[IMGCAP(1)]Don’t rely on SEO to do things it can’t. The best search engine optimization in the world won’t help if your business isn’t ready to welcome the potential clients it attracts.

Many firms get so wrapped up in the quest for perfectly optimizing their websites that they forget the rest of the equation. If done well, SEO can be very good for an accounting firm and its site. Its main purpose, of course, is to lead people to your site. But what do they find when they get there?

To be effective, a website needs to be well written, easy to navigate and up to date. It also must clearly communicate what you do and whom you serve without requiring viewers to dig deeply or translate a lot of industry lingo into normal English. Finally, it has to have calls to action that make finding out more or contacting the company a simple matter. If it doesn’t do all of these things well, your painstaking SEO won’t help your firm in the least.

A great website is welcoming and expressive, attracting readers and answering their questions. It introduces newcomers to your firm and invites them to become clients. But behind this digital front door there must be a great company alert and ready to provide service to anyone who has been led to further action.

If site visitors become impressed and interested enough in what they see to reach out to you by filling out a contact form or calling the office, what will they find? The answer had better be “immediate, knowledgeable and friendly service” or you’ve just wasted big bucks on a website and SEO that don’t deliver what they promise.

Even the smallest firms must make it a priority to respond to any inquiries that are generated by their websites (or any other marketing vehicle). Nothing turns off potential clients like submitting a contact form or calling the firm only to reach a dead end. Failing to respond quickly and politely is tantamount to turning away from a hand extended in friendship. It leaves the victims feeling rejected, offended and supremely unimpressed. These kinds of insults are not easily forgiven.

Every office gets busy, especially as the tax season picks up. Some firms don’t have dedicated receptionists or webmasters. That’s understandable, but there is no excuse for negligence in communication. No matter what the structure of your firm may be, you absolutely must have a defined sales process in place to respond to any inquiries.

If the designated responder needs to follow up with other team members to find the right answers or schedule a follow-up, that’s no problem. What is a problem is a late, disinterested or rude response, or worst of all, no response to a call or email.

Who would do this? It happens a lot more often than you’d think. Maybe the message gets lost in the shuffle or put in a stack for “the right person” to handle. Maybe it’s a busy time and the message makes its way to the bottom of a to-do list. There are a hundred ways it can happen, but every single time it’ll cost you potential business that will NEVER come back.

Stellar SEO, great websites and all the other marketing strategies your accounting firm employs can do a lot for you. The one thing they can’t do is welcome the actual human beings who reach out to you based on their promises. Make sure that someone at your firm is fully on top of that job, because it’s mission critical.

Sarah Warlick is a writer and copy editor for bbr marketing. She is in charge of ensuring that all copy is well-written, accurate and free of pesky typos, as well as writing and ghostwriting a great deal of content. bbr marketing provides marketing services and strategy to professional services firms.