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Estimated reading time: 13 minutes, 18 seconds

Review: Tools to Build Your Web Site

construction imageAs an owner of a small accounting practice, I am constantly looking for new clients. One area of focus that seems to have a lot of growth potential is the new entrepreneurs. The new entrepreneurs are people who have either been laid off from large corporations or who are looking for second or third careers or young adults entering the workforce for the first time. The entrepreneurial spirit is still very much alive and well. People are taking advantage of technology and starting all kinds of interesting online ventures. I just read about some recent college graduates that have founded an online customized chocolate bars business, Chocomize, with bacon and chocolate being the most requested.

Somehow that caught my attention. How are you ensuring that you are able to take advantage of these opportunities? Where and how do you think these business people are going to look for a new accountant? If you do not have a Web site your chances of taking advantage of this new growth potential is pretty limited. And if you do have a Web site, is it the kind of Web site that will attract the type of new clients you are seeking?

What is the purpose of a Web site? Is it a marketing tool, a way to communicate with your clients, a way to sell products and/or collect fees for services provided? A Web site can now be more than just a static page that has your firm name, address, phone number and maybe a picture of your firm. It can now be a dynamic tool that can not only bring you closer to your clients but help you attract prospective clients. There are so many new tools that are available to help you set up a Professional Web site.

In this review, we are going to take a look at a few Web site building tools that you as an accountant can use to ensure you are staying ahead of your clients. All products reviewed will allow you to attract the new entrepreneur. Each is done differently and each has their own advantages and disadvantages. All products allow you to set up a free 30-day trial of their Web site so you can see if it is the right fit for you.

Here is a list of the Web site builder products that were reviewed:

*Intuit Website Services
*ProSystem Fx Site Builder, CCH
*WebBuilder CS, Thomson Reuters
*Website Relief, AccountantsWorld


In the review we will share how each program is marketed, what each company feels is the top three competitive advantages, what we felt were the best features and what the downfall was of each program. Each program uses the latest and greatest technology. The biggest difference you will see in each program is on what type of tools, how well they integrate with their other programs and/or their competitors programs. Let’s take a look and see how which one of these programs might work best for you.

Intuit Websites by Homestead
Intuit
Mountain View, Calif.
(800) 428-3170
www.intuit.com
Price: $4.99 per month.

Intuit Websites by Homestead

The opening of Intuit's Web site is focused completely on Web-site building. It clearly shows they feel it is a very important part of every business. Intuit assumes having a Web site is a natural part of doing business.

Intuit's Web site design tools allow text dragging and dropping, adding images and other elements to make a Web site in minutes. You can pick a design, customize it to fit your needs and then show the world. The service, which became part of Intuit's product line through the company's acquisition Homestead Technologies in 2007, does not focus exclusively on accountants and offers more than 2,000 fully functional Web site templates that already incorporate basic images and text appropriate for the type of business represented by that Web site design. The top three areas the company feels that top competitors are as follows:

Ease of use.
You can set up a Web site quickly and easily and it is also very flexible.
Support. Intuit provides toll-free support seven days a week for no additional cost.
Reliable product. The product has been around for many years and is tried and true.  The company continues to build up this line using all ew technologies available. For example, you can add a blog page or a link to Facebook.

Intuit has the largest array of templates available. There is a standard text for any type of business. The templates are extremely easy to update and customize to ensure you have the presence you desire. You can add blogs, you can set up a storefront, and they have many tools to help you get local clients. It is a great product and has several options you can choose from depending on whether you chose a starter, gold or premium package. If one of the services you offer is consulting, with this product it would be easy to add Web site creation engagements. If you are interested in more customization and being able to help get your clients set up on a Web site . I would look deeper into this product. Here is the link to set up a free trial Web site . http://www.intuit.com/free-Web site -builder/.

The downside on this product is that unlike the other products in the review it is not geared toward accountants. Therefore, it lacks some of the content and tools that make the other products attractive. However, for those that don't need the customized wording and added content, this is a great product at a very inexpensive price point regardless of which package you choose. It is definitely a great product to suggest to your clients who need a professional Web site and but not at great cost.


ProSystem fx Site Builder

CCH
Riverwoods, Ill.
(800) 739-9998
http://tax.cchgroup.com/CCH-Site-Builder-CPA-websites-accounting-firm-websites/default
Price; $1,317 (first year).

ProSystem fx Site Builder
CCH has done a very good job with ProSystem fx's site builder product. It is another fully loaded product in the ProSystem suite. Content is very extensive and complete. Calendars come preloaded with all important tax dates including payroll tax dates. There are add-on products like the Business Owner's Toolkit that are geared toward the new Entrepreneurs.

The Toolkit has more than 4,600 news and advice documents assisting you in providing answers to your clients' business, legal and tax questions as well as providing practical tips on how to work smarter. It is a wonderful consulting tool that would all you to grow with more and different engagements than you may currently offer.

The company says the product enables firms to increase collaboration with clients and enhance the professional's image as a tax authority. It helps firms expand their practice onto the Internet so they can effortlessly build stronger relationships with clients.The product helps firms provide customers and prospects with relevant, up-to-date information and useful financial tools. The top three areas in which CCH feels it beats the competition are as follows:

Ease of use. Create a fully functional Web site in less than 15 minutes, using a simple 12-step set-up process. Easily change the look and content of Web site at any time – as often as needed – free of charge.

Content. Select Web-site designs from a growing collection of styles, with just a clickof a button. Easily add CCH Tax Alerts, Tax Guides, Financial Tools, and Premium  Content. And there us the Business Owner's Toolkit , an award-winning content package, designed to help your small-business owner clients and would-be entrepreneurs start, run and grow their own small business.
Integration - Securely share any type of file with clients. In addition, Site Builder offers access to Tax Notebook and Complete Tax Affiliate Program.

Another module, ProSystem fx File Share allows you to collaborate with clients, activate users, and set user-specific storage limits. Site Builder is a very complete web building tool. To see a great example of what is possible with this product, go to http://www.kellybrowncpas.com.

The downside of this product is that there is so much information. It is the most complex to set up. There is so much content to review and edit if you should need to, that it would be the most time consuming out of the products reviewed. However, once you are set up, you will have a professional-looking Web site that would meet your goals. For the first year, the product would cost $1,317. Although it has the highest price in this review, this is a high value product that is well worth the price. It will provide you with a high quality, professional-looking Web site with many tools that help you grow your practice and increase  your revenue stream without much extra time involved.

WebBuilder CS
Thomson Reuters
Dexter, Mich.
(800) 968-8900
http://cs.thomsonreuters.com/web-builder/
Price.$350 (one-time, start-up fee),$62 monthly.

WebBuilder CS
The product was marketed with the accounting profession in mind and as the ideal tool for creating a Web site . It is easy to use and is a professional Web site that can be up and running in just minutes. The top three areas they feel they are better than competitors are as follows:


Content.
The product comes with trusted source information such as Forefield
Knowledge Trust TM content and PPC Tax and Business Alerts. They have built-in
professionally worded text that you can use or customize to help you get started and
up and running quickly. In addition, there are flash demo's that you can customize
with your firm's name and contact info to demonstrate your NetClient CS and Payroll CS products.
Ease of use. You can either get started by using the standard pages and some of the canned wording or you can go right into HTML and create a complete Web site from
scratch.
Integration. You can go right into NetClient CS and from there you have a dashboard that allows you to work on all your CS products from one secure portal. As the products continue to grow you can be sure you will see more and more integration not available in other product lines. .

Web Builder CS is another great product in the Thomson Reuters CS product line. I would have to agree with all the above features that were mentioned. The content that is included allows small firms to look professional and compete with larger firms. PPC's Tax and Business alerts and the professionally worded standard content on the pages create an image of expertise and professionalism.

I found the Web Builder product to have the best templates among the products reviewed. If you own other CS products this product is a natural addition. The fact you can go into your secure portal, see all your products and start working allows for streamlined processes. Not to mention, seeing your Web site administration button several times a day is a great reminder for you. It helps keep the idea of continually updating your Web site at the forefront of your mind. This is another way you can maximize a Web site to not just be a page on the internet but a communication tool to your clients and prospects. What a great way to market your firm and your services. To see a great example of what is possible with this product, go to
http://www.parnesvelanomartinez.com.

The downside of the product is there is not an email marketing tool built into the program. With all the content that is available, it would be a great way to streamline more processes.

However, as with all Thomson products, this product is top-quality software. Even without using other CS products this product deserves a strong look before making your decision. For the one-time $350 start up cost and the $62 monthly fee it is definitely provides you with a great value for the cost.


Website Relief

AccountantsWorld
Hauppaggue, N.Y.
(888) 999-1366
www.accountantsworld.com
Price: $595.

Website Relief
Website Relief is a top-quality Web site builder. AccountantsWorld has done an excellent job of building a product that is not only simple to use but it has a lot of tools that truly help you build your practice. I love the ability to be able to email clients and prospects any of my newsletters or content. That alone pays for the product in time savings for small firm trying to compete with larger firms.

The company also gives you a calendar that links to a live Google calendar; and there are merchant pages you can attach to allow clients to pay for their services online, and many different ways to allow your Web site to show up on key searches. CyberCabinet fully integrates with this product. Website Relief is a great first Accountants World product to start with if you use no other products. It will integrate with your other products; although not as seamless as if you were using their other products. To see a great example of what is possible with this product, go to www.rexdavidson.com.

AccountantsWorld describes the product as being marketed to accountants who recognize the far-reaching power of the Internet and want to use it to grow and maximize their practice. The top three areas the company cites as being better than competiting products are as follows:

Ease of use.
Usually that is a signal for no flexibility but not so for this product. You
can have a fully functional and professional looking Web site set up within an hour.
There is a plethora of accounting, tax and payroll content to choose from to quickly
build a great Web site. Content includes firm profile samples, regularly released
accounting and payroll related newsletters, RSS newsfeeds, and many pre-designed
pages including a 24/7 self help tax center with tax refund tracking and other useful
links. Dozens of optional client-friendly pages are included or one can add their own
custom pages. You also get usable metrics for your Web site .
More than a Web site – a collaborative Web portal. Clients use the portal to
collaborate with you (on Web-based) payroll and accounting engagements, or access
and review financial documents, or make use of an online Tax Organizer.
Tools. This product comes with a complete email system and tools to communicate
to current clients and market to prospect clients. Broadcast any e-mail, newsletter,
or document to your entire clientele or a selected group of clients with a click of the
mouse. In this simple way, improve your client communication to build client loyalty
and satisfaction.

If I had to name a downside, I would say I was not as impressed with the templates that are provided compared to the other products I reviewed. However, I didn't see all of available templates. Furthermore, at a standalone price of $595 per year and less if you use other products from AccountantsWorld; it is a great value for all the tools you receive. Not that I am saying they should increase the price... :) But it is definitely a product that pays for itself almost as soon as you start using it.

As you can see from this review, there are several good options for you to either get a new Web site set up or change your current Web site to allow for the growth you desire in your practice. Even though you may be swamped in tax season, as you can see, you are only moments away from have a new marketing tool. What are you waiting for? Go and get set up. Grab the additional revenue that awaits you! Have a wonderful tax season.

Julie Lepper, EA

Julie S. Lepper, EA, MBA is the Principal of Julie S. Lepper, Accounting & Tax Service, LLC, a small local accounting firm in Pinckney, MI. She earned her Master's of Business from Eastern Michigan University and her Bachelor's of Accountancy from Walsh College in Michigan. Julie has over 16 years in consulting with client not only accounting and tax issues , but also on software and sales engagements. She specializes in focusing on start-up businesses and small to medium client needs.

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