[IMGCAP(1)]What is your brand? It’s your service, client satisfaction, your niche expertise, your community involvement; it’s everything your firm does.

Why on earth, then, do you have a Web site that talks about none of that? Or, better yet, you try to talk about it and do so with cheesy antics and stale graphics in a software provider’s template site that isn’t nimble or reflective of your firm’s DNA. It boggles my mind that as a service brand you would allow such a travesty.

When is the last time you went to a client meeting wearing the same clothes in which you mowed your lawn? Or how about showing up at a wedding in your pajamas? My guess is never, but that’s how you present yourself on the Web.

In 2011, the Web currently represents the single most important avenue for your firm’s DNA/brand to make its way to prospects, clients and future employees. While I agree that your service is largely sold versus bought, service brands still rely on “what they know,” getting them in the door or getting that signed check. How else do you show someone what you know with your current Web strategy?

The Web is a medium whereby you tell people what you know, which alters their perception of you. Perception plays a huge role in business development efforts. That’s why I speak so many times a year on the topic of how to use your Web site as a business development platform. It’s a pain felt by so many CPA firms, yet so little is out there to truly help you on this subject.

First Steps in Rethinking Your Site
OK, OK, I am done with the onslaught of critiques and I have good news for you. You can change your Web site. You’re not stuck. There are plenty of resources out there for you. What are a few of those? I’m glad you asked.

1. Use an "Open Source CMS," or content management system, for your next Web site. What does this mean? You’re not stuck if your graphic designer gets hit by the proverbial bus and you can be nimble with the site. Also, like Wikipedia, a bunch of people contribute to make the system better for all. You build your site on top of these and you won’t be disappointed.  A rule of thumb on “open frameworks” is that they have a .ORG versus a .COM web address. A few of these CMSs are mentioned below:

•    WordPress
•    Drupal
•    Joomla

2. Don’t use a software provider’s template that also makes your tax application. Why? Because they make tax software. Most current template Web site solutions don’t allow you to be you. It’s like wearing someone else’s shoes or hat- it just feels weird and never fits right. If you do use a template, use one that’s written on top of the above-mentioned platforms. These templates are much easier to customize and edit as you wish. A few sites where you can buy a template are mentioned below:

•    WooThemes
•    ThemeForest
•    Templatic

Use Google: Search "Wordpress Template" or "Drupal Template" or "Joomla Templates".

3. Find a good designer who is not related to you by birth and who is not one of your clients. Yes, I know, I know, you like to give your clients work, but this is not the kind of work you want to pass to them. Find a designer who knows the CMSs I mentioned above.

How do I do that? This, unfortunately, is the hardest part and takes getting out there, sending a few emails, and perhaps meeting a freelancer at a local coffee shop. There are tons online that you can find by searching for “WordPress Designers”. Check their other work, and if you like it and they are offering a decent price, then take a chance on them.

Roy Keely serves as director of marketing at Xcentric, which specializes in cloud computing and IT consulting for CPA firms. He graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in marketing and has extensive experience in marketing, branding and sales.  Roy can be reached at (678) 297-0066 x525 or info@xcentric.com.  For more about Xcentric, go to www.xcentric.com  or follow them at www.xcentric.com/blog and www.twitter.com/xcentric.

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