An executive summary for managers and executive readers can be found at the end of this article

A preliminary evaluation of professional accounting services: direct marketing on the Internet
Maria L. Roxas Lucia Peek
Professor of Marketing, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut, USA Professor, College of Business and Technology, Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois, USA

George Peek

Professor, College of Business and Technology, Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois, USA

Thorsten Hagemann

Graduate student, School of Business, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut, USA Keywords Services marketing, Direct marketing, Accounting firms, Internet, Advertising Abstract Recent advances in the Internet have afforded professional accounting firms a form of promotion to enhance their image as technologically competent. Currently, over 2,000 accounting firms have Web sites registered with The List of CPA Firms Directory. The objective of this paper is to conduct a preliminary content analysis of the web pages of accounting firms. A total of 346 Web sites were randomly selected. The contents of the Web pages were examined and analysed for inclusion of client choice factors, basic company information, value added features, and graphics. The registration of the accounting firms' Web sites by search engines, Web yellow pages, CPA directories, and state CPA societies was also investigated. Generally, firms did a good job of providing basic client desired information about the firm, but they must register their Web sites with search engines that are commonly available and must encourage more interactivity with existing and potential clients by providing free information such as newsletters and links to relevant Web sites. They need to develop greater expertise in using the specific features and advantages of the Internet medium.

Traditional direct marketing and advertising tools used by professional service companies include direct mail, yellow page advertisements, and radio/television advertisements. Each tool has both advantages and disadvantages: they either offered a limited scope, but were economical; or they offered a broader scope, but were not cost effective. Advances in Internet technology provide companies with a new tool for direct marketing and advertising that may be cost effective and provide maximum delivery to targeted customers. In particular, the accounting profession has enthusiastically taken advantage of this new medium of marketing. The Web as an effective advertising medium The objective of this paper is to report a preliminary content analysis of the Web pages of accounting firms using some factors identified in previous research as influencing clients' choice of accounting firms and other factors identify as effective in Web-based promotion. The List of CPA Firms (first maintained by Bowling Green State University) compiles the Web page URLs and E-mail addresses of accounting firms in the USA and around the world. As of June 1999, 2,061 US firms are registered at the site. In this study, 346 accounting firms' randomly selected Web sites were examined and analysed to determine whether the Web sites contained factors that
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JOURNAL OF SERVICES MARKETING, VOL. 14 NO. 7 2000, pp. 595-606, # MCB UNIVERSITY PRESS, 0887-6045

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pp.. lawyers or bankers. Experience of COAs Experiences with Internet marketing Several surveys have been conducted reporting on the experience of CPAs using the Internet for marketing purposes. State Bar of Arizona 1977 case (see Gray. newspaper advertisement (37 per cent). misleading. radio (13. Elfrink et al. 1998. 71) conducted a survey of 103 CPAs who were early users of the Internet as a promotional tool. p. Nacinovich. Accounting firms have increased their product lines beyond audit and tax services and are now promoting themselves as high-tech systems consultants. in order of importance: Improve the firm's image. better serve the firm's present clients. Stevens et al. In their survey. attract new clients within the firm's local area. and billboards (2 per cent). This survey was conducted before the widespread use of the Internet as a marketing medium. 52) reports: The primary benefit of having a Web site. general interest in the Internet. Promotion of professional accounting services Because the Bates vs. Clients expect these firms to be technology competent and one way to convey this image is by having an effective Web site. 1998. Referrals by the accounting firm's other clients. was the most important factor in the selection of an accounting firm. and deceptive. Word-of-mouth referrals by current clients and professionals in the community can convey a favourable image of an accounting firm's quality of services. A Web site cannot convey an overall image of quality of services as referrals would. 1997). firms say. seminars (34. Currently. There are numerous articles in the accounting professional literature extolling the advantages of using the Web to market an accounting firm particularly to convey a positive image of the accounting firm. Elfrink et al. Wolosky. They specifically identified image as a crucial characteristic in the client's choice of an accounting firm. The CPAs' reasons for developing their Web sites on the Internet follows.6 per cent). brochures (28. If the competition has a Web site then the other firms must also establish a presence. VOL. 7 2000 . 47) found that accounting firms were using the following marketing tools: Yellow Page advertisement (61 per cent).influence client choice and have features that have been identified as important in using the Web as an effective advertising medium. (1997. but it can convey the image that the accounting firm is technologically adept.8 per cent). 1997 and Waugh. the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in 1988 revised its Code of Professional Conduct to eliminate prohibitions against advertising of accounting services1. Nacinovich (1998. is it declares that their practices are technologically-current. complement their current advertising.3 per cent). 1997. p.1 per cent). Image enhancement is cited as the primary advantage of Web marketing by a number of authors (see Clikeman and Walden. and attract new clients outside the firm's local area. 14 NO. p. 596 JOURNAL OF SERVICES MARKETING. (1992. p. Referrals can convey a favourable image George and Solomon (1980. Rule 502 of the Code only prohibits advertising and other forms of solicitation that are false. 1989. 79-80) surveyed executives whose responsibility included the selection of the company's accounting firm. 19) allowed for the advertising of professional services. They contend that accounting firms can convey an image of being technologically advanced by developing an effective Web site. television (3.

Clikeman et al. The Web site is located at www. Clikeman and Walden (1998) surveyed 56 small. The results of these studies indicate that accountants should communicate in their advertisements their expertise through certification/professional affiliations. 1996).9 per cent). description of firm (83. (1998.2 per cent). links to business or accounting Web sites (51. but had not attracted many new clients. Firms created Web sites to keep up with technology and attract new clients. a CPA. The firms also reported that they have improved their service to existing clients by transmitting information and forms and through e-mail communication. free information (52. found that the ``Web has made money but not much''. p.6 per cent).9 per cent). and years of JOURNAL OF SERVICES MARKETING.9 per cent). electronic forms for inquires (23. Ott et al. Table I summarizes the results of these four surveys.edu/~walden/cpaweb Purchasing a service product CPA firms' client choice factors The credibility or reputation of the firm is the likely deciding factors for clients in purchasing a service product. (1997) study. Accountants need to develop more effective Web sites. (1991) and Alford and Cashell (1987) surveyed small business consumers on factors that influence their selection of a CPA firm. biographies of firm personnel (53. George and Solomon (1980) specifically identified image as a crucial component of the service firms' marketing strategy.200 hits in seven months and five clients (both from Neiger. The Journal of Accountancy from November 1996.500 hits. In their survey of executives. areas of specialization.4 per cent).December 1997. published a section called ``The Online Accountant'' which described the experiences of accountants using the Web. Cottrell and Romney (1996) report that Sechler's home page generates 20 per cent of her billing and Friedman generated between five and ten clients from 2. 26) recommended features to be included in accounting firms' Web sites and examined the Web sites of 131 firms from the Bowling Green State University Directory of Accounting Firms.7 per cent).and medium-sized accounting firms on their Internet marketing experiences. though the Web pages have been effective in satisfying their own curiosity and promoting the firm's image. Kissane experienced 1. VOL. e-mail link to contact firm (93. photos of firm personnel (34. 14 NO. and links to non-business Web sites (20. the firms believed they were maintaining an image of ``technological expertise''. other services provided. Professional literature There are numerous articles in the accounting professional literature on individual experiences of firms.4 per cent). The CPAs believed that they have gained knowledge from their first experiences on the Web that will be valuable as the use of the Web by consumers becomes more widespread.richmond. As in the Elfrink et al. Butler and Abernethy (1994) conducted a survey of 365 consumers of accounting services on the information they desire in accountant yellow page advertisements. The majority of firms were displeased about the effectiveness of their Web sites in attracting new clients. The authors went a step further and developed the ``ideal'' Web site based on the guidance presented in their article. Wolosky (1997) quotes a CFO who complained about having a hard time looking for basic information such as address and telephone numbers on CPA firms' Web sites. Shouten. 7 2000 597 . They reported the following top ten results at a more aggregate level than is reported on in this study: description of services (96.2 per cent) mission statement or firm philosophy (55 per cent).They found the respondents to be somewhat displeased with their Web sites in obtaining new clients.

animation. and state CPA societies were examined. colour. the contents were examined for the use of graphics. (1991) Cashell (1987) Solomon (1980) Sample Expertise: Certification/professional Affiliations Area of specialization Other services Years of experience Reputation Resources available Referrals: Other clients Third party such as Lawyers. 14 NO. Andrus and Alford and George and Abernethy (1994) et al. He concluded that not all client selection criteria are appropriate for inclusion into the advertisement. He found that advertisement generally incorporated the major client choice factors. but the Web page allows for the inclusion of more information about the firm and greater creativity in presenting the information. The first part of the content analysis involved identifying the inclusion of the CPA firms' client choice factors and the firm's basic information. Survey summaries of CPA firms' client choice factors experience.Butler and Ott. But the majority of advertisements lack other information that consumers want. JOURNAL OF SERVICES MARKETING. provider availability. or other features. Web sites allow greater creativity in presenting information Potential customers can locate an accounting firm by searching Web sites similar to searching yellow page advertisements. location. which enhance the technological image of the firm and contribute to the attractiveness of the Web site. VOL. They also need to communicate their reputation. bankers Current client list Location Availability Aggressiveness of firm Fee estimates % of 365 consumers % of 186 small % of 130 small firm owners business clients % of 590 executives 26 34 32 13 86 88 69 66 63 59 72 69 46 18 30 63 34 26 82 62 78 60 56 Table I.900 accounting firms. Content analysis of accounting firms' Web site Gray (1989) reported on the content analysis of accounting firms' yellow pages advertisements using client selection criteria. directories. the Web pages accessibility through registration at search engines. 7 2000 598 . and cost information. Abernethy and Butler (1998) studied the yellow pages advertisements of over 2. but the content of the advertisement varied a great deal. Finally. They concluded that the accountants did a good job in providing potential consumers information on their office location and their service offerings. the contents of each Web site were examined for value-added features. Second. such as experience. The current study applies a similar methodology to accounting firms' Web sites. referrals and reputation are important factors in obtaining clients. and availability. Third. but also adds an interactive element that may be valuable to potential and existing clients. Since they are selling a service rather than a product. The Web site can include information that would be in the yellow pages. resources available.

address and e-mail on each page Availability E-mail linkage 88. The survey sheet incorporated some of the CPA firms' client choice factors listed in Table I. CMA. and telephone number of firm). 7 2000 599 . Information on fees is also usually not provided in advertisements even though it is a factor in choosing an accounting firm. Accounting firm Web sites' information client choice factors JOURNAL OF SERVICES MARKETING. These sites represent approximately 16.5 1. The ``Big 5'' international firms were not included in the survey. referrals would not appear in advertisements and was not included in this study nor was it included in Gray's (1989) study of yellow pages advertisements. Analysis of each firms's Web site A survey sheet was used to structure the analysis of each firm's Web site contents. There were small firms with just one employee that had elaborate Web sites and other firms that just communicated the same information as would appear on a business card (name.1 36. and education).5 44.9 13.4 91.9 82. Table II summarizes Percentage of Web sites Expertise Certification (CPA.7 per cent of the firms registered at The List of CPA Firms Web site. resources available (size of the firm and services provided). The client choice factors included in this study as shown in Table II are: expertise (certification. Results for client choice factors As discussed earlier.6 51. address. experience. areas of specialization.4 34.0 50.In all.9 67.4 10. 346 Web sites were selected from across the USA using a systematic random process. They want information on the qualifications and experience of the accounting firm's professional staff. address and e-mail on each page). VOL. 14 NO. and availability (e-mail linkage). location (name. Fees would be discussed when a client contacts the firm or in the referral process.4 Table II. Even though referrals is an important factor in clients choosing a CPA firm. clients want some reassurance about the credibility of the accounting firm.0 77.2 52.4 23. Services provided by the firm can indicate both expertise and resources available.9 46. CIA.7 76. other) Experience Areas of specialization Community service Education Other No information on qualifications Resources Size of firm: Number of partners Number of employees Services provided by firm: Tax Bookkeeping Consulting Auditing Accounting systems Other No information on services provided Location Name.1 4.

Half of the firms included areas of specialization. An email linkage also indicates the availability of the firm and 77 percent of the accounting firms do provide an e-mail linkage.5 4. specific CPA directories. 14 NO. and state CPA societies. which means they are not conveying any information on the professional expertise of their staff. one specialized CPA directory (The List of CPA Firms which was this study's sample population).0 63. It may be worth the additional resources to pay more to register the Web site and ensure that the firm's name appears in the first page of the search engine. Some search Percentage of Web sites Search engine Yahoo! AltaVista Infoseek Lycos Snap Excite Not located with above search engines Registration at Web sites The list of CPA firms Yahoo! yellow pages State society 11.2 5. Maximizing accessibility on the Web Search engine and directories registration Janal (1996) and Wolosky (1997) advise that accounting firms can maximize their accessibility on the Web by registering their sites with various search engines. directory.0 100. and state CPA societies. Registration was checked at one Web yellow pages (Yahoo!). 7 2000 . If clients print a particular page of the firm's site. and state societies registrations 600 JOURNAL OF SERVICES MARKETING.8 percent of the firms were located using Yahoo!. which is the most popular search engine and 63 percent of the accounting firms could not be located using any of the five search engines. These are the types of firms who believe it is necessary to establish a Web presence to project an image of technological expertise. However. but also their e-mail address. for location of the firm.8 7. One way to obtain potential clients' names and addresses for further solicitation is through e-mail queries. while a very high percentage of firms provided information on services available. AltaVista. A total of 88 per cent of the accounting firms reported the certification of their partners and employees. Infoseek and Lycos) were used to locate each Web site by using ``CPA'' and ``State''. only 13 percent print their name and physical and e-mail addresses on each page of the site.the results. Results of search engine. The trend towards selling consulting services and providing accounting systems services is apparent.0 2. and 10 percent of the Web sites did not include staff qualifications. VOL. they may not have the basic information available to contact the firm. Only 11. Five of the major search engines (Yahoo!.8 7. Excite. Not all state CPA societies provide listings of accounting firms operating in their state.8 Table III. Firms that have consumed resources to develop Web pages should go a step further and register them.2 5. as the key words. In using the Internet as an advertising medium and vehicle of communication.6 63. accounting firms need to provide not only their physical address. Table III summarizes the results of the Web sites' accessibility. Web yellow pages. The firms are not effective in promoting their Web sites.

engines allow advertisers to pay to be listed higher within the search engine results.4 Table IV.2 15. e. AltaVista (Sullivan. A Web site should contain something of value to potential customers A good CPA Web site should contain something of value to potential as well as existing customers to entice them to revisit.1 25.9 93. Janal (1996) suggests linking the firm's home page to the city's page or the home page of a software company.4 11. but not all include a listing of firms operating in their states. He also suggests offering something for free. A total of 64 percent were found in the Yahoo! yellow pages.6 8. Value-added features of Web sites JOURNAL OF SERVICES MARKETING.5 25.2 5. 14 NO.0 12.1 % of Web Sites Links provided to professional material related to accounting Internal Revenue Service American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Securities Exchange Commission Financial Accounting Standards Board State Society of CPAs Online Forums Investment information Others No links provided to professional material related to accounting Links provided to fun stuff or special interest Sports Others Jokes No links provided to fun stuff or special interest Freebies Advice via e-mail Tip of the month or week Opportunity to receive newsletter Advice for improving business practices or articles Frequently asked questions (FAQ) section Others No freebies 34. 25) states: There is obvious value in getting someone to visit your site. One advantage of offering free information is that clients will have to provide their names and addresses which will enable the accounting firm to develop a list of potential clients to pursue. As a whole.8 4. such as the Internal Revenue Service (34. VOL. Wolosky suggests linkages to sites that are useful to clients and some lighter items.0 0. the accounting firms have not made it easy for clients to locate them on the Web. but the Yahoo! yellow pages did not provide links to the accounting firms' web sites.3 4. but the real value is getting that individual to make return visits.4 39. such as free information or T-shirts. 1999). The Web site should provide added value to existing and potential clients to make them return to a firm's Web site.g.7 1.3 1. such as linkages to David Letterman's top ten list or cookbook recipes. Firms had linkages to accounting organizations that would be of interest to their clients.1 12.3 83.4 7. Table IV summarizes the value-added features found in the accounting firms' Web sites.2 0. p. Most state societies have their own Web sites.2 4. 7 2000 601 . Value-added features Wolosky (1997.

Firms may be attempting to maintain a serious professional image.5 39.7 6.1 10.4 per cent).8 per cent) and 12 per cent do not offer any free information. address and e-mail of company on each page Awards Patterns in background Advertisements of other companies and their products No graphics 66. Web site appearance can enhance the accounting firm's image Graphics The technological image of the accounting firm could be greatly enhanced by the attractiveness of its Web site. regular maintenance of the Web sites is necessary to keep potential clients visiting the firm's Web site. The firm's advice and information can enhance the quality image of the firm. tips (15 per cent). VOL.2 per cent). but they have fallen short of their goal to attract a significant Percentage of Web sites Clip Art Images Logo of company Frames Animation (moving images) Pictures: Partners Staff Family Pets Number of hits counter Date page last updated Name. and State Society (4. However. 7 2000 . or articles (7. Having useful information that is continuously being maintained keeps clients visiting the Web site. Few firms provide linkages for fun stuff.2 per cent). Quite a few firms simply used black lettering with a white background.1 33. It is also important to provide a way to communicate with existing and potential clients.7 3. Moreover. pictures. Graphics 602 JOURNAL OF SERVICES MARKETING.1 19. the only graphical images for many firms are their logos.5 per cent).1 Table V.4 per cent).0 0.5 3.3 per cent). Some firms offer freebies such as advice via e-mail (83. Securities Exchange Commission (11. over 39 per cent do not provide any linkages to accounting related Web sites. Only 19 per cent of the firms even include the date of the last Web site update. Table V describes the graphics used by accounting firms in their Web sites with 66 per cent of firms are using clip art images. Accounting firms have developed an important presence on the Internet. The date of the last update of information at the Web site indicates whether the firm is concerned with providing timely and accurate information. The tradeoff is the time and resources required to maintain and to improve the Web site on a continuing basis. Many firms need to take more advantage of the features of the Internet by utilizing graphics. The inclusion of logos.per cent).1 13.2 per cent). 14 NO.0 11. as well as online forums (4.9 19.5 23. sports.9 36.1 2. American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (25. or colour improves the Web site's appearance. Conclusion In the past two years there has been significant guidance in the accounting professional literature on developing effective Web sites to market accounting firms. Financial Accounting Standards Board (5. newsletter (12.0 per cent) and investment information (0. However. or special interest.

M. they need to improve the clients' chances of finding them. References Abernethy. pp. ``The on-line population is starting to reflect a broader cross section of society. ``CPAs who profit from home pages''.M.. The National Public Accountant. Firms have committed resources to a Web site. pp. 24-8. It also helps the firm determine if they are meeting the needs of existing clients. pp. National Public Accountant.M. pp.D.D. (1998). ``Accountant yellow pages advertising: current practice and consumer desires''. 24-6. and Walden. Cottrell. 16 No. pp.B. ``Consumer information needs for attorney and accountant yellow pages advertising''. Journal of Accountancy.M. Elfrink. (1997). D. J.. and Abernethy. Vol. The CPA Journal. and Robideaux. A. and they must make an appropriate commitment of time and resources to profitability exploit the capability which Internet marketing offers. March. 2. (1987). JOURNAL OF SERVICES MARKETING. and service products they want to offer. 1998). 1. Most firms appear to have included many of the recognized client choice factors. VOL. The Web site should be developed consistent with their goals and products. The Internet crowd is growing older'' (Harmon. Action strategies for accounting firms Before establishing a presence on the Internet. Note 1. The CPA Journal. The use of helpful linkages brings potential and existing clients back to the firm's Web site. ``Designing an accounting firm Website''. As the users get more sophisticated the Internet will become more important to potential clients looking for accounting firms. Quite a few companies do not include value-added features and/or graphical images to enhance their Web sites. P. American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. and Cashell. (1998). Vol. their strengths. approximately 10 per cent of the firms provide no information on their expertise. (1996).aicpa. (1994).M. Smith. Clikeman. The interactivity between client and firm afforded by free information or advice or by signing up for newsletter helps the accounting firm to develop a list of potential clients. 26-32.M. ``Internet marketing: evidence of a viable medium''. D. J. Bachmann. areas of specialization. and Walden. W.D. 7 2000 603 . pp. Clikeman. A. 48-55. 159-73. June. Butler. Alford. They should visit other accounting firms' Web sites and read about Web site development to determine what makes an effective Web site. ``Accounting firm Web sites: what are the benefits?''. Internet-related problems In terms of the Internet-related factors the most significant problem is lack of search engine registration. L. If the purpose of the Web site is to convey ``technological expertise'' then the Web site needs to take advantage of the graphical devices and interactive capabilities available on the Internet. W.number of new clients. and Butler. Some have suggested that including a Web site in the accounting firm's marketing strategy is a necessity. thereby failing to provide information on a significant client choice factor. Available from <http://www. Rule 502 ± Advertising and other forms of solicitation. R. Journal of Professional Services Marketing. June.M.M. pp. 14 NO. and Romney. D. Code of Professional Conduct (12 January 1998) [online]. 46-56.D. D. November. (1998). July. 8 No.D. P. each accounting firm should determine its marketing strategy. Journal of Services Marketing. D. Firms should determine what the objectives of the Web site should be.org/about/code/et502.htm> accessed 9 August 2000. 71-3. ``Reaching the small business market''.

``Marketing strategies for improving practice development''. and Ainsworth.. and Solomon.George. Stevens. ``Market your firm over the Internet''. pp.W.. http://searchenginewatch. D. pp. McConkey. 74-5. Accounting Technology. Andrus. ``The Net files''. (1992).O. P. 7 2000 . C.L. March. P. 52-3. The CPA Journal. Accounting Technology. ``Home page: hype or help''. ``The content of CPA firm advertisements in the yellow pages''. November. (1996). Search Engine Watch. 24-9. (1989). D. June. 26 March. 14 NO.. Australian Accountant. ``Perceptions of accountant advertisements''. The Ohio CPA Journal. H. pp. Harmon. & 604 JOURNAL OF SERVICES MARKETING. The Practical Accountant. pp. (1997). M. pp. A. Nacinovich. few leads''. D. Vol. Gray. G1. D. P. R. pp. December. August. The CPA Journal. The New York Times. Wolosky. June.com/facts/ major. ``Web sites produce good images.A. Ott. Summer. (1980). National Public Accountant. pp. Sullivan. pp. R. Loudon. need''. Neiger. ``Marketing your firm on the Web''. G7.html Waugh. (1997). (1998). ``Guess who's going on line''.E. T.internet.J. February. VOL. and Dunn. D. The Journal of Accountancy.R. Janal. (1996). ``Accountants and advertising: image vs. 18-21. September. (1998). R. W. (1999).W. 10.I. 79-85. 15-19. (1991). 53-6. 46-8.

and to determine if the needs of clients are being met. it can convey the impression that the accountancy firm is technologically adept. range of services. More than three-quarters of firms provide an e-mail linkage. 14 NO.This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives a rapid appreciation of the content of this article. in a more imaginative format. although only 13 per cent print their name and physical and e-mail addresses on each page of the site. to attract new clients. helps the firm to develop a list of potential clients. areas of specialization. and to complement current advertising.8 per cent of the firms were located using Yahoo!. This indicates that accountancy firms are not doing enough to promote their Websites. Roxas and Peek examine the content of the Web pages of 346 US accountancy companies taken at random from the List of Certified Public Accountants' Firms. location and availability. Firms should do more to promote their Websites Of the accountancy firm Websites in the Roxas and Peek survey. This is particularly important because accountancy companies now promote themselves as hightechnology systems consultants. Those with a particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the research undertaken and its results to get the full benefit of the material present Executive summary and implications for managers and executives Why accountancy firms develop a Website Direct marketing and advertising on the Internet offer accountancy firms a cost-effective way of reaching targeted customers. 7 2000 605 . A good Website should contain something of value to potential as well as existing customers. than conventional advertisements. AltaVista. Excite. Accountancy companies have had little success in obtaining new clients through the Internet. available resources. They should pay more to register their Website and ensure that the firm's name appears in the first page of the search engine. Previous surveys reveal that the main reasons for accountancy firms developing a Website are: to improve the company's image. reputation. Only 11. JOURNAL OF SERVICES MARKETING. Getting people to sign up for a newsletter. The firms also report that they have improved their service to existing clients by transmitting information and forms by e-mail. VOL. enhances the image of the firm and provides a way to communicate with customers. professional affiliations and years of service). because of general interest in the Internet. However. Websites enable firms to include more information. The accountancy firms have not made it easy for people to find them on the Web. Some 63 per cent of the accountancy firms could not be found using any of five major search engines ± Yahoo!. Providing advice and information. as well as offering audit and tax services. 88 per cent report their partners' and employees' qualifications. while a very high percentage provide information on services available. Infoseek or Lycos. which is the most popular search engine. which is regularly updated. to improve service to the firm's current clients. half include their areas of specialization. Websites have generally been successful in promoting the firms' image. What advertisements should communicate Previous research shows that accountancy firms' advertisements should communicate their experience (through their partners' and employees' qualifications. While a Website cannot convey an overall image of quality of services. for example.

the Securities Exchange Commission (11.Links to accounting organizations The firms surveyed have links to accounting organizations such as the Internal Revenue Service (34. A number of firms simply use black lettering on a white background. The Website should be consistent with their goals and products. the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (25. Many of the firms need to make more use of graphics. more than 39 per cent do not provide links to accounting-related Websites.4 per cent).4 per cent) or articles (7. The only graphical images for many firms are their logos. Some firms offer advice via e-mail (83.2 per cent).1 per cent). Firms should decide the objectives of their Website and the products they want to offer.3 per cent). (A precis of the article ``A preliminary evaluation of professional accounting  services: direct marketing on the Internet''. as well as online forums (4 per cent) and investment information (0.) 606 JOURNAL OF SERVICES MARKETING. Action strategies for accountancy firms Before establishing a presence on the Internet. Supplied by Marketing Consultants for MCB University Press.8 per cent).2 per cent). VOL. 14 NO. Only 19 per cent of firms include the date of the last Website update. the Financial Accounting Standards Board (5. tips (15 per cent). But 12 per cent of the sites do not offer free information. 7 2000 . They must make an appropriate commitment of time and resources to exploit the potential which Internet marketing offers. each accountancy firm should determine its marketing strategy. However. a newsletter (12. They should visit the Websites of other accountancy firms and read about Website development.5 per cent).2 per cent) and the State Society (4.