubts how much mobile computing, the consumerization of IT, search engines, and social media permeate our lives, think about how many stores and restaurants have free WiFi, active social media profiles, and heavily promoted website URLs.
The big search engines have taken notice as well. As a result, an accounting firm can no longer win the battle for search engine visibility without also being competitive on social media.
All those little numbers at the top of blog posts, quantifying the volume of social media activity across Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for example, aren’t just vanity numbers -- like the number of millions or billions served on the iconic McDonald’s signs.
Those social media activity metrics are also factors that determine an accounting firm’s level of visibility -- or conversely, invisibility.
So how are accounting firms in Palm Beach County doing with growing their footprint on their social media?
Across LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, we examined both the number of followers and number of updates posted in the past 30 days. Both factors matter a lot. In much the same way that a stale website footer copyright year infers that a company either isn’t staying current -- or worse yet, may be out of business, a stale social media profile sends a similar negative brand impression to visitors, search engines, and the social media platforms.
Next, in the quest to determine which accounting firms in Palm Beach County are the most digitally-savvy, we look at how the firm’s website is positioned to generate leads.
After all, why would an accounting firm invest in differentiation and thought leadership if those initiatives weren’t focused on generating leads, sales opportunities, and new clients?
Why would an accounting firm bother trying to improve its competitive positioning or social media presence if not for improving its ability to attract more of the right influencers and decision makers, in the right places, at the right time, and most of all in the right context?
Now granted, much still has to happen in between lead generation and revenue generation -- typically segmenting leads by buyer persona and buyer’s journey stage, nurturing those leads to continue educating, building trust, and accelerating leads into sales-ready opportunities, and ultimately closing some of those leads into new clients.
But for this report, we’re focusing on metrics that can be ascertained without an insider’s perspective.
Earlier on, we introduced the concept of educational content, buyer personas, and the buyer’s journey. Now, we’ll look at three additional factors that determine whether an accounting firm’s website can generate the kinds of leads that materialize into their ideal clients.
In particular, we’ll look at whether the firm’s website grasps the concept of website conversions for lead generation, whether the website has educational content available for lead generation purposes, and whether there are calls to action on educational blog posts that facilitate lead generation in the right context.
Just like businesses in general, accounting firms in Palm Beach County are all over-the-map regarding their digital readiness. That’s one of the reasons why the data in this report is so eye-opening.
And when an accounting firm wants to differentiate in the modern buyer’s journey, use thought leadership to improve its website’s authority, improve its competitive positioning, benefit from a stronger social media presence, and generate high-quality leads from its website, sometimes that accounting firm tends to be a little impatient -- expecting results to happen...yesterday.
When unrealistic expectations creep into the strategy conversation, it’s important to temper these expectations with a healthy dose of reality.
“How long have you known that your digital presence wasn’t keeping up?”
“Three or four years you say?”
“Then what makes you think that three or four years of neglect can be solved in three to four weeks or even three to four months?”
Fortunately, for the chronically impatient, with unrealistic expectations, there is a solution -- once all the foundational building blocks are in place, such as:
What can an accounting firm do to speed things up, once it has a solid foundation of digital assets intended to attract the right people, at the right time, in the right places, and in the right context?
Paid search acceleration can be a very effective way to run tests and get results faster, while an accounting firm is slowly but surely taking the right steps to earn organic search traffic and organic social media traffic.
No matter how digitally-savvy an accounting firm is, when it comes to differentiation, the buyer’s journey, thought leadership, website authority, competitive positioning, social media, lead generation, and paid acceleration, there are a handful of digital infrastructure issues that must be addressed.
Without addressing infrastructure, the accounting firm will almost certainly underperform when it comes to full funnel revenue growth, and it will likely fail to achieve its SMART goals. (A SMART goal is a goal that’s specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound.)
The world is changing fast. Across nearly all demographics that would be a business-to-business (B2B) client of a CPA firm in Palm Beach County, use of search engines, social media, cloud computing, and mobile devices have all reached strong levels of mainstream adoption. This changes everything.
It’s no longer a seller-centric research and purchase decision. And software, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are devouring entire industries.
Buyers are now in the driver’s seat. That means potential clients will decide when and if they start a conversation with an accounting firm they’re considering.
With as much as 70% or more of potential clients’ minds already made up before an accounting firm is even aware of potential client needs, how do accounting firms stay relevant and compete effectively to win over digitally-savvy clients?
How can these accounting firms attract the right influencers and decision makers, in the right places, at the right time, and most of all in the right context?
In the Palm Beach County CPA Market Opportunity Report, we set out to answer the question: Which accounting firms in Palm Beach County Are the Most Digitally-Savvy?
While very few of these firms are firing on all cylinders when it comes to differentiation, thought leadership, competitive positioning, social media, lead generation, paid search, full revenue growth, and digital infrastructure, there nevertheless are sharply pronounced differences among the 20 Palm Beach County CPA firms studied in this report.
Firms appearing in this report, as well as firms that compete with those in this report, should use the sections, categories, and what constitutes the highest rating in each section to focus their efforts on continuous improvements in the coming months.