Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Accounting Falls Behind Computer Science in NACE Rankings

For the first time since the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) began tracking offer rates for different majors in its annual Student Survey, accounting does not hold the top spot.

More than 56 percent of computer science majors who have applied for a job have received an offer, just ahead of accounting’s rate of 53.8 percent. Accounting job offers are still up 8.3 percent this year, while computer science offers are up 13.8 percent.

Economics (50.9 percent) and engineering (50 percent) round out the top four. Education, English and health care all saw marked drop-offs from last year.

This year, 41.2 percent of members of the Class of 2011 who applied for a job have received at least one offer, up 3 percent from 2010.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Guest Blogger: Next Generation in Accounting Marketing

By Brian Swanson
Flashpoint Marketing

Many CPA and accounting firms have taken the leap into website marketing through both search engine optimization and social media marketing. This is evidenced by the number of courses available within the industry on how to use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other search engine optimization strategies to promote an accounting practice and generate new business opportunities. Just as these strategies have come into the mainstream a new marketing technique called mobile marketing is emerging.

Mobile marketing is the process of marketing to executives, business owners and other prospects through their mobile device. The most common use of mobile marketing is to have an ad, newsletter or other printed material contain a Quick Read (QR) code. The code is scanned by a QR reader on a mobile phone, the application is free for most smartphone, and it opens a mobile website where additional information is available. The approach has been effective at connecting prospects and companies through the mobile platform. A large portion of the advertising produced today includes QR codes and a mobile marketing component, because of the number of people accessing the web from their mobile devices.

Mobile Marketing & Accounting Firms

There are several CPA firms currently using QR codes and mobile marketing campaigns as part of their broader marketing strategy.

Eric Majchrzak, Director of Marketing for Buffalo based Freed Maxick & Battaglia, was one of the first to experiment with the mobile platform. “We first launched a mobile site that provides targeted industry and eligibility information about the New York State Excelsior Jobs Program, said Majchrzak. “The site was promoted through the use of QR codes used in traditional print and direct marketing campaigns, seminars and other media.”

“The QR Codes, when scanned with Smartphones, allow users to receive instant expanded information about program and the services we provide to help companies claim these credits.” He said. “Users will have options to connect with the Firm by calling direct, submitting questions via their mobile device, or connecting via social media channels.”

Katie Tolin, Director of Marketing for Ohio based, Rea & Associates is in the process of developing their first mobile marketing program. “We’re developing a mobile marketing program with unique information about a pressing issue in our area that will impact hundreds of thousands of businesses. Our plan is to send a mail piece to targeted business that contains the QR code. The idea is to move people to act quickly and by putting more information a click away, hopefully they grab their phones to get answers to all the questions we know they will have.”

Benefits of Mobile Marketing

There are several benefits to mobile marketing that many firms are just now beginning to realize. In addition to benefits alluded to earlier, there are also several other reasons that accounting firms may want to integrate mobile marketing into their overall marketing plan, including:
  • Creates a platform where the firm can create costs effective promotions in reaction to breaking news, events, or legislative changes
  • The opportunity to reach a wider audience and expand market share
  • Enhance relationships through the distribution of timely and trusted content
  • Penetration of the smart phone marketing and opportunity to build/reinforce brand
  • Opportunity to connect with prospects that are “on the go”
  • The ability to integrate new and innovative forms of advertising with existing marketing programs
The Results

“Aside from the new leads and business development opportunities, which we expected, our firm has been able to be uniquely positioned as an innovator”, said Majchrzak. “This has not only gained the attention of the local press, but our industry trades as well. It helps build a reputation that we are not only experts in the field of accounting services, but we are also a progressive Firm that understands the world around us. ”

“The program hasn’t launched yet. However, I am interested in learning how our geographic footprint will impact the results,” said Tolin. “With diverse markets that cover everything from metropolitan areas to rural areas to Amish communities, it will be interesting to see where the mobile web traffic comes from. I want to test them all in some capacity to see if any stereotypes will be broken.”

Future of Mobile Marketing

Ultimately mobile marketing is only going to grow in its use and appeal to the broader market.

“The use of mobile devises has skyrocketed, and it’s predicted that it will grow by 50 percent this year. That’s a statistic you can’t deny has possibility,” Tolin said. “You need to take you marketing to where your potential buyers are, and I’m pretty sure you’ll find a mobile device nearby.”

Majchrzak agrees.

“Mobile marketing is certainly not a passing fad. It, to me, is the next big thing. I think Firms will find that they can expand client service and communications using mobile strategies, tools, and applications.”

Brian Swanson is a Principal with Flashpoint Marketing, a marketing and lead generation company focused on serving the accounting industry. He has over 14 years' experience in traditional marketing, business development and lead generation for various CPA firms across the United States. Brian is also search engine marketing certified and focuses on providing mobile marketing programs and accounting firm SEO services.

Monday, May 9, 2011

VSCPA Supports Recommendations From Blue Ribbon Panel

The VSCPA Board of Directors has adopted a resolution supporting the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Private Company Financial Reporting.

The Blue Ribbon Panel recently recommended the creation of a separate board to determine private company accounting standards. The board, which would be overseen by the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF), would focus on exceptions and modifications to U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) rather than a separate set of GAAP for private companies.

In its January meeting, the panel concluded that “there are urgent and growing systemic issues that need to be addressed in the current system of U.S. accounting standard setting,” according to its report.

The new board, if created, would work closely with the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to create an efficient standard-setting process and would have final authority over exceptions and modifications. A comprehensive review would be conducted after three to five years to evaluate the board’s effectiveness.

That plan is currently under review from constituents.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Guest Blogger: Top Technologies for Accountants

By William C. Fleenor, CPA, Ph.D.
K2 Enterprises

Accompanying the numerous benefits of the recovering economy are growing demands on our time and talents. As a result, we look to technology to reduce or eliminate the clerical aspects of our workdays, such as preparing tax returns and inventory obsolescence reports.

But there is a catch-22: Our work keeps us too busy to select and implement technology that will save us time. On top of that, some people fear technology, and new technology does not always work as advertised. Now factor in budget issues, and you can see that we face challenging times.

When deciding what technology to adopt for your business, consider the following:
  • Spending on technology has been weak over the past few years, and as a result, many people need upgrades. You are probably going to spend a lot more on technology this year than you did last year.
  • Technology has been pushing the world economy for decades with improved productivity. The pace of improvement may have even increased during the economic turndown, because businesses demanded solutions to help them become more productive. 
  • Lots of new technology options could significantly improve productivity in your organization, and you likely are not even aware of many of them. Because most accountants have not been technology shopping for some time, you’ll probably find that many of these products and services are well-established and have solid track records but are not yet widely adopted.

Top Technologies for Accountants in 2011 
The following list is not organized in order of importance, because different entities have different needs. A local CPA firm, for example, would have very different technology needs than a regional medical center. 

This is not a list of issues accountants will face in 2011; it is a list of opportunities. Though some of the technologies are not optional (e.g., security), all of them represent opportunities to do things faster, better, and at a lower cost. The features and benefits of many of the products were unimaginable only a few years ago. In more than 25 years of teaching my peers about how technology can improve their work life, I have never seen so many significant advances:
  • Consuming Content on Tablets, Smartphones, and Netbooks – You and your people will be doing plenty more of this, as evidenced by recent software leases of companies such as Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting and other accounting software developers. Have you considered the management of information and security issues? Do you have a game plan for integrating and controlling this technology, or is it just happening all around you?
  • Cloud Computing – The driving forces behind this technology are improved reliability, functionality, and security; much lower cost; better backup; and the fact that there is no physical network to manage. Several years of experience with cloud computing show that lots of cloud-based software and services provide more reliable, less expensive, and higher-quality services. The cloud is a much less expensive platform to develop on, and it has much greater flexibility and capabilities than do tools for developing on-premises software. The bottom line is that cloud computing is a cheaper way for developers to do their jobs better. For example, they do not have to make their software run on your Windows XP machine that could be clogged by the games your child has installed. 
  • Security and Confidentiality of Business Information – Over the past couple of years, a massive and increasing volume of information has arisen that either uses the Internet for transport or is housed on computers that can be accessed over the Internet. From electronic banking to working remotely, the demand to access information has increased sharply. There are solutions that work and are cost-effective for most of the security issues we face, but the playing field is constantly changing. For example, do you need antivirus software for your smartphone? Remember, your smartphone is a computer that likely stores confidential information and is susceptible to viruses and worms. 
  • Windows 7 – The last of the computers running Windows XP likely will be phased out this year because of their snail-like speed and weak security. Windows 7 runs Windows XP apps, and support will soon end on Windows XP machines. Be sure to train your people, otherwise you will miss some significant productivity improvements in Windows (e.g., the ability to run in Windows XP Mode).
  • Microsoft Office 2010 – This year, nearly all business professionals who are still using Office 2003 and earlier versions will move to Office 2010. Progressive companies and firms will move from Office 2007 to Office 2010 in order to take advantage of the benefits of the very significant improvements in Outlook 2010. Very large organizations may be slow to adopt because of their need to integrate systems. Note: As a general rule, get new machines with Windows 7 64-bit but install Office 2010 32-bit. 
  • Improved Utilization Technology – Accountants are generally very good with the technology they use regularly, and even those who use older technology are always pleased, proud, and even amazed at what they can do. We need to determine how we can get a lot more out of the technology we use daily (e.g., Excel, Outlook, Adobe Acrobat). In the accounting community, this will be particularly important because of the shortage of accountants in a growing market. 
  • Paperless Conversions – We will see lots of these conversions in 2011. Some will be from an older paperless system to a newer one. This is a mature market with lots of options, so be sure to shop carefully. Salespeople are often poorly informed about other options and have an understandable bias in promoting the products they know and sell. Consider the cloud to avoid capital expenditures and as a tool that will help you get up and running more quickly.  
Keeping these technologies in mind, develop a technology game plan for your company or firm. First figure out all the different improvements you could make. You likely will have many options but will not be able to do everything at once. Next, figure out how you are going to get the greatest return on your investment.

Properly implemented technology pays big dividends. So what are you waiting for?

Editor’s Note: Learn more about these technologies at the VSCPA’s 3rd Annual Technology Conference on June 27–28 at the Waterford at Springfield.

Monday, May 2, 2011

It’s Time to Renew Your VSCPA Membership

Happy New Year, VSCPA members! It's the first day of our new membership year, and we're really excited about our plans for 2011-2012. We hope you are, too!

Please continue your dedication to the VSCPA and the CPA profession by renewing your membership today. You can use the invoice we sent you via e-mail, renew online at www.vscpa.com/Renew or call (800) 733-8272. (Need our list of 2011-2012 membership dues rates? Click here.)