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Professional Services Firms Increase Use of Webinars

Local accounting and law firms are using online video as a powerful tool for marketing and training, while some are even selling online content itself as a product offering. “We have internal and external uses for webinars,” said Samantha Deeder, communications director for Moss Adams, LLP, an accounting firm with offices up and down the West Coast, including one downtown and one in Woodland Hills. “They are a good way to save clients money, because they cut down on travel expenditures,” she said. “Plus they’re almost zero dollars to produce, aside from the soft dollars in time putting presentations together.” Deeder also likes the fact that the use of webinars (online seminars), allows for enhanced tracking of attendance and effectiveness of the material being presented. “The webinars we produce are extremely client focused with timely and important information relevant to our role as their accountants and consultants,” she said. “They’re part and parcel of client service.” According to Deeder, webinars are also tools for enhancing her firm’s visibility and branding efforts. But, according to another CPA, firms accounting firms, such as Moss Adams, that employ the use of video as brand-enhancers are still the exception. “A lot of accountants don’t think they need to be involved with marketing or advertising at all,” said Michael Rozbruch, founder and CEO of Tax Resolution Services (TRS) in Encino. Rozbruch, who is a CPA, but is quick to point out that his is a tax-resolution firm not an accountancy, believes professional service providers who rely solely on word-of-mouth and traditional advertising methods are at a growing disadvantage. “The train has already left the station,” he said. “I’m spending 25 percent of my day doing online business, on things like webinars, and it’s still growing.” If the online video train has already left the station, accounting and law firms (or any type of business for that matter) need not panic; there’s always another train coming down the line. Using YouTube After all, YouTube is still a growing phenomenon through which companies continue to invent new ways to reach markets every day. In fact, Google, YouTube’s parent, recently reached a deal with major studios to offer full-length features via the video-content venue. That move and others is predicted to continue pulling eyes away from television screens and the pages of newspapers in the years ahead. “This is an investment that I am getting three, four and five dollars back for every dollar I spend.” Now a regular poster of YouTube content, initially Tax Resolution Services’ own website was the only outlet for the company’s webinars. The company’s first online video offering was an educational piece that let viewers in on some lesser known facts about tax liability. “For instance that income tax is eligible to be discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy,” he said. “People don’t know that; most lawyers don’t know that.” So, didn’t Rozbruch worry that giving away such information was like giving away the store?” “No,” the CEO told the Business Journal. “Not at all, because the taxpayer who is being targeted by the IRS still needs our services to resolve their issue.” TRS began its video program in 2004, when the idea of YouTube was still a year away from being hatched. That was about the same time Moss Adams got the online video bug. “Webinars here in L.A. and our larger metropolitan offices elsewhere help alleviate traffic issues,” Deeder said. “In addition to avoiding driving, information can be produced and presented online, where you can get a larger audience.” But there is a drawback to webinars as opposed to in-person workshops and presentations. “You miss out on that face-to-face networking opportunity,” she said. “True there are virtual lounges set up for people to chat before a webinar, but they’re really just like online chat rooms and they have limitations.” At Moss Adams and TRS, digital video’s role in serving clients is expanding. “I see webinars becoming increasingly important as we struggle with economic issues,” said Deeder. “They’re not going away by any means,especially as more people get more technologically savvy. These technologies provide faster and more effective ways of communicating with and educating clients and employees.” Staff training Moss Adams’ marketing team not only produces at least 25 webinars each year, it has also dedicated resources to disseminating video-production skills companywide. “All of us are trained in producing webinars,” Deeder said. “I’m going to be doing some internally for training purposes to help implement a new system we’re installing.” Deeder said her firm often uses webinars for training purposes, but also as educational products that augment accounting services for clients. “The health care practice area does a lot, as does manufacturing and distribution, for instance,” she said. “But as far as webinars designed for client consumption, we try to stay away from making them ‘salesy.'” For his part, Tax Resolution Services’ Rozbruch is less shy about using webinars and infomercials for marketing. “It’s very true that the webinars are full of useful information that has high value,” he said. “But I’m not going to B.S. you; it’s a marketing tool.” Rozbruch measures the success of his online video marketing campaigns in dollars. “As I said, I get at least a three-to-one margin,” he said. “But you can’t just make a video. You have to send out press releases, get exposure on the radio, on TV in print.” As head of TRS, Rozbruch has done all the above. He has been a guest on the CNBC cable network, has been featured in national publications, such as Entrepreneur Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal.

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