When I visited Xero's Melbourne offices earlier in the year I was struck by the extent to which the partners I met think differently about the market in which they compete. Unlike days of yore where getting firms in the same room to discuss competitive positioning was nigh on impossible, the firms I met were very comfortable in each other's company. That tells me there is room for growth, room for change.
The other day, I was pointed in the direction of Cloud Accountants - a clue is in the name - where the company has undergone a transformational makeover that puts marketing at the center of their public presence. This is so different to the cookie-cutter approach I have seen for too many years and which leaves me cold. What's so different? Check the case study for yourself but here's a few standouts:
- Direct integration to the Xero system - clients can login from the site, prospective clients can get in and kick the tires
- Direct integration for partners and managers to the Wordpress content management system, allowing easy access for updates
- Direct integration with Campaign Monitor (we prefer MailChimp but heh) for 'beautiful email marketing campaigns'
- Focus on value delivered for customers - case study pointers are right up front under the 'what we do' section that greets you on arrival
While your design preferences might be different, there is no mistaking the way the designers have thought through what it means to be a 21st century professional firm.
I like the way Mogul demonstrates how it thought through the key components and then translated them into a technology led solution that is both appealing and practical. For example, they have used Wordpress extensively (as we do) to provide the informational backbone upon which everything else is built.
For those that don't know, Wordpress is not only an open source solution, which in turn means there are thousands of plug-ins that make customizations a breeze. It has grown from being a simple blogging platform into arguably one of the best and most flexible CMS's out there for the smaller business.
Marketing has gone from being a black art to one where you can try things out and 'fail often' by directly measuring the results of campaigns through low cost tools like Campaign Monitor, Hubspot (which we're evaluating) and others. This is critical to being able to understand what works and what doesn't in outreach programs.
Those integrations back into the core accounting system remove friction from the access paths by which customers get to see how they're performing, but in a secure manner.
Finally, the professional firm has pretty much all it needs to drive business and serve customers in a single place. That represents a fundamental change from what we've seen in the past where external facing websites were divorced from the thing that makes money.
What about the benefits to the firm? Here's one that everyone will understand:
Practice Ignition is a cloud-based collaboration solution that is revolutionising the way accountants do business by helping them move their business online and remove bottlenecks, leading to huge efficiency gains. For example, since using Practice Ignition, Sydney-based firm Interactive Accounting has reported $200,000 p.a. in savings and efficiency gains based on 300 clients, and at least a 20% increase in conversion.