I interviewed Allison Semancik, a marketing consultant in Miami, and asked her questions about marketing principles for CPAs and other professionals. This entry is the 2nd in the series.

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Me: Allison, your Twitter profile lists inbound marketing, pay-per-click, social media, and email marketing as areas you deal in. Are any of those more critical for professionals trying to expand or bolster their markets?

Allison: Everything works to a degree, but you shouldn’t rely on any one method to grow your online presence. Each of these techniques works in a different way:

Inbound marketing: The idea behind inbound marketing is that you are drawing visitors to your site instead of pushing out your sales message.  So you want to ensure your site is properly optimized to be found in search engines, get involved in social media and forums and consider starting a blog.  All of these tactics will start a flow of traffic to your site.

Pay-Per-Click: Work with a PPC specialist (or learn on your own) to run ads on Google AdWords or even Facebook (if it fits for your business).  It’s a quick way to drive traffic to your site.

Social Media: With all of the knowledge service professionals have, they should get out there and share it.  On LinkedIn, people ask questions on LinkedIn Answers.  Start answering questions that you have expertise in or create your own LinkedIn group.  Get involved on Twitter by sharing great articles and listening to what your potential clients need.

Email Marketing: A must for any business.  Again – you have knowledge that others would love to tap into.  Share your smarts with others in a newsletter.

  • Next blog entry: Social media goals for accounting and other professional firms.

Allison Semancik can be contacted through her blog.

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I interviewed Allison Semancik, a marketing consultant in Miami, and asked her questions about marketing for service professionals. Her answers are worth a few blog entries. Here’s the first in the series.

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Me: Allison, first of all, how did you get involved in marketing consulting? What about it appeals to you?

Allison: I have been involved in internet marketing for 9 years now.  I love that it is an ever changing field – there is always a new software, website or company that makes marketing fun and exciting.

Working as a consultant, I have the opportunity to work with many different types of businesses in various industries.  I love helping a business grow their online presence and seeing the results that come from the work I put into it.

Me: Let’s talk about marketing for professionals – accountants and IT consultants particularly. I deal with these professional communities a lot. What are some of the marketing challenges that professionals in those areas typically wrestle with?

Allison: One of the most important thing service professionals can do is distinguish their services from others.  There are many IT professionals out there, but an IT professional who caters to cosmetic dentists is much more specialized.   When you develop a niche and cater to that niche, you’ll be sought out.

Another issue I see is that service professionals tend to be more formal in their online presentation.  Websites tend to be more like brochures when they should be more personal.

With blogs, forums and social media sites, you now have an opportunity to be more interactive and share your expertise with others.  It gives professionals a chance to have dialogue with potential clients before you even meet in person.

  • Next blog entry: Which marketing and social media channels work best for service professionals?

Allison Semancik can be contacted through her blog.

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Nobody said it was easy making a living in this economy.

The good news is that if you have solid experience with QuickBooks, there are jobs out there for you, if you are looking for one.

The QuickBooks Jobs Forum lists QuickBooks-related jobs that are coming up every day.

Some examples:

Administrative assistant with QuickBooks experience in Brooklyn, NY

QuickBooks bookkeeper and file clerk in Harbor City, CA

And if you are lucky enough to be visiting Vancouver for the Olympics and you fall in love with the area, there is an opening there for an accountant with QuickBooks proficiency.

Supposedly, the entrepreneurial sector of the economy is the fastest growing element right now. And new small businesses need help with the books (and hopefully realize that!) If you are an employer hiring for a QuickBooks bookkeeping position, post your need on the forum. It’s free, and most of the listings are getting 60 or more views.

What is your experience with the QuickBooks-related  job market? Do you think it is favorable now?

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QuickBooks disasters come in at least three flavors.

Scenario #1: System failure: A QuickBooks user has some kind of system catastrophe. A fire, a computer theft, a flood, a server hard drive crash and trash. The computer goes down and takes QuickBooks with it.

That is the time when current, reliable backups are more than handy — they are the lifeline to restoring your normal accounting and/or business operations. It’s true that my company can repair damaged QuickBooks files, but the cost is not insignificant. The best thing is just to have a good backup from, say, yesterday. How to avoid a QuickBooks disaster? Backup.

Scenario #2: Human failure: Your brother-in-law is pretty good with computers, you say. So he got on your computer, and trying to clean things up, ended up deleting your Quickbooks files. Or your just-fired bookkeeper sends you a message: he/she reformats your computer before he/she walks out the door. How to avoid a QuickBooks disaster? Backup. IT pros can maybe recover your files intact, or maybe not. Best thing is to have good current backups.

Note: Making backups seems to be one of my big themes; I hope you don’t tire of it. The reason I talk about it so much is because I have conversations almost every day with QuickBooks users who find themselves wishing they had more or better backups than they have. The fact that they don’t have them is good for my support business, but not much fun for my clients. FYI.

Scenario #3: Accounting control failure: QuickBooks has the reputation of being pretty easy for non-accountants to use. That’s a double-edged sword: it gives people in small business the power to do their own books, but in the wrong hands, it also gives an avenue to embezzle money. This is especially true in businesses where one individual is responsible for everything related to the books.

A lady in my town was convicted a couple of years ago of defrauding the construction company she worked for out of several tens of thousands of dollars, and that was their scenario. How to avoid a QuickBooks disaster? Have more than one person involved in the bookkeeping, and have your books audited. There is a lot more to say about this; consult your local CPA.

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Here are four ideas to be more successful with QuickBooks for the balance of this year:

1. Make a good backup plan, and implement it. Talk to your local IT pro or give us a call for practical advice on this. Everyone knows they should have good regular backups. Studies show that 90% don’t follow through. But you go ahead! If your computer crashes later this year, you will thank me. Yes! You will.

2. Get your versions of QuickBooks, Windows, and your hardware all lined up. Don’t run QuickBooks 2005 under Windows 7. Or run QuickBooks 2010 on a PC you bought in 2005. Hardware, operating system, and applications work together best when they were produced around the same time.

3. Make QuickBooks work harder for you. It can do more than just pay your bills and reconcile your bank account, you know? Have you ever showed your QuickBooks reports to someone who can interpret them for you and tell you how you could tweak your business to make it way more profitable? That’s where some hidden accounting beauty lies…in the potential bottom line. Talk to your CPA, to a virtual CFO, or talk to us to get connected to one. You’ll spend a little, but maybe save or make a lot.

4. If you are using QuickBooks 2010, check out some of the optional services/apps. Online document management, online check depositing, email marketing…there are lots of new services to consider that can help save time or create new revenue.

Are you going to try anything new with QuickBooks this year?

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I got a call last week from someone running accounting software on her Apple IIe computer.

If you don’t know the Apple IIe, it is *not* the latest Mac product. It was, in fact, Apple’s state-of-the-art computer in 1982.

The lady has been using her old accounting software (not QuickBooks) on her old computer for almost 30 years. Without any problems. This week, the original floppy program disks finally wore out and gave up.

Which raises the question: When should you upgrade your accounting software? My (not original) philosophy: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it’s broke, fix it.

One caveat: If the newer version has new capabilities that you are pretty sure will save you a lot of time, money, or hassle, do the upgrade. QuickBooks 2010 has new capabilities that may well fit that description for you.

But I talk to QuickBooks users sometimes that wish they could go back to an earlier, ‘simpler’ version. I heard a lot of that when the QB 2006 version came out. What an outcry! I heard special pining for the old QB 99 version. I guess 1999 was a very good year for QuickBooks.

If you use QuickBooks payroll services and your version gets so old that Intuit doesn’t support it anymore — it’s broke. Fix it. Intuit only supports releases going back three versions.

If you are trying to use an old version of QB on your spankin’ new Win 7 machine, it won’t work. Fix it.

Otherwise, if what you are using now does 90-95% of what you want, I say be happy with what you’ve got.

What do you say?

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You rely on QuickBooks to make lots of important things happen in your business. It’s mission critical.

Paying your bills, your employees, and tracking your cash are just as important to you as to Fortune 500 companies. Here’s the thing, though: the big guys rely on software that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Your accounting software of choice? Costs maybe a couple hundred bucks.

The amazing thing is that your small business software can perform the basic (and some not so basic) accounting functions as well as the big guys’ software. Your P&L, balance sheet, and payment processes are probably just as effective as theirs.

And with the ever-increasing number of add-on programs and online solutions available with QuickBooks, your accounting power and options are only going up.

So be encouraged — you are part of the Fortune 4.5 Million (QuickBooks approx. install base). You can produce and *use* accounting information that will help your business succeed. And if that happens, you’ll have something over a lot of the big guys these days.

Do you ever feel at an accounting system disadvantage compared to large companies?

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