Why do accounting and financial firms need online customer reviews? First, let me share some background information.
I was fortunate enough to meet Mike Blumenthal at the Duct Tape Marketing conference recently where we were both presenting. Mike was there to talk to leading marketing consultants about the importance of online customer reviews in local search. It was truly an honor and an eye-opening experience. Mike is widely considered to be the foremost marketing expert in the world on local search and Google maps.
So what do you do when you meet such an industry luminary? You take advantage of the opportunity to get his expert insight on an issue for financial firms, and find out whether financial firms - such as accounting firms, CPAs, law firms, commercial realtors, commercial insurance, etc. - also need online customer reviews.
As you can imagine, Google Maps and online reviews are incredibly important for local consumer businesses – restaurants, retailers, hair salons, auto mechanics, plumbers, etc.
But what about B2B firms, i.e. businesses that primarily sell to other businesses? Could B2B financial firms such as accounting practices and law firms also benefit from online customer reviews?
I wanted to get Mike’s expert opinion, and so I posed the following question,
Mike, how can B2B financial and professional services firms benefit from reputation management? And keep in mind that they have a very small number of clients compared to retail businesses, and many of their clients are repeat customers who stay with them year-over-year.
I was specifically thinking about local CPA / accounting firms, bookkeepers, and tax filers. Small and mid-size firms that build up a good steady base of clients that normally come back to them year after year. It may be personal and corporate taxes, indirect taxes, or even annual financial statement compilation type work.
To say that Mike's response was deeply insightful is a bit of an understatement.
First off, What's Different about Financial Firms such as Accountants?
Financial professionals and financial firms are different than other businesses.
1. Financial firms, particularly Accountants, tend to have clients that stay with them a long time. This equates to high Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
Local financial firms generally have a high volume of repeat sales year-over-year.
Even if it’s just a small tax filing, if repeated annually this translates to a high customer lifetime value (Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) = the anticipated net profit attributed to a client over their entire relationship with your organization).
Business customers may generate a number of repeat services year-over-year. For example:
- Financial statement compilation
- Assurance / Audit
- Taxes - personal, corporate, indirect
A client that they acquire may stay with them for many years. While each individual service or sale may not be that high, the sum of the values over time can be substantial.
2. Sales Cycles for Financial Professional Services are Long
On the other hand, the sales cycle for hiring an accountant or financial professional can be very lengthy. Business owners generally don’t make a quick decision when looking for an accountant. As a trusted advisor, the choice of a financial professional can have a big impact on the business and finances. It’s important to get it right – find someone that’s not only competent, but that provides great service, so business owners will be more sensitive to finding a financial professional that they can trust and work with.
3. Reputation Management is Critical for Financial Professionals such as Accountants, Consultants, and Lawyers
For professionals, reputation is everything.
No financial professional wants their reputation tarnished.
For financial professionals where sales cycles are long, lifetime value is high, and retention is paramount, it’s important to manage a professional reputation that communicates trust and credibility.
What Impact Do Online Customer Reviews Have on Local Searches for Financial Firms such as Accounting Practices?
If you were to do a quick search in your area on Google, something like “best accounting firm in [my town]” what comes up? In many markets you’ll find firms that show up in the top 3 (sometimes referred to as the Google Snack Pack) that have only a handful of reviews. You’ll normally see the top firm listed as having many reviews, and then you may see some that have only a handful.
1. Financial professionals get fewer online customer reviews – therefore each review matters more.
Buyers for professional and financial services rely more on reputation than for buyers of consumer discretionary items.
75% of accounting firms said that referral marketing was the most successful form of generating new customers.
Even when a buyer looks to other trusted advisors for recommendations, many still go online to validate their decision by looking at reviews and business websites. Amongst younger buyers, the reliance on online reviews can be even more significant.
2. Customer reviews make a difference and show up in online searches for B2B financial firms
Customer reviews for accounting firms and financial firms can play a critical role in making sure your business shows up in local searches, and shows up in a good way.
A Sample Local Search for Accountants
Let’s take a look at this example of a search conducted for “Accountants in Austin TX”. As you can see, all three of the firms that show up in the Google Maps Snack Pack have reviews.
In fact, in this case, the top ranking firm has 46 customer reviews for their accounting firm and an average rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars. 46 reviews is a lot, and you may be thinking you couldn’t possibly get 46 reviews.
However, let’s look at the second and third listed firms. They only have 7 and 1 online customer reviews. That’s right, the third place firm has only a single online customer review for their accounting firm and is showing up on the Google Map listing for a mid-size city of almost 1 million people.
Now there’s a number of factors that Google takes into consideration when bringing up results on a local search, but the fact that a small independent practitioner showed up in the top 3 spots with a single customer review for their accounting firm is remarkable.
Let’s go back to the top listed firm with the 46 reviews.
This firm clearly has a review management program in place. This means that they are actively monitoring and responding to reviews left by customers.
As we dig a little deeper, we find that this firm has been collecting reviews for 4 years. 46 reviews in 4 years is approximately 11.5 per year. That’s less than 1 per month.
So yes they have 46 reviews now, but they've been at it for awhile and are steadily collecting about 1 review per month.
Just imagine where you could be if you start to collect 1 review per month...
1 review per month is realistic and attainable for almost every single financial professional or financial services firm.
1 review per month could help move your firm to the top of the local listings.
So why don’t more B2B financial firms gather online customer reviews?
Usually we hear some common pushback when we talk to financial professionals about gathering customer reviews for financial firms such as accounting practices.
- Concern that they may get negative reviews
- Feel that they don’t have the time to do so
- Are uncomfortable asking for reviews from clients
Concern that they may get negative reviews – Asking for an online customer review for accounting firms will not change this. Let's be honest, if someone was going to leave you a negative review, they would leave you a negative review whether you ask for it or not.
But... what if you could parse out the negative reviews, and either respond to them or not have them show up online?
Feel that they don’t have the time – This is a common concern. With the long list of things you need to do, do you have time to add one more thing to the list? Who has time for gathering online customer reviews for their accounting practice or financial firm?
But...what if the process for collecting reviews was automated and required very little of your time?
Uncomfortable Asking – This is almost always the root problem. Very rarely do most businesses not have the time. The reality is that they are uncomfortable and are not sure how to go about doing it in a way that doesn’t make them look desperate or unprofessional.
But...what if the process of asking for reviews didn't require it to come directly from you, and actually made you and your firm look even more professional?
What About Your Firm? How Do You Show Up Online?
The Solution - Review Management
This is where outsourced review management comes in. We can take care of setting up and managing your online profile on sites such as Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, or elsewhere, and automatically manage online customer review collection for your accounting practice or financial firm. There’s software involved, and once it’s set up, takes very little intervention on your part. You just make need to make sure to respond to reviews that come in.
How does it work?
Review management tools make it easier for your customers to place reviews of your business on the important review websites. It’s also a tool to help head off potential negative reviews before they happen.
Here are the elements of a review funnel:
- Invite your customers via email to a landing page where you ask for reviews
- Offer them a simple mechanism where they can give a 1-5 star rating
- Anyone that rates 3 or below stars is offered the option to tell you what you could have done better so you can address the issue immediately
- Anyone that rates 4 or above is taken to a page featuring all of the various places they can leave a review with a link to the right page and directions for how to leave a review on that particular site
With a review management system in place, your team can confidently invite any customer to leave a review, knowing you’ve made it as easy as possible for them to do so.
Start Collecting Reviews and Watch Your Results Soar
We see most firms start to get very good response and incremental lists in their local search results within 6 months. Whether you're an established firm, or just starting out, or if you're a single practitioner or a multi-partner firm, gathering online customer reviews will increase the future success of your B2B financial firm.
At the end of the day, reviews attract the customer, but your website and process keep them around. If a potential customer sees great reviews but finds a weak web presence, you won’t keep them for very long. However, if your smart about your inbound marketing efforts and total online presence, and can get yourself to the top of search engine results pages along with a plethora of positive online reviews to go along with it, you’ve basically got a slam dunk and can take a seat and watch as your sales and leads start to roll in.
And if you get started now, you can be at the top of the search results before the start of next tax season!